Having A McKenzie Friend At Your Side
Do you have some sort of family dispute and as such, needing to approach a family court of law? Perhaps you have separated from your husband (or wife) and as such, are facing a rather sticky divorce. Or maybe you are already divorced and am fighting your ex over the custody rights of your children?
Whatever your situation, getting hold of a solicitor who specializes in family law can be tricky – and this is especially true if you have a low income. For not only does a solicitor require a lot of money upfront, you cannot even be sure that your solicitor would put up a good job. In days gone by, one could have gotten around this by seeking legal aid. Unfortunately, since the 1st April 2013, the government has restricted the use of legal aid with regards to the family courts.
Worse still, if you are unable to afford a solicitor due to your low income, but yet have been requested by your other half and the family court to attend a court hearing, the fact that you cannot afford a solicitor means that you can either leave the family court waiting (which doesn’t improve your standing in the court) else represent yourself. And unless you have any experience with dealing with the law, this may not be such a good idea.
Fortunately, McKenzie Friend can be of help. For whilst the government has restricted the use of legal aid in the family court, the law says that one can bring a friend along to represent them on their behalf; or at the very least help. And as such a McKenzie Friend can be just the person you need to help you along in the family courts.
On being in court, a McKenzie Friend would be able to act as a litigant in person. Essentially, a McKenzie Friend is able to provide support, advice and take notes. Such people are usually allowed when a solicitor or barrister is not present to help the respective party in court. It should be mentioned though that whilst they are able to provide you with legal advice, there are certain things which a McKenzie Friend cannot do that the former can. For one thing, they cannot file court documents or statements. They also can’t conduct litigation.
However, they can point you in the right direction so that you can do these things on your own (there is also a Practice Direction also issued by family courts which can inform you how to do these things yourself in greater detail).
One of the advantages to using a McKenzie Friend as well is that unlike solicitors who will often try and get a case through family court as it would mean he could charge greater fees, a McKenzie Friend would often try and seek mediation between both parties; instead of having it dragged out in the court.
Yet if (like many cases) mediation isn’t successful, then a McKenzie Friend will than proceed to help you with the paperwork which you would need to go through before going to court. Whilst they cannot complete the paperwork for you (like a solicitor can) they can guide you through how to fill out each of the forms. Furthermore, a McKenzie Friend would also show up to court with you; acting as a friendly adviser as well as taking notes on your behalf.
When it comes to cost of hiring a McKenzie Friend, you will be relieved that they are far cheaper than a traditional solicitor. Many McKenzie Friends will even offer their services free of charge whilst others will charge. Yet they also have various payment methods and strategies (like paying in installments). This is perfect for somebody who is on a low income or faces losing a large part of their existing financial base (like in an upcoming divorce).
As McKenzie Friends are not as commonplace as a solicitor (as of yet) help is also at hand if you don’t happen to live near any McKenzie Friends. For many are happy to conduct their services remotely; whether that would be through e-mail, telephone conversations or through Skype. Some can even offer their mediation services through Skype; so it is as if they were literally in the room with you. Yet when it comes to the court date, they will still come out of their way to make sure they there to help.
So when it comes to family court, a McKenzie Friend maybe just the person you need!