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Lord Justice Ryder: courts need lawyers

Cases of sufficient complexity to reach court need the input of lawyers, a High Court judge has declared.

Giving judgement in the case of Re C, a complex child contact dispute, Lord Justice Ryder said there was often a “real opportunity for dispute resolution” in the early stages of “less fraught” cases, but in cases “not immediately susceptible of conciliation or out of court mediation, it will require a lawyer’s analysis”.

In Re C, both the mother and father were litigants in person, without legal representation.

Lord Justice Ryder said: “This is after all a court of law. In the absence of lawyers, the judge has to [carry out the legal analysis] and to do that without assistance and sometimes with quite vocal hindrance. That requires more time than in a circumstance where the lawyers can be required to apply the rules and practice directions, produce the witness statements, summaries, analyses and schedules, obtain instructions and protect their lay client’s interests. Where a court is faced with litigants in person the judge has to do all that while maintaining both the reality and perception of fairness and due process.”

The case concerned a couple who separated in January last year, after a ten year relationship. They had one son, born in April 2008. The mother began a new relationship, but the father, a former soldier, struggled, both emotionally and financially. He applied for direct contact with his son but this was denied following a Cafcass report which alleged domestic violence.

However, the court did not hold a  fact-finding hearing to establish the truth of the claims. Instead the father was allowed only indirect contact, via letters, cards and “small gifts”.

The father appealed and Lord Justice Ryder, sitting with Lady Justice Macur and Lord Justice Sullivan, ruled in his favour. The contact order specifying indirect contact only was set aside and the case sent back to the family courts for a rehearing.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Paul says:

    Talk about shooting the messenger. Basically a father got stitched up by a biased system of family law practice and the system, through its leading voice, tries to lay the blame on a lack of adequate representation. How about laying blame where blame is due, like on the judge who issued a non-molestation injunction on zero evidence and thus kicked the whole sorry saga off? That judge is not a fit person to try these cases nor are those judges who followed. They turned a blind eye and failed to address the obvious injustice meted out to an innocent father.

  2. Luke says:

    “However, the court did not hold a fact-finding hearing to establish the truth of the claims. Instead the father was allowed only indirect contact, via letters, cards and “small gifts”.”

    The level of bias against fathers in court is truly shocking – I keep having to say to myself :

    ‘it cannot really be quite this bad – can it ???’

    Is there no investigation into how the court came to this initial decision – is NOBODY ever held accountable ???

  3. Anonymous says:

    According to Ryder, courts need meddlers, and people who are paid to bend language and massage facts, and write silly letters with a silly outdated and amusingly self-important language. After saying this, who could ever take him seriously again?

    For anyone who knows courts, they will agree that they rather need, quite desperately, a better sense of plain honesty, decency, and morality.

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