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Majority of mothers in family law cases are unrepresented

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March 28, 2024

The majority of mothers who are going to court in family law cases are doing so without legal representation, according to recent data.

Figures obtained by The Independent show that, for the first time, there are more unrepresented mothers in court than those who have access to a lawyer.

This finding came as part a report on the impact of the legal aid cuts, which went into effect in 2013.

According to the report, 58 per cent of parents went into court without a lawyer last year.

In the year before the cuts, only 44 per cent of parents did not have legal representation in family law cases. This is an increase of 20,000 parents. Of the parents who went unrepresented last year, 53 per cent of them were women.

Jerry Karlin, chair of the shared parenting charity Families Need Fathers, said the statistics were “staggering” and called for “affordable and compelling services” to be developed as an alternative to the courtroom.

This is not the first set of data to highlight the increase in ‘litigants in person’. Earlier this year, it was reported that 52 per cent of people attending children’s cases had no legal representation between November and December last year.

The government claimed the cuts to legal aid would result in more family disputes being solved by mediation, but only half of adults are aware of it, and there has been a 38 per cent drop in people choosing it since the cuts came into effect.

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. Wistilia says:

    Why should mothers have access to Legal Aid, or fathers?

    Private family law matters unless there are serious domestic violence issues should not need lawyers at all.

    The move to a more inquisitorial approach from judges is far better for parents than the all out adversarial system that had Legal Aid solicitor/barrister for one parent stalling at every stage so as to stop both parents being involved with their children. At the same time spending tens of thousands very often on each case.

    Legal Aid is an abomination in Private Family Law matters for the most part. If the issues are serious enough regarding abuse or neglect then they should be in the Public Law arena anyway.

    Keep Legal Aid out of Private Family Law.

    • Stitchedup says:

      serious domestic violence issues should be dealt with by the police in the criminal courts where there is a significant burden of proof. The problem we have here is that over zealous solicitors and vexatious women are making mountains out of mole hills and using allegations of domestic abuse to get the upper hand in the civil courts where they know there is no burden of proof. Perfectly decent, innocent men then find themselves entering the criminal justice system through the back door for minor breaches of dubious non-mols that have been slapped on them without any proof. In addition to the above Judges and magistrates can not be relied up on to use a commonsensical approach to non-mols or reasonable excuse when dealing with alleged breaches.

  2. Yvie says:

    More attention should be given to child arrangements during the divorce process and these arrangements should be written clearly into the divorce applications, and only then should the divorce be finalised. Possibly this might reduce confrontational Court appearances. I agree with stichedup that serious domestic violence issues should be addressed in the criminal courts and that over-zealous solicitors should be firmly discouraged from making dubious allegations in the hope of winning the case for their client. Family Courts should not be about winners and losers, but only about the best outcomes for children.

  3. Emily Taper says:

    It is all well and good the government wanting people to go through mediation. However what happens when the ex partner refuses to attend any sort of mediation let alone communicate on a regular basis?

  4. Jerry says:

    The use of false allegations of violence or abuse against a parent is in itself a form of abuse. Yvie, whether it is used by solicitors to “win” (sic) their case or by one of the parents to permanently ruin the life of an ex partner at the expense of a child’s relationship with the other parent, it’s abhorrent – yet it happens every day and is on the increase. Sadly, it is overwhelmingly dads who are stitched up in this manner – and the children are made to suffer.
    The fact that legal aid is still available (to the accuser) and only in cases of DV is resulting in a big increase in false allegations. Does anyone get punished for making false allegations and lying in the family court? Nope. Extraordinary.
    Emily, parents should be obliged to turn up in court with an agreed document. If one parent refuses mediation then the other parent should have the right to submit a reasonable schedule of children’s arrangements which would be given priority by the court. That would soon have people scurrying for mediation.
    Mediation may benefit from being combined with other services in future. Keeping angry ex-parents focused on their children’s need for a relationship with both parents is not easy but it must be held up as the most decent way to parent.

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