A week in family law: The dangers of unregulated McKenzie friends and more

Family Law|Industry News | 28 Aug 2015 1

Another relatively quiet week for family law news, as the holiday season nears its end. There were, however, some stories of note, including the following:

A ‘professional’ McKenzie friend has been jailed for three years after being found guilty of multiple offences relating to the services he provided for his clients. The man had been offering help in cases involving children or grandchildren. He deliberately sought out people who were unable to obtain legal assistance due to the legal aid cuts. His clients paid a fee up front. According to Central Bedfordshire Council, which investigated the case, the man would then claim to have worked on the clients’ cases by applying for court orders, arranging court dates, contacting former partners and their legal firms and liaising with social services and the Child Support Agency. None of which he actually did. The case really highlights the dangers of unregulated McKenzie friends.

Since the 24th of August local authorities have been able to bid for a share of a £3m fund to support the victims of domestic abuse. A £3m fund for 2015 to 2016 was announced in the July Budget to address any gaps in the provision of specialist accommodation-based support, and to provide support for victims seeking to access these services. The fund is now inviting bids for work in 2015 to 2016, led by local authorities working in partnership with service providers. Successful applicants must demonstrate how they will support innovative and cost-effective proposals to deliver accommodation-based services for victims of abuse, and for services to help them access such support. They should also set out how they will “further the development of local strategies on tackling domestic abuse and help create sustainable and long-term approaches to providing support for victims”, whatever that means. Of course, £3 million may sound like a lot of money (as I’m sure the Government wants you to think), but spread across the country it is barely a drop in the ocean.

According to new data analysed by the Marriage Foundation marriage is increasingly the preserve of the rich, with the wealthy being four times more likely to marry than the poor. Chairman of the Foundation Sir Paul Coleridge responded to the figures by warning that while children from poorer households might be “superficially better off materially than the previous generation”, they face increasing disadvantage compared to their better off peers. The data, of course, shows that social and economic factors are far more important to outcomes for children than whether their parents signed a marriage certificate.

Lastly, family lawyers’ association Resolution has warned that a rise in the number of private law children cases could indicate that efforts to encourage mediation have been ineffective. This doesn’t quite tally with the recent claim by mediation organisation National Family Mediation that mediation rates are increasing amongst divorcing couples. So, is mediation going up or going down? I guess you pays your money and you takes your choice…

Have a good summer bank holiday weekend.

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers.

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    1. Frances Valenzuela says:

      This man was a crook not a Mackenzie Friend – he was using that as a means to cheat people. But the suggestion is that all unregulated lawyers exchanging their skills for money are dangerous, and this is just not true. Surely the answer is to set standards and impose regulation – good Mackenzie Friends would welcome this.

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