A Wrexham lawyer has expressed grave concern about the future relationships of children with their divorced parents, after figures released this week showed a substantial increase in the number of people trying to represent themselves in contact cases at court.
Nathan Wright, a partner with leading North Wales and Shropshire law firm GHP Legal, says the figures show less than 38% of parties were represented in contact cases by lawyers between April and June this year.
In addition there has been a growing number of reported incidents where parents have given up on trying to resolve contact issues because they felt intimidated by legal jargon they did not understand when they tried to represent themselves in court.
“Since legal aid cuts took effect in England and Wales in April 2013”, says Mr Wright, “thousands more parents have appeared in civil cases about children as ‘litigants in person’ – which means they appeared in court without a lawyer.
“The reason for this is that without legal aid many separated or divorced parents cannot afford to go to court any other way. However, not everyone feels able to handle putting forward a case on their own and often people end up with an unjust result or they simply give up and don’t fight for access at all.
“But the real tragedy in all of this is that whilst legal aid was cut for all family court cases other than those where there is a risk of violence, millions of pounds of legal aid still remains available for family mediation and for legal advice to support family mediation – and people just are not aware of it.
“Mediation is where splitting couples hold meetings with a qualified, impartial professional mediator, to reach an agreement. It is a less confrontational and stressful experience than going to court, which is probably why it has a reasonable success rate. The process of Mediation, together with the fact that legal aid is still available for it, should in my opinion be much more widely promoted to help all parties involved in child or financial issues associated with separation.