Self-representation: the human cost of legal aid cuts
However, as an article in The Guardian revealed, the axing of legal aid has had far-reaching consequences, including a rise in the number of parents seeking custody of their children or contact with them choosing to represent themselves in court, known as being a litigant in person.
Self representation in court
The Guardian article highlights the many pitfalls that can assail those who choose (or can only afford) to go it alone in court; inadequate time to prepare, unfamiliarity with legal proceedings, ability to remain calm under pressure, and to think quickly during negotiations. It places them under tremendous strain at a time when they need to have unclouded judgment and a firm handle on their emotions. As one father recalls:
“You need to be able to control yourself, and you need a certain amount of empathy and understanding of the other person. One of the toughest bits was my ex’s barrister coming to see me just before we went in. She started to try to negotiate. It was quite intimidating.”
No legal representation cases
The National Audit Office noted a 30% increase in the number of family law cases where neither party had legal representation. This causes problems on the day itself, with considerable court time taken up with explaining proceedings, and judges seeking to calm down angry ex-partners facing each other in court for the first time. In February 2015, MP Margaret Hodge noted in a report on legal aid cuts:
“The Ministry (of Justice) does not know, and has shown little interest in, the knock-on costs of its reforms across the wider public sector as a result of increased physical and mental health problems caused by the inability to access advice to resolve legal problems. It therefore has no idea whether the projected £300m spending reduction in its own budget is outweighed by additional costs elsewhere.”
Legal aid cuts; more costs than savings?
In an ironic twist, a measure that was designed to reduce costs may have actually cost more both in both financial and emotional terms than was ever envisaged. Legal aid wasn’t perfect, but it was available as an option for those in most need. As many have now discovered, representing yourself is stressful complicated and emotionally draining, especially with the pressure of knowing that a wrong word or loss of control can lead to outcomes that will affect you and your family for years to come.
Representation: worth every penny
At Leiper Gupta Family Lawyers, we know exactly what the pressure of a courtroom feels like. We’ve represented hundreds of clients across a wide range of family law issues including divorce settlements and child custody. We have represented fathers and mothers, both here in the UK and based abroad, always working for the best outcome for them and their families. Our experience has enabled us to secure the best outcomes possible, often exceeding client expectations, but always with the interests of children as our primary focus.
When we take on your case, all that expertise, experience and knowledge of statutory law and court proceedings are brought to bear on your case. We take on the stress of representation, and the task of ensuring your case if properly prepared well in advance. We work behind the scenes to ensure that your case is well constructed, well thought out and well presented on the day. What’s more, our involvement can actually reduce the time you spend in court, and help secure a far better outcome at the end.
If you’re facing the prospect of court, and think that representation is too expensive, come and meet us for free. You can discuss your case with us in our no-obligation 30-minute consultation, or via phone or Skype if you are too far away to travel. We work to keep our fees fair, reasonable and transparent, so you can access successful, respected legal representation that is both effective and cost-effective.