In a recent survey, the results have shown that around 40% of people who are involved in a divorce do not engage the services of a lawyer to assist them. The rise in the number of people deciding to go through their divorce without legal assistance is at least in part down to the recent change in rules on eligibility for legal aid. The rules state that it will not be possible to obtain legal aid unless there is another complicating issue such as domestic violence or child abuse.
Bringing a marriage to an end can be a simple paper-based process but difficulties inherent in the English divorce system mean that this is not as easy to navigate as one might expect. At present, unless the parties are willing to wait a significant period of time post-separation (a minimum of 2 years), one party must place and the other accept the blame for the breakdown of the marriage. No-fault divorce does not exist at the current time in England and Wales. A lawyer can help separating couples to understand that the apportionment of blame can be no more than a means to an end but, without the proper professional assistance, people may not be able to come to agreement and then the divorce becomes a long drawn out process and, ultimately, more stressful for those involved.
Beyond the actual divorce, difficulties can arise where the parties are trying to agree financial arrangements and arrangements for the children. With professional support and objective advice, separating couples may find it easier to come to quick agreements and find a way to formalise that agreement. Without this assistance, more people are likely to resort to the Courts to reach a determination. This leads to more people conducting their own litigation in the courts.
Litigants in Person are not a new phenomenon in the Courts. However, it is the increase in numbers that is putting pressure on a system already struggling. Judges have reported cases where there are no documents in front of the Judge and even some cases where the person bringing the case to Court is not sure what they are actually seeking. The Judge then spends considerable time dealing with these issues and hearings take far longer than they would otherwise. The end result of that is that there are simply not enough Judges to devote enough time to all cases listed. Combined with recent Court closures, the effect is profound.
In addition to the effect on the Court system there is also the daunting prospect of litigating directly against an ex-partner in circumstances where there might be considerable anger and resentment remaining. One party may feel intimidated and both are likely to feel stressed and upset at what is already a difficult time.
The destruction of legal aid means that, for some, paying for legal assistance throughout a separation is simply not possible. However, taking some advice at an early stage can help get the process off on the right foot and provide some guidance as to the available options for resolution of any problems. This can help make the whole process more manageable.
If you are currently in the process of separating and want to take advice, please contact MTG for a free initial consultation on 020 7240 0521.