Cuts are causing stress and heartache in the family courts

Frances Judd QC - 24 January 2019

The legal aid cuts mean that most people struggling with family breakdowns must represent themselves in court. The impact on children and ordinary people is enormous.

In the UK we are lucky enough to have a fair and impartial judicial system. But judges can only do their jobs properly if they have the right evidence and if the cases are properly presented. They also need enough time to listen to people, and to make and record their decisions. Most barristers in the family courts will tell you that this is happening less and less.

On April 1 2013, new rules in England and Wales abolished legal aid for private law family cases (cases which do not involve the local authority), save where an individual is able to produce evidence of domestic violence, or under the exceptional funding scheme. Domestic violence needs to be proved by hard evidence (such as a criminal conviction, civil injunction, or a letter from social services or a refuge) and exceptional funding is very, very difficult to obtain. The consequence of this is that the number of unrepresented parties (or litigants-in-person) going through the family courts has soared. Statistics reveal that by 2017 both parties were represented in only 20 per cent of these cases, and in 35 per cent nobody was... See more