New McKenzie Friend Service

I wrote about my initial experiences of being a formal McKenzie Friend here. In the last few weeks I have consulted widely with friends and associates and have now decided to extend my McKenzie Friend(ing) service.

This decision, at a personal level, fits well. Being a full-time parent, albeit with bigger children now, still brings with it the need to work flexibly. I have found over the last few years that juggling parenting and OnlyDads (which takes up more and more time) while earning a living as an ecclesiastical property advisor puts a huge strain on me and my small family.

Being able to give up the “day job” and just concentrate on core OnlyDads work has long been an ambition. Becoming a McKenzie Friend will allow for such a transition.

Will I be any good as a McKenzie Friend?

This is the question I have been asking myself (and others) over and over.

On the plus side, I have extensive experience of assisting parents regarding contact with their children since 2007 when I founded our support organisations www.onlydads.org and www.onlymums.org and of course have built up my own invaluable experience of Family Courts and the processes involved as a Litigant-in-Person.

What will be my USP?

I will be passionate in helping clients base all their statements and evidence in a way that puts the interests of children first. This will be THE hallmark of all I do.

I will also treat all those acting for the “other side” with dignity and respect. One of my key roles will be to listen very carefully to what they are saying and understand the reasons why, and then communicate this to my clients.

What does a McKenzie Friend do?

As a McKenzie Friend I will support drafting and editing key documents for Court and other authorities involved. At Court itself, I will:

  • Take notes during the hearing.
  • Provide moral support.
  • Provide advice.
  • Speaks quietly to you during the hearing.
  • Assists with sourcing legal forms and templates of submissions.
  • Review documents such as draft court orders and advise accordingly.

I have been reflecting on all of these key duties of a McKenzie Friend and (with positive feedback from those I have asked) decided that I will be able to do them all and to do them all well.

With Legal Aid being cut across the country, and with more and more mums and dads not being able to afford professional legal support from a family solicitor, I know that McKenzie Friends will continue to be in demand in the years ahead.

An hourly rate of £35 will represent a huge saving compared to employing many family solicitors.

Next Steps:

A new website setting out what I can do (and NOT do) as a McKenzie Friend is being commissioned and then it’s a case of marketing myself! That will be the bit I hate! I suppose this post starts that process though; it’s something I am going to have to get used to! 

What will success look like:

  • More children having reconciled parents and enjoying regular contact with both.
  • An enhancement of the OnlyDads’ signposting website and support service.
  • A financially sustainable future, doing the work that I have grown to love. 

I post this with a degree of nervousness and will note all comments very carefully!

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About onlydads

Single Dad living near Totnes in Devon. I founded www.onlydads.org in 2007 and live with my daughters Priya, 14 and Anya 11. I write about single parenting, work, overcoming trials and tribulations and sometimes not overcoming trials and tribulations.
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14 Responses to New McKenzie Friend Service

  1. Lakes Mum says:

    good luck – sounds like a fab idea

  2. Tweetawix says:

    Sounds like a brilliant idea, and something that a lot of men need, I wish you all the best…

    • onlydads says:

      Cheers my friend – there is a need for this sort of service…increasingly so as the economy struggles I think.

      Thanks for reading and kind comments 🙂

  3. Sara says:

    Wishing you all the best. I think you will be great at this x

  4. Katie says:

    Sounds like a fantastic idea and something you seem passionate about and if you are passionate about something i firmly beleive you will do a fantastic job

  5. Best of luck with this, Bob, you’re the ideal person to do this.

  6. Diana Jordan says:

    Bravo Bob, great decision. I’ve never met, or even spoken to you, but you seem to have the wisdom and the humility to make an excellent McKenzie Friend, and I love your USP.
    If I may suggest an addition to what you will do in court it would be ‘to hold the bigger picture for your client’. By this I mean get absolute clarity with your client, well before attending court, as to their objectives for that particular hearing ie what would, and would not, be an acceptable result. You may sometimes need to suggest that legal advice be taken as to how realistic that might be. Occasionaly you may discover, or suspect, that the client just wants ‘their day in court’; many people just want their grievances to be heard and acknowledged by some kind of professional/authority figure and such a hearing can be cathartic and help people move on. It may happen less with litigants in person but in nine cases out of ten there will be discussions at the door of the court to try to settle the matter (and as you gain in experience you may be able to help initiate these). Unfortunately, the door of the court is the worst place to make big decisions and some bad ones are made there. For scientific reasons I won’t go into here, most of your clients’ brains will not be functioning at their adult best once through that door and they may not be able to respond to things appropriately or to think clearly. But if a proposal is put to them, and you are able to produce a piece of paper they have previously written, showing it is not near enough to what they want, you will be able to persuade them to go ahead with the hearing when all they want to do at that moment is take the offer and run. Holding the bigger picture also includes thinking ahead, sometimes years, which a client in court is rarely able to do. Some children need, or may need in the future, to know that a parent has fought for them (even if the battle is hopeless); others need to know that their parents have been able to agree things relating to them. At a financial hearing, a proposal or decision may seem unfair now, but be evened out in the long term. A McKenzie Friend can be invaluable to flag up such points which a relative or personal friend is less likely to spot.
    An hourly rate of £35 sounds a good starting point (+ expenses I assume) and as you gain in experience and confidence you will be able to increase this: you can always reduce it for deserving cases but it’s hard to raise it when a rich client comes along! It may be a huge saving compared to a solicitor, but that’s because you are doing the job with your hands tied behind your back since you cannot speak for your client.
    This is why I rarely agree to act as a MF, just too frustrating having been an advocate for many years, plus I feel I’ve ‘done my time’ hanging around those buildings you so aptly described in another post. So, how far are you willing to travel Bob? Do I send my clients to you … and is it Only Dads you will take on?
    As for marketing, it was something they didn’t teach at law school and I share your dread of it. The only suggestion I can offer you is to contact some of your local solicitors (your local courts will be able to tell you who attends most regularly) and ask if you can ‘shadow’ a case with them. Both parties will need to consent to this but, if they do, it is unlikely the court will refuse permission to attend. That way you will gain some valuable experience of the court as an observer, and also convince local solicitors you are serious about your role; so when they are up against a litigant in person, they may well recommend you. But I’m sure the word will soon get out and you won’t have to look too hard for work as the need for this service is definitely on the increase.
    That’s more than enough from me, but if ever you need any help or want to chat anything through, don’t hesitate to give me a call. Very good luck to you in what I am sure will be a most successful venture.
    Diana Jordan
    http://www.dealingwithdivorce.co.uk

    • onlydads says:

      Wow!

      I have read all of this twice now – and will continue reading it – because all the points you make are valid. The need to establish the “bigger picture” in all contact arguments is and will be central to the work I do as a MF.

      Thank you for taking the trouble to read and reply in such a full and thought out way. Really really appreciated!

      ps – I will act for mums and dads and geography is an interesting one. There is clearly some work that can be done via telephone and emails and skype etc from anywhere – more tricky with actual court hearings though. Will need to give that more thought.

      Bob x

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  9. mohammed azer munir says:

    Hi I will need your help please advise how to move forward. Await reply thanks.

  10. Christian Bullen says:

    In Hong Kong we have an ordinance : Legal Practitioners Ordinance in which criminalizes a non lawyer giving legal advice. Is there not a similar restriction on Mckenzie Friends giving advice to clients in the UK? I am not knocking what you do and I am not a solicitor I was wondering how you got around this.

    Christian Bullen
    Hong Kong

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