Family Courts Without a Lawyer

Lucy Reed handed me a copy of “Family Courts Without a Lawyer – A Handbook for Litigants in Person – about seven years too late. When I was going through family courts myself, I would have LOVED this handbook!

Without any doubt at all, I will be recommending this book to anyone contacting OnlyDads who is thinking of becoming a Litigant in Person (LiP). The book contains (in over 300 pages) really useful sections. I would highlight the “jargon buster” and the book’s clear definition of legal terms as particularly invaluable to the majority of LiPs.

The combination of legal knowledge and effort that has gone into the writing of this book is to be applauded!

With the much-anticipated increase in the number of LiPs moving forward I hope this book continues to be updated. I know from the many questions we get asked in the OnlyDads office, it is the knowing where to “enter” the Family Justice system that causes much anxiety and confusion. This handbook can really help answer these queries.

If in a future edition, more emphasis and information could be given to the “emotional” side of acting for yourself in court proceedings, then I think this book would be enhanced. We do speak to many men (and women) who struggle with the “loneliness” of the process. For many, it can be a truly isolating experience,and as I say, more around these “softer” areas of the process would be good.

Hats off to Lucy – what an achievement!



About onlydads

Single Dad living near Totnes in Devon. I founded 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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8 Responses to Family Courts Without a Lawyer

  1. David says:

    Additionally I just wanted to say that a book (although I have not read this) by someone who makes a living and whose profession is based in the Family Courts, is very unlikely to tell a father the real techniques on how to progress their case. Real techniques like how to use video and audio recordings as evidence, or how to expedite your case and eradicate inherent delay by being forceful in your urgent applications. A technique coined as ‘Arse Plonking’ where a LIP refused the reception admin, or clerks of the courts initial one to two week date for an urgent application to be heard, and the LIP insists on seeing the duty Judge there and then for an ex-parte 5 minute conversation to abridge notice and get the matter heard within a day or two. A very helpful technique, which is needed when an ex constantly breaches Court Orders. Other advice, like being able to sack your legal representative when it is clear they support your aims, nor represent your wishes correctly. The list goes on, and these real life tools are what a LIP needs to have at his disposal, along with a good McKenzie Friend.

    The legal profession play by an etiquette and set of house rules, which a LIP should be aware of, but be also fully aware that as a LIP they are not bound by these career sustaining rules, and can have more freedom to go beyond what a lawyer considers reasonable. After all when you are unreasonably being denied a loving relationship with your own child, it is seriously a time to be very unreasonable and focus on what you need to achieve without fear of losing respect from legal colleagues and peers.

  2. Ray Barry says:

    I work as a McKenzie Friend, and I see first hand the increasing pressure on courts brought about by more and more people acting in person without solicitors. There’s no doubt that when clients are represented by solicitors that does take some pressure off courts, partly because solicitors, as officers of the court, carry out certain functions for the court, such as drafting orders, and summarising to a judge what the issues are which the court needs to determine, based on pre-hearing discussions. However, solicitors also save court time by deflecting their clients from certain steps, and while that may save the court time, it doesn’t always serve the interests of the client.

    If someone is reasonably articulate, and is organised, and can write letters and fill in forms, I would generally advise them to act in person, with or without a McKenzie Friend. The outcome is driven by the facts of the case, and that outcome is generally the same whether you have a solicitor or not.

  3. StuG says:

    Initially, my case dragged through the courts with all the delaying tactics by the other side not being countered by my lawyer, and given a nudge and a wink by the judges. As he was achieving nothing but more deferred hearings, I sacked my lawyer and used a specialist McKenzie. The case started to fly through the courts with even CAFCASS admitting we should never have been there in the first place. With the job almost done and one last hearing to go I placed trust in a supposedly reputable lawyer to kill it all off so our family could finally live in peace. He completely screwed it up; some of the contact I had gained as an LIP was lost and I have needed more than a dozen additional hearings. During our talks together he was so confident about the case he would spend the legal aid money moaning about how little legal aid he was paid. Once a case takes a turn for the worse, more often than not for no good reason other than the flaccid peformance of a lawyer, it is almost impossible to get it back on track. Without lawyers, I would no doubt now have shared residence and at least 35-40% of the children’s time. There are some good ones, but with no effective procedural rules for them to follow except being as adversarial as possible, they simply ramp up the aggro, and you will never know how good they are until it is too late. From that day on you have a choice: you can either walk away from the kids or spend your entire life planning the next fruitless day in court frantically treading water in the hope it does result in more contact being
    lost. Contact is all you will get, you will need to hang in there for as much as a decade… far as a meaningful relationship is concerned, forget that until the kids are old enough to stay with you if that is their genuine wish, and the courts are unlikely to stop it. There’s one tip I doubt you’ll find in the book. However good the book is, the real decision will probably be down to a part time untrained District Judge from the same chambers as the lawyer your ex has; he/she will look as if they have been hauled from rubberstamping a few TV licence defaulters and bankrupt (fathers) proceedings in the morning – and that’s because he has – : he will look as if he does not know where he is, or what he is doing, or why. He won’t listen, he’ll be furtive and rude and in a hurry. He’ll give a disastrous, no brain decision and conceal with a specious suffix of “in the child’s best interests”
    regardless of all the likely variables and outcomes. Books and Mckenzies will give you a far better chance and assist your financial and emotional survival and make sure your applications are up to scratch but do not dismiss the bit the book the book does not tell you; the judge is unlikely to be up to scratch.

  4. StuG says:

    Correction; of course meant to say:

    “spend your entire life planning the next fruitless day in court frantically treading water in the hope it does NOT result in more contact being lost.”

  5. Ya nice post. I really like this its very informative thanks for share it. A family court is a court convened to decide matters and make orders in relation to family law, such as custody of children. In common-law jurisdictions “family courts” are statutory creations primarily dealing with equitable matters devolved from a court of inherent jurisdiction, such as a superior court.


    Be on time, Dress appropriately, Be courteous to court staff, Treat your Lawyer and you opposition’s Lawyer with respect, Be on your best behavior, Get your emotions in check, Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

  6. By far the most complete family lawyer guide book you ever read or else your money back.

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