Are you separated from your partner, husband or wife? Are you thinking about getting a divorce? Do you know what your options are after separation, or a divorce?
Option 1. Attend Family Mediation
Contact Kent Family Mediation Service to make a self-referral and attend a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting), to be assessed for Legal Aid and to find out about family mediation. This is now the only way of getting Legal Aid unless there are exceptional circumstances of evidenced domestic violence. Kent Family Mediation Service offers affordable fees for private clients, Legal Aid and free family mediation; which entitles those who are assessed as being eligible to also claim, free time with a participating family solicitor. Click HERE to see the 10 good reasons why you should try family mediation.
A MIAM (mediation information and assessment meeting) is not a qualification and this is not considered as a licence for someone to practice family mediation. Only accredited family mediators can carry out a MIAM (mediation information and assessment meeting) and sign the relevant Court forms, which are needed BEFORE an application to go to court can be made.
Kent Family Mediation mediators have the following skills, training and experience:-
If you qualify for Legal Aid you will be entitled to free family mediation and free legal help from a family lawyer, or family solicitor who will assist you to negotiate with the other person and reach an amicable agreement which can be made legally binding.
If you don’t qualify for Legal Aid and you still want to attend Family Mediation, you can either:-
1. Pay privately for family mediation – Kent Family Mediation Service have affordable, subsidised private fees that are very competitive in comparison to family lawyer mediators and other family mediation service providers in Kent. If your ex-partner receives Legal Aid, then you will get your first mediation session free! Kent Family Mediation Service now offers a tiered fee structure for private clients who are just over the threshold to claim Legal Aid. Please contact us HERE for more information
If you want to make an application to go to court, family solicitors and family lawyers are now obliged to instruct you to attend a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment meeting) with a mediation service provider.
This is extremely advantageous to people who are not working, who are on low incomes, or have minimal capital assets, as solicitors are no longer able to apply for Legal Aid on behalf of their clients (except under certain special circumstances of evidenced domestic violence). Kent Family Mediation Service has a number of lawyer mediators and holds a Legal Aid contract.
Please click HERE to see a list of the family solicitors in Kent that will work with family mediation clients.
Q. Are agreements made through solicitors and lawyers legally binding?
No, Consent Orders made through solicitors, or lawyers are not legally binding unless they have been signed by both clients prior to being endorsed or approved by the court.
There is no difference; neither signed consent orders or signed agreements (memorandum of understanding, or summary of outcome) made during family mediation are legally binding, unless they are endorsed/ approved by the court. The only difference is the way that the agreement was reached. In family mediation both mediation clients are present, they are able to give an outline of what they would like from any agreement and both family mediation clients take an active part in the negotiations, before an agreement is reached. The family mediator will give options for consideration and will assist both mediation clients in reaching an agreement that is fair, affordable and realistic. Agreements that are made via a solicitor, without mediation, will be negotiated through two different firms of solicitors until an agreement is reached. This can take considerably longer, will be more costly and may not be in both clients, or in the children's interests.
I.e. Self-representing in Court
With the cuts to the Legal Aid system, the family courts are experiencing a huge increase in the number of ‘litigants in person’, i.e. people representing themselves in court.
Following the Legal Aid changes in April 2013, there are now many people who are on a low income, who have minimal, or no capital assets, but who are just over the earnings threshold to qualify for legal aid via a family mediation service (the only way of now getting Legal Aid, unless there is exceptional circumstances of evidenced domestic violence). Some people are finding that they are not able to afford to pay privately for family mediation, or get legal advice from a family solicitor or family lawyer. As a result of this they are making applications to represent themselves in court.
On 22 April 2014 there were new changes which have made attending a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting) compulsory for the majority of people, before they can apply to go to Court.
"There are many people who feel that they have no other alternative but to represent themselves in Court and ‘litigate in person"
Frequently Asked Questions about Self Litigation
Q. What does ‘Litigants in Person’ mean?
A ‘litigant in person’ is an individual (a person or a company) who goes to court, without the representation of a solicitor, lawyer or barrister but who still has the ‘rights of audience’; the right to address the court in person. They are able to present their own evidence and speak up for themselves in the court room. This also includes cross examining the other person involved in the dispute.
Q. Why would people choose to go to court without a solicitor?
There are a number of reasons why someone would choose to go to court without a solicitor, including:-
Possible bad past experience with a legal representative, or firm of solicitors
They cannot afford to pay private legal costs/ fees
They have attended a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting) and they, or the other person in the dispute don't want to mediate
They believe that they know their own case better than anyone else could
They might want to try to intimidate, or confront the other person in the dispute by representing themselves
They may want to have more of a personal input into the decisions about their future
Q. What are the benefits of going to court without a solicitor?
It can be more cost effective than going via legal channels; the approximate cost for litigating in person is approximately £12,000
It can give the litigant in person a feeling of ‘empowerment’
The litigant in person will know their own case better than anyone else
Q. What are the disadvantages of going to Court without a Solicitor?
There are a number of disadvantages that litigants in person face by going to court without a solicitor, or a lawyer:-
The odds are stacked against them in court, legal knowledge = power!
They could end up being ordered to pay between 60% and 90% of their opponent’s legal costs if they don't win the case.
Self-litigating slows up the court process. Complicated legal jargon often needs to be explained which takes up precious time in an already over worked court system
Court cases often overrun as a result of the above
Information provided by the self-litigant can be lengthy, lacking in evidence, not factual and lacking in clarity
Lack of experience in completing complicated legal documentation can cause confusion
Being cross examined by an over-zealous and angry ex-partner can often make things more stressful and traumatic for the other person in the case than it needs to be.
Communications from the self-litigant can often be based on raw emotion, which results in them not sticking to the matter in hand
Litigants in person may feel intimidated by the other party'slegal representative, the legal jargon and the court protocols, including the rules of behaviour and the means of addressing the Judge
Litigants in person may be overwhelmed by the vast amount of complicated legal paperwork and evidence that is required by the court
It can be extremely stressful representing yourself in court
Q. How much does it cost to go to court for a family matter?
If you go to a court over a family matter; for example getting access to your child, increasing, or varying a Contact Order, sorting out parental responsibility, agreeing the level of child maintenance, for divorce or separation, sorting out finances or claiming money that you may be owed by an ex-partner, then there will be additional court fees to pay. Court fees are different from paying legal costs through a solicitor or lawyer.
A family court is a court that deals only with family legal cases. This can include:-
The solicitor’s or lawyer's duty is to look after and act in the best interests of their client at all times (unless this was in some way breaking the law).
We recently interviewed Judge Polden the Designated Judge for the Family Courts in Kent. Click HERE to find out what Judge Polden thinks about family mediation and what his advice is to people who are going to court regarding a divorce or a family case.
Q. Do the family courts want people to represent themselves in court?
No, neither the court staff, nor the Judges want people to represent themselves in court. The court system is already over worked. With the recent and ongoing cuts in public funding (legal aid) there are now more people making court applications than ever before, which takes up precious court time.
Family mediation is the Government, the family courts and many Family Court Judges preferred way of resolving a dispute or a divorce. When opposing sides get to court, Judges are often making orders for them to attend Family Mediation to resolve their dispute.
If you would like to know more about your options in Divorce or family separation, please download the Kent Family Mediation Service leaflet HERE
Legal aid and private family mediation service in Kent. Legal Aid in Kent. Kent Family Mediation centres in Ashford, Bromley, Chatham, Canterbury, Dartford, Dover, Gillingham, Medway, Ramsgate, Thanet, Maidstone, Sittingbourne, Sevenoaks, Tunbridge Wells, Gillingham.