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Researching Reform: Lay advisers are the lawyers of the future - let's support them

Date:14 MAR 2016
Lay advisers have historically been met with suspicion and sometimes hostility inside the Family Court but the judiciary’s latest Consultation on McKenzie Friends examining their status and place inside the system is the perfect opportunity to embrace this new form of assistance and to acknowledge the part it is playing in shaping the future of family law.

Legal aid cuts ongoing austerity measures and falling incomes have all contributed to the stark rise in families representing themselves during the life of their own cases. That the majority of parties in the family courts will be self-represented or Litigants in Person has become an accepted inevitability with the judiciary scrambling to modernise and simplify the hearing process in part to accommodate parents without solicitors or barristers to assist them. At the same time lay advisers sometimes referred to as McKenzie Friends have started to fill the representational gap by offering guidance support and advocacy to families unable to afford conventional legal help or meet the narrow criteria to access legal aid. This change inside the courts has not gone unnoticed by the...

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