Family analysis: The case of M v F and others  EWHC 1720 (Fam) is a reminder that the main issues in the case should be identified and addressed as early as possible in proceedings. Brendan Roche, barrister, of Seven Bedford Row, highlights the procedural issues that arose because the father was a litigant in person, including whether he could cross-examine the mother.
What are the practical implications of this case?
The key lessons from this case are the value of identifying and addressing the issues as early as possible in proceedings, and arrangements that may be put in place as to cross-examination where an alleged perpetrator is a litigant in person.
The respondent father’s application for legal aid was rejected on the basis of his means. This meant that as a litigant in person, the respondent would, in the ordinary course, cross-examine the mother (the applicant) on her allegations. The Master of the Rolls in Re K and H (Private Law: Public Funding)
 EWCA Civ 543,  1 FLR 754, set out in para  of the judgment the options available to the court, which has to determine how best to balance the need for the evidence to be heard and tested against the need to protect alleged victims from further harm or abuse.
In his judgment, Williams J said it is crucial that the possibility that a litigant in person, who is the alleged perpetrator and might be cross-examining an alleged victim, is identified and brought to the attention of the court at the earliest possible time so that directions can be given. In this case, the guardian agreed that she would test the evidence of the parties.
The judge joined the children as parties at the second case management hearing before him, considering this appropriate given the complexities of the case, even before the fact-finding had taken place. One reason for this, and for a direction for an early report from the children’s guardian, was to enable swift progress to be made after the fact-finding hearing was concluded.