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Report on experiences and needs of LiPs published

Range of measures recommended made to support LiPs

The Ministry of Justice has published findings from a study into the experiences and support needs of litigants in person in private family law cases.

The report – written by  Liz Trinder, Rosemary Hunter, Emma Hitchings, Joanna Miles, Richard Moorhead, Leanne Smith, Mark Sefton, Victoria Hinchly, Kay Bader and Julia Pearce – was submitted to  the Ministry of Justice in September 2013.

The study focuses on the experience of LIPs prior to the legal aid reforms in April 2013. It was designed to inform policy and practice responses to LIPs following the legal aid changes.

The report concludes with a summary of the broad recommendations arising from the team's analysis of the literature and the research data.

The recommendations are:

Information needs

Emotional/moral support

Other issues

The report is here.

Resolution has welcomed the long-delayed publication. Jo Edwards, chair of the family law organisation, argues:

"The recommendation in the report for initial legal advice for litigants in person is something that Resolution has consistently argued for. Our members see first-hand the problems faced by litigants in person, who enter the courts without a full understanding of their legal position, court procedures or how to present evidence, leading to emotional and acrimonious and unfair outcomes for them and for their families. Some, as the report identifies, are vulnerable and are simply not capable of participating effectively in the family justice system, no matter how many modifications are made to the court process. It is a travesty that these people are expected to enter into a process with enormous ramifications for their lives without proper support."

Jo Edwards continues:

"As well as the problems facing vulnerable applicants, the lack of legal signposting and advice means that far fewer people are entering mediation and other beneficial processes that help to resolve matters quickly, after the loss of family solicitors as the major referral point. Publicly-funded mediation numbers have dropped 45% over two years, despite the Government's objective of diverting more separating couples into mediation.
"Resolution members working in the family courts see every day the issues outlined in the report. For us, and for everyone who cares about justice in the family courts, the huge increase in self-represented litigants is a serious concern. Resolution is publishing an updated good practice guide to working with litigants in person next week, and will be running training for family work professionals on how to minimise conflict and work effectively in cases where the other party is unrepresented."

Publication of the report coincides with the release of 'experimental statistics' which suggest that the increase in the duration of private family law proceedings is not caused by the increase of litigants in person. The statistics are here.