New research on litigants in person and the family court
Preliminary findings from research regarding litigants in person in the private family court suggest that the post-LASPO process has led LiPs to lose trust in the system and in some cases made them feel worse off than when they started.
Presented at the recent Public Law Project North Conference, ESRC-funded PhD research from the University of Leeds includes 23 interviews of people who were mid-way through or had recently completed family court proceedings without legal representation.
While the number of interviewees is small, the amount of evidence gathered gives real insight into the perceptions, experiences and interpretations of LiPs as they seek out advice services and navigated proceedings.
One of the main difficulties explored was the struggle to locate and access legal advice.For reasons including lack of social and financial resources, many LiPs interviewed jumped from service to service to get the assistance they required and resorted to high interest ‘pay day’ loans to pay for sporadic advice from
solicitors. As with access to courts, access to services was contingent on the amount of time and resources people were able to spare.
The preliminary findings also discuss existing hurdles for those experiencing mental health orlearning difficulties, who may struggle to make use of written information online and being required to convey information ‘on the spot’ in the courtroom.
Of the interviewees, domestic abuse survivors identified a lack of crucial resources such as video links, with one litigant feeling as if she would be perceived as ‘difficult’ if
she were to request them.
Moving forward, the report suggests the need for essential training to judges and court staff, particularly when working with survivors of domestic violence, but also a more systemic change to ensure justice is delivered in a way which work for, and are perceived to work by, litigants in person.