BBC Panorama highlights perils of ‘self-representation’ but misses out mediation

BBC Panorama highlights perils of ‘self-representation’ but misses out mediation

BBC Panorama on Monday 30th March highlighted the difficulties that increasing numbers of people face in dealing with the family justice system.

In particular, it focussed on people who, without suitable legal funding, were having to deal with cases themselves as unrepresented ‘litigants in person’.

The problems start with completing the necessary forms to get proceedings underway. Then there's the challenge of reading legal documents and understanding the law. And the task of attending at Court and representing oneself before a Judge. For the unrepresented litigant in person, this can feel like an intimidating and confusing arena.

There’s no substitute for sound legal advice

Getting advice from an experienced and qualified family lawyer at the outset can often help to get matters resolved without the need for court proceedings. But where this is necessary, sound preparation of the case and representation by an experienced advocate are essential.

Yes, it’s possible to get through the family justice system without legal representation. But, with the future arrangements for your children or your home at stake, can you really afford not to seek professional legal advice?

"What about mediation?"

What the programme failed to mention or discuss, however, is mediation. The option to resolve matters without the time and expense of court proceedings.

Mediation is playing an important role in resolving family law disputes. It’s now a requirement for the vast majority of people contemplating court proceedings to attend a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting) with a qualified Mediator. The purpose of the MIAM is to consider the potential suitability of mediation, and any other options, for resolving the issue at hand.

Mediation can help to discuss and agree matters in a much quicker timescale. It's also much more cost effective compared to court proceedings. There is also legal aid funding available for mediation (subject to eligibility). Whereas there’s no funding available for the vast majority of family court proceedings.

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