As an organisation we are committed to resolving separation issues in a constructive way and as such our Litigants in Person Committee has put together a number of information pages in order to help you if you end up in this situation.
With the advent of the global pandemic hearings in the Family Court are increasingly being held remotely by telephone or on video conferencing software. This guide is designed to help you through the process and includes helpful information on how to prepare for the hearing, how to join a hearing and what to do during the hearing.
The committee has also created guidance for some of the key functions of the course which you may need to navigate:
Application for a Divorce – You can apply for a divorce if you have been married for more than a year and can show that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. Currently this is done by proving one of five facts – adultery, behaviour, desertion, 2 years separation with consent, or 5 years separation. This guide take you through that process.
Child Arrangement Orders – This is for proceeding with any court order that involves children. For example this can include who the child is going to live with, resolving disagreements such as which school the child will go to, emergency orders etc.
Financial Orders – It is important when getting divorced, or when dissolving a civil partnership, to consider the financial issues that arise out of the separation such as (a) what will happen to any house, or investments, you and your spouse or civil partner own (b) how should any pensions be divided between you and (c) what financial support will be provided going forward. This guidance explains these different types of orders.
Top tips for Litigants in Person – general
- Keep a full set (either electronic or paper depending on preference) of all correspondence and documents on your case. A well-ordered ‘file’ from commencement of the case will stand you in good stead going forward;
- Treat your ex-partner’s Solicitor (and their staff) with respect and courtesy. Remember, they are only doing their job! Do not be offended if they ask you to put your position in writing. This often minimises the risk of being misunderstood;
- If you are writing to the Court or an expert, remember to send a copy of the letter or document to your ex-partner’s solicitors. Once solicitors are instructed, only communicate with the solicitor about the case, not your ex-partner;
- Review the glossary of terms for family cases;
- You can ask for representation at any stage of your case on a discrete point or generally. If you instruct a barrister under the Direct Access scheme, make sure you give them all of the information with plenty of time before the hearing.
Top tips for Litigants in Person– at Court
- Every Court is different and may adopt a slightly different procedure. If in doubt, ask the court staff, although they cannot give you legal advice;
- Ensure you arrive early to give yourself time to familiarise yourself with the building and find out where you need to be for your hearing. Check in with the Usher on arrival and if you manage to find a private room, note down the number on the sign in sheet so people know where to find you;
- Consider taking a friend with you to court for moral support. However, you will need to check with the Court if they can come into the hearing with you;
- Do not interrupt the Judge during the hearing. The Judge will give you a chance to speak;
- Ensure you understand any Order made at Court. If you do not understand, ask the Judge during the hearing. There may also be a free legal advice facility at the Court such as a PSU (Personal Support Unit) or Citizens Advice Bureau;
- After the hearing, and the Order is made, ensure you keep a note of any deadlines as it may take the Court some time to approve and send the Order out to all parties;
- If you have been ordered to do something in an Order, you must comply with the Order, otherwise the Court may penalise you. If you do not attend a hearing Orders can be made in your absence.