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Solicitors take action in the bid to help people gain access to legal advice following legal aid cuts.
Family courts at risk of collapse with children caught up in legal battles as warring parents turn up at Court without legal representation, warns Gill Partington, an experienced Family Lawyer and Mediator at Everett Tomlin Lloyd and Pratt.
Following cuts to the Legal Aid budget in April 2013, there has been a huge drop in the number of parties seeking legal advice for family matters such as divorce, contact and residence. Not being able to access legal aid has meant vulnerable women and children being left unprotected. Father’s being unable to see their children following the breakdown of their relationship and parties being left to struggle financially where their spouse has refused to sell the family home after breakup.
Despite the expectation that the majority of family disputes would be resolved through mediation, the take up has been virtually non existent with a 47% drop in the usual percentage of people attending.
The founder of LawyerSupportedMediation.com, Marc Lopatin previously commented that there had been “a collapse in mediation” and that ” the government is trying to sever the link between mediators and lawyers which is worrying because clients need advice.”
Gill Partington says “Every day we meet people who are no longer eligible for legal aid who desperately need advice. When a relationship breaks down it is a very difficult time and people worry that they will not be able to afford the advice they need to resolve contact difficulties with their children, for divorce proceedings or to resolve financial matters.”
Many solicitors firms are taking proactive action to assist people accessing legal advice. Experienced family Lawyer, Gill Partington says “In an effort to allow people access to advice we have set up a Free Family Legal Clinic at our offices on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons each week. The clinic is open to all persons seeking advice on all manner of family matters, from divorce to financial matters and issues relating to their children. Since the cuts came into force, many family solicitors have been working hard to encourage people to seek the help that they need. Myself and others have qualified as Mediators to help promote our services.”
Attendance at mediation prior to proceedings being issued is not yet compulsory but the government proposes that this requirement be made compulsory in April of 2014.
Gill Partington, Everett Tomlin Lloyd and Pratt, Solicitors.