A recent survey by the Bar Council has highlighted a growing concern amongst the legal profession.
There is now an unprecedented amount of self represented litigants in the civil court proceedings an increase of over 40% over the last 12 months and is expected to reach 650,000 by April 2013. This dramatic increase is, and will, be mainly caused by the continual access restriction to legal aid for applicants of separation and divorce.
Michael Todd QC, Chairman of the Bar said that the survey,
“ makes clear the Bar’s genuine concern about the detrimental effect that legal aid cuts are going to have on the justice system . More and more vulnerable litigants are going to be forced to go to court to pursue or defend their rights, often during extremely stressful periods of their lives. Cases are likely to take longer, justice will often be denied and the increase in expensive court time will increase costs to the taxpayer. Everybody will lose out. “
The cuts in legal aid are aimed at saving the Ministry of Justice budget £2 billion pounds by 2014-15.
Legal experts are predicting that delays for court hearings will continue to get longer as Judges will have to spend more of their time in doing the work of lawyers and advising DIY litigants on how to manage their cases. Indeed, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, recently warned that delays would follow from a rise in self – represented litigants “ The cases take much longer “ he said.
Signs are already being seen of an increase in people who could previously afford lawyers but can no longer do so because of the economic climate, while funding cuts have closed many advice centres across the UK.
The average cost of litigation for a divorce is now in the region of £12 – 15,000 with many cases a great deal more expensive. This will significantly reduce the amount of money available for distribution between disputing parties and in many cases it can be the difference between decent housing or better provision for the care of children.
However, the question now being asked is:
“ Is this not good news for people seeking a more appropriate way of resolving the issues that arise when separation and divorce occur?”
Mediation may not be a panacea, and indeed does not offer a “cure all“ for people who are considering separation and divorce, but is suitable for around 85% of people who wish to resolve their separation and divorce issues easily and quickly and at a significantly lower cost than Court litigation. The average cost of a mediated solution to divorce is in the region of £1200 -2000, with the added benefit that the parties in mediation achieve their own solution to the dispute without decisions, often unsuitable to both parties, being imposed by a Judge.
For more information on how mediation may work for you contact National Family Mediation Service or