How McKenzie Friend Can Help You
In case you are unable to resolve a family feud via mediation, you might need to apply to the family court for your case to be resolved by it.
The process of hiring a solicitor for legal advice can be very costly and is only accessible for extraordinary cases.
Choosing to do litigation on your own can be a draining experience.
Who is a McKenzie Friend?
A McKenzie Friend is someone who goes with you to court to offer their assistance as a litigant in person.
These are people not represented by a lawyer or aren’t consulting with a barrister. A McKenzie friend sits with you in court and gives advice and helps you take important notes. They offer moral support while in court.
Any person with a family law case in any United Kingdom court has a right to represent themselves and in case they decide to hire a solicitor, such a person is called a litigant in person (LIP).
A LIP can go to the court with another person to help them, and this person is referred to as a McKenzie Friend. The name was adopted in 1970 after a case that developed the principles.
Although it is not a guaranteed right, it is only for an extemely good reason that a LIP should be denied the help of a McKenzie Friend.
Lately, more people are representing themselves in family court due to high attorney fees, yet they are not getting Legal Aid to pay the fees. Having to represent yourself in court is not as difficult as it sounds, specifically when you have a McKenzie Friend to assist you to get ready for the case in advance and sit by your side while in court.
How a McKenzie Friend Can Help
There are several things that a McKenzie Friend can do for you, including:
- Give you moral support
- Write down notes
- Assist with papers relating to the case
- Offer you advice quietly on:
o The procedures followed in court
o Things the litigant is likely to raise in court
o Things the litigant might want to know from witnesses
Ways a McKenzie Friend Cannot Help You
No McKenzie friend has the right to represent you in court instead of a LIP. Also, the friend is not allowed to take up the job of a LIP’s agent relating to the case or handle anything about it outside the court like signing documents.
A McKenzie Friend is not qualified to speak in the court or cross-examine witnesses. However, there are unique cases that see McKenzie friends given the right of audience by the judge. In such a case, the McKenzie Friend gets a chance to speak in front of a court and act as a litigant for him.
Will a McKenzie Friend Automatically Get Permission?
It is not common for a judge to deny McKenzie Friend permission unless he has a reputation for distracting the court’s proceedings.
In such a case, that person is viewed as a hindrance to how the justice system works and is likely to be denied permission. On the other hand, the litigant together with the McKenzie Friend will receive a prior warning before the refusal is made effective
In case a judge refuses permission for a McKenzie Friend, valid reasons need to be given, and such refusals usually happen to a person seeking to act as a McKenzie Friend and not a litigant wishing to have a McKenzie friend.
Why the Demand for a McKenzie Friend has Increased Recently
In the past, McKenzie Friends used to be family members and loved ones who would show up in court to offer their moral support without having to be paid. This is, however, no longer the case. You will find some professional McKenzie Friends who ask for a small fee in order for them to offer their help. They are usually cheaper than lawyers.
In 2013, the state altered the rules governing legal aid. What this means is that litigants don’t get free legal help anymore in family-related cases, including divorce, employment, child contact and debt-related civil cases.
This left many litigants unable to afford to hire an attorney and the only solution was to hire a McKenzie Friend who is cheaper which has led to an increase in their demand. If the defendant still cannot afford to hire a McKenzie Friend, they can represent themselves
How Much Will a McKenzie Friend Charge You
In normal circumstances, a McKenzie Friend rates range from £16 to £90 every hour. This usually depends on expertise and experience.
Although they are supposed to offer minimal help, they are slowly overseeing services that qualified lawyers offer to their clients. For example, although they are not granted permission to perform litigation, they tend to advise litigants on what to write in a document such that you will not find any difference.
Professional McKenzie Friends
They fall into two categories including:
- Those with prior exposure to the legal system, including social workers and law enforcers
- Those who have some personal experience of the law system or have encountered the same cases
Do They Help or Hinder?
They can do both in this way:
A McKenzie Friend can help you to access justice through giving you helpful assistance for LIP. Appearing for a case in court can be tiring especially to people who have never done it before. Many litigants find it encouraging to have someone who has experienced a similar situation with them for reassurance.
Judges also agree that it is a good decision for a person sitting for a high-pressure case to have a McKenzie Friend help them distinguish between emotions and facts. When a litigant is encouraged, they can better focus on facts, which helps them present their claims and, in turn, help the court make a quick decision.
The downside is that McKenzie Friend services are not entirely regulated and thus, you might end up with poor advice that might harm your case instead of making it better.
With poor advice, it is easy for any litigant to lose a great case. This doesn’t help the litigant’s work or the rule of justice for any concerned parties.
Also, it is possible for McKenzie Friends to take advantage of naive litigants who cannot afford to hire a lawyer. This means that such a litigant will end up with the most affordable but least helpful advice.
McKenzie Friends can be great at offering necessary moral support to litigants. However, it is good to know that there are good and poor McKenzie Friends and you will definitely get what you pay for.
Whether you choose to get a McKenzie Friend or not, remember it is your case, and you need to give your part of the feud. Another great way of solving a family dispute is through mediation, and National Family Mediation Service can help you with it.