K J Smith Solicitors

Matrimonial Survey 2013 Highlights A Rise In Self Representation

Published: 20 November 2013

The Matrimonial Survey 2013, which surveys family law experts across the UK has just been released, highlighting the biggest issues in family law over the past 12 months. The survey, published by accountancy firm Grant Thornton, gathers the opinions of 85 top family solicitors in the UK and releases the statistics every year, in the form of their Matrimonial Survey.

Now, reaching its milestone 10th Edition, the Matrimonial Survey 2013 reports on the key issues faced by family law professionals and looks at the headline statistics relating to divorce and cohabitation, concealment of assets and the future of family law.

One emerging trend highlighted by this report is the rise in the numbers of litigant in person, due to a lack of public funding. A Litigant in person is an individual that is not represented in court by a solicitor or barrister. When surveyed on the three key issues at the forefront of family law, 24% of family solicitors said the increased numbers of litigant in person, 18% said the removal of legal aid for most family law cases and 17% said courts not being fit for purpose. This shows a shift in opinion from the previous years' report in 2012, with the key issue being the economic downturn and availability of assets/liquidity.

One of the main reasons for this shift in opinion is due to government cuts to family law legal aid.  Many people now have little choice but to try and represent themselves in the family courts as they can't afford the services of a professional family solicitor. Self representation creates many problems for the courts, as it can slow down the proceedings and puts too much emphasis on the judge, as many judges rely on the experience and the legal knowledge of the solicitor to highlight applicable laws and to help them come to a positive and swift resolution.

The survey also looks at what impact the economy can have on the number of divorce cases, as well as drawing attention to some high profile divorce cases and the proportion of cases that reveal concealed assets or non-disclosure of information.

The other key area highlighted by the survey is cohabitation. As we have covered in many previous blog posts, cohabitation is an issue of growing importance, due to the lack of protection that cohabiting couples receive as the laws that apply to married couples don't always apply to cohabiting couples. 62% of family law professionals surveyed think that cohabiting couples should be given the same rights as married couples.  21% would like to see a change in legislation to protect cohabiting couples and 57% do not think that the law on cohabitation is any clearer than 10 years ago - which highlights that there is clear need for change in this area of family law.

The full Matrimonial Survey 2013 by Grant Thornton can be viewed here. If you have been affected by any of the issues in this report, or you have a family law matter you wish to discuss, please contact K J Smith Solicitors to arrange a free 45 minute consultation on 01491 630000 (Henley-on-Thames), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), or 020 7070 0330 (Central London).

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