K J Smith Solicitors

New Guide Launched to Help Litigants in Person with the Divorce Process

Published: 22 April 2016

A new guide has been released by the Family Justice Council to help Litigants in Person (that is, individuals without legal representation) to navigate their way through the divorce process. The guide, entitled 'Sorting Out Finances on Divorce', is available via Gov.uk and the Judiciary website and helps explain some of the complex issues in relation to divorce and finance.

For those who cannot afford professional legal advice, this new guide can help avoid the need to go to court. It includes a road map through every step of the process, as well a detailed summary of the law. However, as it has been written for the general public to understand, Phillip Marshall QC assures that it ‘[avoids] any and all unnecessary “legalese” so that litigants in person [can] really understand the process the judges adopt without worrying about terminology.’

The guide has come about as a response to a recommendation by the Law Commission in their 'Matrimonial Property, Needs and Agreements' 2014 report to introduce more guidance to the general public on the distribution of assets and the determination of financial needs on divorce and civil partnership dissolution. The number of people in need of such guidance has increased steadily since April 1st 2013 when the government ended legal aid in family law cases.

The government has been heavily criticised for the decision to terminate legal aid, and the Family Law organisation Resolution have even described the government’s support of litigants in person as 'a sticking plaster for a family justice system left seriously wounded by cuts to legal aid'. However, the government has recommended mediation as an alternative route to take, and many couples find it a successful option – you can watch one of our senior lawyers discussing the process here.

Discussing the new guide, President of the Family Division and Chair of the Family Justice Council, Sir James Munby, said: ‘The objective in all cases is to achieve a result which reflects the best possible outcome for each family. In this context, the guide provides a general overview of the law, as well as a detailed explanation of particular issues which are likely to arise, such as maintenance, housing and pensions. It also includes useful examples and FAQs, and describes what a judge is likely to do in similar cases.’

The hope is that the judges will also be familiar with the examples given in the guide and that they will discuss them with the litigants so that they can reach a fair settlement among themselves.

The charity AdviceNow has also produced a much shorter and simplified version of the guide online, which can be found here.

If your relationship is on the verge of a breakdown and you are thinking about divorce then K J Smith Solicitors are here to assist. Our team of family law experts and trained mediators are here to help you understand the options available to you and the best course of action to take, with the aim of resolving your matter in the most amicable way possible.

For more information, or to arrange a free 45 minute consultation with a member of our team, please contact
K J Smith Solicitors today on 01491 630000 (Henley on Thames), 020 7070 0330 (London), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), 01753 325000 (Windsor), 01256 584000 (Basingstoke) or 01483 370100 (Guildford).

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