In the divorce court – without a lawyer
Sophie’s recent court case experience……
I can only describe being a Litigant in Person as a fast track to madness ! Not only is the system designed to promote elitism through it’s use of antiquated language and procedural nonsense and thereby exclude the lay person, it also denies the existence of the very real requirements of the litigant in person and therefore, their need for assistance from the Court… unelected civil servants.
The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) and the Family Proceedings Rules (FPR) are supposedly there to protect and ensure that the conduct of proceedings between parties is on an “equal footing”. This is manifestly not the case.
My personal experience of the Court’s tolerance towards litigants in person has been zero. My experience of the Court’s censure of my position has been illuminating. The Court refuses to acknowledge any lack of procedural knowledge and positively discriminates for the bar.
Counsel for the other side can be bellicose; they can barrack, bully and hijack proceedings with latent but full approval.
Counsel can overrun the Application with endless waffle, chitchat and prevarication in order to secure adjournment of a hearing which is injurious to their client’s position …
Counsel are given license to snort, shuffle, snigger, smirk and behave like an ADD five year old..
However, the litigant in person dare not even roll their eyes at Counsel’s submissions, for fear of reprisal from the Court.
In short, I do not believe that the role of litigant in person is one to be taken lightly. Invariably it is a forced position due to financial constraints. Invariably but particularly, this role is taken by women.
I would argue that the only probable litigation role, taken on by most people is that of a party to divorce. Statistics bear out the fact that it is usually the woman who is left to represent herself once the man’s income has been withdrawn.
The Family Procedure Rules are biased in favour of the income earner. In 2011, this is statistically still nearly always the man. Women now stand to lose even more.
The new rules governing public funding will inevitably mean that even fewer women and children can afford the protection of the club that is the legal profession.
The right to legal representation has been withdrawn from the most vulnerable. The rule that might is right has been reinforced.
The poor get the law… only the rich can afford justice.
I am a wedding photographer and have an understanding of how making the right choice of photographer can be so rewarding.
Similarly, I have met brides who feel so disappointed with themselves when their photographer did not fulfill his promised commitments.
I had a similar experience to this in choosing to act as a litigant in person. My solicitors and barristers were very careful to promise me nothing and yet still under deliver. A neat trick!
My recollection of representing myself in court was one of great reward as I retrieved responsibility for my circumstances, took control of events, was consequently directly responsible for any success or failure in the environment, thus making the outcomes easier to accept.
And of course, my costs went through the floor.
For anyone forced into court because their spouse refuses to try mediation or collaborative law, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org so that I can add your questions and personal experiences to this blog.