The way I see it is that the courts are there to administer the law. The use of solicitors is to clarify the issues and present them in a manner which will allow the case to be determined in an efficient way.
Solicitors are supposed to be a help and they are by no means a prerequisite. This is a fundamental principle of the law being available to the public.
As soon as a judge looks down upon his employer (a member of the public) for not being legally represented, he/she should be sacked.
DJ Gerlis is portrayed as a sitting judge and the way his article reads it seems that he is sending out a message that he doesn't like people representing themselves. It is the public's RIGHT to represent themsleves, it is the LAW. If he feels this makes his job unacceptably harder or prejudices his judgement then he should resign.
I agree with you Fiona that if one can afford it, legal representation would be good, but one should not be penalised for exercising one's rights to self-representation.
What's the worse that can happen? A self-repper can be royally screwed by the other party's sharp counsel? That means that the other party comes off better. Well, maybe that outcome is better than paying tens of thousands of pounds in fees which come out of the family pot, possibly adversely affecting the children of the marriage.
There is a lot of mundane activity invloved in divorce which I belive anyone literate could do themselves but only if the procedures were made readily available. Currently, guidance is squirreled away here and there and although the Which Guide to Divorce is a good starting point it is not a self-help manual.
Wikivorce would be a good site for starting a self help guide, even if it starts off solely with a record of the experiences of those divorcing.
From my point of view I seemed to be doing the serious difficult work myself - all the questions all the scrutinising of his documents,all the error spotting all the proof reading,I suggested and emailed and went to meetings - after a while I realised she was mainly silent - even the day before some deadline there'd be nothing -I'd provide the chronology/issues/questionnaire then left to her own devices to meet deadlines she'd miss them - I took to emailing reminders to her - she probably charged me for her time reading them.
My solicitor sent me all the forms I could have downloaded - with a half decent checklist and timeline a ten year old could have done it
There is something so unnatural about knowing something that will really help somebody - and them asking you and you saying I'll tell you if you give me £100 - especially if the book they got it from costs £300 and but for that you would know what they know?
Have you tried charging your solicitor for training her?
There are a number of books on divorce. The Which Guide is quite good as a very basic starter then there are a few divorce case books and ancillary relief handbooks together with student manuals on family law. A set pf three of such would cost about £150 and give a lot more info than an hour of a solicitor's time.
The books also ram home what is NOT relevant in a divorce.
What the books do not help with are presentation of one's case. There are guides on advocacy for aspiring barristers but I think that'd be taking things a bit far.
What your solicitor should help you with that is important, is the outline of the case and your skeleton arguments. These are things which are actually likley to be read by the judge and need to be factual but there are ways in which to write and lay out facts that help (or hinder) your case.
This is where experience counts and if your solicitor is naff then I suggest you consider spending money on one who charges twice as much when needed and gives results.
Pwersonally, I can't afford any professional, for anything! The good news is that I've finally saved up enough money for a jar of vaseline, just in time for the Final Hearing.
I recommend 2 jars .........
\"the outline of the case and your skeleton arguments. These are things which are actually likely to be read by the judge \"
Now we're getting to it - the stuff that might get read!
Are examples available anywhere ?
There isn't anything wrong with a lawyer or judge saying that litigants handling their own case is a bad idea and parties should give themselves the best chance. They, like everyone else, are entitled to free speech and their opinions are valuable because they have the experience of dealing with the courts all the time. The important thing is they leave their personal opinions aside when they are dealing with clients and in court.
There is nothing in the article to suggest that LIPs should be penalised or the judge won't make efforts to ensure that there is a level playing field between the parties, explaining the process as the case goes along and making allowances for someone who is inexperienced or nervous. However, there is a limit to how far those allowances can go.
It's difficult to collect data on errors in law but LIPs make admin and procedural errors in 37% of cases as opposed to sols who make errors in 13% of cases.
respondents failing to answer questions on the acknowledgement of service
flawed reasons for objecting to paying costs
failing to submit relevant documents, or failing to submit the correct fees
flawed objections to paying costs, where costs were awarded against them
respondent filing an answer out of time
errors in the submission of consent orders
inadequate and inappropriate questions in a questionnaire to the other side
appllying for a residence order to be made in favour of the other parent, who had no wish for such an order
failure to contest an application for a residence order in the belief that as the child was 10 years old, the child’s wishes
would automatically prevail
inappropriately raised financial matters in CA cases
unrealistic demands about the scheduling of contact visits
refusal to have any dealings with the other parent or their solicitor other than at court
inappropriate involvement of children in the proceedings by encouraging their writing directly to the judge
substantial delays by respondents in making the full and frank disclosure relating to finances required under the rules.
filing evidence but refusing to serve it on the applicant
applicant failing to appear on the first injunction hearing of their application without apparent reason and without notifying the court, resulting in the case being struck outAs I said in a post above with serious errors the rate for sols decreases to 1% and for LIPs 6%.
\"What's the worse that can happen?\"
Loosing residency or contact time, having case struck out, awarded tens of thousands of pounds costs against you, unintentional outcomes from consent orders, sour long term family relationships, loosing out on some of your share of the assets.
\"Wikivorce would be a good site for starting a self help guide, even if it starts off solely with a record of the experiences of those divorcing.\"
One of the problems I've noticed with forums is people come looking for advice but not many actually report their final outcomes. Also because he law is evolving all the time it's difficult to keep things updated. There is a self rep section in the divorce guide but no one seems to contribute much?
That Judge is and was OUTRAGEOUS in his personal comments, you just know anyone appearing as a self repper before the daft pratt is going to be treated so unfairly, that he/she might be best to just not turn upto court at all!
Self reppers do it because they have too, none of us think we are rumpole of the bailey, we just cant afford the ridiculous fees.
Also how many self reppers will read every single article, scour the internet for hours in the hope that they can make some sort of sense of the daft divorce laws in this country BEFORE they even enter a court! We are not all imbociles who think we can play solicitors at their own game.
In my opinion there should be no need for any lawyer to even get involved in any divorce hearing.
As for AR hearing well thats pretty much the same!
You get your assets, you get your debts, you add and subtract, you make sure the kids are looked after properly and you split whatever accordingly!
WHat could be simpler than that???
Why hours and hours, letter after letter, hearing after hearing, order after order, phone calls, faxes all for what?
For all your assets to dissapear in some nice little Lawyers coffers!!!
The Judge was a condescending Asswipe! (and if he wants to know my real name,to take out an action against me for slanderous/liable, I have no problem with taking him on in his own court if need be!!!!! So please feel free to email me!)
By the way Vail, the book is coming on brilliantly, will send you a copy as soon as its done! If its not in time for your hearing at least you can have a laugh after!
Louise, there is a place for solicitors. Not everyone can readily deal with the intricacies of divorce. My argument is with the judge's clear prejudice.
You say there is nothing in the article to suggest that Litigants In Person should be penalised. No he does not advocate penalties, he lists the ways in which a LIP can be penalised.
That people make mistakes and have emotions is a given and is part of human nature. Divorce is stressful and the increase in expenditure that follows upon one househlod becoming two adds an extra financial strain.
The judge remarks that lack of funds is a common 'excuse'. Surely it is the common 'reason'.
Perhaps I am pedantic but I know how carefully lawyers chose their words in court and how cases hinge on splitting hairs. This one example illustrates this particular judge's view of self-representation.
DJ Gerlis's article is not a panegyric on the benefits of legal representation, it is diatribe aimed at self-representation.
Self-repping is not easy and I would imagine that few do it through choice. It is bad enough to have the extra stress of dealing with the research and paperwork on top of an acrimonious divorce but to then have to deal with a judge biased against LIPs is a repugnant thought.
'What's the worst that can happen?', depends on the individual case and it is true that where one or more of the parties are in a new relationship there is more scope for damage. My point is that when talking about finances, I would rather I lost money to my x with the chance that it will go for the good of our children rather than to a solicitor where it is totally lost.
'.. self help guide...' There is a lot of info in the old Wikivorce threads and posts and I intend to add my own tuppence worth of factual outcome and report as to whether one jar of vaseline was enough at the Final Hearing.