Dad is dying. He is sole carer for his eight-year-old daughter and has a court order for parental rights and residence. He has a week to live. Mum is not around. He wants a close female friend with no social services involvement and a daughter of similar age to look after his daughter.
What advice do I give?
1. Legal aid is not available.
2. Go to a mediation information and assessment meeting.
3. Get friend to go to a MIAM.
4. Appoint friend as testamentary guardian in hastily drawn up will.
5. Will duly executed.
6. Friend to complete a C100 form – I have to do that as too complex for poorly educated but loyal friend.
7. Complete C1A form.
8. Complete C2 form.
9. Friend to take forms to local county court to issue with maximum two-day delay for hearing. Dad now in hospice.
10. Court states it no longer issues in Bodmin so friend has to get to Truro, 25 miles away, to issue. She has no money and there is no public transport. Time is of the essence.
11. Bodmin kindly relents upon my intervention and a human sees the urgency and assists the friend to issue – a hearing is allocated for next day at 2pm.
12. Friend still has to get to Truro for the hearing. What order will she get? What directions will be imposed? How will she comply? What if other family members ‘intervene’?
This would have costed out at £500-£1,000. More if I had attended any hearing. Is that too much for the state to pay for the security of an eight-year-old girl?
I hope the government is proud of the withdrawal of legal aid in deserving cases such as this. It is only idiots like me (and many others I suspect) that prop up the system. When will common sense return to the legal process? This is maybe an extreme example, but many contact and residence issues have now left the system altogether – a true denial of justice when a court order is needed.
Chris Nicholls, president, Cornwall Law Society