According to the Ministry of Justice, both parties are unrepresented in 28% of all private family law children cases. This reflects an upward trend since the wholesale winddown of legal aid in April 2013. The author says in her introduction that litigants in person (LiPs) clog up the courts. Helping LiPs to get it right procedurally is doing everyone a favour.
The book is thoughtful, helpful and well set out. It is divided into seven parts, starting with an explanation of the court and legal systems before moving on to procedure and case management. It then deals in detail with particular types of case, divorce, separation and finances; then children, followed by domestic violence. The remaining sections cover enforcement and appeal with a very handy toolkit and resources section.
The sections are well explained and highly readable. They also include mention of reforms and procedural changes, some of which have been implemented since publication. The content is complemented by a website, nofamilylawyer.co.uk, where users can subscribe for updates by email, or read the author’s blog.
The author is to be commended for getting to grips with changes to law and practice, including the introduction of the new Family Court, which began to operate some three months before the book’s publication.
Author: Lucy Reed
Publisher: Bath Publishing (£17.99)
If I have a niggle it is that the section on alternative dispute resolution is a little too cursory. Moreover, it suggests that family law arbitration is only likely to be accessible and economical for wealthier families. Not so, as arbitrators are already witnessing. Arbitration can be highly flexible and very cost-effective, avoiding court delays of many months.
The book, also available in digital format, is not a substitute for a lawyer or for legal advice, the author says. As such, it is not going to put family lawyers out of business. In catering for the growing and varied band of LiPs it serves as a practical and supportive companion. It is also an affordable investment.
The author and publisher are donating £1 to the Bar Pro Bono Unit for every copy of the book sold.
Tony Roe is a family law arbitrator and principal of Tony Roe Divorce & Family Law Solicitors, Theale, Reading