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Entries in party litigants (2)

Tuesday
Feb032015

Alarming costs and delays in some court contact actions

A survey was issued in December to a sample of 300 of the people who made enquiries to FNFS in 2014 to gather experiences for our student intern  project on party litigants.   An interim report has been compiled on the findings after the first 76 replies.   The survey is still open – see https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/partylitigantsurveyFNFS

The results were particularly surprising in regards of the amount of money spent on legal action, and the large number of Child Welfare Hearings attended spread out over a long period of time.   Although this is a very biased sample drawn from high conflict family court cases, it is still alarming that such cases take so long and cost so much.

48% of respondents spent over £10,000 on their cases on legal action raised in order to attempt to arrange contact with their child. In some of the more severe cases, over £100,000 has been spent over a period of many years.  Some respondents when asked at what stage they were at of legal action responded, “Financially drained, cannot afford legal action,” and speak of the legal process being, “Exhausted.” It is apparent that many of them are considering restarting court action due to orders breaking down.

Some respondents on further questioning spoke of taking out loans in order to pay for their legal fees and also having to turn to becoming Party Litigants, after spending a significant amount of money without getting any further forward.  Even as a party litigant, costs will still be high.

The average number of hearings attended by the respondents is eight and the average length of time spent in legal action was 34 months.  One person experiencing legal action over 15 years and another person had attended court for 46 hearings.

26% of respondents have acted as party litigants and 10% of respondents are currently considering going it alone.  Although there are only a few people acting without lawyers in family cases, we think that the number of party litigants in Scotland is increasing.

These findings will help our student intern Rebecca Sibbald to carry out some training for party litigants and produce a film about going to court.  Thanks to all who responded.

Monday
Sep242012

Court changes: case management and closures

Responding to proposals to introduce a mandatory case management hearing in family court proceedings involving section 11 orders (contact and residence), Families Need Fathers Scotland comments that case management needs to start at the outset of any court hearings, not just when the case is heading to a proof hearing.

 

We also point out that new procedures shoul acknowledge that people who represent themselves in court (party litigants) should be acknowledged in the new court rules. The procedures, forms and language used in court proceedings should be transparent and obvious for these party litigants and plain English information should be made available at all times, including when Sheriffs announe the outcome of hearings.

 

A consultation has just been announced about closure of some of the smaller Scottish courts.  Sheriff courts in Alloa, Cupar, Dingwall, Arbroath, Haddington, Stonehaven, Dornoch, Duns, Kirkcudbright and Rothesay are facing closure.

 

Concentrating services on the larger courts may make it easier to introduce specialised family sheriffs in all Scottish courts but it will be more difficult for people in the more remote parts of Scotland to attend hearings, making it even more important to streamline the management of court processes.