Divorcing or separating? Did you know you can access a barrister direct?
|Published: 13th February 2020 15:00|
CHANGES in the law mean separating or divorcing parents struggling to make arrangements to see their children can have direct access to barristers to represent them inside and outside court (February 2020).
In the past a solicitor was required to instruct a barrister, but due to rule changes under the Public Access Scheme, members of the public are now able to instruct barristers direct.
Family barrister and co-founder, along with fellow barrister Sarah Evans, of Bristol-based legal service Children in the Middle, Elizabeth McCallum explains: “Most people understand how using a solicitor works. You hand everything to them to sort out and they contact you when they need information and they liaise with a barrister. However, this comes at a cost. Direct Access Barristers work differently.
“By having direct access, you can save money by managing your own case through handling the admin and the paperwork, while still benefiting from specialist legal advice from a barrister, who is a children’s law expert.
“If you wish to use a barrister direct, then there are a few handy hints and tips we suggest you follow:
- Contact the barrister to book your hearing as soon as you receive the notice from the court – don’t leave it until the last minute, as you risk your barrister of choice not being available.
- Get organised – keep an electronic file of your case papers.
- Document everything – keep a running chronology of what is happening with your children – this will help you remember everything when needed.”
Children in the Middle is the only practice solely specialising in offering separating or divorcing parents, wishing to make arrangements to see their children, direct access to barristers, inside and outside court, throughout England and Wales.
“As a member of the public, you can employ barristers, like us, directly without using a solicitor. You will be a ‘litigant in person’, meaning, as far as the court and other party is concerned, you are representing yourself. All of the court paperwork and letters from the other party will be sent to you, usually by email.
“However, behind the scenes, you can use our specialist services to help prepare your documents and advise and guide you. For any hearings, we can just turn up and represent you. You don’t need to file any documents to notify the court, or other party, that we will be representing you.
“If you are already instructing a solicitor and want to end that instruction, you need to file a one-page form called a ‘notice of acting in person’ at the court and send a copy to the other party. We can send you a blank version of the form to complete.”
Elizabeth has practiced in this area of law for more than 14 years. She initially qualified as a barrister, then transferred to become a family solicitor. More recently, she has resumed her career as a barrister.
Sarah, who has been a children law specialist for more than 30 years, has a wealth of experience having spent time as a family lawyer working in the USA, Scotland and London before joining Magdalen Chambers in Exeter as a barrister.
She said: “Contrary to popular belief, our team of barristers prefer to help our clients reach an amicable agreement, that’s best for their children, outside the courtroom. Wherever possible, we will help parents reach a voluntary agreement over the arrangements for their child.
“But, if court action is required, as barristers, we can provide the experienced representation a parent needs for every stage of the proceedings, from initial advice, drafting an application to the court, representation at hearings anywhere in England & Wales and preparation of witness statements and evidence.
Most of Children in the Middle’s work is done remotely, which means geography is not a barrier. It also means overheads can be kept down, a benefit that can passed on to the client.
For further details, please call Children in the Middle on 0117 214 1797. Alternatively, please visit www.childreninthemiddle.co.uk.