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has anyone used a McKenzie Friend and what can they do exactly?

(16 Posts)
skyeskyeskye Wed 22-Jul-15 12:03:57

If my XH goes as far as taking me to court for residency, somebody has suggested that I use a McKenzie Friend as their costs would be lot cheaper.

I just wondered if anyone has any experience of using one,

can they give me legal advice now instead of a solicitor?

and also what can they do or not do in court.

Are they legally trained with legal knowledge? i don't think they are allowed to speak on your behalf though?

Bellemere Wed 22-Jul-15 15:23:11

Some are legally trained, some aren't. They aren't given an automatic right to address the court and in my experience generally a magistrates court won't allow it but higher levels tend to be okay with it.

My experience was good, albeit the paperwork was done very last minute which caused a bit of anxiety. For final hearings I have used a barrister that specialises in a particular area and they have been worth the money. We certainly couldn't have afforded a solicitor/barrister so it was just one step up from going it alone really.

sadwidow28 Tue 28-Jul-15 13:50:13

Skye, send a PM to lostdad

He is a McKenzie friend and often gives advice on divorce/family threads. There is a thread on here at the moment about McKenzie friends and he invited the OP to 'get in touch' for some pointers. He might be able to suggest how you go about having a chat with someone in your area.

Legallyblonde77 Tue 28-Jul-15 13:59:32

Whilst I suspect many people are well served by McKenzie friends, as former lawyer I would be very careful about going to non qualified lawyer for legal advice - there is a lot of controversy about McKenzie friends especially those who are paid (albeit that I know the solicitor who represented the original "McKenzie").

As a caveat I worked in crime not family law the adage " a little knowledge is a dangerous thing" is very true in the law. They are unregulated (unlike Solicitors/ Barristers/Legal Executives) and have no formal training so rings massive alarm bells for me.

I am so angry about the legal aid cuts that make this a decision people have to make.

Legallyblonde77 Tue 28-Jul-15 14:01:07

not technically savvy and my lunch break just ended but whilst an extreme example there is useful info in this FT article

QuickSketchOfRoom Tue 28-Jul-15 14:20:57

I am a barrister. If you cannot afford legal representation then get advice from a pro bono (free) service (often linked to universities or law schools) where those giving advice are supervised by someone who knows what they are doing. There is a reason it takes many years to qualify. Law is complicated. In the 15 plus years I have worked in law I have never seen a person win a case (in any area of law) who was not represented by a qualified lawyer. If you really cannot find any help from a lawyer then represent yourself as the judge will then have to work hard to ensure your rights are protected and the hearing is fair. Both you and the Court may think your Friend has a greater degree of knowledge than they actually have. When you have a solicitor/barrister representing you things such as LPP kick in, you will have no such protection with a non-lawyer. Good luck.

QuickSketchOfRoom Tue 28-Jul-15 14:41:24

Bellemere Tue 28-Jul-15 14:42:06

In the 15 plus years I have worked in law I have never seen a person win a case (in any area of law) who was not represented by a qualified lawyer.

The plural of anecdote is not evidence.
Family law doesn't need to be complicated and plenty of people do get satisfactory outcomes (well, as satisfactory as anything is in family law) without representation.

Lilymaid Tue 28-Jul-15 14:49:21

McKenzie friends like lawyers can be very variable, but they are not regulated as lawyers might be. The extreme example.

QuickSketchOfRoom Tue 28-Jul-15 15:16:14

Litigation is unpredictable. Some cases are straight forward, many are not. I wouldn't gamble with my children's lives. I would get qualified representation. I take on board Bellemere's comment that's it's my personal experience I quote from, so to put that in context I work in a contentious area of law and have been in Court daily (other than weekends) for the majority of last 17 years. I have appeared in courts in all manner of contested proceedings across England, Wales and USA. I have been instructed as advocate in hundreds of trials and appeared in thousands of contested hearings. In my limited experience I have never seen a litigant in person win, but they have done better than when assisted by a MacKenzie's friend as the judge and advocate for other party have to bend over backwards to try and ensure a fair hearing. A MacKenzie's friend may give a false sense of security to OP and judge. The protection my clients are afforded are professional indemnity insurance, knowing I am regulated, I am well trained, experienced in my field and have duties to them as well as a Code of Conduct ensuring I act to certain professional standards. None of those protections are in place for a MacKenzie's friend.

skyeskyeskye Tue 28-Jul-15 15:46:02

Thanks for advice. At the moment I am pushing for mediation, he has chosen to go to a solicitor rather than talk to me. he dropped contact, then 3 weeks later wanted it to start up again. i said not without sorting out all the the issues that caused him to drop contact and asked for mediation.

I can't afford a solicitor, I only have a small amount of money put away and XH has just cut the maintenance to £27 a week. I want to use the small amount that I do have for mediation, which is dear enough at £120 an hour.

my main worry (as I have posted elsewhere), is that he wants me to drive to a motorway services to meet him every three weeks with DD, a journey of 160 mile round trip for me and 120 miles for him, this he deems to be half way. My stance on this has not changed, he chose to move nearly 3 hours away and therefore he needs to collect his daughter. He cut contact from 2 weekly to 3 weekly, thereby dropping one trip altogether. Plus the pittance of £27 a week maintenance would all be used in fuel. I also have a fear of motorway driving and simply can't do it. i don't have the nerve, the time or the money.

If he insists on going to court, I may have to take a solicitor at that point.

Bellemere Tue 28-Jul-15 16:25:22

So you are currently refusing contact? What are "the issues" that you refer to? You would be in a better position if you said he was free to come and collect her on a fortnightly basis as before, or 3 weekly if he has a genuine reason for reducing contact.

skyeskyeskye Tue 28-Jul-15 17:08:02

DD is 7 years old. she has problems with wiping when going to the toilet. they let her go unsupervised in a public place, then shouted at her when she made a mess. this is after being told by teacher, school nurse and support worker not to make an issue of it. they were all appalled by this. she has been referred to the hospital.

when he last dropped her back he didn't use a car booster seat. when he collected her at 5.30pm the prevous Friday he had been driving since 4am that morning, and still had 3 hours to go to get home.

they criticize DD's clothing, saying that it is too bright and that i should send her with nice clothes.

DD has expressed several times that she does not like the girlfriend because she is always picking on her for her manners and other things and because she shouts at her dad all the time.

he has left her unattended in the car in a strange place and she got out to go and find him.

DD has expressed that she wants to see her dad but not his girlfriend.

he often drops the Friday night pickup the day before.

he never responds to emails to confirm anything.

he never rings her, he begrudgingly skyped her after the outside agencies got involved and then tried to drop it with 5 minutes notice.

He dropped contact via a CAFCASS online Parenting Plan, changing every option to say that he would not see DD any more as he will not deal with me any more, so therefore refusing to co-operate and sort out the various issues.

I suggested that XH have DD one day this weekend past, either Saturday or Sunday, times of his choosing, but no overnight until issues resolved. Neither he or his solicitor got back to me.

so not actually witholding, just don't want overnight stays until all issues resolved.

his letter from solicitor is all about what he wants, demanding that I drive to the motorway services, demanding contact every 3 weeks as it was and threatening to go to court for custody as he can provide a happy home for her.

no mention of weekly skype or phone, no mention of having her in any of the school holidays, its all about him and what he wants, not what is best for DD!

Clutterbugsmum Tue 28-Jul-15 17:19:14

Skye you forgot to mention that he is more often then not late for pick up / drop off so it will you and your dd waiting either hours for him to arrive or a phone call at the last minute that he not coming.

Skye has tried for 3 years to get him to have consistent contact with their DD, but he is only in contact if it suits him and not the child.

lostdad Thu 30-Jul-15 11:27:58

McKenzie Friends can do most of the things lawyers do. We do not have automatic rights of audience meaning you cannot assume we will be able to speak on your behalf in court.

We also cannot act as your agent. Your ex and/or his solicitor will correspond with you directly.

That said...I do get rights of audience and increasingly often - before magistrates, judges and high court judges. As for acting as your agent I read through correspondence and advise my clients their options whilst recommending the best course of action. When it comes to pre-court negotiation we work the other party's solicitor or barrister as a matter of course.

In terms of paperwork I can help as little or as much as people like. I am experienced in preparing court bundles and assisting client with the process. With bundle preparation it is common for the other side's solicitor to ignore any evidence my client wishes to include potentially leaving them at a trial with no evidence whatsoever. (As an aside I must caveat talk about `regulation': In my experience I have only known one solicitor not to abide by the Law Society's guidelines on Litigants in person. The same applies to the court's own rules on bundle preparation, Practice Direction 27A. In short, there are plain and simple ignored).

I am not legally qualified (my partner, who is also a McKenzie Friend is a paralegal and has been involved in civil litigation for 15 years). We have both worked in courts at all levels around the UK (including the Royal Courts of Justice in London). We cover private applications and have worked with Social Services teams in public law.

In terms of cost we typically charge less than a quarter of a solicitor. We are available at short notice, over weekends and in emergency situations. Outside the actual court process we are able to advise you on a variety of topics that will get your course moving forward quickly (i.e. so you won't be waiting for reports, medical records, police reports, etc. at the next hearing...) We work at a flat rating for hearing so when your 30 minute directions hearing turns into a 7 hour extravaganza you will be concentrating your case and not thinking `That's an extra £1200 legal cost I wasn't expecting').

We've been commended by the court repeatedly, thanked for our work in assisting in matters. We've been commended by the other party's solicitor/barrister commonly too.

Like everyone else there are good McKenzie Friends and bad ones. Saying that...the same is true for a solicitor or barrister! Whether you choose to use a McKenzie Friend, a solictor or barrister understand they work for you. It is your case. Phone around, get recommendations, ask for references, experience. I've met barristers solicitors I would most definitely recommend...and others that I wouldn't.

So yes - I would recommend McKenzie Friends and say `Get in touch'...but I would, wouldn't I? wink

skyeskyeskye Thu 30-Jul-15 11:35:04

thanks for the advice lostdad. I am hoping that he won't go as far as court. At the moment, I am still waiting for a response to my letter to his solicitor which was almost 2 weeks ago now. I don't think he has the time or the money, but of course he could decide to self represent also.... although I don't think he would do that.

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