As from 1 April 2013 the Government removed funding from entire areas of civil law including private family law, such as divorce and custody cases. This has caused no end of problems for people trying to access legal support and inconsistencies & conflicting information with within the courts. There is now a big gap in support services for separating couples. Please see this BBC news article for further information on this.
However, there are still a couple of options left for mothers seeking support with legal costs but you need to meet certain criteria to qualify. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau should be able to put you in touch with solicitors firms who can give you a couple of hours of free legal advice from which you can establish whether or not you will be able to proceed with legal support or not. Although there is generally a long wait prior to actually getting seen.
We are not solicitors and could not speak for you in court. But we are hoping to be able to put you in touch solicitors who are sensitive to and knowledgeable about abusive relationships and a mums themselves. Although we can help you by recommending the following legal representatives.
We know of a few contacts friendly female family law solicitors in Sheffield who are very experienced with domestic abuse cases. They are approachable and you maybe able to apply to obtain legal aid. Demelza Wrigley who has also been recomennded works for a private law firm Bell & Buxton who runs Free monthly drop in sessions at a library in Sheffield. We are also in touch with a barristers frim locally who are very supportive to our cause, Mums In Need can also personally recommend a female barrister if absolutely necessary. For those who cannot get or afford a solicitor we also know a small team of McKenzie friends who can help you.
When we have secured funding, we want to be able to support mothers who want extra bit of moral support by attending solicitors meetings, being your court buddy, attending legal hearings and helping to interpret legal jargon. We want to be able accompany you on all the pre-courtroom discussions and offer an experienced sounding board. We want to be able to support those mothers who plan on represent themselves in the family courts as part of our support package. Mums In Need team are experienced in accompanying mums to court for hearings relating to their children and offering them guidance and support. The Director of Mums In Need has worked as psychiatric for best part of 12 years working within the NHS and private sector and part of her job was to provide advocacy for patients during Mental Health Review tribunals. She herself, has been through the family court process and has up to date experience of the family courts, including court procedures etc. We also have other mental health professionals who provide support.
PLEASE NOTE: At this stage Mums In Need can help you by providing evidence letters of domestic/emotional describing the levels of support in which ourorganisation provides you, however we do ask for a donation for this service as compiling these letters can be very time consuming and we do not have any funding.
I the founder of our Mums In Need Trustees met with Mary Hayes, Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Sheffield, and a former judge specialising in child and family law. I asked her a few questions during an interview, relating to issues than can crop up during child care proceedings including contact orders and issues relating to divorce and step-parenting.