Royal Courts of Justice Advice Bureau
The Royal Courts of Justice/Principal Registry set up an advice centre 30 years ago to provide assistance to members of the public (litigants in person) on potential claims and proceedings including providing legal advice on the merits of claims and procedural points which may arise. The centre assists individuals by advising them on their cases and assisting with administrative procedure. The individuals using the centre are generally those who do not qualify for legal funding assistance but cannot afford to instruct solicitors and therefore they have no option but to act in person. There are however others who can afford legal representation but for one reason or another choose to act in person.
There are two separate centres one at the Royal Courts of Justice and the other based at the Principal Registry, which deals with family law matters.
The Family Department have been volunteering for many years at the Principal Registry advice centre. The centre advises on all aspects of family proceedings including children matters, divorce and financial disputes.
By way of an example, I met with a gentleman at the centre on one occasion who was a US national married to a UK national. They married in the USA and then came to the UK to live with his child from a previous relationship. The couple then had one child together. After three years the relationship unfortunately broke down whilst the wife was pregnant with the couple’s second child. However, they continued to reside under the same roof. The reason for the breakdown in the relationship was due to the husband's belief that the wife had been unfaithful and he was not the biological father of the unborn child.
The husband was at the stage where he wished the marriage to be dissolved. Additionally, the mother of the husband's eldest child was requesting that she have contact with the child. He was the primary carer for both children and wished for both children to reside with him and to have contact with their mothers.
The husband decided to act in person as he was not eligible for legal funding and could not afford to instruct legal representation. He came to the centre at the Principal Registry to seek assistance in how to achieve the above through the court process.
We advised the husband in relation to:
- The possibilities of reconciliation and failing which on the divorce procedure.
- In respect of the need to deal with the matters of finance upon divorce to ensure certainly for the future. He was advised in relation to the procedure of how to obtain an Order through the Courts and the merits of his individual circumstances.
- Obtaining a DNA test when the child was born and in the event the wife did not agree the procedure for obtaining a Court Order obligating the mother to cooperate with the DNA testing.
- Obtaining a Court Order providing the husband with residence of the children and defined contact for the mothers.