Family Court Liaison Group

Leeds Law Society joins with Judges to make the local family law process easier for everyone.

On 11th May 2015 a Leeds Law Society working group of more than a dozen local family lawyers met with DJ Shepherd at Leeds County Court to discuss how they could work together to make the family law process as easy and straightforward as possible for local Judges, lawyers and litigants in person in the Leeds Family Court.

Recent changes to legal aid eligibility has resulted in an increased number of litigants in person passing through the Leeds Family Court and that, together with changes to family law process and procedure has resulted in lots of extra, unbudgeted work for practitioners and local Judges as well as lack of clarity of process and information for litigants in person.

District Judge Shepherd was very enthusiastic about sharing with local practitioners and litigants in person the precedent Orders she and her colleagues have prepared to make the court process easier for all involved. As a result LLS will now be uploading these precedent Orders to the LLS website for local practitioners to access and use. The Judges also hope to direct litigants in person to the LLS website for their information as well.

The working group also saw the meeting as an opportunity to develop a directory of local experts and support organisations to be used by local practitioners, Judges and litigants in person when needing support and resource in family cases. This directory will include contact details, charges and funding arrangements, lead, process and report times for all local organisations with whom family case parties are regularly ordered to work. This will include organisations who provide supported and supervised contact, alcohol and drug misuse, testing and rehabilitation, family therapy and mediation, anger management therapy, and advocacy services.

Emma Pearmaine, a Director of Leeds Law Society and Family Divisional Director at Simpson Millar has spearheaded this project on behalf of LLS and says;

“Access to justice remains a priority for all family law practitioners and the Court. It is becoming ever more difficult for both the Court and family law practitioners to deliver good service as we are faced with budget cuts and ever demanding processes. If we can develop a shared approach to document production and use of local experts, with this information also being made available to local litigants in person too, then we stand a good chance of ensuring that every parent or party in a family case feels that they have been heard, that they have had access to appropriate support and resource and that justice has been delivered in their case.”

The working group has since reconvened at Leeds County Court with DJ Shepherd in July and all information has been uploaded to the LLS website.