By Chloe Olivia Sladden
A drop-in law service operating at the Watford and Hertford Family Courts will be run by Hertfordshire law students, starting in March. The aim is to offer practical support to families/adults without any legal representation, including a new initiative ‘Support at the Court’, according to a University press release.
Diana Kirsch, Director of Hertfordshire Law Clinic, commented, “Support at Court is a great opportunity for students to gain practical court experience and provides a much-needed service to families.”
The initiative ‘Support at the Court’ will be launched to provide free help and guidance to attendees of a First Hearing Dispute Resolution Hearing. This type of hearing is the first hearing for separated parents and children, which deals with any disputes between them.
When it comes to FHDRH, 40% of cases see either side, without any legal representation; this percentage has increased since 2013 due to cuts in legal aids. 14, 659 new FHDRH hearings (which has increased by 5% on the same quarter 2018 ) involving 21,736 were reported by the court between June and September 2019.
Law students will help clients to; fill in forms, organise papers, explain court terminology and protocol to help demystify the court process and help people navigate the court process to provide reassurance to clients, who are unfamiliar with the court system or are without legal representation.
HHJ Middleton-Roy, Circuit Judge at Watford Court, commented: “For those without legal representation, navigating the family court system can be challenging. It can also be an emotionally charged time. Support at Court will be hugely important in filling a gap and providing the human support that is so badly needed. It will mean those attending court will be better prepared and more informed, leading to more efficient hearings and more secure outcomes.”
Support at the Court will complete legal advice services, already offered by the University of Hertfordshire Law Clinic.