What We Do: Services

MCKENZIE FRIENDS (SELF REPRESENTING/L.I.P)
CHILDREN'S GUARDIAN
MEDIATION
FAMILY GROUP CONFERENCE
SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS
SOCIAL WORK SERVCES

 
MCKENZIE FRIENDS FOR SELF REPRESENTING LITIGANTS/ LITIGANTS IN PERSON

As experienced, knowledgeable and skilled McKenzie friends, we can assist self -representing clients at all levels of the Family Court including the High Court.  As well as undertaking a variety of direct court based work, we are also highly experienced in the preparation for hearings and meetings such as assisting in applications, drafting documents for the Court such as position statements, statements of evidence, skeleton arguments, cross examination questions and submissions where necessary.

We offer a complete service after the initial telephone or email contact, including an ‘assessment and advice’ session which can be held by way of Skype or further email or telephone communication, as well as face to face appointments where necessary, through to mediation and guidance for Final Hearings.

As part of our role as McKenzie Friends and Children’s Guardians, and having written countless complex and analytical assessments and reports, with well evidenced recommendations  for presentation to court, we can assist you in understanding, processing and presenting documentation and supporting evidence that accompanies family proceedings.

Frequently we are asked to assist those who have been in the Court system for many years, who feel that they are ‘stuck’ amongst the complexities of the court process, as well as feeling like they are treading water, getting nowhere fast spending vast amounts of money, and not getting the best for their child or children overall. We are both qualified paralegals.

Such support can be provided indirectly. Indirect support comes in the form of administrative support and guidance by way of a ‘paper assessment’ of the documentation and evidence for the case,  with the client being provided with a clear and realistic assessment of what is needed as next steps forward.  

This, we are told, often works well in enabling the client to refocus the case in a beneficial and child centric way, rather than getting bogged down by the confusion of the court system.  Indirect support can take the form of a one-off or ongoing ‘written advice’ or, if you prefer, we can meet with you face to face to discuss your specific situation in more detail.

Why use a McKenzie Friend?
  • Can’t afford or do not have time to instruct a solicitor.
  • Can’t afford the legal fees.
  • You have become disillusioned with the legal profession.
  • Not entitled to Legal Aid Funding.
  • You have decided to represent yourself in court as you feel that you can better present your own case.
Instructing a McKenzie Friend as early in the process as possible can help provide consistent support and continuity of your case.  Providing confidential information on the background of your situation can help a McKenzie Friend having a greater and more global understanding of the task ahead, and how best to move forward into the future.

A McKenzie Friend can explain the legal processes, terminology and jargon which, for the large majority of people, can be confusing, overwhelming and exceedingly stressful.  A McKenzie Friend can help steer you through the multi-faceted complexities of the legal system helping you remain focused on the best outcomes possible.

How can a McKenzie Friend help?
  • Provide moral support before, during and after a court hearing.
  • Help with case papers and assisting you in making the right applications to the court.
  • Take notes for you, including preparing position statements, skeleton arguments and submissions on your behalf, discuss strategies and support you during negotiation with the opposing person to try and get the best possible outcome.
  • Attending Court with you although a McKenzie Friend is unable to speak on your behalf unless the Judge gives permission by way of ‘Rights of Audience’ which is only granted in exceptional circumstances.
  • Quietly give advice on any aspect of the conduct of the case and suggest key questions,including points of law, for you to consider when cross examining witnesses in your case.
Support in making applications such as:
  • Shared Parenting Orders
  • Residence Orders
  • Contact Orders
  • Prohibited Steps Orders
  • Non Molestation Orders
  • Specific Issues Orders
  • Special Guardianship Orders

MEDIATION

Mediation or conflict resolution processes assist in exploring unresolved issues and difficulties that prevent you, or your family, from being able to move on and reach agreement, in many settings and circumstances. Our aim is to ultimately provide long term, realistic solutions that benefit you and your family.

Mediation is an independent process designed to support people in reaching an agreement without going through the, often costly and lengthy, family court process. We use appropriate methods to engage children, including the highly successful use of the interactive computer tool ‘In My Shoes’, which invokes the wishes and feelings of a child or young person in an entirely child focused and indirect manner.

We also have extensive access to additional specialist professionals and experts such as child and family psychologists, child and adult psychiatrists, play therapists and bereavement counsellors to assist in providing the best possible support in addressing and resolving more complex and deep-rooted family difficulties.



SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS

Children make progress at different rates and have different ways in which they learn best. A child has special educational needs also known as SEN if he or she has learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for him or her to learn than most other children of about the same age. Some children have needs or disabilities that affect their ability to learn such as behavioural or social issues, an inability to understand things, difficulties in reading and writing (dyslexia), concentration difficulties and physical needs or impairments.

If a child has special educational needs, an assessment will be carried out and a legal document issued called a Statement. A Statement sets out what the Education Authority have a legal duty to provide in order for a child to fully access the national curriculum, meeting the child’s educational needs. Reviews are then held annually to review progress made which should involve the child in some way.

It is vitally important that the Statement is correct and entails all relevant support that a child needs. This can be checked at the ‘proposed statement stage’ of the statementing process.

Areas of education law that Child & Family Solutions commonly advise on include:
  • Types of school Application / Catchment Areas
  • Admissions
  • Exclusions
  • Appeals
  • Special Educational Needs
We concentrate on helping people to find their way through the legal and procedural maze which is so overwhelming and unnerving to so many who try to acquire satisfactory provisions and support for a child’s special needs. CFS can offer support right at the initial stages whereby a parent has concerns about their child.

We have extensive knowledge, skill and first-hand experience of the SEN Codes of Practice and can support the following:
  • Explaining the SEN Code of Practice, the process and how it relates to your child.
  • Checking proposed and amended SEN statements before finalising.
  • Helping prepare letters, review documents and preparing complaints.
  • Researching and assessing professional experts such as independent educational psychologists, speech and language therapists and occupational therapists.
  • Advising on how to prepare appeals to the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SENDIS) Tribunal.
  • Act as a ‘McKenzie Friend’ to accompany and support parents at official meetings including school reviews and to act as a representative at Tribunal hearings.


SOCIAL WORK SERVICES


CHILDRENS GUARDIAN/ GUARDIAN AD LITEM

We are both currently working as Children’s Guardians on a part time basis.

There is the occasional request of the Court , particularly in international courts to appoint a Guardian who is independent to represent the child in proceedings, we are happy to consider such requests'.

Why is a Guardian Appointed?

Where parents or carers are unable to agree what is in a child’s best interests, the court appoint a children’s guardian to assist and help the Judge in making the best decisions of a child or children.  These could include where a child lives and who they should see.

A guardian will spend time getting to know a child or child and will meet family members.  They may also meet with other core and extended family members as well as teachers, health visitors, social workers and other key agencies that might have been or are still involved with the child. Recommendations may also be made for other professionals or experts to become involved in order to assist the court in resolving matters.  The guardian will provide the court with a report containing all enquiries made with an analysis and recommendations as to the best way forward for a child.  A guardian may also provide the court with oral evidence if this is required.

The court will hear all the evidence from each person or party in whatever format it deems appropriate and make a decision on what is the best outcome for the child in the short and long term.

What is a Guardian’s remit or role?
  • Safeguard and promote the welfare of a child.
  • Give advice to the Family Court
  • Make provisions for a child or children to be represented
  • Provide independent information, advice and support to children and their families
Who can be appointed?

Children’s guardians or caseworkers, as they are sometimes referred to, are usually appointed by CAFCASS – Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service,but if the court deems it appropriate for various reasons, NYAS – National Youth Advocacy Service maybe invited to represent a child through its specialist legal services provision.  A child will also have a solicitor that works in tandem with the guardian.  This is funded by the Legal Aid Agency.



CHILD ADVOCACY

There is an increasing requirement and recognition of the importance and significance of advocacy for children and young people when plans and decisions are being made about their lives.

 The United Nations on the Rights of the Child is an International Human Rights treaty which grants all children and young people a comprehensive set of rights including the right to express their views and have them taken into account in all matters affecting them. Article 12 states ‘Every child and young person has the right to express his or her views freely – about everything that affects him or her. The child’s or young person’s views must be given ‘due weight’ depending on his or her age and maturity. The child or young person has the right to be heard in all decision-making processes, including in court hearings. The child or young person can speak for him or herself, or someone else can speak for him or her.
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FAMILY GROUP CONFERENCES

A Family Group Conference is a process led by family members to plan and make decisions for a child or children who are at risk or need safe plans to be made for them. A Family Group Conference can be used in many situations where a plan and decisions need to be made about a child.

A Family Group Conference is an entirely voluntary process and families cannot be forced to have a Family Group Conference. Usually a professional involved with a child or family will make a referral for a Family Group Conference as an alternative way to resolve a situation.

 The process empowers families to make their own decisions rather than to allow professionals or the courts to make decisions.
  • Can be used where a child is at risk
  • Can be used to prevent school exclusions or bullying
  • Can be used to tackle anti-social behaviour or addressing offending behaviour
  • Can be used to agree contact arrangements for a child or children encompassing key family members to support travel arrangements, for example ,or provide ‘handover’ support to facilitate contact between a child or children and their non-resident parent.
  • Can be used to explore alternative family carers for a child or children when they are no longer able to live at home due to family breakdown.  

INDEPENDENT SOCIAL WORKER

All Social Work tasks including Specific Assessments, Auditing, Quality Assurance as well as Chairing of Child Protection and Looked After Children review enquiries can be discussed and consider upon initial enquiry
 


REFERRALS FROM LOCAL AUTHORITIES

We will negotiate individually with Local Authorities regarding what we are able to offer and the costs involved.

Our CV’s are available upon request.

REFERRALS FROM SOLICITORS/ PARALEGALS IN PRIVATE AND PUBLIC LAW PROCEEDINGS

Enquiries from solicitors are welcome, with each case discussed individually. Where we are unable to assist we will attempt to advise of colleagues who may be able to help.
 
FEES

We offer a wide range of tailored services to meet your individual requirements with professional time and costs agreed in advance of any charges, and with hourly / day rates designed to support individuals who are not able to afford the typical cost of a family lawyer.

Whilst we are not able to offer ‘pro bono’ or legal aid assistance we do operate a ‘sliding scale’ and will make every effort to take your circumstances into account when setting our rate. Our approach is to assist in achieving the best outcome possible for the case in hand, not maximizing our costs, hence we will always offer sound advice for achieving a quick resolution to your problem.

We also have a pool of McKenzie Friends based within the UK so if we feel that it would not be cost effective for you to enlist our services, we will try to put you in touch with someone in your local area. Costs can be discussed in more detail upon initial enquiry.
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