Thanks to the internet, it is fairly easy to find a McKenzie Friend these days, and you may even be lucky enough to have a McKenzie Friend near you.
But what should you ask before deciding whether a particular McKenzie Friend is right for you?
Here are the top 7 questions, to get you started.
Cost may be your most important consideration, and it may be the reason why you have chosen to use the services of a McKenzie Friend in the first place.
Some McKenzie Friends charge a fixed fee for a given service, and others charge by the hour. There may also be additional fees to pay, for example, the cost of travel plus travel time to meetings and hearings.
Apart from helping you to budget, knowing details about the fees will help you decide which fee structure is better for you. A service based on a fixed fee has the benefit of certainty, whereas an hourly rate means that you will only pay for what you book in or can afford.
2. Area of expertise?
Check whether your McKenzie Friend has experience in the area or areas that you need help with. This means that your McKenzie Friend will spend the time you pay for focusing on the details of your case and quickly getting to grips with all the information when reading your paperwork.
Remember that your McKenzie Friend’s expertise can come from a variety of sources including, experience of working as a McKenzie Friend, first-hand or life experience (as a litigant in person – someone who attends their own hearing without legal representation), or through a legal background.
The court system in England and Wales is being overhauled and will, in the future, make greater use of digital technologies. When this happens, location is likely to be less of an issue. But until that time, family hearings are likely to continue to take place in court with all parties to the proceedings (in other words the applicant and the respondent) attending in person. So location matters.
There are McKenzie Friends located throughout England and Wales, and you may be able to find one or more McKenzie Friends near to where you live or in the vicinity of the court where your hearing will take place.
If you choose a McKenzie Friend who is based outside of your local area or court location, you may need to factor in the cost of travel and travel time when booking that particular McKenzie Friend to attend hearings or face-to-face meetings.
Find out whether your McKenzie Friend has been barred – and the earlier you can find this out, the better. A McKenzie Friend who has been barred by a court will not be allowed to attend any hearings.
To find out whether or not a McKenzie Friend has been barred, contact the court where your case is listed to be heard. Let the court staff know the name of the McKenzie Friend you intend to use. It is best to do this as soon as possible so that (if your chosen McKenzie Friend has been barred) you have enough time to find a replacement.
5. Paperwork assistance?
When contacting a McKenzie Friend, find out whether he or she can assist you with your paperwork. Each letter you receive from the court should tell you what you need to prepare for each hearing, who to send it to and when to do so.
The paperwork you will need for each hearing may vary from a single document (such as a position statement) or a batch of documents (brought together as a court bundle). If the other side has legal representation, the legal representative is likely to be responsible for preparing the court bundle and all you would need to do, if this is the case, is send your paperwork to the other side in good time so that they can include it in the court bundle.
6. Hearing attendance?
Will your McKenzie Friend attend your hearings with you? For continuity reasons, it makes sense for the same McKenzie Friend who has assisted you with your paperwork to attend your court hearings with you.
Find out how your McKenzie Friend prefers to book in court hearings and how much notice he or she will need for forthcoming hearings. Sometimes hearings are adjourned (postponed) or vacated (cancelled), so be sure to check with your McKenzie Friend what his or her procedure is for dealing with hearings that do not take place on the date or at the time they were booked in for.
Once you have established that your McKenzie friend is the right match for you and for your case, you should find out how much he or she knows about the rules.
Here are a couple of key questions to ask.
Does your McKenzie Friend adhere to the Family and Civil court Practice Guidance?
Does he or she know what a McKenzie Friend is allowed to do and not allowed to do?
To find out how I may be able to assist you with your family case, contact me.
Copyright © Going to Court Alone – Debbie Thomas
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