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McKenzie Friends: ‘I’ll be there for you’?

Senior Judges in the Civil and Family Courts have recently announced their proposals to stop McKenzie Friends from charging court users for their services.

McKenzie Friends are individuals without any legal training who can help you at court hearings by taking notes and providing assistance (voluntarily or for a fee)—though they are forbidden from putting your case directly to the judge. Unlike solicitors, legal executives, and barristers, McKenzie Friends are not regulated in any way.

If you apply to the court you are entitled to receive reasonable assistance. If you are concerned about incurring legal costs you can represent yourself in proceedings with the assistance of a third party. This third party is known as a McKenzie Friend.

As cuts to legal aid have affected access to legal services for many people involved in family law cases, the number of fee-charging McKenzie Friends has increased. It is arguable that some help is better than none, but contested cases can often be legally complex and difficult to navigate without professional advice. Concerns have also been raised about people receiving assistance from paid McKenzie Friends who are not legally qualified and are not insured.

The changes proposed by the judiciary include clear statutory rules for how McKenzie Friends can assist at court hearings, along with a defined Code of Conduct. Consideration will also be given to how a McKenzie Friend can be remunerated.

If you or someone you know is considering family law proceedings, please contact our Family Team on 0161 969 3131 for further information and assistance.