The recent Case of Re H (Children: exclusion of Mckenzie Friend) 2017 EWFCB31 saw a mother appeal against the decision by a District Judge that she would not be permitted to use her ongoing Mckenzie Friend in proceedings.
In Family Proceedings it is common for a Litigant in Person (unrepresented party) to utilize the assistance of a layperson or a Mckenzie Friend to assist them. In this matter the father of the children whom the case concerned objected to the mother using this Mckenzie Friend. Permission to have a McKenzie Friend should not be curtailed unless the Court can be satisfied that there has been “subsequent misconduct by the McKenzie Friend or grounds that the McKenzie Friends continued presence will impede the efficient administration of justice and particularly the case”. A Judge found that the McKenzie Friend had been managing the mother’s case outside of Court and that this was not appropriate. The Judge went on to state that the McKenzie Friend’s involvement was not impartial or objective and his involvement undermined the efficient administration of justice and the parties expectation of fairness before the Law. Finally District Judge Major concluded that the McKenzie Friend has been far too involved and familiar with the children services involved which raises issues as to the “impartiality of that evidence and whether it can be relied upon……” later she says “I do find that the involvement of the McKenzie Friend with the children’s service is unreasonable in nature it has resulted in a proliferation of paperwork not all of which is at all justified….. I am not satisfied that the McKenzie Friend fully understands the duty of confidentiality and disclosure, particularly within Children Act Proceedings and particularly within the context of these proceedings…. For all of those reasons and with careful consideration, I exercise my discretion pursuant to the guidance to disallow the McKenzie Friend from continuing to act in this case”.
The Judge in this matter went on to say that she was not stopping the mother involved having a McKenzie Friend but simply preventing the current McKenzie Friend to continue attending court with her.
The Judgment of District Judge Major was upheld by the Appeal Court and thus the Appeal was refused.
It is increasingly common that those who are unable to afford solicitors now instruct McKenzie Friends. In private proceedings the Court retains the discretion to permit a litigant in person to receive reasonable assistant in court from a third party if the third party who offers assistance does not necessarily need to have legal training or experience although some may. Professional McKenzie Friends often charge the litigant in person for their advice and assistance in advance. A Mckenzie Friend can only speak at the Court’s discretion and is not always granted the right to speak at the Court. A McKenzie Friend should not undertake the role of a solicitor although the Court may give permission for them to undertake specific tasks to assist the litigant in person.
Townsend Family Law are able to provide services tailored to your budget. Should you require assistance please telephone us on 01992892214.