Mothers have borne the brunt of the impact of cuts in legal representation in family court cases, figures court show
The number of mothers facing court battles over access to their own children without a lawyer has jumped by two thirds since the Coalition legal aid reforms, new figures show.
Stay-at-home mothers or those working part-time to combine a career with childcare have been hit hardest by the decision to remove access to legal aid in most family law cases, the Ministry of Justice figures signal.
In the first nine months after the changes were implemented in April last year, the number of women representing themselves in court in child contact and custody cases in England and Wales surged by well over than 10,000.
Figures obtained under the Freedom of information Act by, a mediation service, found that 27,017 women involved in applications involving children between April and December 2013 were listed as “unrepresented” – up from 16,458 in the same period the previous year.
It means that the number of mothers facing custody or contact battles without legal representation has overtaken the number of fathers for the first time. In the same period 22,949 fathers had to represent themselves, up from 17,291 in the same period in 2012.
Historically more women than men qualified for legal aid because of lower incomes.
But last year six out of 10 mothers involved in such cases had no legal representation, the reverse of the situation before the cuts.
Marc Lopatin, founder of LawyerSupportedMediation.com, said: “The huge rise in the number of women representing themselves implies a great many cannot afford a divorce lawyer to represent them.
“Some will be full-time mums without a wage at all, while others will be working part-time earning a modest income.”
Sarah Thompson, a principal lawyer at the law firm Slater & Gordon said: “Getting caught up in the court process can be incredibly hard on both parents.
“Often people find that decisions go against them because they’ve not been able to refer the judge to the relevant legal points of their case.
“They can end up getting emotional and not representing their cause in the best possible way.”