Sunday, 21 February 2016

Going to court

Dear Reader,

Have you ever been to court?  Are you considering going to court?

I have spent the last three years dealing with the courts over a spectacularly awful divorce case.  It has astounded me how convoluted and ridiculous the whole process has been.  For example, simply to file a case I had to:
1. Call the courthouse and check which court I should file at.  This took three days because no-one answered.
2.  Make an appointment for the next day because they didn't tell me I needed an appointment
3.  Copy my document 3 times and have the exact money in cash ready
4. Go back the next day because the fee had changed and the information on the website wasn't up-to-date
5.  Go back a day later because the person I needed to see had left at 2pm
6. Go away and redo my documents, again copying them three times, because one of the details on my marriage certificate was wrong
7.  Eventually file it at a different court entirely because they changed systems and decided to centralise cases like mine in one area.  Which was not even my county.

One thing struck me time and time again - there was an enormous chasm between those who could afford a solicitor and those who could not, but were not eligible for legal aid (nearly everyone now the rules have changed).  I'm a qualified professional with plenty of letters to my name - why was it so hard to represent myself?  The answer seemed to lie in the fact that very little information was available, and often in awful formats.  Just knowing which document to file, how much it cost, and which court I needed to send it to was an afternoon's work to track down.  It was almost as if solicitors and courts didn't want me to find this stuff....

It seems particularly unfair that at a difficult time in one's life, when hard decisions have been made and emotional fallout is likely, it takes so much time and effort - not to mention money -  to go through this process.  Even without a solicitor, just filing a case and paying for mediation - which is now mandatory - can run into the thousands. I understand that not every case should go to court, but why are we, as a society, punishing those who decide they must so heavily?

The good news is that, having given up teaching last July, I actually had time and energy to think about this issue.  I thought about what would help alleviate the situation, aside from a better legal aid system.  What if all the info, along with estimated time spans, costs and step-by-step guidance could be made available, in simple language, all in one place?

It just so happened that I was approached to write such a site as a freelancer and I jumped at the chance.  As you can imagine, it has taken months to write and develop, but the first version is now live, with plans to make it even more interactive and helpful in the near future.

So - shameless plug. Check out www.igotocourt.com and let me know what you think!


3 comments:

  1. A really well written article. It's amazing how little help is given to those who need legal aid. It's almost as if the government don't care about the little people...

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    1. It's not in their interests to....

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