McKenzie Friend

Find out what a McKenzie Friend is and how they could help you

A McKenzie friend is often used when you can’t afford to use a lawyer. They are not legally qualified and are there to offer moral support, takes notes about what is being said in court, help prepare court paperwork and whisper advice to you during a court hearing

McKenzie friend - find out how they could help you

They cannot speak or act on your behalf in court or sign documents on your behalf and are there to provide “reasonable assistance” and the judge can refuse to allow them to be involved in limited circumstances. It is illegal for an unqualified and unauthorised person to present a case in court on somebody’s behalf so they will not be able to represent you at the hearings as it is unusual for a judge to grant this authority to a McKenzie friend.

If you want to use a McKenzie friend you should let the court know straight away and supply some brief information about the person. The McKenzie friend should not be personally involved in the case and it is for you rather than the Mckenzie friend to justify why they are required to the judge. The other side will also be asked whether or not they object to the McKenzie friend being involved which is why it is best if they aren’t personally involved in the dispute.

There is a presumption in favour of allowing a McKenzie friend and with the legal aid cuts they are becoming increasingly common.

A McKenzie friend can help you put together a court statement or help you write letters to the other side or the judge. They can go with you to the court hearings which makes it a bit less scary than it would be if you were on your own. They can even go into the court room with you and pass you notes or whisper prompts to you in case you forget to mention something important. It is very helpful if they take notes of what is being said in the court room or when you are discussing things with the other side as the stress of the day usually means that you can’t remember a thing about what was said as soon as you leave the court building.

The more independent they are the less likely it is that the judge would refuse to allow them. The Citizens Advice Bureau offer help with court proceedings as do the Personal Support Unit who are volunteer McKenzie friends who work in many of the bigger civil courts across England and Wales.

It is also worth remembering that if you don’t have a lawyer the judge will do their best to assist you with the court process and will try to ensure that you understand what is happening and that any jargon is explained to you so if you aren’t clear about something so don’t be scared to ask the judge – just remember to be polite and call them either “Sir” or “Madam” if they are a district judge and “Your Honour” if they are a circuit judge. Remember, judges are human beings too.


This blog was kindly written by Rachel Horman, a Solicitor and Head of the Domestic Violence and Forced Marriage Department division of the Family department at Watson Ramsbottom.

 

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