What can a McKenzie Friend do to help me?

McKenzie Friend? What’s one of those?

It’s easy for us here at Family Law Assistance Towers to assume that everyone else is completely au fait with the Practice Guidance on what a McKenzie Friend (that’s the rules on what we can and can’t do to you and me). After all…if we don’t follow these rules we’ll get thrown out and that tends limit the help we can give to help our cash-paying clients…so choose wisely.

In our experience the following people have acted as MFs. They include:

  1. Friends.
  2. Parents and step parents.
  3. Brothers and sisters.
  4. Other family members.
  5. Support workers from abuse and other charities.
  6. Someone with an axe to grind with the system.
  7. Someone with an axe to grind with their ex.
  8. Just about anyone else.
  9. People who genuinely want to help others.
  10. Us

(As you’ve all read Practice Guidance while you’ll know some of the above aren’t allowed the court will often take a pragmatic view preferring to ask the question `Are they more of a help or hindrance in proceedings?’)

What can a McKenzie Friend do?

A MF can sit with you in the court building before and during the hearing, looking decorative (as Michaela Wade frequently says) or they can help you with just about every aspect of your case.

Some of the things a MF can do include assisting you with:

  • Form filling.
  • Preparing paperwork.
  • Pre court negotiation.
  • Explaining to you what is going on.
  • Advice concerning you how to run your case.

Contrasting are things a MF cannot do includes:

  • Speaking on behalf of you in court.
  • Acting as your agent (i.e. receiving and sending letters to the ex and/or their legal representative.
  • Conducting litigation on your behalf.

Paperwork - a good McKenzie Friend should be able to help you with itSo you’ll very probably have to speak for yourself in court and you’ll be the one receiving and sending documents to the other party – but good MFs (like us, naturally) will be able to prepare you and advise you on this. A MF does not have `automatic rights of audience’ in court and and you need to run a mile from anyone who suggests otherwise.

So in short a good MF can help you with just about every task you’ll encounter while you’ll run your own case.

They’ll be in touch with you in the weeks or months before any court case even starts. The good ones will do their best to help you side step any legal action (suggesting mediation, or negotiation with the other party – because the best outcome all round is not going to court.

They’ll be on hand to provide perspective on situations you’ll find yourself in (such as the ex putting you in an apparently `no win’ situation at a handover. They can advise you what to do), help you understand and respond to correspondence, tell you when you need to do nothing or hot foot it to your local court. They’ll be with you there on the day before and during your hearing. In the hearing they’ll take notes, explain to you what is going on, kick you under the table if needed (seriously). They’ll be next to you to answer any questions you have or advise you what your options are.

Just about everything. Other McKenzie Friends may just meet you on the day and sit with you to make sure you don’t freak out too much.

Every McKenzie Friend is different

Use us and you’ll find we’re at the `We’ll help you with just about everything’ end of the scale – the benefit of being full time and (mostly) legally qualified McKenzie Friends. In addition to this it is worth pointing out that a McKenzie Friend does not have to be legally qualified (ours are – they are ILEX-qualified paralegals with professional legal training). Our team members have worked in legal departments, acted as experts in cases and have been involved in cases ranging from the simple to the massively complicated.

To conclude – know what you’re getting. If you decide you want a MF, shop around and get recommendations from people you know. There is a great deal of variability out there – in terms of price, experience, role and qualifications. Make sure you are happy with whoever is assisting you long before you even get near a court room because this is something you don’t want to be worrying about on the day.

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