Support at Court

Support at Court launched in March 2020 and provides free help and guidance to people attending a First Hearing Dispute Resolution Hearing (FHDRA), the first court hearing to deal with disputes between separated parents about their children. Law Students offer a free drop in service, providing support and assistance to court users who do not have legal representation.

In around 40% of FHDRA cases, neither side has legal representation, a figure that has been steadily increasing since 2013 when cuts to legal aid came into effect. Between June and September 2019, the court reported 14,659 new FHDRA hearings, involving 21,736 children, a 5% increase on the same quarter in 2018.

Law students in front of bookshelf

Role of student volunteers

Students working on the initiative will demystify the court process by explaining court terminology and protocol. They will provide help filling in forms and organising papers. By helping people navigate the court process, the service will provide reassurance to those unfamiliar with the system. Law students working at the service will not offer legal advice, but will signpost families to other relevant services where needed, such as domestic violence services.

Commitment Requirement

Students are required to volunteer one day per month.

Person Specification

Applications are welcome from LLB Level 6, LLM Legal Practice students who are currently volunteering with Hertfordshire Law Clinic.

Application Procedure

We will next be recruiting for students in October 2020

'For those without legal representation, navigating the family court system can be challenging. It can also be an emotionally charged time. Support at Court will be hugely important in filling a gap and providing the human support that is so badly needed. It will mean those attending court will be better prepared and more informed, leading to more efficient hearings and more secure outcomes.'

HHJ Middleton-Roy

Circuit Judge at Watford Court