Children under the age of 18 and certain protected parties (those deemed to lack the mental capacity to run their own court case with or without a lawyer) cannot legally represent themselves in a court of law.
They can be represented instead by what is known as a Litigation Friend – ie somebody who acts on their behalf throughout their claim, be it a parent, guardian or other trustworthy adult.
Anybody appointed as a Litigation Friend is expected to attend court if there’s a hearing. However they are not allowed to act as the other person’s lawyer.
This kind of representation is particularly important in complex legal cases such as inheritance claims, accident compensation or medical negligence claims.
However litigation friends are not permitted to appear in Tribunals (such as the First Tier Property Tribunal, or Employment Tribunal).
The use of the litigation friend has significantly increased in the last 10 years – partly because of the gradual dismantling of the public funding system and the increasing lack of legal aid availability to support those who struggle to adequately represent themselves at court without help.
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Getting the Right Litigation Friend
The suitability of a Litigation Friend to act for a Claimant must be confirmed by the Court to ensure that they act in the best interests of the child or protected party, and that there is no conflict of interest. A Litigation Friend must also be in regular contact with the Claimant because all instructions for their solicitor are given by them and they will also deal with all correspondence on their behalf.
If a settlement offer is received prior to litigation it will have to be approved by the Court at an approval hearing and, if the Claimant is a child, acceptable settlement monies placed in trust until they reach 18 years of age.
Need Help With a Difficult Court Dispute? Call Us Now
The role of a Litigation Friend is extremely important and they should be chosen with care.
If you’re having problems with the case in which a litigation friend is involved – either because you’re struggling to represent yourself and the other side has a litigation friend, or you have assistance from a litigation friend and your case is not going as well as you had hoped – we can help.