A McKenzie Friend is someone who accompanies a litigant in Court to provide moral support. They may also take notes, help the litigant find the correct papers and give advice on questions to ask witnesses etc. They cannot however speak for the litigant, or run the case for them.
McKenzie Friends arose from the 1970 divorce case of McKenzie v McKenzie. In that case, the husband was representing himself and wanted the help of someone who was not legally qualified in the English Courts. His request was refused. However on appeal, it was determined that having moral support in Court was part of being entitled to a fair trial under the European Convention on Human Rights. Any such assistants/supporters are therefore now referred to as 'McKenzie Friends'.
A McKenzie Friend Can:
Give quiet advice on points of law to the litigant
Advise the litigant on issues that they might want to raise in Court
Suggest to the litigant questions that they might want to ask the other party or witnesses
Help organise documents
A McKenzie Friend Cannot:
Speak for the litigant
Address the Court (though the Judge may be prepared to hear from them if this would clarify an issue and assist in the swift administration of justice.)
Attend a closed court unless they have prior permission from the Court.
Sign Court documents on the litigant's behalf.
Will permission for a McKenzie Friend always be granted?
A judge will not usually refuse permission unless it's believed that allowing the McKenzie Friend would interfere with the administration of justice (such as if the McKenzie Friend constantly interrupts proceedings). However often the court will issue a warning to the litigant and McKenzie Friend first, before an outright refusal is made.
If the judge decides refuse permission for a McKenzie Friend, they must give reasons for doing so. Usually any refusal will be for a particular person to act as a McKenzie Friend rather than generally for the litigant to have any McKenzie Friend.
Why has there been a recent increased demand for McKenzie Friends?
Traditionally, McKenzie Friends were family members or friends, there to provide moral support free of charge to the litigant. However there are some professional McKenzie Friends who charge for their assistance (but are still far cheaper than solicitors).
In April 2013, the government changed the rules in relation to legal aid. This meant that litigants no longer receive free legal assistance in most family law cases, including those relating to divorce, child contact and residence, and civil cases relating to debt, housing, immigration, welfare and employment.
The change in legal aid rules left many litigants who couldn't afford a lawyer with a simple choice; go to court on your own or hire a (far cheaper) McKenzie friend. The demand for professional McKenzie Friends has therefore increased.
How much do McKenzie Friends charge?
Typically, professional McKenzie Friends charge between £16 and £90 per hour, depending upon experience and qualifications.
Although their role is supposed to be limited, they are increasingly mirroring the service provided by qualified lawyers. For example, they are not allowed to conduct litigation, but there is really nothing to stop them advising a litigant (word by word) what to write in a document, in such a way that there is really no difference.
Who are professional McKenzie Friends?
There seem to be two "branches" of McKenzie Friends:
Professionals with experience of the legal system, such as former social workers, and police officers.
Those with personal experience of the legal system having dealt with similar cases of their own.
Help or hindrance?
Help McKenzie Friends can improve access to justice by providing valuable support for litigants in person. Attending Court can be a daunting experience, particularly for those who have not been before, and so many litigants feel encouraged to have someone who has been in the situation before sit with them and reassure them.
Many judges have also commented that in the high-pressure environment of the courtroom, McKenzie Friends can actually help litigants to separate emotion from fact. By encouraging the litigant to focus on factual issues, they help litigants to better present their case and assist the Court to more swiftly deal with matters.
Hindrance There is however a real worry that the provision of services as a McKenzie Friend is completely unregulated. Some (perhaps well-meaning McKenzie Friends) can provide poor advice to their client that actually harms their client's case. Poor legal advice can lead to a litigant losing a perfectly good case, which does not serve to assist the litigant's cause, or the administration of justice for any of the parties involved.
There are also concerns that McKenzie Friends often take advantage of vulnerable litigants (those without the funds to afford a lawyer, and often those with lower academic abilities who do not feel as comfortable setting out their own arguments). Unfortunately due to the nature of the role and the lack of regulation of the field, it is the more vulnerable or desperate litigant that will often be left with the cheapest and least effective advice.
McKenzie Friends can be a helpful moral support to litigants. However there are better and worse McKenzie Friends, and you often get what you pay for. Having a poor McKenzie Friend (as with a poor lawyer) is not a reason for a re-trial of an issue. However unlike with lawyers, McKenzie Friends are unregulated and usually not insured, meaning that you have no recourse if their advice is incorrect.
Therefore whilst your McKenzie Friend may offer you guidance, it is important to remember that it is your case and your opportunity to present your side of the dispute.
Check out the Separated Dads Forum... It's a great resource where you can ask for advice on topics including Child Access, Maintenance, CAFCASS, Fathers Rights, Court, Behaviour or simply to have a chat with other dads.
in the court if i bring with as my McKenzie my legal partner can my ex wife refuse to let her in to the court room
adi - 7-Jul-20 @ 6:18 PM
I went to Lincoln court with my son today and wanted to go into court but the clerk outside the court said that it was a private hearing and I wasn't allowed in court. Can they refuse admission?
Francis Heyes - 24-Sep-19 @ 12:56 PM
Hello was wondering if somebody could advise me on somthing important
Me and my ex split 9 months ago
He had regular contact with our children (every other weekend )
He then started to be inconsistent with our children which he received numerous letters from solicitors requesting he kept regular contact as its was starting to affetc our children
My ex then started to make threats that he wouldnt return the children if he had them in his care
He turned up at the children's school demanding to take the kids an hour b4 school ended (he got told no as he had got an appointment fornthe children and was asked to leave )
He now has become pally with and old ex friend of mine (we fell out over her constantly leaving her kids with me while she went away living life to the full)
She has now made big friends with my ex and is attending court with my ex to fight for custody of my children
Bear in mind we've had years of friendship under our belts did everything together
I have a steps order in place that states the ex cannot mention mine or my children's names or anything about court whilst it still going through the courts system
Hes obviously broke this part of the steps order as hes told her everything in order tonget her on side and attend court
Can I have her removed under the rule of conflict of interest (as she was my close friend )
Also what grounds doni have in court as hes clearly been telling her about our personal court proceedings
DNA 123 - 11-Aug-19 @ 3:12 PM
I have been separated for 3 years, we have a joint home and 3 children. Until last month we have been sharing the house for the kids where i would go 1 or twice a week in the evenings and every Saturday. I share a studio flat with my girlfriend which is not suitable for us all to be in and for the moment it's all i can afford. Now the ex has got her self a boyfriend she has decided I can no longer visit the home to see the kids, I must take them out which has ended up in me seeing them a lot less as specially in the evenings I have no where to take them. I am about to apply for court proceedings to finalise the financials as I need a suitable place to have the kids on my days. All our money is tied into the family home, i know the court will favour the mother. My question is what chance do i have of managing to find a way for me to be able to purchase a small flat to house my kids? I can not currently afford to move as I have the solicitors fees looming every month and potentially a huge court fee as well. The ex also works full time so does have money coming in as well as my maintenance.
How will the court likely see this situation?
Dadio - 30-May-19 @ 2:14 PM
can any one advise me on i was a mckenzie for my daughter and the case was set for 11th july whilst cafcas and supportive meetings with my grandson happen in this time the question i need answering is the applicants barrister has said i cannot be a witness which i understand for that time, but when the case goes to court on the 11th if i am not a mckenzie then will i be allowed to be a witness then
jenny - 2-Apr-19 @ 8:03 PM
Loopylou - Your Question:
Can anyone advise me if my ex partner's mckenzie friend has a right to contact me out of court? As far as I know he pays for her service but she is not registered on any website as a mckenzie friend. She emailed me on my ex's behalf demanding my court statement. I replied quite bluntly as she refused to give me his statement unless I produced mine first. I said I wasn't naive and that the same thing happened last year when I submitted my statement on time and that his statement conveniently was a couple of days late and counteracted pretty much everything that was in mine. It was quite convenient and predictable I never received this year's one on time. She emailed me back saying I had accused her of lack of professionalism, that I had no experience of court proceedings compared to her vast knowledge etc etc. I found this quite intimidating and harrassing and want to know if I have grounds for a complaint and if so who do I complain to if she isn't working for an organisation. I don't want her in court now and I don't even want to go if she will be sitting in the waiting room. Any advice would be most appreciated.
As stated in the article, McKenzie Friends are unregulated, also anyone can act or set up as a McKenzie Friend, even a friend of the family or relative. You can see more via the Bar Council link here .You can also see more about the court process here which will help you further. You should not feel intimidated by the McKenzie Friend. You may wish to write inform the court if you do, as it is up to the judge whether to allow the adviser into court.
SeparatedDads - 14-May-18 @ 10:13 AM
Can anyone advise me if my ex partner's mckenzie friend has a right to contact me out of court? As far as I know he pays for her service but she is not registered on any website as a mckenzie friend. She emailed me on my ex's behalf demanding my court statement. I replied quite bluntly as she refused to give me his statement unless I produced mine first. I said I wasn't naive and that the same thing happened last year when I submitted my statement on time and that his statement conveniently was a couple of days late and counteracted pretty much everything that was in mine. It was quite convenient and predictable I never received this year's one on time. She emailed me back saying I had accused her of lack of professionalism, that I had no experience of court proceedings compared to her vast knowledge etc etc. I found this quite intimidating and harrassing and want to know if I have grounds for a complaint and if so who do i complain to if she isn't working for an organisation. I don't want her in court now and I don't even want to go if she will be sitting in the waiting room. Any advice would be most appreciated.
Loopylou - 13-May-18 @ 12:28 AM
Ok Sean that’s soundsgood me can’t read togood me did Mckenziefriend thank you much my friend.ver help Full.
Lester - 15-Feb-18 @ 2:22 AM
hi i cant read good and am get pepper work on the day i got a friend that read to me but is that aloud in court famly courtcan come.in room as well
sean - 15-Feb-18 @ 1:11 AM
You have been very helpful in your response
Ampa - 3-Dec-17 @ 6:28 AM
Hi I wrote asking for some help and advice is there anyone able to help me please thank you Rob
Rob - 6-Oct-16 @ 8:45 PM
Hi I'm seeking some advice on where to go next with legal help or advice on seeing my son, it's been just over 7mnths since I've had any form of contact with him, my ex agreed to contact etc via mediation but then it all changed, I've a form from mediation to say it can go straight to court but with paying over £200 a hour session for solisitors how can I make it so less costly but effective it's getting to me now that I have in my exs eyes no rights when I actually do. My son was born 08 and I'm on birth certificate please help me I'm at breaking point thank you Rob
Rob - 3-Oct-16 @ 7:46 PM
I have family court its a dispute resolution hearing and I would like a friend to attend for moral support as it it going to be the last hearing (unfortunately I have not made the court aware and its Friday now with the hearing Monday morning) can I not have moral support now
FG4C - 19-Aug-16 @ 6:26 PM
Helen - Your Question:
Hi. Just wanted to add a comment to clarify a point for some of you.I attended a court hearing today as a McKenzie Friend to an elderly vulnerable couple who are neighbours of mine. A Mckensie Friend is not allowed to stand as a witness in a case. If the witness statement is valuable evidence then I would look at others that could stand as a Mckensie Friend. Neither is a Mckensie Friend allowed to address the court or ask questions, so for anyone thinking of being a Mckensie Friend for someone it is very important to go through the strategy to be used in court beforehand. Make clear notes in bullet points that can be easily followed, and take a notepad as a Mckensie Friend is allowed to give advice in this respect and can be very useful if the person you are supporting forgets a point or is asked an unexpected question. I hope this helps.Helen x
Many thanks for your comments, I'm sure they will be helpful to our readers.
SeparatedDads - 15-Jun-16 @ 1:41 PM
Hi. Just wanted to add a comment to clarify a point for some of you.
I attended a court hearing today as a McKenzie Friend to an elderly vulnerable couple who are neighbours of mine. A Mckensie Friend is not allowed to stand as a witness in a case. If the witness statement is valuable evidence then I would look at others that could stand as a Mckensie Friend. Neither is a Mckensie Friend allowed to address the court or ask questions, so for anyone thinking of being a Mckensie Friend for someone it is very important to go through the strategy to be used in court beforehand. Make clear notes in bullet points that can be easily followed, and take a notepad as a Mckensie Friend is allowed to give advice in this respect and can be very useful if the person you are supporting forgets a point or is asked an unexpected question. I hope this helps.
Helen - 14-Jun-16 @ 8:16 PM
Hi my partner has court coming up to have contact with his little boy as the mother is just refusing. He wishes for me to become his mckenzie friend which I'm happy to do as he struggles with the necessary paperwork reading,writing, understanding some information we phoned up the courts to apply for this they said we need to write to them to apply as they don't do the applications anymore. Any advice on what needs to be in the letter?
Beckii - 23-Dec-15 @ 4:14 PM
J - Your Question:
How do my dad and partner become McKenzie friends?
They can either volunteer and train through the NCDV first, see link here . They can also conduct an online search as there are various training courses on offer. No previous knowledge or experience is required to train as the profession is unregulated. However, this is currently causing concerns across the legal industry.
SeparatedDads - 23-Oct-15 @ 10:23 AM
How do my dad and partner become McKenzie friends?
J - 22-Oct-15 @ 12:06 AM
I am in Independent Social Worker with over 24 years experience and am regularly asked to act as a McKenzie friend in cases where I am already undertaking a review of the Local Authorities' "behaviour", by litigants in person. My reading of the rules is that in these cases I am not able to act as a Mc Kenzie friend as it is a confusion of the role, and could be suggested it compromises my independent position. I do however, see a real role for my experience to be used to proper effect,in matters where as a social worker ,I would be able to advise where the issues lie in the LA's case. I would appreciate some guidance though. I'm very clear on the conflict of interest rules, but feel this may provide more fairness when parents are up against local authorities. Any advice would be helpful
Robbie 999 - 3-Sep-15 @ 8:11 PM
hi. My fiancé has his first court hearing for contact with his daughter in the next few weeks. Can I be his Mckenzie friend? I know I can only take notes and give advice etc, he will do better with my support than a strangers. How do I go about telling the court I'll be his Mckenzie friend too? thanks :)
KC - 12-Aug-15 @ 7:33 AM
My daughter is a litegant in person and has just emailed a request to have her stepdad with her as a McKenzie friend . Her ex had a solicitor. Does he have to be notified of her request?
Susiq - 29-Jul-15 @ 10:19 AM
Hi, my fiance has his first dispute hearing on Monday and I wanted to know if I can be his Mckenzie friend as I am better at taking in information and making notes and understanding proceedings. We haven't asked the courts yet, but I read online a Mckenzie friend can be brought on the day as long as they are introduced to and approved by the courts prior to the start of the hearing.
Thank you :)
Freya - 30-May-15 @ 3:51 PM
@John - I am sorry to hear that this has seemingly over-stepped the mark. As specified in the article; while the McKenzie Friend cannot address the court, occasionally if a party is assisted by a McKenzie Friend who has particular knowledge about the case or some aspect of it, the judge might decide that justice can more expediently be carried out by speaking directly to the McKenzie Friend. Therefore a McKenzie Friend can give quiet advice on points of law, advise on issues you might want to raise in the court, or suggest questions to ask the other party or witnesses. It also states that in the relative informality of a some court hearings, the judge may be prepared to hear from them if they can provide information that is relevant to the case. Have you thought of using a McKenzie friend yourself? There are some qualified solicitors who can act as advisors and they do this voluntarily or via donation, perhaps you should seek one out yourself as being a self-litigant can be a bit of a minefield and it seems like you may need some extra help. You also may find our Separated Dads Facebook page useful as there are a lot of dads going through the same or similar issues that can help give support and advice. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 26-Mar-15 @ 10:35 AM
I am litigant in person who has made an application for a Care Arrangements Order to see my 2 year old son. The final hearing is in May 2015.
The matter commenced in the Family Proceedings Court and has been elevated to the County Court before a High Court Judge!
The Respondent mother is represented by a Solicitor. However, at the 2nd directions appointment, the Respondent decided to save legal fees and brought along a close friend who acted as a McKenzie Friend. The McKenzie Friend was not a 'trained' McKenzie Friend!
At the directions hearing I was represented by Counsel. In pre-court negotiations with the Respondent in the presence the McKenzie Friend and the CAFCASS Officer, Counsel asked the McKenzie Friend if she would be giving evidence at the final hearing. The McKenzie Friend stated she would NOT be giving evidence at any subsequent or final hearing.
Again in open court, before the court clerk, my counsel reitereated the concerns she had about the McKenzie Friend vis-a-vis the possibility of her giving evidence in any subsequent hearing. Counsel requested the court clerk to note that the McKenzie should only be allowed to be party to the proceedings and remain in the court room on the presumption that she would not give evidence at any subsequent hearing. On this basis the McKenzie Friend was allowed to remain in the Court room by the clerk.
As it transpires that the McKenzie Friend has now made two witness statements and intends to give evidence at the final hearing.
My question is very simple.
CAN A McKENZIE FRIEND BE ALLOWED TO ACT AS A WITNESS AND GIVE EVIDENCE IN THE SAME HEARING, ESPECIALLY BEARING IN MIND THAT SHE WAS INFORMED IN PRE-COURT NEGOTIATIONS & OPEN COURT, IN THE PRESENCE OF THE COURT CLERK, THAT SHE WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO ACT AS A WITNESS?
Is it not fundamentally unfair to the applicant's case that a potential witness is aware of the confidential facts of the case? I also feel there is a conflict of interests here.
Are there any other reasons I can put forward to prevent the McKenzie Friend's evidence from being included in the trial bundle?
I have a directions appointment on 2 April 2015 to put my case forward to exclude the written and oral evidence of the McKenzie Friend.
I have researched high and low to see if there is any precedent to rule on this matter and have come across none. There is no guidance from the courts regarding this issue either.
Your help would be most appreciated.
John - 23-Mar-15 @ 11:10 AM
Thanks for replying this is what I was hoping but I recieved an email from my solicitor today saying he is applying for his girlfriend to talk for him and to do this has to apply for her to be his mckenzie friend and she would have no objection to him doing this! So im just confussed.
Gemma Elkington - 17-Sep-14 @ 4:54 PM
@Gemma, they still won't allow it if he says he has confidence and anxiety issues, he has taken it this far so he can't be that anxious. Also the judge will have heard all the excuses before and won't be taken in by it, especially by allowing a new girlfriend to get involved.
Jim - 17-Sep-14 @ 11:54 AM
Thank you this is what I thought but apperntly he is pushing for his girlfriend to basically act Nd talk for him as he has confidence issues! And anxiety..?? It just doesn't seem right if this is allowed.thanks.
Gemma Elkington - 17-Sep-14 @ 11:43 AM
@Gemma, When you get to court the judge will ask you if you have any objections to your ex bringing a McKenzie friend in with them. At this point you can object stating you don't want them in the room. The judge will then tell your ex that he isn't allowed to bring anyone in. Remember though McKenzie friends aren't allowed to say anything and can only take notes.
Jim - 17-Sep-14 @ 10:27 AM
My ex is saying his girlfriend is going to be acting as his mk friend? Is this really allowed as I feel she is to involved.
Gemma Elkington - 17-Sep-14 @ 7:57 AM
Great informative website. I have just started offering McKenzie friend services in the Essex area. I am a retired family solicitor who knows how emotive family proceedings are and how imbalanced they are as some get legal aid and some ( mostly men) do not. I believe in equal access to the justice system for both parents.