Birmingham's family courts are in crisis because the abolition of legal aid means so many parents are representing themselves, causing chaos, say lawyers.
According to new figures, the number of people without legal representation has doubled since the decision was made to cut the aid in April last year.
Since then, 56 per cent of Midlands parents attending court to dispute child contact and residency issues are now classed by the Ministry of Justice as unrepresented.
The figures were released following a Freedom of Information request from Lawyer-Supported Mediation - a legal alliance launched to offer a divorce and separation service designed to keep parents out of the courts.
They revealed that, between April and December 2012, 5,870 people across the region represented themselves at child-related proceedings.
In the same nine-month period for 2013, the figure shot up to 9,230 - already more than the previous year's total of 8,131.
It means family courts in the Midlands are being forced to accommodate 57 per cent more parents representing themselves. The Midlands picture represents the third highest year-on-year increase in the country.
Sarah Thompson, a family lawyer and partner at law firm Slater & Gordon, who helped develop Lawyer-Supported Mediation, said: "The massive increase in people representing themselves is leading to huge delays at court as judges struggle to help people representing themselves understand the proceedings and what is happening.
"Often people find that decisions go against them because they've not been able to refer the judge to the relevant legal points of their case. They can end up getting emotional and not representing their cause in the best possible way."
Lawyer-Supported Mediation is an alliance of 50 participating firms and currently operates in the South East and the North. It plans to launch in Birmingham this September.
Since the ending of legal aid for parents who are separating, unless they are able to show there has been domestic violence or a significant risk of harm to a child, there has been a push for mediation between families as an alternative option.
But given staying out of the courts may not always represent a realistic route, Claire Darley, chairman of Birmingham Law Society's family law committee, said there was still a need for people to obtain legal advice.
"It is now a legal requirement for a person to attend a meeting to determine whether mediation will be suitable, before a person makes certain applications to court," she said.
"This is the case in connection with applications relating to children - to decide with whom a child will live, have contact, and when a child will live, spend time or have contact with another person and to decide upon financial applications for children and financial matters arising out of a marriage.
"Mediation is one of a number of options available to separating parties. It is important that parties do seek legal advice alongside mediation at the earliest opportunity."
Ms Darley also highlighted the professional support services which is now available, including the Government's Personal Support Unit.
This consists of volunteers who will attend court with concerned parties to explain the court process.
In the wake of the changes she highlighted the need for co-operation, adding: "It is vitally important, now more than ever, that all professionals working within the family justice system work together to support the court service, to assist all court users."
Birmingham lawyer Christine Patterson recently told the Post courtroom dynamics had changed for the worse since the abolition of legal aid in cases where one party is represented and another is not.
Ms Patterson, head of family law and partner at Shakespeares' Birmingham office, said: "In financial proceedings connected to divorce, for example, it is not unusual for a three-day hearing to become a four-day hearing simply because so much time has to be allowed for dealing with issues that arise because one party has no solicitor.
"We also find that unrepresented litigants are sometimes given too much leeway by the judge to make statements and bring issues to bear that would otherwise not be aired.
"This is frustrating and jeopardises the possibility of a sensible deal for both parties swiftly and efficiently."
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