McKenzie friends are people who attend court with someone who does not have a lawyer to provide support and assistance.

The term “McKenzie friend” comes from a case called McKenzie v McKenzie in 1970 where the court decided that an unrepresented party should be allowed to have a friend in court who was supporting him.

Since changes to legal aid introduced in 2013, the number of unrepresented parties in the Family Court has increased significantly. For those who are not eligible for legal aid and who cannot afford a solicitor, a McKenzie friend can provide a valuable service. McKenzie friends provide important emotional support to unrepresented parties and if they have experience of the Family Court, may be able to help guide them through the court process.

Traditionally, McKenzie friends were family members or friends but since cuts to legal aid, there has been a significant increase in the number of charities and other organisations offering McKenzie friend services. In particular, there has been a significant increase in McKenzie friends who charge fees for the service they provide and some concern that vulnerable individuals are being charged for services which are unregulated.

In 2016, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales published a consultation on the role of McKenzie friends which can be found here. There has been no further change since the consultation.
The most recent practice guidance from the President of the Family Division is dated 2010 and has not been updated since. It can be found here. This guidance should be read together with the President’s guidance.

The purpose of this briefing is to improve support to survivors by supporting practitioners in the following ways:

  • providing information for practitioners to understand what their legal duties and responsibilities are if they chose to act as a McKenzie friend
  • providing guidance on the best ways to support survivors as a McKenzie friend
  • explaining what, if anything, you can do to support someone facing a McKenzie friend on the other side of the case who is acting inappropriately.


This briefing is created by Rights of Women.

It is produced by funding from London Councils for the Ascent Support Services to Organisations project. 

About Ascent

Ascent is a partnership project undertaken by the London Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Consortium, delivering a range of services for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, under six themes, funded by London Councils. The second tier support project aims to address the long term sustainability needs of organisations providing services to those affected by sexual and domestic violence. The project seeks to improve the quality of such services across London by providing a range of training and support. 

Women’s Resource Centre is the lead partner in the Support Services Strand where we work together with 5 partner organisations:

Rights of Women


Women and Girls Network

Against Violence and Abuse (AVA)


Find out more about the Ascent project here.

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