family law Posts

Thursday March 13, 2014 at 9:00am
The range of questions I get asked as a family solicitor is quite mind-boggling - and they are not always related to the legal profession. However, there is a small band of them that come round time and time again. So I thought it might be useful to try and address some of the most common divorce and family law related questions in this blog. A general piece of advice for clients though is to think about what you are going to ask your divorce solicitor before you go in to see them. This ensures ....
Thursday February 27, 2014 at 9:00am
I read with interest a piece in the press last week about how one woman claimed to have halved the price of her divorce by cutting out solicitors. I then read it a second time and felt I simply have to respond.You are going to cut some cost from your divorce (in the short-term) if you do not use a solicitor. In the same way, you will cut money on car maintenance if you do it yourself and don’t take it to the garage. The question is whether you should if you know nothing about mechanics. Is....
Tuesday February 25, 2014 at 9:30am
I happened upon an interesting discussion on Radio 5 Live the other day about the importance of checking the credentials of legal services you seek out online. The potential for bogus law practitioners making money out of the internet is the same as in any other sector: the unqualified builder who makes a mess of your house, the untrained accountant who messes up your tax return, and the like. The internet is a wonderful thing because of the universal (almost) free access that anyone can enjoy ....
Thursday February 13, 2014 at 9:00am
I have been trying to highlight the difficulties for unmarried couples for too long now and still I am amazed and infuriated by the general misunderstanding of common law husband or wife. I was recently contacted by an elderly gentleman who had been with his partner for some 21 years in a property owned solely in her name. His partner had suffered a fall and was having a long stay in hospital. Her son had adopted the “I'm in charge” role and was pushing for his mother to return to li....
Thursday January 23, 2014 at 9:00am
I have to admit that I laughed when I first saw the headline. You may have done the same. “Woman sues solicitors because they did not explain that divorce would end her marriage”. This was the story week about Roman Catholic Jane Mulcahy who was so unhappy with her divorce lawyers that she took them to court. She claimed they had failed to take account of her faith and should have recommended a judicial separation as she believed in the sanctity of marriage and didn't realise that a ....
Thursday January 2, 2014 at 9:00am
Helping couples reach a non-confrontational solution to their separation should be right at the top of priorities for a family law specialist when taking on a new client. Our professional code of conduct dictates we should aim to do this and the practices of the “Rottweiler” lawyer have no place in the profession. Sadly, this is not always the case. Some couples are determined to go head to head in a divorce battle and there are still solicitors out there who will egg them on. That i....
Thursday December 5, 2013 at 9:00am
When a person decides that they want to divorce, the perceived enormity of the task ahead can be incredibly daunting for many. What do I do first? Which solicitor do I use? How much will it cost? How long will it take? Where am I going to live while this is going on? And those types of things are just the practicalities. They do not take into account the emotional side and concerns about how you’ll cope, how best to handle the situation with the children and a general feeling that your lif....
Monday November 25, 2013 at 5:24pm
For the uniformed, divorce probably still means going to court to sort it all out. As family lawyers, we know that is far from being a realistic picture. I would estimate that around 95 per cent of the cases we deal with at Woolley & Co, Solicitors get to a conclusion without needing to have a court hearing. Yes, you do need to have certain papers filed or signed at court, but this is an administrative process and not a call on actual court time. Court action in divorce is not unusual though....
Thursday October 31, 2013 at 9:00am
You might think it is way too early for me to be talking about a Christmas rush, but bear with me. After all, there are already Christmas cards in my local flower shop and I saw a festive advert on television the other day, so it won’t be long until it really gathers pace. The real Christmas rush that family lawyers can often find themselves wrapped up in has more to do with holiday contact arrangements for children than last-minute shopping, traffic jams and supermarket queues. Hopefully,....
Thursday October 24, 2013 at 9:00am
One of the hardest things to agree on and manage when a family splits up is where the children will live and the contact they will have with the other parent. In last week’s blog, we looked at the apparent rise in shared residence orders but there is also, conversely, a rise in the number of requests for one parent to move a child overseas. When you stop to think about it, this is perhaps not unexpected. With a greater migratory population internationally, there are more marriages between ....
Thursday October 17, 2013 at 9:00am
Talk around custody of children is still something that is commonplace, despite the fact that that term has not been formal in use in legal terms for years. These days, it is about residence and contact and increasingly shared residence. It may be that they are still only resident at their dad’s at weekends and holidays: it should not imply a 50/50 split but allows a framework for true shared parenting. This though can remain elusive unless both parents take a pragmatic approach, put the c....
Thursday September 26, 2013 at 9:00am
The concept of a good divorce may at first seem contradictory. Divorce is not a good thing for anyone. It is the culmination of a relationship breakdown that is likely to involve moving house, starting a new life and relationships with children, family and friends changing dramatically. There is a significant emotional toll and can cause financial issues also for some if they do not do their best to keep down the cost of the process. For some though it can be the worst experience of their life, ....
Thursday July 25, 2013 at 9:00am
It seems a slight change in the wording of the Children and Families Bill could have quite an impact on some couples going through divorce. That was the feeling that I took away from the Family Justice – Next Steps for Reform: Westminster Legal Policy Forum that I attended last week. A big talking point among delegates was the removal of the “shared parenting” phrase that had gained so much publicity while this Bill has been crawling its way towards becoming law. The Bill had p....
Thursday July 4, 2013 at 9:00am
Statistics can be made to prove or demonstrate many things. The same set of data can be manipulated in some cases to show opposing things. Just ask a politician. There was an interesting statistic that came out a few weeks ago which made me do a bit of digging to see what real underlying trends I could see in the make-up of the British family, marriage and children. It was the one that suggested one million children in Britain are now growing up without a father because of family breakdown. The ....
Thursday April 18, 2013 at 9:00am
Well, it’s finally happened. Changes in the way Legal Aid funds family law cases came into effect at the start of April. Seems like we have been talking about them for ages and finally it is all change. In actual fact, there have been two significant developments stemming from the introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (“LASPO”) which came into force at the beginning of April. The most radical change is that Legal Aid will not be availabl....
Thursday April 11, 2013 at 9:00am
Resolution. The clue is in the name. This organisation for family lawyers sees members follow a Code of Practice that promotes a non-confrontational approach to resolving family problems – notably divorce. Aggressive and combative negotiations between estranged couples are not constructive for anyone, particularly if children are concerned. They mean it all takes longer to sort out the issues and costs more money. Resolution is dedicated to the exact opposite and now has 6,500 family lawy....
Thursday January 24, 2013 at 9:00am
I hear from colleagues that the service they have been getting from family courts recently has been improving. Apparently many had experienced cases taking longer, instances of papers going astray and call centres replacing local court staff as Government rationalisation of the courts service kicked in. This was, of course, on top of the ongoing niggling issues like the fact court staff will rarely accept email communications and don’t take electronic payments. I’d always counted my....
Thursday December 13, 2012 at 9:00am
So what do you think? The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has launched a smartphone and web app to help the 300,000 families undergoing separation in the UK each year. It pledges to offer parents tailored advice on where they can access support while going through a break-up: financial, legal and emotional. It comes on the back of a specially-commissioned poll that shows more than half of separated parents find it difficult to track down the support they need. var _gaq = _gaq || []; _gaq....
Tuesday November 13, 2012 at 9:00am
Appointing the right family lawyer for you is one of the most important things a person will do when facing divorce. Some people will chose the solicitors they have always used for other legal tasks, like selling a house. Others will go on the recommendation of a friend. But what you really need to do is ask: what do I want from a family lawyer – and then search accordingly. It may seem like an additional hassle at a time likely to be packed with emotion and with an endless list of things ....
Monday November 5, 2012 at 9:00am
In the first of an occasional series, we are inviting a guest blogger to post their thoughts on a family law issue of their choice. Here, Bob Greig, of Only Dads, talks about the importance of a “children first” approach, not just in law, but in life. The 1989 Children Act encapsulates an ethic that needs to be at the very heart of the work of all professionals involved in the family justice system – but I think the time has come for a review of this founding principle. Not, I ....
Tuesday October 30, 2012 at 9:00am
We can see the effects of the current economic recession everywhere. Empty shops on the high street, high unemployment, stunted industrial growth – and a rise in the stock of pub lawyers. Ironically in the week that a report said pubs had sold 4.8% fewer pints this year compared to last – that’s 51 million lower – it is the pub lawyer issue that is the biggest sign of the times for me and one that I think is a real cause for concern. The pub lawyer is that friend/colleagu....
Tuesday October 23, 2012 at 9:00am
Being a parent is a huge responsibility. From the very second your first is born, for the rest of your life you are unlikely to ever stop caring for them and worrying about them in more ways than one. In some ways, this aspect of having children is the straightforward bit. No matter what trials and tribulations a family may go through, the relationship between a child and their parents is constant. However, when you look at that relationship in legal terms, it is perhaps not as clear, especially....
Wednesday October 3, 2012 at 9:00am
Fixed fees in family law are nothing new – but they are still a rarity, and I cannot understand why. When I founded Woolley & Co family law back in 1996, among other things underpinning the service we offered was transparency on fees. Why? Because the common wisdom was that solicitors are expensive and the final bill will always be much higher than expected. Offering fixed fees was a way of addressing this. So here we are, 16 years later, and while there are now a few more firms offeri....
Wednesday September 26, 2012 at 9:00am
The official definition of domestic violence is to be changed from March to include psychological abuse for the first time, it was announced recently. Though the change will help thousands of adults across the UK who are victims of “coercive power”, it is said to be specifically targeted to aid teenage victims of abuse. The British Crime Survey recently found that young people are more likely to suffer partner abuse than any other age group, with 12.7% of women and 6.2% of men aged 1....
Wednesday September 12, 2012 at 9:00am
So we have passed another milestone on the lengthy road of the Family Justice Review. Years after it started, last week we saw the draft legislation published, giving us a few more nuggets on exactly what is going to happen. There have been so many “ins and outs” during the course of this review – basically what is going to be covered and what isn’t – that it is hard to keep up. I therefore always have a look at the new information that comes out just to see what th....
Wednesday August 29, 2012 at 9:00am
Delays, red tape, rising costs, inconsistency between courts – these are issues facing the whole courts system. The Family Justice Review has brought some of these into clearer focus in family law and while it may be the “children in care” cases that are getting most, though not all, of the headlines surround the topic, there are clear parallels to the divorce, contact and financial hearings which sit alongside them in the family courts. The same issues keep coming up over and ....
Monday August 13, 2012 at 9:00am
Proposals to modernise family justice and a timetable on when measures will be implemented have been published. It follows the long-awaited Family Justice Review in November after which Mr Justice Ryder was tasked with looking at the recommendations and considering their implementation. There are, of course, many points in the Report and I will not attempt to summarise all of them. However, I will pick up on a couple of points that leapt out at me. A single Family Court as a good idea is doubt....
Tuesday August 7, 2012 at 9:00am
One of the many advantages of running a specialist family law firm with no “central” office is that we have partner level family lawyers placed to offer advice and help to people across swathes of England and Wales. They work from home offices, offering a flexible service designed to fit around the client rather than traditional office hours and restrictions. But, as we have grown, we have now created our first regional “hotspot” where there is a small, but perfectly for....
Tuesday July 24, 2012 at 9:00am
I was alerted the other day to a new programme airing on digital channel, ‘Really’. I was surprised and then appalled to see an entertainment show called Divorce Court. As you might expect, this is an import from the United States where they are a few years ahead of us in terms of TV cameras and other media being allowed into court rooms (whether real or staged). I say ahead of us, but this does not mean I am for it. I just think it is a sad eventuality that will come to the UK ....
Tuesday July 10, 2012 at 9:00am
So the school summer holidays are almost here again. This used to be a time of strategic planning to care for and look after the children across six sun-soaked weeks, family holidays and chaos around the house. These days, for me, it is more about being pleasantly surprised how much quieter the roads are at peak times than they would normally be without all the school run traffic. Times change. However, there will be millions of families across the UK for whom the preparations mentioned above w....
Thursday June 28, 2012 at 9:00am
The country is under starters orders for the Olympics. Streets in London that haven’t seen a broom for years are being swept, scraped and polished. Transport plans are being finalised. Half the adverts on TV now seem to reference the games – or at least “sport” more loosely as the policing of people inadvertently mentioning Olympics in their promotional work when they aren’t an official sponsor does appear to be particularly officious. The official opening ceremony....
Monday June 18, 2012 at 9:00am
I read an interesting article recently on zombie statistics. It was not a phrase I had heard before but is rather apt I think. A zombie statistic is one of those facts or figures that is repeatedly trotted out by people, most commonly in the media, on a specific subject. It may then be pointed out that it is incorrect or flawed but it survives in the published literature and next time someone is researching a similar topic, they Google the subject matter, read the figure, and bring it back to li....
Thursday June 14, 2012 at 9:00am
The generally held view I think is that young people are less bothered about being married than their grandparents were. They are more focussed on money and, for some, careers, than walking up the aisle young and starting a family. Those things may come later on in life or they are as likely to happily cohabit than say “I do” in a big (expensive) wedding. But a new survey has exploded this accepted wisdom. Researchers have found a huge correlation between the views of young people i....
Monday June 11, 2012 at 9:00am
I find I am very quick to criticise through these blogs. It is not intentional. I hope I highlight good practice as much as air my views on where things are not right. Often, this is born of frustration. The legal profession appears to be in a state of flux (a permanent state some might say). We seem to be constantly waiting for changes to come in, on the cusp of evolution, but never quite getting there or achieving forward progress, in my humble opinion. An example, you say? Well, look at med....
Wednesday June 6, 2012 at 9:00am
In the ongoing difficult economic climate, and amid more gloomy news about the economy shrinking, I thought it was timely to return to the topic of keeping divorce costs down. This is an area we have spoken about a number of times before but is still perhaps the question that crops up most frequently with clients or, more specifically, potential clients: how much is it going to cost and how do I keep the cost down? First things first. It is important to understand exactly what the costs (and po....
Monday May 28, 2012 at 9:00am
I don’t know about you but, generally speaking, I think customer service is getting worse, not better. I seem to be constantly disappointed by service providers, whether it is waiting for a plumber to call me back, expecting my broadband to function at the speed advertised, getting service with a smile in a coffee shop or expecting a civil person to be on the other end of the phone when I call a business with an enquiry. The simple solution I guess is to lower my expectations. That’s....
Thursday May 24, 2012 at 9:00am
There seems to have been an awful lot about parenting and families in the news over the last week or so, so I make no apologies for this being my second blog of the week on parenting! The main talking point of course has been the free vouchers for parenting classes launched by the Government last week. It was dismissed by opponents of the Government – which appears to be most people these days – as being, quite literally, more evidence of a nanny state. It even spawned an unfortunate....
Thursday May 17, 2012 at 9:00am
I was on a stag do the other week (yes, divorce solicitors do still get invited to weddings and the associated festivities) and I was chatting to a chap who was convinced that the only thing solicitors wanted to do in divorce cases was go to court. He was absolutely adamant that this is the norm, all cases end up before a judge and that solicitors actively promoted this because they made more money out of it. It took me some time to convince him that this was not correct. I would guess that in ....
Tuesday May 8, 2012 at 9:00am
I’ve decided to muscle in on Andrew’s blog (again) and pick up on the theme of litigants in person where he left off last week (Rise of the DIY Divorce).  The first point to flag is that, as name changes are in vogue, people who decide to represent themselves in court are no longer to be referred to as LIPs (Litigants in Person) but rather SRLs (Self Representing Litigants). I can’t quite see what purpose this serves but the fact remains that whether they are LIPs or SRLs....
Thursday May 3, 2012 at 9:00am
DIY divorce is still a hot topic in family law it seems. In the current economic climate, it is no surprise that people are looking for any means possible to cut back on expenditure. Divorce is one area where they feel they can do this though I have flagged already why I feel people may be selling themselves short by doing this. Apart from anything else, the cost of the actual divorce will not include sorting out – and drawing a legal line under – a range of issues, including finance....
Monday April 30, 2012 at 9:00am
Finding the right lawyers to work with at a firm is a bit like trying to find the right partner in a personal relationship. Of course they need to have the requisite professional level of qualification and experience. This is perhaps something you wouldn’t ask a partner on a first date. However, beyond that, it is more down to their personal traits as to whether or not they will “fit” and so work well with the organisation. And of course what works well here may not work well e....
Monday April 16, 2012 at 2:00pm
It comes as no surprise to me, and I am sure many others will not be raising an eyebrow at this either. A Resolution survey coinciding with the end of the first year of mediation assessment meetings reveals they are not working as they should be. This is not news. The figures are interesting though.  It was only a few weeks ago when I gave some thoughts on the first year of mediation (A year of mediation, are things any better?). Of course it has been around longer than that but it was onl....
Monday March 19, 2012 at 9:00am
A year seems to go by very fast these days. Yes, I know it is an age thing, but I thought things slowed down when as you got older rather than speeded up? This time a year ago we were anticipating a long hot summer, something promised again by the weather forecasters. Excitement was growing about the first British royal marriage in years as William and Kate prepared to walk down the aisle. And the era of compulsory mediation was upon us. In a bid to help keep divorcing couples out of costly cour....
Monday March 12, 2012 at 9:00am
At the turn of the year, Lord Wilson of Culworth, a justice of the Supreme Court, talked about the possible emergence of arbitration as an additional route for resolving disputes, and I cautiously welcomed it in a blog. Well, things have moved on and a new scheme has been launched to enable families to turn to arbitration to help settle disputes and avoid having to go to court. If mediation and/or collaboration fails to reach agreement, the newly formed Institute of Family Law Arbitrators (IFLA....
Thursday March 1, 2012 at 9:00am
Some will say it’s the details that matter, the full name, address, bank account details, children's ages, soon-to-be-ex partner’s solicitor credentials etc, but, really I think it is honesty that is most important when briefing a lawyer who is going to act for you in a divorce. This is especially true if you want the process to be as fast and painless as possible which surely is what most people must want, whether it ends up being like that or not. A family solicitor cannot act in ....
Thursday February 16, 2012 at 9:00am
Making specialist family law advice and services available to people when they need it is of vital importance to us at Woolley & Co and we are always looking for new ways to extend our cover even further - and let people know about it. Next week, we are trying something new again to push this access further. Lisa Smith, our Bedfordshire-based family lawyer, will be hosting two drop-in family law advice sessions at Bedford Business Club. The free advice sessions at the venue in Ampthill Road....
Thursday January 19, 2012 at 9:00am
It has taken family law a long time to ensure that children are put at the heart of any contact and residence issues. What is best for them is the starting point and I firmly believe that is how it should be. Most of the time, this will involve them having contact with both parents, with both sides of the equation having a tangible impact on their offspring’s upbringing. And in most instances, this will be agreed between the parents, enshrined by the court and off everyone will go. Howeve....
Wednesday January 18, 2012 at 9:00am
Having mentioned the apparent annual rush for the divorce lawyers that we see in January each year a couple of times already in the last few weeks, I have been thinking more on this topic. The driver for this is the desire for us to do away with this unwanted tradition and for people to take a deep breath and consider the state of their marriage in the cold light of mid-January rather than on the last day of a two-week stay by the mother-in-law over new year. However, it was the question of what....
Monday January 16, 2012 at 9:00am
So what will be new in family law for 2012? What trend will be “in” for the year? It’s difficult to know really. After so much happened, comparatively speaking, in 2011, it is difficult to see there being any additional big moves for 2012. It is more likely to be a year of consolidation, as the management speak goes. In 2011, we had the long-awaited Family Justice Review which arrived with an apologetic whimper, introducing the Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MI....
Tuesday January 3, 2012 at 9:00am
What is a proper family? Traditionally, the definition appears to have been married heterosexual parents with two or more children. I am not sure I would necessarily agree that is exactly right, but it will do for now. But where does that sit in 21st Century society? A new survey suggests fewer than a fifth of people believe they belong to a traditional family, with many believing their home circumstances are not represented by politicians or the media, while 77% believe single parents can be a....
Thursday December 8, 2011 at 9:09am
I watched an interesting piece on BBC Breakfast news again this morning. The new figures for divorce are due out later and it is apparently anticipated that divorce rates will have fallen to the lowest levels since 1974. There was a debate about the possible reasons for this – some saying that less people are getting married, or waiting until they are older to get married so they are more mature and sure that they have the right person. Other suggestions were that in a time of economic d....
Thursday December 8, 2011 at 9:00am
The Christmas holidays are fast approaching and for those parents who live separately, this can be an anxious time sorting out a schedule of contact for the children. Many separated families have a structure where one parent is the main carer and the other spends their time with children at weekends and holidays. Holiday arrangements can produce a considerable amount of stress for both adults and children. This stress can be minimised though by some careful planning and by putting the children&....
Thursday November 24, 2011 at 9:00am
Upon my recent return to the UK from my adopted home of Egypt, I was sadly excited by the prospect of watching a few EastEnders episodes. The excitement turned to horror as I watched an appallingly written episode which showed a frightening lack of proper and relevant research into current family law and social care practice. In my opinion, it was dangerous. In this particular episode, Roxy Mitchell left her three-year-old daughter in the temporary care of one of her teenage family members (Ben....
Monday November 21, 2011 at 9:00am
Representing yourself in court in a family law case is looking increasingly appealing for some in the current climate. Changes in Legal Aid rules to slash eligibility for money to support divorce cases is one big reason on the face of it. Another is along similar lines but more general – in the tight economic circumstances, people simply do not believe they can afford to employ a solicitor to pursue their divorce settlement. One obvious alternative is to represent themselves in court. How....
Wednesday November 9, 2011 at 3:03pm
No, it’s not a bad joke – the hot off the press judgment (from 9th November 2011) from the Supreme Court in the case of Kernott v Jones means that the answer may be, umm, we’re not sure... There has been so much debate about the vast differences in the law as it applies to couples who live together rather than get married, and this case is the latest development in a long line of cases where some of the most senior judges in the land have expressed very different views about ho....
Monday October 17, 2011 at 9:30am
A little while ago a client came to me stating that he wanted a “Rottweiler” of a solicitor and I found this approach very strange indeed. As someone who was attacked when riding my bike home from work one night by a vicious Doberman (that looked like a Rottweiler) and ending up in A&E and permanently scarred, the concept of wanting to instruct someone that had the potential of causing you and your former partner pain and expense was a mystery to me. What made it even worse in th....
Thursday October 13, 2011 at 9:00am
A new code of Conduct for law practices is now in place. Despite the rather meaningless title Outcome-Focused Regulations, I think they are good, easy to manage and full of common sense issues to help a modern practice run more professionally and thrive. Now I am not normally backward in complaining about this profession shying away from this sort of change, so I was heartened to read a great blog on the subject in Law Society Gazette. In it, the point was made that this should not be something....
Thursday October 6, 2011 at 10:37am
I nearly choked to death on my toast this morning when I heard a debate on BBC Breakfast news about the new “Supermarket Law” companies which are likely to be spawned by the Legal Services Act (LSA) which comes into force today. One guest was passionately arguing that it would be “dangerous” for certain types of law (family law being one specifically referred to) being dealt with over the phone, rather than face to face! Whilst dealing with clients in this way may be &ld....
Thursday August 11, 2011 at 10:00am
Family law is no joking matter. By its very nature, more often than not it deals with distressed families at a difficult time. But every now and then, a situation comes along where you have to see the funny side. In this instance, it is a judge in Canada highlighting the idiocy off a couple who simply will not reach a settlement. Faced with a feuding couple who had “been marinating in a mutual hatred so intense as to surely amount to a personality disorder requiring treatment”, Just....
Thursday July 28, 2011 at 10:00am
A fairly well-populated list of leading family law luminaries put their names to a letter published in the Times a few weeks ago discussing the proposed changes to provision of Legal Aid. I say “discussing” but in truth they were fairly scathing at how proposed reforms seem to be steamrollering through despite widespread objections expressed in response to the consultation process. The letter expressing disappointment that the Legal Aid changes are still going through unchanged came....
Thursday July 21, 2011 at 10:00am
As the phrase goes, there is no instruction book for being a parent. There are some fairly obvious dos and don’ts but for the most part, you learn as you go along and you don’t always get it right. So I am struggling to see why those behind the Family Justice Review think that issuing a leaflet to all new parents giving them pointers on what being a parent means is a good thing. At best, it seems a little desperate to conclude from a far-reaching review of how the legal system deals ....
Thursday July 7, 2011 at 10:00am
I think it is fair to say that over the course of your life you will go to a fair few weddings. Many, if not most, will be fantastic occasions for all the right reasons. Others will be a bit of a bore. If I was a betting man, I would put money on the marriage of Freddie Bourne and Heidi Withers not falling into the latter category. It should be interesting, shouldn’t it? This, of course, is the couple who have hit the headlines in the last week or so after Freddie’s mother Carolyn s....
Monday July 4, 2011 at 10:00am
I officially submitted my response to the Family Justice Review this week. This, of course, is the long running review of all legal procedures relating to family law. I have mentioned many points on this in previous blogs (and I’m sure I’ll return to them in future ones!), but as with most things it is a mix of good and bad. I agree with a more child-focused approach, but believe there is an awful lot that still needs to be done on the administration and management front to bring th....
Monday June 20, 2011 at 10:00am
The interim report of the Family Justice Review was published a couple of months ago and has caused such a wave of interest that it seems very few people have digested its contents yet. Having been critical of the time it takes to conduct such reviews and get some constructive change to happen, I did sit down and read it all recently. As you can imagine, it is not the most riveting read though there were some fascinating insights in there. It was also interesting to see how certain important nug....
Monday June 13, 2011 at 10:00am
After years of talking about it, the Legal Services Act is upon us. Officially, it comes into force in October this year and will allow more organisations to offer legal services, something which they have not been able to do to date. It has been dubbed “Tesco law” by certain commentators convinced we will see a rush by supermarkets wanting to sell all sorts of additional services to unsuspecting shoppers. From home conveyancing to divorce, in the same way you can now pick up leafle....
Monday May 30, 2011 at 10:00am
Stress in the workplace is a major headache for employers and employees in this day and age. It is not necessarily that things didn’t get stressful in the past but it just seems that the demands of an increasingly fast-paced life, coupled with economic (and domestic) pressures, combine to create more of a crucible than ever before. As to which profession is most stressful – what do you think? Politician? Journalist? Premier League footballer with a superinjunction? Surely the legal p....
Thursday May 26, 2011 at 10:00am
A recurring issue in these musings from me is the need for a rethink on some of the intricacies of family law. Whether it is perhaps another look at mediation, a no fault divorce or pre-nuptial and living together agreements getting full legal status, there are things I see in our daily dealings that I think could be better served by the law. So it was nice to see a High Court judge coming out and articulating why our “outdated” divorce rules had fuelled the rise in marriage breakdo....
Thursday March 17, 2011 at 10:00am
Ask many people what is the worst thing about the legal profession and they may well say “the jargon”. They may well say many other, less polite, things as well perhaps, but the language used in many aspects of our work lurches from arcane to ridiculous. Sensible, succinct and clear definitions can be difficult to find. However, I am hoping that a tide of change may be starting with the New Family Procedure Rules 2010 that come into force on April 6. They provide for a new code of pr....
Tuesday February 15, 2011 at 10:00am
Marriage Week UK ended on Valentine’s Day. I understand this was deliberate and simply a quirk of the calendar with the most romantic day of the year falling on a Monday. Slightly ironic though. Would it not have been better to start Marriage Week on February 14?! The week celebrates commitment and the importance of marriage. The notion should be applauded. It is perhaps though unfortunate that the event, apparently running since 1997, is not more high profile so as to have a real im....
Thursday February 3, 2011 at 10:00am
As family law specialists, we would always advise clients involved in divorce proceedings to keep a level head, look for a fair settlement and to secure a Clean Break Order to draw a line under the settlement once and for all. In short, be sensible, fair and final. If an individual really does not agree with a settlement, there are routes available to challenge it, but this can be costly and draw out a painful process even longer. However, there are cases where this appears to be the only cours....
Tuesday February 1, 2011 at 10:00am
People do seem to be getting up-tight about litigants in person all of a sudden. A litigant in person is an individual not represented in court by a solicitor or barrister. In effect, they represent themselves, though they may often be advised by a third party, like a McKenzie friend to help them prepare and lead them through the proceedings. This route can also be used alongside the services of a solicitor. The prediction is that more and more people will be representing themselves in court a....
Tuesday January 25, 2011 at 10:00am
I can’t help wondering if there was more to the now former Shadow Chancellor Alan Johnson stepping down than meets the eye. The official reason was the classic “personal reasons” and to spend more time with his family at a difficult time. Rumours abound as I write this that it has to do with his wife Laura allegedly having a relationship with a police protection officer assigned to her and her high profile husband. Scotland Yard’s standards watchdog is looking into this. ....
Tuesday January 18, 2011 at 10:00am
I seem to spend too much of my time in these blogs dwelling on divorce. Perhaps not surprising, you might think, for a managing partner in a family law firm? True. I won’t beat myself up about it. However, our outlook remains that we would prefer it if fewer relationships failed, more people stayed married and there were fewer children either splitting their time between estranged parents or not having the support of one of them at all. I guess the accepted trend in recent years remains t....
Monday January 17, 2011 at 2:11pm
I sometimes forget how large our family law website is and how difficult it can be to navigate around for the first time user. We work hard to try and improve that but at the end of the day we’ve just got so much to offer! So, just in case you’ve missed them, here are the top 5 FREE resources in terms of popularity: 1. Surviving Family Conflict and Divorce Book  First published in 2007 and already into a second reprint, this book was written with contributions from our team of ....
Tuesday January 4, 2011 at 11:03am
It’s scary how fast the festive season is over and done with. The build up is like some sort of tinsel-draped, glittery marathon, full of jingling bells and far from silent nights. It was made perhaps a little more so this year thanks to the weather. I did find it quite amusing that the white Christmas we had all been dreaming of for so long turned nightmare for many as it brought disruptions to travel, deliveries and parties. Maybe next year people won’t be carolling so loudly for a....
Friday December 3, 2010 at 2:31pm
I blogged a few weeks ago about a wonderful resource from Cafcass called the Separated Parents Information Programme. This programme and its accompanying brochure is a mine of information on a range of issues, mostly but not exclusively related to children and how they are affected by separation. Among the many topics covered is that of family mediation and whether or not it is a viable alternative to court. I thought it was a good issue to pick up on bearing in mind the Family Justice Review a....
Friday October 22, 2010 at 6:08am
The debate on the Family Justice Review is hotting up – but it is still leaving thousands of people feeling cold, including me, because of just how far we still have to go before any real prospect of changes. In a debate this week, family law expert Baroness Deech again struck out, calling the current system "out of date" and "out of step" with the rest of the EU, arguing its shortfalls are leading to high litigation costs and have a negative impact on families. "T....
Wednesday October 13, 2010 at 10:15am
There has been a rise in interest in the media in the last week or so about the role mediation plays – or can play – in divorce proceedings. This is because of the countdown to the publication of the Family Justice Review, something billed as a far-reaching analysis of how the courts deal with families. Initial findings of the Family Justice Review Panel are due to be published “soon” though don’t expect any definite recommendations until this time next year. The re....
Thursday July 1, 2010 at 10:27pm
Nick Clegg has today asked us all to help the Government make divorce better.  You can see the Family Justice Review Panel they have set up, here. This could be a very complex subject, so to keep things clear I set out below some quick thoughts. 1. “Take the fault and blame out of divorce”. We hear this a lot and it seems to be blamed upon the absence of “no fault divorce”. Where does that phrase come from? The present law is not about fault but about grounds. If an....
Friday May 21, 2010 at 8:43am
The media often campaigned in the past for the family and divorce Courts to be open to reporting.  In the past they were totally closed. Of course, nobody would want to see children identified, it is often said. How true could that be if they are the children of celebrities who seem to divorce very regularly and often much more spectacularly than the majority? The last government "opened up the Courts" and allowed media access with safeguards. But there were problems from the star....
Tuesday May 11, 2010 at 1:27pm
So after all the hype, here we are, no further forward. Perhaps even two steps back. I don’t think too many of us are surprised at the “result”. It was almost inevitable that the election would lead to a hung Parliament but still I held out hope we might get a decisive vote, rather than a score draw. Not to be. The constant news coverage continues with the political commentators seemingly about to wet themselves with excitement, or so it has seemed at some points over the last ....
Tuesday May 4, 2010 at 4:02pm
There is nothing more frustrating than collective wisdom. I guess that’s a posh phrase for it, but I am referring to an idea that someone clings to as an absolute because lots of people believe it - or someone has told an individual that it is true and they pass it on to others. The reality is that it is often not worth the paper it’s not written on. After all, rumours survive and Chinese whispers are bound by these same rules – but they have no basis in law. Take for example, ....
Tuesday April 20, 2010 at 9:56am
You see? The system does work. Sometimes. A six-year old girl and her two brothers are to be allowed to stay living with their mum in the UK after an Appeal Court ruling took into account where the little girl said she would rather live. I think perhaps outside of legal circles, this will not be seen quite as the landmark that it actually is. Years ago, it used to be the case that children could be put in the horrible position of going to court, being put on the spot and being asked to choose be....
Tuesday April 13, 2010 at 2:02pm
Custody and access must be among the most misunderstood terms in family law – because they don’t officially exist any more. They used to of course, before the Children Act changed the terminology. But the 20th anniversary of that particular piece of legislation has been “celebrated” over the last couple of weeks and it is quite amazing that two words have stuck so strongly in the public’s consciousness, still bandied around 20 years after being replaced with “....
Wednesday April 7, 2010 at 3:04pm
In the old days, when I started off as a specialist divorce lawyer, everybody knew where they stood when they wanted a divorce. 1. They went to a solicitor2. They had to go to Court about the divorce itself let alone the financial divorce settlement Mind you, they didn't know how much it would cost! And the going to Court is the really expensive bit. Happily things are now different, except for the cost of Court. But almost all of our clients are helped by us to avoid a physical Court appea....
Wednesday April 7, 2010 at 8:59am
As The Guardian reported,  the law has now changed to make it easier for gay couples to have chidren via the surrogacy route and be named as "parents" on the birth certificate. Indeed it will be possible, for the first time, for two men to be named as parents on the birth certificate. Fertility law, surrogacy and same sex parenting is a complex area, albeit now somewhat simplified, but the article under the preceeding link gives an outline. What amazes me is the reaction in the Gu....
Tuesday February 23, 2010 at 3:14pm
The rate of divorce has gone down and is presently at its lowest for many years. That is well known and well publicised. But, we have been busier than ever and have recruited 5 specialist divocre lawyers in the last 10 months. How can this be? Well, anecdotal evidence from an increasing number of our lawyers finds that Courts have suddenly started to reject divorce requests (under the procdure known as the "Special Procedure") when for many years they would have passed those same reque....
Wednesday February 17, 2010 at 1:30pm
 We’ve already covered the falling divorce rates so I won’t plough over old ground completely but I was interested to read Resolution’s response to the news that marriage rates are at their lowest since records began in 1862. The provisional marriage rate for men in 2008 was 21.8 men marrying per 1,000 unmarried men aged 16 and over, compared with 22.4 in 2007 and 31.1 in 1998, according to the Office of National Statistics. The provisional marriage rate for women in 2008 ....
Monday February 8, 2010 at 11:25am
"You are a lawyer, a woman and have a family — and the big firms cannot tempt you with a partnership" says an influential article in The Times.   It is sad to see that we ("we" as in mainly male run law firms) have still failed to change our systems to allow 50% of lawyers to join us fully. I have to say, though, that at Woolley & Co we can hardly be accused of that; indeed the opposite is the case. We don’t have partners as such but we do have: &hel....
Thursday February 4, 2010 at 4:45pm
The Law Gazette reports that children in divorce and family cases in Courts "do not trust newspapers". This was found after quite detailed research by the Children Commissioner for England. The presence of the Press might well cause children (and I dare say others) to restrict what they say in evidence. Does anybody involved in Court proceedings trust the media? Should they? Should the media be allowed to be present at all in cases involving children especially given this finding? Pers....
Tuesday February 2, 2010 at 9:16am
Grandparents rights is a hot topic right now. But normally in relation to grandparents rights to have contact (often called "access") to their grandchildren in the event of a divorce of their parents. But Baroness Deech has strongly suggested that grandparents maybe should have a right to be financially supported by their children in return for the free childcare they will have given over the years. I do begin to wonder if the Baroness just looks for subjects she can get publicity from....
Thursday January 28, 2010 at 10:28am
The Forced Marriage Act was passed by this government. Did they mean it or not? The principal aim of the Act is to prevent forced marriages from taking place and stop attempts to force a party into marriage. If the marriage has already taken place there are additional powers to protect the victim and enable the party to move away from the relationship. There seems little point in making a law on the one hand and on the other taking away much of the main parts of support to those who might wish t....
Thursday January 21, 2010 at 8:21pm
I read in The Times that politicians propose to require all divorcing couples to go to mediation. Madness. The fashionable view amongst politicians (think back to all previous policies like this--are they not later proved to be totally wrong?) is that mediation is good and any other way of resolving disputes upon divorce is bad. They think there are too many Court cases. I believe they have got it badly wrong for these reasons: forcing people to mediate is not a good start to mediation! most p....
Monday January 18, 2010 at 6:09pm
Families are becoming a hot political topic, not before time, but I still find it difficult to raise too much enthusiasm. Like so many times, the most recent rhetoric from both the Tories and Labour paints great big banner headlines but reveals little of the detail. According to reports, Labour will this week pledge support for families and parents going through separation and relationship breakdown. Very noble, but what will they actually do and how will this help? David Cameron, for his part, ....
Wednesday January 13, 2010 at 7:48am
New research has shown that more than two-thirds of consumers don’t know what solicitors do. The YouGov survey also showed only 13% of respondents would buy legal services from a supermarket but, encouragingly for us, more than three-quarters of those who have used a solicitor were either satisfied or very satisfied with the service they received. The same research though showed less than half said they would be fairly confident of judging the quality of help they received. Intriguing find....
Wednesday December 16, 2009 at 10:18am
I was heartened this week to see a leading law figure call for the judiciary to speak out when they see something wrong with the legal system. Lord Justice Wall suggested “the time has come” to end the reluctance to speak out, but instead to do so “loud and clear”. He did though fire a warning about straying too far into politics. I fail to see what is wrongly political about senior specialists in law giving the benefit of their knowledge on how things are working –....
Monday November 30, 2009 at 5:09pm
We are advising increasing numbers of Muslim people about talaqs and getting a divorce in England. It is quite a complicated area as the UK law, bascially, does not recognise a talaq pronounced in the UK but will if it is dealt with in e.g. Pakistan. Bizarre. (A "talaq", by the way, is effectively an Islamic divorce) There seems to be something of a backlash against it here, I wonder if that is because it can only be pronounced by men? Should we really be telling people how to live and....
Thursday November 26, 2009 at 7:50pm
This week saw the domestic violence charity Refuge launch the “Four Ways to Speak Out Campaign” to encourage sufferers of domestic violence to speak out and escape the domestic violence situation they find themselves in. Anyone can support the campaign in association with Avon cosmetics by doing one of the following:- 1) Sign a petition requesting the Government end the postcode lottery as 1 in 3 local authorities do not provide any domestic violence services 2) Buy an Avon empowerme....
Tuesday November 24, 2009 at 9:50pm
We are often asked about expat or international divorce and the issue of womens' divorce rights in places such as Dubai often come up, normally with wild assumptions being made. In fact Dubai, the UAE, are very far sighted when it comes to divorce rights. Of course UAE law is applied to Muslims. Non Muslims are dealt with by the use of the laws of their home country. So, an ethnic English person would reasonably expect to obtain the same settlement as they would in England. This can come as a sh....
Monday November 23, 2009 at 7:37pm
Maybe the Law Commission should just abolish all rights obtained during a marriage and have done with it?  Why stop there? Let's just abolish marriage. My reaction is to the gradual but increasing reduction of the difference between rights due to marriage and rights due to living together. The inexorable move is towards there being no difference at all. It started with the removal of tax relief, I think. If it is shown that those ruling society don't respect the institution of marriage....
Monday November 16, 2009 at 10:13am
Us family lawyers are being asked more and more to advice on fertility law, surrogacy or donor conception arrangements.  Of course this area of law doesn't end there and there can be complex situations where, for example, a single woman and her best friend, male or female, want to co-parent. It is a legally dangerous area of law for those involved and can often have legal implications which greatly surprise people as one Andy Bathie will tell you. He donated sperm to a lesbia....
Wednesday November 11, 2009 at 10:09am
I am sure that the parents of Baby RB, the child with the serious medical condition in the news at the moment, always felt they knew what was in Baby RB’s best interests. Baby RB’s parents have been in the heartbreaking situation where their child is in hospital with a life threatening condition. The hospital referred the issue to the High Court arguing that RB’s life should be ended with his ventilator being switched off. The Mother of the child was in support of this believin....
Friday October 9, 2009 at 9:04am
Family law has suddenly, it seems, attracted the attention of all the political parties! I will not bore you with their proposals for change (frankly, they don't add up to much except a lot of words) but these are some of mine: require couples to have a course of information and counselling before marriage (e.g. "how to argue"!) make prenuptial agreements clearly enforceable make the automatic rule on divorce to be 50/50 unless there is a prenuptial saying otherwise no fault divorce--....
Thursday September 24, 2009 at 1:11pm
Grandparents rights is still an issue which is causing huge upset and it is so unecessary. The Times reported a truly sorrowful tale of a grandfather (a retired Judge as it happens) effectively being stopped from seeing his grandchildren after his son had died and also tells his opinion of what he clearly sees to be the suffering caused by the Court system. It also makes it very clear that he thinks the Children Act requirement that grandparents should have to ask for permission to apply for con....
Saturday September 5, 2009 at 7:27am
A new study just out shows that women are about 3 times more likely than men to be arrested for domestic violence. See this in the context that men are much more likely to be physically abusive, although women are more likely to use a weapon. Perhaps of more concern is that children were present in 55% of cases involving some form of violence or similar abuse. The effect upon them probably cannot be measured and issues of child contact and  residence loom large. Our divorce lawyers are ofte....
Saturday July 18, 2009 at 7:42am
OK, I don't expect you to agree. Nor do I, actually.  But the Justice Committee of the House of Commons report was looking at the rates paid to lawyers who handle publicly funded (used to be called "legal aid") family law work where the fees are way too low to, in general, attract the specialist divorce solicitors. I suppose this is the legal version of the loss of NHS dentists. Now, we don't deal with legal aid cases and never have, mainly because our expertise is in answering qu....
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