The debate about whether children should have a voice in cases which decide their future was recently reignited. The BBC reported (Should children be heard in English family court cases?) that some children and campaigners supported by some senior family law judges wanted to see a change in the law to allow children to speak to the judge in their case, if they so choose.
In my experience as a divorce and family law solicitor I find that people often feel embarrassed asking basic legal questions as they feel that they will look stupid. I am asked the same questions time and time again and clients should never feel silly asking as it is important that they understand the basics so that I can do the best job for them.
The language we use around family law shapes how we think about it. This is the very simple rationale behind “custody” changing to “child arrangements” for example is to encourage parents to think of routines and not ownership. In contrast, the entirely justified move to prevent alleged victims of domestic violence being cross examined by former partners becomes rather sinister when we drop “alleged” and just refer to those former partners as “perpetrators” of domestic abuse because it means all accused of domestic violence are automatically guilty of it (which is a dangerous preconception to have).
As Resolution family lawyers, we are always encouraging our clients to try and be reasonable, to be willing to compromise, and to keep their case in proportion. “Don’t let the lawyers be the ones who get all the money” is a phrase we hear ourselves saying time and time again. But despite our (or their) best efforts, there are always going to be cases that don’t settle easily. The ones where the person on the other side just will not be reasonable, will not negotiate, or has such unrealistic expectations of what the outcome should be, that we are going to need help getting to a conclusion.
As new terms started recently many students will have thought long and hard about the likely costs of going to university. In a BBC article a few months ago the average student debt was calculated to be an eye watering £57,000. Having had a full grant and a job in the university cafeteria it was a less of a worry when I was studying law but now it’s a serious burden that children and parents must think about.