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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Be the change you want


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 mediation. Compulsory mediation was mandated early last year, the idea being that all couples wanting a divorce would go to mediation first in the hope fewer would end up in court. Thing is, it didn’t quite work like that. At the time, there was not enough information given to lawyers or courts about how it would work. There were not enough mediators and still no clear accreditation scheme for those wanting to be mediators. Plus, it emerges that it isn’t quite compulsory yet and that many courts do not ask to see the FM1 form before processing divorce documents, which proves a couple have had a mediation meeting.

Another good example would be the agonisingly slow Family Justice Review, which seems as if it has been rumbling on for years (wait, it has). Recommendations have been put forward, chopped, reinstated, while we all wait to see what will finally make it into the Bill that goes before Parliament. It is fairly certain that huge cuts to Legal Aid will be in there which will add to the growing number of people who feel they cannot afford legal advice, or force some individuals to stay in a dead marriage. Will it give children the right to have a relationship with both parents? I simply don’t know. It is hard to keep track.

And there is still talk – and that is all it is –about dragging the legal sector into the 21st Century through making better use of technology to speed up cases and make things easier for clients. This could include routine electronic sending of documents and electronic payments accepted at court. For us this can’t come soon enough.

As a profession, we seem to sit and talk about change and wait for change to come in but ultimately resist it and nothing really moves on. Society and other sectors have, but we are still waiting.

So I am advocating the “be the change you want” approach. Set the wheels in motion yourself and others will follow. Hopefully. Eventually.

Andrew Woolley
Divorce solicitor


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Your use of my favourite quote from Ghandi prompted this reply.
Take control and make the changes yourself if that’s what you believe in.  Others will follow.  As a mediator ( albeit in a different field) I know that if you can resolve the issues between people so that both parties have their needs met the end result can be very powerful even if the outcome is still to dissolve the relationship.  Great to see you supporting being the change rather than waiting for some in Whitehall to make it make it happen…

By Jacky Sherman on Friday June 22, 2012

Thank you, Jacky.  It won’t surprise you that I agree with you. Amongst our lawyers are family mediators and collaborative lawyers and we reckon we keep about 96% of our clients from having to go to Court to get a final resolution.
A problem we find is that there is a lot of pressure from the system to go to mediation right at the start—-often one of the two people is ready but the other isn’t yet adjusted to the breakdown. Still, on we go!...

By Andrew Woolley on Friday June 22, 2012

I agree that change is needed, in the financial services industry there is constant change sometimes good and sometimes bad but it keeps us on our toes.

However the law firms that actively embrace change will be better off in the long run and so will their clients. In this internet age we cannot afford to be quill and parchment….

By Samantha John on Tuesday June 26, 2012

Wonderful to see people committed to bringing about positive change to speeed up the recovery. As a seprated dad who has been battling the issue of contact for more than 10 years, I wish the legal system and leagl industry in Family Law practice make it difficult, and against the law for ex partners to so easily provide false evidence and accusations which often are used as pretexts and justification of their disruption and blocking of the contact process….

By seperated dad on Tuesday July 10, 2012

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