Monday, 21 January 2013


When you meet a client for the first time and they tell you that they want a 7 letter outcome for a permanent separation, you suspect that they either love solving or alternatively compiling crosswords.

When you suggest they should be looking for parity, you know your hunch is correct if they reply: “That will be me at a soiree.”

However when they say to you, “That’s my FILE we are talking about,” you have been taught the most important anagram that a divorce lawyer needs to know.

Monday, 7 January 2013

January Could See Divorces Spike as Legal Aid Cuts are Due to Take Hold

Sadly, January is when many couples with marriage difficulties choose to make a fresh start, with many family lawyers reporting it as their busiest month of the year.
The intensity and pressure of the festive period and couples with children delaying difficult decisions until after Christmas, regularly leads to a rise in divorce figures at this time of year.
This year, however, the numbers are expected to be skewed by the imminent cuts to Legal Aid. With public funding no longer available for many family cases from April this year, Resolution’s members are concerned that those who would previously have qualified for Legal Aid may end up falling through the cracks after April.
This lack of access to legal advice could see an increase in drawn-out courtroom battles; increased acrimony; and, most worryingly, a detrimental impact on children. Resolution is an organisation of family law practitioners who are committed to helping separating couples resolve their disputes with the minimum of conflict, encouraging them to put any children’s needs first.
In a survey of Resolution’s members, most Legal Aid practitioners believed less than a quarter of their cases would continue to be eligible for public funding after April this year. This may help the Government cut spending, but there’s a bigger social cost in the long run.
Resolution members - particularly those taking on Legal Aid cases – certainly don’t see busy periods as a cause for celebration. Indeed, any rise we see this year could be the tip of the iceberg, as we could see just as many people next year who are not able to access advice that helps support them through their separation.
Those facing separation and divorce are encouraged to speak with a Resolution member about their options, regardless of whether they currently qualify for Legal Aid.
Divorce and separation will always be a painful time, but it doesn’t need to be the bitter fight you often see in the media, taking years to settle and costing the couple huge sums of money. There are affordable and effective ways that you both can reach an agreement, ensuring any children’s best interests are put first and that the courtroom is avoided wherever possible.
Resolution recently published a guide to these options, called SeparatingTogether, and I would urge anyone who is facing separation or divorce to read this before going any further.
Many of our members will offer a free or fixed-price initial meeting to talk through your options, so even if you will no longer qualify for Legal Aid, it’s well worth talking to a Resolution member about a way forward that works for you, as it could end up saving you money.

Sunday, 6 January 2013


I always find the emergence of a New Year a troubling time. Old practices die hard and I know that I am not alone in stumbling every time I write the date. Okay it’s only the first week of January but panic will set in at the end of the month if I’m still prone to insert 2012 instead of 2013. Writing cheques, even in March, will be a nightmare should I slowly dither over completing the date and if I haven’t trained myself by the autumn, will there be any hope?

You’re living in the past. Move on. Get a life. You need to get out more. Get over it.

All stock phrases that resonate most when we are not ready to hear them.

But I know it’s 2013; time has moved on and I am aware; I just have difficulty adapting. Change is rarely easy.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013


So today was D-Day, the day following the festive Christmas holiday when the number of people contacting solicitors about divorce peaks. Well I can confirm that I was certainly busy, but is it fair to blame Christmas for this phenomenon and if so, should people be running off to solicitors to end their marriages so quickly?
Undoubtedly January is a month when traditionally a large proportion of new files are opened in any family law firm, but from my own experience most of these are for clients who have been planning to start proceedings for many months. I’m sure most divorce lawyers would concur that few clients ever undertake divorce lightly and rarely do they do so because of events consolidated into a single festive break.
The claustrophobic atmosphere of being cooped up together at home for the best part of two weeks, tired out from lack of sleep or exhaustion, stressed from all the planning and shopping that seems to go into Christmas these days is not the best environment for cultivating romance. Add to that mix: the bitter anti-climax of an event that perhaps did not do justice to its build up; the bizarre behaviour of others especially if influenced by alcohol; no opportunity for diversion or escape, especially when the television offering is pitiful and the weather is awful. Is it any wonder that we all fall out with each other and the average family has at least five arguments on Christmas Day itself?
With divorce now affecting over 40% of marriages in the UK, if Christmas really is responsible for a large proportion of such, the Government could, of course, clearly resolve what it sees as one of society’s biggest problems by simply prohibiting yuletide festivities as we currently know them. It might not make it very popular but what’s a child sobbing because Santa Claus can no longer come, to one crying because his parents are separating?
Unless the Government is even loopier than I think, however, it won’t be banning Christmas anytime soon. Moreover, it doesn’t need to. Save in those relationships that were already on the rocks, most families put away the arguments with the Christmas tree decorations, dust themselves down and get on with life as usual, vowing to do things differently next time.
For others a visit to a solicitor might be on their list of resolutions. A committed family law professional will outline the options and will inevitably urge them to think through the consequences and consider counselling or other alternatives first and before making a final decision. Indeed if the last two weeks have driven you to thinking that you might ring a lawyer for an appointment this month, why not look up the number for your local branch of Relate instead. You might still decide to divorce but at least you will only be doing so after you have given the situation calm and measured thought.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013


Happy New Year everyone.
Over the festive season I have driven a particular route on a number of occasions that involves crossing a beck. The foundations of the stone bridge that spans this were washed away in floods earlier in the year and a temporary metal structure has therefore been installed. Only one lane of traffic is permitted to pass and, as it does so, the construction creaks, groans, and sways.  Without such I would have been obliged to make a detour of some 15 miles but I still approached it on each occasion with consternation. Once there was a large tractor in front of me and I nervously waited until it had safely crossed, imagining at any moment that the metalwork might buckle and give way beneath its weight.
In December the team of lawyers with which I work was very busy resolving arrangements for contact with children over the Christmas period.  In many of these cases it is imperative that the parents build bridges to allow their children to transfer from one home to another. As I waited for that tractor to cross, I pondered on the fact that its predicament was not so dissimilar to that facing families caught up in a Christmas contact dispute. Strong foundations are needed and, whilst a court order can assist in imposing a temporary and artificial structure, ultimately the bridge that connects the parents must be rebuilt to fully support and ensure the well-being of their children. They cannot be expected to swim or flounder in the fast flowing water beneath.
I hope this Christmas was a good one for you and your family and that, at the very least, you started to build the foundations for a new bridge where one is needed.