Today is Thanks Giving Day in the US, and many American families will be sitting around the table, saying what they are thankful for. Maguire Family Law will also be giving thanks for family law.
Here in the offices of Maguire Family Law , we have surveyed our five family law solicitors and each have picked something which they are thankful for in the family justice system.
1. The Single Family Court
In April 2014, the structure of the family legal system was changed and we now have one Family Court, rather than separate types of courts in separate places.
For us as family law solicitors, this means that, for example, applications under the Children Act are sent to one central designated family centre. The matter is reviewed upon receipt and a decision is made as to where the case should be heard and which level of judge should hear the case. No longer do family law solicitor have to get the map out to work out which court is the one closest to the children!
2. The Family Procedure Rules
The Family Procedure Rules 2010 provide us with clear procedural guidance as to the steps we have to take. Whilst there are many procedures which we carry out on a day to day basis and know off by heart, there are some more obscure processes where we need to check the proper procedure.
Recently we have used the Family Procedure rules to check the rare circumstances under which a client can file a second divorce petition; to check the timing of service of documents on a respondent living abroad and to check if there are exceptional circumstances in which a decree absolute can be granted on an urgent basis.
3. The focus on conciliation
This week is Dispute Resolution week, an initiative launched by Resolution to promote alternatives to the court process.
Even when we are within the court process, the courts focus on ways of reducing the issues in dispute and encouraging the parties to reach an agreement between themselves.
One of the key hearings for negotiations is the Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR) hearing, which is often the second of three hearings within the Financial Remedy Process. At this hearing, both parties are invited to put forward their positions and the judge gives guidance on what he or she would consider a ‘reasonable’ settlement. This enables the parties to see those areas where they may need to compromise, and those areas where they may have the court’s support. It is very rare that one party is completely right and one party completely wrong; and the judge can help the parties to establish the middle ground.
The negotiations at an FDR hearing can help the parties to avoid the costs of proceeding to a final hearing, at which they would both have to give evidence, be cross examined and would ultimately have a decision imposed on them by the judge.
4. Judicial discretion
English Family law is perhaps one of the most discretionary legal systems. It means that whilst the courts have a number of factors that they take into account when taking a decision (for example the divorce settlement factors in 25 Matrimonial Causes Act and the welfare checklist for children matters, the judge will look at the individual circumstances of each case and try to reach a decision which is fair to both parties, and to their children.
For family law solicitors, this judicial discretion can make it difficult to advise the client as to the precise outcome in your case, and we will often talk about a range of reasonable outcomes. However, we are thankful for this discretion because it means that there is not one size fits all approach and each client gets an outcome individual to them.
5. The special procedure for divorce
With the introduction of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, a ‘special procedure’ was introduced for uncontested divorces. This means that instead of the parties having to attend court to obtain their divorce, if the parties are agreed that they should divorce then the court will deal with the process on the papers.
At the time that the rules were changed, many people were concerned that this would make getting divorced ‘too easy’. However, as family law solicitors, we see that our clients do not take the decision to divorce lightly and only when they are sure that their relationship has truly broken down. Knowing that our clients have decided to take such a difficult decision, we, as family law solicitors, are thankful that we can assist them through quite a straightforward procedure and in most cases spare them the need to attend court regarding the divorce.
If you have your own ideas on those aspects of family law for which we should be thankful, then please let us know via our social media pages – follow one of the team on twitter @divorcexpert @familylawjen @divorceaide @divorcegenie and use the hash tags #thankful #family law.
Should you require a consultation with a Family Law Solicitor please contact Maguire Family Law by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone +44 (0) 125 544650