Archive for January, 2011
Swindon lawyers will be contributing to National Collaborative Law Week (24 January) – with the aim of urging divorcing couples to separate as amicably as possible.
Law firms who specialise in collaborative law are planning a series of events throughout the week to highlight the fact that divorcing couples now have an alternative to going to court.
“The traditional approach of divorcing through the courts, polarises attitudes quickly and forces couples to highlight their differences,” says Suzy Hamshaw, a family lawyer with Swindon law firm, Charles Lucas & Marshall.
“The emotional costs of this approach can be enormous and the effect on children and wider family members can be long lasting.”
Collaborative Family Law aims to help families manage their separation in a more respectful way. Couples and their collaborative lawyers agree in writing that they will not go to court but will work together to resolve issues amicably.
This is achieved through structured meetings, with couples setting the agenda and listening to each other’s wishes and needs.
“This is not mediation by another name,” says Suzy Hamshaw. “Using our knowledge of the law, we help to shape agreements and support couples through their separation.
“While some couples may shy away from the prospect of meeting face to face, with support, these feelings do not last. We can help couples to see ways in which they can actually work together and plan decisions about their new lives apart.”
“Most couples would prefer to resolve issues without confrontation. Protecting their children from emotional harm and the worry of separation is a high priority.”
A Swindon lawyer has criticised Government proposals to withdraw legal aid for divorce cases.
Suzy Hamshaw, an experienced family lawyer with Swindon/Newbury/Wantage firm, Charles Lucas & Marshall, says the proposals will discriminate against women and the poorer sections of society.
“Wealthier partners will have the advantage – and this is often the husband,” says Suzy Hamshaw. “He will be able to afford private legal fees. The poorer partner will have no alternative but to represent herself.
“Just picture it: a wife who has been dominated for years trying to cross-examine her soon-to-be-ex-husband on his financial conduct and then being cross-examined herself by an experienced barrister.”
Under Government proposals, published this week, legal aid will no longer be available for divorce cases, including those which involve child residences. Aid will only be available for cases where domestic violence, forced marriage or international child abduction is proven.
“Ask the average family lawyer how many of their cases involve any of those factors and I’ll bet a pound to a penny that it’s a small minority,” says Suzy Hamshaw. “Most child residence cases, for example, involve a breakdown in communication between the parents that has reached such a stage that they need an independent arbitrator – in other words a judge – to intervene.”
The new rules will force separating couples to go to mediation before involving the courts. The Law Society and Resolution, the mediation body, have both made representations to the government on the issue.
“Like most lawyers, I am in favour of mediation,” says Suzy Hamshaw. “But a vital element of mediation is the feeling by both parties that they are meeting on equal terms. How many times do we hear a separating spouse tell us that she or he feels too intimidated by the other to be in the same room, let alone carry on meaningful discussions?”
The government’s own assessment of the impact of the proposed changes shows that the impact on three groups of people – women, ethnic minorities and the disabled – would be disproportionate. However, no action has been taken to mitigate the effects upon these groups.
For further information contact Suzy Hamshaw on 01635 521212 or email@example.com