From initial confidential support to Final Order, let us take the stress and strain off you.
There are many difficult times in all family life. LawFriend is here to help you through the difficulties. Having to accept the situation you find yourself in can be very stressful. The complexities of the English Legal System can leave you feeling like you are fighting an unnameable monster. We can assist with:
As you go through the process of separation or divorce, you may find you have to deal with a number of organisations or individuals such as the Courts, welfare officers, the Child Support Agency, divorce information providers or mediators. These people offer valuable services. However, among all these, only Adrian can give you totally impartial advice and only he is certain to be looking after your interests. Adrian has more than 25 years experience in Family law.
Adrian is totally committed to giving you independent advice on how to achieve the best outcome and can also be your guide to other services available. Adrian will be able to explain to you the steps and options open to you, advise you how to proceed, negotiate on your behalf and, if necessary, take your case through the Courts.
How far Adrian takes the matter is entirely up to you. If you instruct LawFriend it does not mean that the case will have to be taken to a court hearing. Adrian is there to advise and help you but only to the extent that you want assistance. You can use LawFriend merely for initial advice or just for certain aspects of you case or to handle the whole matter. Even then, most cases are settled by negotiation before any court hearing has to take place.
Remember, the outcome of your divorce or separation could have far reaching effects on your future financial security and the welfare and future of your children. It is sensible to obtain the best help you can.
Anyone involved in a Family Law case is entitled to represent themselves in court (they do not need to employ a solicitor or barrister) and if they choose to do this they are termed a Litigant in Person (LIP).
A LIP may be accompanied by someone to help them with advice and assistance and this person is called a McKenzie Friend, named after the case which established the principles in 1970. This is not an automatic right, but a judge would only refuse to allow a LIP to have the help of a McKenzie Friend for a very good reason.
More and more people are conducting their own Family Law cases in court, without a solicitor or barrister. This is because lawyers’ fees can be very high, and Legal Aid to pay these fees is almost impossible to obtain.
Representing yourself in court is not as daunting as it may sound, especially if you have the help of a McKenzie Friend to help in preparing the case beforehand and to sit along-side you in court. Adrian Berkeley as LawFriend acts as a McKenzie Friend as required.
Mediation helps you to help yourself (and sort out the best future for you and your children):
Our trained mediators provide you with the tools to untangle all the strands around family breakdown, find new ways of communicating and most importantly help parents to help their children make the necessary adjustments to family life.
Our goal is to ensure the best outcomes for each client, in order to build a strong foundation for a positive and happy future.
Family mediation can help improve communication, help you make decisions about future arrangements for the children and help you make decisions about property and finance as it affects your separation.
MEDIATORS DO NOT:
If you’re thinking about getting divorced or dissolving a civil partnership, this calculator can give you an idea of your financial situation before a potential divorce settlement. It will also help you work out what you have, what you owe and how you might split assets and finances.
Before the first hearing you can speak to a CAFCASS officer about matters that concern you and any issues relating to people who come into contact with your child/children .e.g. new partners, grandparents . You will have the opportunity of negotiating for an amicable outcome. If there is good reason why you need a separate waiting area please notify the court in advance, or speak to security or the usher on your arrival.
Yes, a PSU helper or McKenzie Friend - but friends or relatives will probably have to wait outside the Court room. Do not bring any children as there are no facilities for them at court .
Maybe not. It helps to come in good time for your appointment in order for the .discussions mentioned above to take place. Make sure you do not have any other commitments which mean you are under pressure to leave early e.g. have to pick up children from school or nursery.
When an application for a contact/residence order has been made, many courts set up an informal appointment with the Judge/Legal Adviser. He/she can try to help parents reach agreement. In some cases; they may be accompanied by a GAFCASS reporting officer or in some courts, a mediator. The court will wish to know at the first hearing whether mediation has been considered. (See later under mediation). At this court hearing, a judge or legal adviser will assess the case. They will try to work out: • What you can agree • What you can't agree • Whether your children are at risk in any way They will also encourage you to reach an agreement at this hearing if it's in the best interests of the children.
If you can not reach an agreement at the first appointment, the court will set a timetable for what happens next. Sometimes, you will be asked to try again to reach an agreement. This may be with a mediator or with a Cafcass officer . You may be ordered to go to a ‘Separated Parents Information Programme’. These are a total of four hours with other parents (but your ex-partner will not be at the same sessions as you). The court can also ask for the case to be ‘adjourned’ (put on hold). This is to provide time for a Cafcass officer to write a report on the case. The judge or magistrate can also schedule a time and date for a final hearing to decide on the Orders . If you can reach an agreement at any stage, this will usually stop the process if the judge or magistrate agrees.
You can’t go wrong with Sir or Madam.
Family mediation is a process that can be used to resolve disputes that arise before, during or after the breakdown of a family relationship. It can also be used before, during and after Court proceedings. It enables parties to communicate their concerns and needs. The role of the mediator, who is an independent and impartial third party, is to facilitate discussions. Information can be found on www.familymediationhelpline.co.uk
The Family Mediation service will contact your partner and discuss the possibility of undertaking mediation . The mediation information assessment meeting provides you with the opportunity to discuss the problems with a mediator.
Mediation services are usually able to see clients quickly and the mediation information assessment meeting does not take long. However, you may not need to have one if there is an exceptional circumstance.
If you decide not to comply with the protocol before commencing proceedings and if Court proceedings are taken, the Court will wish to know at the first hearing whether mediation has been considered. In considering the conduct of any relevant family proceedings, the court will take into account any failure to comply with the protocol and may refer the parties to a meeting with a mediator before the proceedings continue further. Therefore it may save you time and money to attend a mediation information assessment meeting.
Applicant/Respondent – A person who starts legal proceedings or makes an application for separation or divorce. This person then becomes “a party” to the proceedings. Once papers are sent to the other parent and their lawyer, they are referred to as the “Respondent” [to the application]. CAFCASS – (Also known as Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) When the court requires additional information, this independent government organisation assigns a court welfare officer also known as a CAFCASS Reporting Officer to investigate and report on the children, their wishes and feelings and the ability of the various adults to provide for them. This report will go to the judge and will generally have a significant impact on the final order. Contact Order – Formerly referred to as ‘access’, ‘contact’ means the time that the non-resident parent (the parent who does not have children living with them most of the time) will spend with children. Occasionally a contact order may apply to other significant adults in a child’s life such as grandparents. It can also include specific guidelines of how other forms of communicating (for example, letters, email, telephone calls etc.) will take place. In most cases, courts prefer not to define these arrangements too closely. Legal Aid – Also known as ‘public funding’, this is state assistance with legal costs, available only in very limited circumstances in private cases and to those on benefits or a very low income. McKenzie Friend – You can ask the Judge for an independent friend to help and support you in court, but they cannot speak for you or represent you, and must complete the “Request” available in the waiting areas and hand it in for the judges’ permission at the start of the hearing. Parenting Plan – A framework agreement prepared by parents to deal with the day- to-day care and needs of children (for example who takes the children swimming, who buys the school uniform, who deals with pocket money and so on). More information can be found here: www.cafcass.gov.uk/PDF/FINAL%20web%20version%20251108.pdf. Parental Responsibility – All the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority that go with being a parent. It means that you have a duty to care for and protect a child and that you have a right to make decisions regarding that child’s future, such as choosing his or her school. It does not mean you have to pay maintenance – child support and parental responsibility are not connected in anyway. It is also not connected to any right you have about contact with the child, or to have him or her live with you. Mothers have parental responsibility automatically, as do married fathers (whether married to the child’s mother before or after the child’s birth). Unmarried fathers have parental responsibility if they have been named on the child’s birth certificate as the father since 1 December 20’03 (this has nothing to do with what surname the child has been given). If the child was born before 1 December 2003 an unmarried father will have to have a court order or permission from the mother to have parental responsibility. Prohibited Steps Order – Restricts parents from taking certain actions in relation to their child/children, (for example removing a child or children from the UK or from the care of a certain person). PSU – Manchester Civil Justice Centre has this Personal service available to all users please see the leaflet. Residence order – Formerly referred to as ‘custody’, this outlines arrangements about where a child should live primarily. Shared residence, this type of order is used when a child has a home with each parent. It usually also provides guidelines for how that type of arrangement will work. Specific issue order – When parents are unable to come to mutual agreement about certain parenting issues this type of order is used to provide direction and resolve matters (for example, where s/he should go to school. When appropriate the court may also assign certain responsibilities to one parent.
A list of factors that a court has to consider before making decisions related to a child. The court will always consider the best interests of the child first and foremost. If necessary the Court can initiate proceedings of its own volition and can make any order that it considers necessary to protect a child’s best interests. The law says judges and magistrates must always put the welfare of children first. They will think about the: Child’s wishes and feelings (bearing in mind their age) Child’s physical, emotional and educational needs Effect any changes may have on the child Child’s age, gender , background and other relevant characteristics Possible risk of harm to the child Ability of parents to meet the child’s needs Orders the court has the power to make A judge or magistrate will only make an order if they think it is in the child’s best interests.