Family Law FAQs and Department Spotlight
At Eric Robinson Solicitors, we have considerable experience in all areas of private family law services, including Divorce and Separation, Matrimonial finances, Child law matters, and domestic abuse matters. In this article, we asked the family law team some of the most frequently asked questions regarding financial settlements and child law matters. We also learn more about Samantha Collins, a Senior Associate Solicitor in the Family Department, who has extensive experience in providing sensible and pragmatic advice to her clients in Family Law matters and disputes.
Do you have to attend Court to reach a financial settlement?
Not necessarily. In April 2022, no-fault divorce laws were introduced in England and Wales, and the change in legislation means that couples can now say their marriage has broken down rather than blaming one person for a reason for getting a divorce. No-fault divorce aims to make the divorce process quicker, less hostile, and hopefully not as costly.
Despite this, it is still incredibly important that you have legally binding agreements in place concerning finances, including what happens with the family home and other assets. Without these, your rights could be affected, or further financial claims brought against you even after the divorce is finalised.
- Financial Settlements for Couples who can agree – Suppose both parties agree regarding the division of capital assets, liabilities, pensions, and income. In that case, a financial settlement agreement can be negotiated between the parties with the assistance of their solicitors and without the need to go to Court. Reaching an amicable decision this way helps minimise the legal fees incurred by both sides and makes the process less stressful for all involved. Once you have reached an agreement, a solicitor will draft a consent order to make it legally binding. This legal document confirms both parties agree on the division of assets. The Court will check the agreement to ensure that it is reasonable and endorsed by them to make it a legally binding order. However, you will not need to attend Court.
- Financial Settlements for Couples who cannot reach an agreement – For separating couples who cannot reach an agreement in this way, for example, if one or both sides are uncooperative or unreasonable, the Court will need to be involved in achieving an agreement. Courts will assess various factors and make a ruling on a settlement, and you will have less control over the eventual terms of the settlement as it will be down to the Court to make the final decision.
How do I apply for custody or contact with my child?
While most people recognise the terms ‘custody’ or ‘contact’, these terms are not used in English law. The Court deals with Child Arrangement Orders (which replaced residence and contact orders). Such an order regulates the arrangements relating to whom a child is to live with and where and who the child(ren) spends time with or otherwise has contact with. Before any orders are made, providing they have parental responsibility, both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for their children. As experts in family and child law, our solicitors can help guide you through the process of applying for a Child Arrangement Order.
What are the normal arrangements for contact?
Everyone’s situation will be different, so contact arrangements have no fixed outcome. The Court will consider each case and set arrangements based on the child’s best interest in the absence of an agreement being reached between the parties.
Does the Court always favour the mother in contact disputes?
While many believe that the Court automatically favours the mother in contact disputes, this is not always true. Court orders will be made that protect the best interest of the child. The child’s right is to have a safe, caring relationship with both of their parents.
Does there have to be a court order regarding the Children?
Typically, no. Under the Children Act 1989, there is a No Order principle, and the Court would prefer that parents agree to the arrangements for their children rather than the Court imposing orders on parties. Mediation is, however, a pre-requisite to any Court application (unless an exemption applies). You may therefore have been invited to a ‘Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting’ or ‘MIAM’. If you have been invited to a MIAM, you are required to go – unless you’re exempt. If you do not attend, the mediator can sign a document allowing the other parent to apply for a court order about your child arrangements.
What is a Prohibited Steps Order or Specific Issue Order?
If parents are unable to agree on matters concerning their children regarding a specific issue, the Court can determine these issues with the making of a Prohibited Steps Order (PSO) or a Specific Issue Order (SIO).
- A Prohibited Steps Order (PSO) is an order made by the Court that prevents a parent or person with parental responsibility from taking a certain action or making a certain decision regarding a child. For example: removing the child from the jurisdiction they live in or changing their school.
- A Specific Issue Order (SIO) is an order made by the Court which allows a parent or person with parental responsibility to take a certain action regarding a child when there is a particular issue between both parents.
When considering any type of application, the child’s welfare will be the Court’s ‘paramount consideration’, and they will also have regard to the statutory welfare checklist.
Do I need advice from a specialist lawyer?
While there are services that allow you to complete the process on your own “DIY Divorce,” it is always advisable to seek specialist advice first, even if you complete some of the processes yourself.
The idea of going to see a family lawyer may seem like a big step to take and one which will bring home the reality of your situation. However, the support of a good lawyer really can make the divorce process a lot easier to handle. Find someone you like, who understands your situation and who you trust to fight your corner. We can help you understand your legal rights and provide you with practical advice regarding all divorce, child, and financial settlement matters.
Our Family Law Team Spotlight – Samantha Collins
Samantha Collins is a Senior Associate Solicitor in the Family Department with extensive experience in providing sensible and pragmatic advice to her clients in most areas of Family Law. She is a Member of Resolution and offers regular legal advice clinics to both on and off-duty police officers via her work with the Police Federation.
What do you like most about working in the family law team at Eric Robinson Solicitors?
The Family team at Eric Robinson is like a family in itself. We work hard and get results for our clients, supporting them through difficult times. To have the ability to refer to our incredible colleagues in other departments is also hugely important, in order that we can service all of our client’s needs from each of our offices.
Why did you decide to work in the legal industry?
I have always been fascinated with the law and legal processes, and then I was drawn to family law as soon as I started studying it many years ago. I enjoy using the law to assist people. Often we are dealing with clients who are going through an extremely emotional and distressing time, so it means a lot to be able to help them.
What is Resolution?
Resolution is a community of family justice professionals who work with families and individuals to resolve issues in a constructive way. I am proud to be a member of Resolution and always adhere to its Code of Conduct.
What was your favourite subject at school?
It may seem strange, but I absolutely loved school and all subjects. I particularly enjoyed my A-levels in English literature, Geography and French.
What advice would you give someone who wants to become a solicitor or work in the legal industry?
I would advise someone to try and gain as much experience as possible in order that they can ascertain whether the profession is right for them. It is so important that when finding any job you wake up every day wanting to go to work and make a difference. Law is a vocation, and I can highly recommend it!
Find out more about our careers with Eric Robinson Solicitors.
Recent client feedback:
“I would like to just say a massive thank you for everything today. You made me feel at ease today and you’ve done an amazing job, I can’t thank you enough. You’ve reassured me so much. Today was a very stressful day and it was made a lot easier by yourself.”
“Very professional and caring to my situation especially in these uncertain times. I recommend for whatever your needs be”
“A big thanks to Samantha and her team who have been totally professional in the way they dealt with a sensitive predicament. Feel completely free from harm and feel able to see a new beginning to my life, thanks to you all”.