The changing family law landscape
From 1 April 2013 public funding (legal aid) is generally no longer available for court proceedings to settle disagreements about arrangements for children or to sort out the division of financial assets.
Some limited funding remains where there has been domestic violence or abuse but there needs to be objective evidence this has occurred.
This latest step from the Government represents two policy objectives:
- To encourage people to take responsibility for their lives
- To cut Government spending in the administration of justice.
In furtherance of its objectives the Government is continuing both to resource and advocate the benefits of attending mediation to reach arrangements. This does not mean that independent legal advice is not needed but that it will be delivered in new ways.
At Blake Morgan we have been adapting to this changing scene as we work increasingly with clients who are keen to work out their own settlements but who want us to work alongside them by, for example, giving legal advice alongside the mediation process. This assists them to reach informed agreements which can then be turned into a court order.
The Law Commission’s extended report on nuptial agreements is awaited. Given the first objective identified it seems likely that in the future there will be encouragement to enter in to nuptial agreements. We have found clients who wish to consider this but they often leave it too close to the ceremony for it to be a viable option.
As the cuts in the court service start to be felt in terms of delay so clients are becoming aware of alternative methods of dispute resolution to retain some control over the process. As an alternative to going to court it is possible to agree to resolve matters by a private arbitration which can take place at a time and location convenient to all and in front of an arbitrator who is committed to remain involved through to a binding conclusion.
At Blake Morgan we are committed to offering specialist advice and have Resolution accredited specialists in children and finance for both married and unmarried couples.