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Family Law: New Year Resolutions!

Family Lawyers identify two peaks each year: post summer holidays and post-Christmas/New Year; the number of new cases and enquiries seems to increase. Many have theorised, but the consensus seems to be that the pressure placed on relationships by unfulfilled expectations, a sense of déjà vu leads to this. Sometimes, the latest Christmas debacle is the straw that breaks a long burdened camel’s back so to speak.

If you are contemplating separation, what should you do and whom should you speak to? Unless circumstances justify it, there is generally no requirement to rush into anything, least of all to a court. I assist many clients, who are not clear whether to leave their spouse, but who need an overview of what would happen if they did.

Initial meetings with solicitors often take the form of a Q & A session. It is very difficult for any professional adviser to give accurate advice unless and until the facts are known in full.

However, some themes emerge from a first meeting and I will always tailor my advice to your particular circumstances. But to give you sound advice, you need must assist and prepare.

Most family solicitors work closely with other professionals, such as accountants and financial advisors, who are important in crafting a settlement based in reality rather than something resembling a wish list.

Financial settlements on divorce are the art of the practical. Most cases are based on the resources and the needs of the parties. Priority always attaches to the welfare of the children while they are minors together with the person with whom they live. The law’s objective is always to achieve a fair settlement. It is relevant to speak of the legal principles because even if an agreement is reached by discussion or mediation, it is generally necessary to submit a draft order for approval by a judge. The judge will use the same concept of fairness as he or she does in a contested case.

A Court of Appeal judge once said that fairness is much like beauty, it being in the eye of the beholder. This is never more so than in financial settlements. The law provides a wide margin of discretion and therefore many different scenarios can play out. No two cases are identical, but some generalisation can be made based on the initial meeting.

As much as anything, seeing a solicitor is a reality check and at the initial stage at least a fact gathering exercise. Once more information is available, the facts can be faced and a strategy devised to resolve the claim.

Consideration must also be given to the appropriate forum, whether that be discussions between the parties, mediation, or other more expensive and stressful options.

If you would like to know more about the approach that can be taken in your circumstances or if you would simply like to discuss these issues in confidence, please contact Jim Richards of Hubbard Pegman & Whitney solicitors.

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