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Do I Need a Lawyer When There is a Family Breakdown and or Do We Have To Sort Things Out Through The Court ?

Updated: May 2

Statistics matter

No doubt you have seen staggering statistics from National Statistics Office on Divorce in England and Wales where in 2021 alone there were 113,505 divorce granted in England and Wales, a 9.6% increase compared with 2020 when there were 103,592 divorces.

To also illustrate this in another way, please see below:

Further statistics also show:

As many as 90% of crime reports to police were burdened with from the relevant population pool to be false and made for the purposes of family court litigations;
The reduction in productivity for an employee going through a break up has been estimated to be a huge 40%, and it continues for a long time afterwards. Up to one year after separation, productivity remains down by 20%;
1 in 6 people, or approximately 45.8 million adults, report experiencing symptoms for common mental health problems, like anxiety and depression;
Survey taken in 2020 shows that 80% have health concerns due to parental alienation, including poor mental health. Some have tragically tried to take their own lives, as a result.

By now you caught yourself thinking and or perhaps you are already in a court case in the Family Court without a lawyer where just by walking into the court room can be daunting. Finding your way through the law and the jargon they use in order to make some kind of sense of what is happening to your life and or someone you may know can be almost impossible.

Indeed, these are emotional times and rational thinking and objectivity are certainly not in the first row especially when representing yourself. This means you are litigant in person and navigating through this stage of your life without a lawyer can be even more unnerving, and can leave many people feeling doubly vulnerable, disempowered and defensive.

In the light of the above, qualities described are not what you want to base your case upon if you want a good outcome.

At these most difficult times, you need to be well informed, be calm, have objectives and focus on how to interact with justice system and your ex in a productive way, if possible....

Moreover, it is paramount to have the correct information at hand and not being sign posted from pillar to pillar not knowing where to start. Any good lawyer and or solicitor will be child focused and tell you that is far better not to go court route but to interact with your ex and putting child needs above your own needs in this case. Of course there are alternatives to court for most families and around 10% of separated families unfortunately do not manage to reach amicable solution and what is best for the child, hence finding a good lawyer is paramount factor to keep high emotions at bay and focusing on child only.

We at TTI use a phrase: "Getting a good lawyer is like getting a good brickie"

We are also aware that not everyone will be able to access a lawyer and secondly, that with the right information a litigant in person need not be at a significant disadvantage.

For example, TTI already provided support to a parent and as a result, able to confidently present the case with facts and child focused approach.

So if you do have to go alone and do it alone, do your reading part, educate yourself, do your research early on, keep practical and judge will be sympathetic and have understanding.

If you were to look for a lawyer, The Solicitors Regulation Authority, the Bar Standards Board and Cilex publish details of practising Solicitors, Barristers and other Legal executives respectively. Local knowledge can also be important, particulary in cases where you may need to consider to sell once family home. It is importnat to make sure, whichever lawyer or firm you may instruct to help you with your case, they are experienced in family court situation and they know what they are doing. If you feel there is "all smoke and no fire" then listen to your "gut feeling" and continue with your search as end of the day, you are placing your entire life and life of your children into somoene else's hands.

Also, you can check if appoinited solicitor is member of Resolution, if they are children law accredited as resolution members must adhere to a code of practice concerning family cases as the whole situation is sensitive so you can be assured they will handle your case with constructive and cost-efficient way.

You may also be eligible for public funding (Legal Aid) from the Legal Aid Agency, but this depends on your case, complexity of the case and finances.

If you dont think you can afford to instruct a lawyer throughout your case, you may wish to consider ad -hoc advice from appointed solicitor, that way you will handle all the paperwork and correspondence yourself. Alternatively, funding you may have can also be used toward the Barrister who can represent you at any hearings you may have, including the final hearing.

Again, best advice TTI can give is to discuss this with solicitor you are thinking of instructing.

Also be wary of saving all your funds to hire a barrister for the day - as you could find that your barrister is not able to achieve the results you may like, and that all your funds could have been better spent on good advice on how to run and or prepare for your case so its ready for the trial.

Again, TTI advises to do your homework, be realistic about what help you may need before choosing a lawyer and or a barrister as family court are inherently unpredictable, particularly children cases where the duration and cost can be expanded and stretched.

Now you are probably asking yourself, do I need to go to court?

As we mentioned earlier, not every case leads to court as there is an increasing understanding and emphasis on finding ways to avoid court, but sad reality is that those 10% of families are unable to sort out their issues without some assistance from court.

Is mediation alternative?

Mediation is probably the form of alternative dispute resolution that is useful in the broadest range of cases, and is the option that is most widely available, however.... when the other party is not willing to use mediator and or mediation and simply refuses you are left with nothing but to go via lawyers as one cannot force the other party to attend despite you are child focused. You also will not be permitted to make an application to court until you have exhausted all other options. The sad truth unfortunately.

Types of courts

Magistrates’ Courtdeals with more minor criminal matters. Used to deal with many family matters as the ‘Family Proceedings Court’, but this was taken over by the Family Court from April 2014 (although many cases in the Family Court are still handled by Magistrates).
County Courtdeals with non-criminal matters (called ‘civil’ law). Used to deal with most kinds of family law, but this was taken over by the Family Court from April 2014. Deals with disputes about property between former cohabitees who were not married or civil partners.
The Family Courtsince April 2014 almost all family cases are dealt with in a single ‘Family Court’. Some more complex cases are dealt with in the Family Division of the High Court. The Family Court sits in court buildings up and down the country and is made up of Judges and Lay Justices (Magistrates), some of whom will also work in the Magistrates’ and County Courts. The Family Court has its own rules: The Family Procedure Rules.
Crown Courtdeals with more serious criminal matters with a Judge and jury. Does not deal with family cases, but in cases involving crimes such as child abuse, the outcome in the Crown Court may affect any related family case or vice versa.
High Courtdeals with all sorts of cases, and is divided into separate divi- sions: Family Division, Queen’s Bench Division and Chancery Division. The Family Division of the High Court deals with some family cases (usually com- plex ones) and some appeals from the Family Court.
Court of Appealonly deals with appeals. The Civil Division of the Court of Appeal deals with appeals from the Family Court and from the Family Division.
Supreme Court - the highest appeal court in England & Wales and deals with second appeals, i.e. appeals from the Court of Appeal.

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