Ian Walker divorce SolicitorCan divorce settlements be reopened?

When a financial order recording a financial settlement is made it is intended to be final or at least as final as possible.

In many cases there will be a clean break. This means that the order is intended to be a final order.

In some cases there will be provision within the divorce settlement for maintenance. Maintenance can be varied (if there are changes in circumstances). Sometimes when maintenance is reconsidered, a maintenance order can be replaced by a lump sum order – which effectively pays off the maintenance claim and achieves finality at that point.

Normally when there is ongoing maintenance, there will be finality in the financial settlement so far as capital is concerned. (Assets such as houses, savings and pensions).

There are however circumstances where a divorce settlement can be reopened. This could be in the following circumstances:

If the court has made an error

If the court has made an error – then the divorce settlement can be reopened through an appeal.

There are various rules concerning the circumstances in which an appeal can be made which we will expand upon in a future blog.

If the court has not made an error

If there is no error from the court, then the divorce settlement can be reopened in the following circumstances:

  • A fraud has been committed
  • There has been a material non-disclosure
  • A subsequent event has occurred which was unforeseen and unforeseeable at the time that the order was made and which invalidates the basis upon which the order was made. (Lawyers will refer to this as a Barder event – Barder v Barder being the most prominent case when the courts gave guidance about the circumstances when a divorce settlement could be reopened in these circumstances).

No swimming sign on beachMaterial non-disclosure

There is a duty on parties within a divorce to provide full and frank financial disclosure to each other and to the court. This applies to both contested proceedings and to negotiations leading up to a consent order.

The form which is submitted to the court together with a draft order contains a declaration of truth which is signed by the party. The form E – which is the standard form used for financial disclosure also includes a statement of truth which needs to be signed.

The duty to provide full and frank disclosure is ongoing. This means that any changes in circumstances need to be disclosed in a timely way.

The duty to provide full and frank disclosure always arises.

If the divorce settlement order is made by agreement/consent then there must be a valid consent to the terms of the divorce settlement by both parties. A nondisclosure of material information will also mean that the court will have been asked to approve the terms of a divorce settlement based on incorrect information.

Applications to overturn a divorce settlement on this basis can be complicated and potentially expensive – although cost orders can be made against the person who has misled everyone – so if such a situation may have arisen you need to seek legal advice as soon as possible.

A subsequent event has occurred…

If a Barder event has occurred there can be an application to the court to overturn the divorce settlement.

The new event needs to be both unforeseen and unforeseeable and to have occurred since the approval of the divorce settlement and the events need to invalidate the basis of fundamental assumptions upon which the divorce settlement was approved

The new event needs to have occurred within a relatively short period of time after the approval of the divorce settlement. Normally no more than a few months and almost certainly less than a year. What will count will be very fact specific.

Examples of events could be the death of one of the parties (as happened in the case of Barder) or a party remarries rapidly after the divorce settlement was approved or one of the parties receiving a significant inheritance, or sometimes a significant in unforeseen change to 1 of the parties housing needs – perhaps children moving from one household to the other.

These cases are very fact-specific and it is important that if something has happened which might represent a Barder event that you seek legal advice as soon as possible.

couple pointing in different directionsWhy do I need to provide so many financial documents for my divorce?

The reason why both parties need to provide so many financial documents is because there is an ongoing duty on both parties to a divorce to provide full and frank financial disclosure.

Full and frank means not simply telling the other person what assets are worth, but producing documents to prove the value of assets.

If a solicitor is instructed to advise a client in connection with their divorce settlement they will wish to ensure that there has been full and frank financial disclosure. If their client instructs them not to seek full and frank financial disclosure – the solicitor will wish their clients to sign a fairly full disclaimer – which passes responsibility for the consequences of not having full and frank disclosure to the client. The solicitor is not able to do their job properly unless they are satisfied that they have full information.

If a client does not seek full disclosure from the other party – then it is likely to make it much more difficult for them to try and claim later on that the divorce settlement was bad and/or that they have been misled. They should have sought full disclosure for their own protection in the first place.

If there are negotiations through solicitors (including through collaborative family law) or if there is a court application, the solicitors will expect their clients to complete form E and will ask for all documents in the checklist at the back of for me to be provided. Further documents can also be requested. If there are transfer values to any pensions of more than £100,000 then there is also a likelihood that a specialist pension report will be sought.

The same follows for financial disclosure in family mediation. A lot of time at the start of the family mediation process will be spent in the gathering together of the parties financial information. The mediator will also produce a joint financial summary. This is a necessary task which is for the protection of both parties. If mediation takes place without there being financial disclosure – then any reasonable solicitor will advise their client against proceeding with what has been discussed in mediation at least until such a time as they are satisfied that full and frank financial disclosure has fully taken place.

Therefore, in answer to the question – everyone needs to provide so many documents in order to ensure that they are making good decisions and also decisions which are going to be as final as possible.

completing a jigsaw puzzlWhat happens if we don’t get a financial order?

The alternative to achieving a divorce settlement based on full and frank financial disclosure is to do nothing. This might save money in the short term – but this could also/is likely to mean that one of the parties is not receiving what they should receive as a fair divorce settlement.

The potential financial claims that both are able to make following a divorce can still be activated years later and the financial claims from each party to the divorce are only terminated by their own remarriage or death or the eventual making of financial order at a later date.

If a financial claim is pursued years after a separation – the date when the court considers the circumstances of the parties will be the current date – although the court will take into account the situation of the couple when they separated and what has happened since. Seeking a divorce settlement after a long delay is not normally a good idea.

Divorce settlements should be dealt with at the time of the divorce. Divorce settlements can be dealt with in an amicable way. We are of the view that collaborative family law and family mediation supported by legal advice are normally the best ways to proceed. If everyone is proactive and constructive then the obtaining of a divorce settlement does not need to be excessively expensive. Naturally, there is a cost involved – but this is inevitable. High conflict will add to cost.

Therefore, if you are divorcing – best to get good legal advice as soon as possible. We will be happy to help.

Celebrating excellence awardsIan Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors are here to help

Our team of experienced family lawyers are here to help.

If you’d like divorce advice or divorce information, we can answer your and family law questions including What happens if we don’t get a financial order? Can divorce settlements be reopened? How long does it take to get a divorce in the UK?

We have offices in Honiton, Exeter, Torquay, Taunton, Yeovil and Weston-Super-Mare to help you with

We have been shortlisted for the 2019 Law Society Excellence Awards.

Call 03339 390188 to arrange an initial meeting.

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The Law Society Excellence Awards 2019 – We have been shortlisted

 

 

The Law Society Excellence Awards 2019 – We have been shortlisted

We received a very pleasant surprise this week when we were notified that our founder Ian Walker had been shortlisted in the category of Practice Manager of the Year

Managing Partner of the year in the prestigious Law Society Excellence Awards.

Ian Walker Divorce Lawyer Photo headshotWhat are the Law Society Excellence Awards?

The Law Society Excellence Awards are designed to celebrate the hard work and inspirational achievements of solicitors, legal teams and law firms of all sizes across England and Wales.

The Awards have been run for for the past 12 years.

These are national awards – organised by the Law Society (of England and Wales).

Essentially the aim is to promote the legal profession. Lawyers are often portrayed negatively in the media, but in reality they play a very important role in society, in assisting clients to resolve personal/family problems (e.g. family law), sort out their personal affairs (moving house, making and administering wills et cetera (private client law), helping businesses interact with each other, resolving personal injury disputes and other forms of litigation, protecting human rights, ensuring that those accused of crimes have a fair trial, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Practice Manager of the Year – what the judges were looking for

The specification for the Practice Manager of the Year award is as follows:

Law firms often operate in a highly competitive and volatile business environment, which creates risks but also huge opportunities to thrive and develop. We are looking for individuals who help their firm to:

    • drive excellence in business management
    • focus on continuous improvement
    • demonstrate sound financial planning and risk management principles
    • encourage technological innovation around data and cyber challenges
    • develop innovative learning and development strategies
    • future proof and work collaboratively to reduce the regulatory burden.

What the president of the Law Society had to say when the shortlist was announced

Law Society president Simon Davis said:

“There are more than 140,000 solicitors in England and Wales – to be shortlisted for an Excellence Award is to be recognised as among the very best of the profession.

“The firms and solicitors shortlisted should be commended for going above and beyond to support their clients, often navigating tricky and sometimes contentious areas of the law.

“With the justice system so under strain, we should take this opportunity to celebrate the incredible work solicitors do day-in and day-out – and to recognise the immense contribution they make to our society.”

Winners are announced at the Law Society’s Excellence Awards ceremony in London on 23 October 2019.

Our shortlisting for the category of practice manager of the year 2019

As a practice, we have now been in existence for 6 1/2 years. For the first two years the practice was simply Ian a computer.

We have since grown into a practice that consists of eight solicitors and legal executives (nine if we include Briony who is a trainee legal executive) and a total headcount of 16. The practice has more than doubled in size in the last 18 months.

Lexcel Legal Practice Quality Mark LogoIn the last 18 months we have also:

  • achieved the Law Society Lexcel practice management accreditation
  • renewed our contracts to undertake legal aid work for family law and for mediation. We took on an additional contract for family law legal aid work from our Taunton office.
  • Achieved Cyber Essentials
  • adopted additional software solutions aimed at enhancing our client service, including Egress email encryption and the SettIfy client engagement tool.
  • We have introduced processes through which we can meet the demands of clients for the offer of fixed fee legal services. Fixed fees being tailored to a client’s particular case. We have also introduced a client service guarantee.

There are also other improvements that we have adopted which we do not have the space to deal with here.

Family Lawyers team photoA team shortlisting and not really an individual shortlisting

Whilst the shortlisting of Ian Walker in the Law Society Excellence Awards category of Practice Manager of the Year is an individual category, we are of the view (quite rightly), that this is a nomination for our whole team.

Continuous improvement/development and positive change requires working together as a team and everyone sharing in the vision of achieving continuous improvement. No one has all the ideas. A good team will always outperform a group of individuals.

Our shortlisting is therefore in our mind a shortlisting for us all.

Why are there so many different awards ceremonies for everything these days?

If you scroll through LinkedIn, there seem to be endless awards and endless awards for similar things.

These are marketing opportunities. Many firms will employ PR consultants to make sure that they are entered into every award competition and directory going.

We don’t enter many Awards

As a practice, our priority is, and will always be to prioritise meeting the needs of our clients. As a consequence we are busy because we are working hard to meet their demands and the demands for our services.

This is only the second time we have entered an awards in the existence of our practice. We simply haven’t had the time or the inclination to enter the multitude of other awards.

We were therefore very surprised and flattered when we receive the shortlisting. We didn’t employ anyone to nominate us. Obviously not every practice/practice manager for a law firm in England and Wales will have entered, but because these are national awards, we anticipate that the number of entries will have been much higher than more localised awards.

In our view, within the legal profession, these are the most prestigious awards. It is very nice to have been shortlisted (Ian is one of four on the shortlist), if by chance we did win, that would be very nice, but ultimately this changes nothing about how we want to run our practice and our never-ending striving for improvement.

The best recognition that we get is from our clients

It’s very nice to have some recognition for all our hard work – but the best recognition is always unhappy clients, for whom we have achieved good outcomes!

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Ian Walker Divorce Lawyer Photo headshot

On 11 July I attended the annual get-together of mediator professional practice consultants. Here is the write-up of the day which I wrote for Resolution’s member magazine.

If I had written this is a blog post I would have included more subheadings and pictures to break it up a bit!

Resolution PPC forum 11 July 2019

For several years Resolution have been running an annual training day for Mediation Professional Practice Consultants (PPC’s). Originally this was just for Resolution registered PPC’s, but in the last few years Resolution have invited PPC’s from all Family Mediation Council representative bodies. In the historically fractious world of family mediation this has been a very helpful step by Resolution and the PPC Forum has become a central date in the mediation calendar.

This year, to coincide with the opening of Resolution’s new offices at 91-95 Southwark Bridge Rd, the PPC day moved from its previous home at Woburn House, Tavistock Square to the training suite at Southwark Bridge Road.

The downside of the change of venue was that the number of PPC’s who were able to attend was reduced from over 100 down to only around 50. The upside was that this made for a more intimate occasion and the Q&A and debate sessions became much more inclusive. There is also scope to record the highlights of this and other training for inclusion on the Resolution training portal.

The day was hosted by Resolution’s Angela Lake Carol and Suzy Power. The main event was a presentation by Robert Creighton, Chair of the Family Mediation Standards Board, ably supported by Helen Anthony, Executive Officer of the Family Mediation Council followed by Q and A.

Now, I appreciate that all this may not at first blush be very interesting to most Resolution members, but please bear with me!

There is an ongoing tension within the world of mediation. This is between those who view mediation as a professional activity (many of the lawyers) and those who view mediation as a profession in its own right. This tension manifests itself in part in the way in which the standards provide a route to accreditation and practice. (Compare with family mediation the lack of requirements to practice as say a workplace mediator).

For members who wish to undertake legally aided mediation, accreditation is necessary in order to meet the requirements of the legal aid agency. It is quite possible to practice as a mediator without being accredited – but to be a resolution mediator – it is still necessary to have a PPC and to undertake professional supervision and to comply with the requirements of Resolution, which in turn comply with the standards of the Family Mediation Council – of which Resolution is of course a member.

A key theme in the presentation by Robert Creighton was the ongoing review of mediation standards. The Standards Board were focusing initially on accreditation and more specifically the route to accreditation. Over the years, too many Resolution members (and others) will have undertaken the mediation foundation training but will have found the pathway from training to accreditation to be impossible to traverse. The current pathway is considered by some to be unnecessarily bureaucratic and onerous – requiring the demonstration of the required level of competency for accreditation through the preparation of a portfolio, submission of three completed Memoranda of Understanding (final mediation summaries) and the completion of at least 10 hours supervision with their PPC.

Robert Creighton had written to PPC’s in June about the work of the Standards Review Accreditation Working Group – and this letter (which is hopefully reproduced somewhere on the resolution website) formed the starting point for discussion.

Robert Creighton outlined how, whilst the plan isn’t to water down the standard of skill which it is necessary to demonstrate, thought is being given to how to make the demonstration of the necessary standard of skill easier. He indicated the intention of the FMC to ask Stan Lester – who had been heavily involved in the drawing up of the current standards/pathway – to look at how the pathway could be recast in a more flexible way – retaining the principle but improving the practical.

Robert outlined how changes could include increasing the time through which it was necessary to achieve accreditation after training, allowing evidence from mediations which did not complete successfully – but where a mediator could demonstrate their skill, perhaps introducing a better proportionality regarding the 10 hours of PPC consultation before accreditation requirements (no one in the room – including organisation representatives on the FMC could quite remember how the ten-hour requirement had been set at that level).

Robert tantalisingly suggested that it may be possible to move to a position where we end up with an enhanced foundation training (perhaps modular?) Which ends in accreditation. Before anyone got too excited about what would have been a comprehensive solution to the difficulties of the route to accreditation for many, he pointed out that the Standards Board had limited time and would initially concentrate on making the current pathway a bit more straightforward – (rather than focusing the available time on finding an all embracing solution which provides a simple pathway to accreditation for everyone – my words! – But at least the genie is out of the bottle on this).

An excellent idea from the floor (from our own Karen Barham) was the idea of the option of the equivalent of an observed driving test – where the unaccredited mediator could demonstrate their competency by actually showing what they could do in real life – as opposed to writing reams and reams and reams analysing how what they have done met the standard. Imagine if we all had to prepare the equivalent of a mediation portfolio instead of undertaking a driving test! Hopefully this is something which will gain traction.

In the afternoon, we looked at the President’s Private Law Report – from Mr Justice Cobb, which is currently out for consultation. Everyone please respond – it’s important. Unfortunately, the revitalised MIAM being promoted in the consultation seemed to all those in the room to be exactly the same as what a MIAM should look like anyway! Perhaps there was insufficient of mediator input in the private law working party? But, there’s no getting away from the fact that the Private Law Programme does require reform and we all felt that given that applications to the court are increasing, and the uptake of MIAMs and mediation has not, that court applicants (and respondents) need to be doing more to try and resolve their disputes sensibly out of proceedings.

Between these discussions were challenging scenarios for discussion between the attendees as to how they would deal with problems arising for their consultees and the usual networking with colleagues from across the mediation world.

There was an unintended theme within the day which was not unnoticed – of the apparent randomness of some dates around mediation: why should a MIAM become invalid after four months? Why should it be a requirement to achieve accreditation within three years of foundation training (without seeking extension)? Why should a prospective accreditee need exactly 10 hours PPC supervision before accreditation? No one quite knew. This reminded me of Henry Brown (mediation pioneer, FMA founder, founder of SFLA (Resolution) sole mediator offering and after whom the Henry Brown lecture at the DR Conference is named in honour) explaining to me at least once, that there was no science involved when the length of a “normal” mediation session was set as 1.5 hours – it just seemed like a good idea at the time! Mediation should always be able to be flexible.

We learned on the PPC day that there are currently around 700/750 accredited mediators in England and Wales and the population of mediators is around 1100 if we include those working towards accreditation. We were told that both numbers were currently reasonably stable. However from looking around the room, I didn’t see many new faces, and I think everyone understands that the population of mediators is ageing – and whilst it may be able to cope with the amount of work that there currently is – it is probably insufficient to cope with the amount of work that there should be – in which case hopefully the current review of process will lead to better routes to accreditation – which will ultimately make the proposition of training as a mediator more attractive. From my own perspective – I have never met a lawyer who has not become a better lawyer after training as a mediator and simply as a skills course the foundation training is highly recommended. Hopefully we will see more new faces in the next few years?

Ian Walker is a Solicitor (qualified 1992) and Mediator (qualified 1996) and a current member of the Resolution DR Committee and Chair of Resolution Devon Region. The views expressed here are entirely Ian’s own.

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Family Law Paralegal/trainee solicitor/trainee legal executive wanted

We are seeking an additional Family Law Paralegal sought to join our growing specialist practice.

You will work with our experienced solicitors undertaking a range of tasks including; attending clients, preparing briefs to counsel and court bundles, liaising with expert witnesses, preparing documents, occasionally attending Court to provide assistance to client and advocate.

You will be based at our office in Honiton.

For graduates who are taking or who have passed their LPC there is also scope for this to become a training contract after a six-month probationary period. Seats would be family law/divorce, children law and mediation.

Essential

– Previous experience as a paralegal

– Experience and commitment to a career in family law

– Strong IT skills

– Being highly organised and tidy

– Team player

– Strong communication skills.

– Car driver

Desirable

– Experience with SOS connect case management.

– Desire and drive to achieve professional qualification as a legal executive or solicitor.

– Alternatively, experience of legal cashiering/solicitors accounts rules, or costing of legal help files

– Sound understanding of legal compliance

– Sense of humour.

Qualifications

– Good A levels with experience in a similar role

– Graduate (but with paralegal experience).

– LPC

Salary

As a company we do not pay less the Real Living Wage. Actual salary will depend on qualification an experience.

5 Weeks Annual Holiday.

We have achieved not opening over Christmas so far

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Ian Walker Divorce Lawyer Photo headshotWe have one of the strongest child law teams in the South West, which includes 3 current and 2 lapsed Children Panel Members. There is between 80 – 100 years of children panel membership between our team!

We regularly receive instructions to act for children and as agents for a local authority.

We remain committed to Child Law Legal Aid work.

We are now looking to add to our team.

Ambitious Solicitor – Child Law specialist

We are looking for an ambitious solicitor with ambitions to join our equity.

Person specification:

  • Good academic background.
  • Good grounding in child law (ideally within a larger practice/team)
  • Existing Children Panel Member or ambitions to join children panel
  • Willingness to undertake advocacy
  • Good IT skills
  • knowledge of legal aid and good time recording discipline
  • A team player with sense of humour
  • Passion for child law
  • Ideally practicing in Devon /Somerset or South West
  • Enjoys networking/practice development
  • Partnership ambitions

Kim Divorce Lawyer Photo headshotGenuine long term opportunities.

We have Lexsis PSL and Library

There are definite partnership opportunities for the right person.

Why join us?

  • The practice is run by Ian Walker – who is one of our children panel lawyers – so you don’t need to worry about our commitment to children law!
  • You will have the opportunity to work with and to learn from specialists; Ian, Kim Stradling and Sandy Powell.
  • We are not getting younger, so we need a dynamic children lawyer to maintain the balance within the team.
  • Sandy Family Lawyer PhotoWe have a good IT structure which supports cloud working, flexible working and paperless working – which is important in maintaining a financially viable practice in the face of the pressures of legal aid funding.
  • The number of firms offering a legally aided service continues to reduce. The level of care work continues to rise. Therefore best to have safety in numbers.
  • Realistically – it is ever increasingly difficult for a lawyer with a legal aid practice to achieve equity in a multi-service practice. However there are no glass ceilings on ambition with us. Quite the opposite, we need to recruit into our equity in the medium to long term. So the opportunity is genuine.
  • We are Lexcel accredited and the business is in good financial health.
  • We are all based in Honiton – good location, no traffic jams in the morning, car park outside our font door. We move around our network as we need to.
  • Because you will love working with us!

Please send your CV  and covering letter in confidence to Ian at ianwalker@familylawandmediation.co.uk

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Ian Walker Divorce Lawyer Photo headshotWe are recruiting – Family Law Paralegal wanted

We are seeking an additional Family Law Paralegal sought to join our growing specialist practice.

You will work with our experienced solicitors undertaking a range of tasks including: attending clients, preparing briefs to counsel and court bundles, liaising with expert witnesses, preparing documents, occasionally attending Court to provide assistance to client and advocate.

You will be based at our office in Honiton.

Essential

– Previous experience as a paralegal

– Experience and commitment to a career in family law

– Strong IT skills

– Being highly organised and tidy

– Team player

– Strong communication skills.

– Car driver

Desirable

– Experience with SOS connect case management.

– Desire and drive to achieve professional qualification as a legal executive.

– Sound understanding of legal compliance

– Sense of humour.

Qualifications

– Good A levels with experience in a similar role

– Graduate (but with paralegal experience).

Salary

As a company we do not pay less the Real Living Wage. Actual salary will depend on qualification an experience.

5 Weeks Annual Holiday.

Applications

Please send your CV and covering letter in confidence  to leannecornock-stark@familylawandmediation.co.uk

or ianwalker@familylawandmediation.co.uk

Closing date

Closing date is 30/06/19 – unless we find an ideal candidate before this.

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Ian Walker Divorce Lawyer Photo headshot

Family Law Solicitors in Torquay

Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors are now also Family Law Solicitors in Torquay

The last 18 months has been an exceptional period for Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors.

Our achievements since January 2018

In this period, we have:

  • Gained the Law Society Lexcel practice management accreditation
  • Successfully re-tendered for the renewal of our Legal Aid Contracts for Family Law and for Family Mediation
  • Opened new offices in Weston-Super-Mare
  • Added Five Solicitors to our team, namely; the highly experienced David Howell-Richardson, Sandy Powell, Fiona Griffin and Nicole Phare as well as the more recently qualified Imogen Powell. This means we are a team of nine family lawyers (including also; Ian Walker, Kim Stradling, Karen Elliott and Carrie Meikle) – which makes us one of the largest family law teams in the South-West.

Whilst less visible, we have made changes to our website and to our procedures so that we have improved out transparency about legal pricing/charges and our systems to provide and outstanding service to our clients.

As part of these changes we have incorporated innovative technology into our website to assist new clients to better engage with us and to improve what we are able to provide at initial meeting. We have also introduced a pay as you go and wider fixed fee service.

Ian Walker Torquay Offices BuildingFamily Law Solicitors in Torquay

The final step in this period of growth is the opening of our Torquay Family Law Office on the 03 June 2019.

Our Torquay Family Law Office is conveniently located in Lymington Road, at the Torquay Business Centre.

We selected this as a location because it is easily accessible from all parts of Torquay. Torquay Business Centre is a relatively short distance from Torquay County Court. It is also reasonably convenient for Torbay Council social services meetings at Union House.

We also have the benefit of being able to offer free parking (subject to availability and normally pre-booking) and good disabled access.

Nicole Family Law SolicitorOur  Team

Our Torquay solicitors team will be led by Nicole Phare.

Nicole qualified as a specialist family law solicitor in 2005 and specialises in both children law and divorce.

Nicole enjoyed a long career in family law before qualifying as a solicitor and most of her career has been spent working for different practices in Torbay

Nicole will be supported in building our Torquay family law solicitors office by our director Ian Walker and highly experienced solicitors David Howell-Richardson and Sandy Powell.

Both Ian and Sandy have had careers which have included working for South Devon/Torquay practices and between us, we have assisted many Torbay families over the years.

There are now 3 practices in Torquay which include Law Society Children Panel Members and which offer Legal Aid

Torquay Law Office Building FrontWe are conscious that over the years the number of solicitors firms who undertake complex children work in Torquay has significantly reduced.

Before we opened our Torquay solicitors office there were only two firms of solicitors with offices in Torquay which included members of the Law Society Children Panel and which still offer a legally aided service.

By opening an office in Torquay we have taken this number up to 3.

From our Torquay family law solicitors office we will be assisting clients both with children law and divorce.

Divorce Lawyers in Torquay

We are a team of specialist divorce lawyers in Torquay. We will be offering a divorce service from our Torquay family law office.

At Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors we are committed members of the family law solicitors organisation Resolution. Ian Walker is now in his third (three year) term as the elected chair of the Devon region of resolution. Ian is also a member of Resolution’s national Dispute Resolution Committee which promotes innovation and best practice in resolving family Law and divorce cases out of court. He has previously served as both a member of the Law Society Family Law Committee and as a trustee of the Family Mediators Association. One of Ian’s achievements was the introduction of collaborative family law in Devon.

We are committed to assisting our divorce clients to resolve their cases in a principled and fair way which focuses on achieving good outcomes but ensures that the needs of the couple’s children are not lost in (often unnecessary) adult disputes.

If you believe we can assist – please do get in touch.

Join our Family Law Team

In six and half years we have grown from nothing to being a leading family law solicitors practice and mediation service in the south-west.

We have achieved our growth through the innovative use of technology. Are use of technology is both client facing and also within the platform through which we work. We make good use of cloud technology. We use other innovative software and we subscribe to the best available family law practice support service.

We now have SRA authorised offices in Honiton, Exeter, Torquay and Weston-super-Mare as well as consulting rooms we access in Yeovil and Bridgwater.

Our team consists of both employed solicitors and fee share consultant’s.

Whilst on the one hand we intend to consolidate the advances we have made over the last 18 months, on the other hand, we are always open to new opportunities.

We are therefore ever open to hear from outstanding family lawyers who might be based in Devon and Somerset slightly further afield who are interested in joining an innovative, collegiate, noncorporate but highly professional and expert team. Our team has grown around its people and being open to new opportunities and if you share our vision and would like to join our journey then we would like to hear from you. (Equity opportunities are available). Join our Family Law Solicitors in Torquay.

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Ian Walker Divorce Lawyer Photo headshotI have the privilege of being the Chair of the Devon Region of Resolution. I am now in the fifth year of my current run as chair. I had a previous term of three years before this followed by a gap of two years as an ordinary committee member.

The Devon region of Resolution is one of Resolution’s largest regions – both in terms of numbers and geography. We have approximately 160 members. We have a committee which strives to represent all of our members.

Our main event each year is now our annual conference. This is in its fifth year. We held our first conference in 2015. Our lineup this year promises to be the best yet.

I have reproduced a copy of the current flyer below as a JPEG. Non-Devon Resolution Members and non-Devon family law solicitors and family law professionals are very welcome to attend.

All delegates leave with a goodie bag. In previous years this was a bottle of Buckfast tonic wine (brewed at our venue). This year the goodie bag will include something more of a golden colour…

The conference is very popular and offers fantastic training as well as a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere…. (Thanks to the friendly nature of our members and the hard work of our committee)

If you are a family law professional haven’t already booked your place – then it’s not too late!

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Ian Walker Divorce Lawyer Photo headshotHow can I find a good divorce lawyer?

I have been a Divorce Solicitor/Divorce Lawyer since I qualified as a solicitor in 1992.

In 2013 I founded my own practice. We now have offices in Exeter, Honiton, Taunton and Weston-Super-Mare. We also have consulting rooms in Bridgwater and Yeovil. We will shortly be opening a further office in Torquay.

When I founded Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors it was just myself and a computer. In the space of a little over six years we have grown into a team of nine divorce lawyers/family solicitors. We are now one of the most experienced family law teams in Devon and Somerset.

When marriages break down

The breakdown of a marriage is a sad and emotionally challenging time. Each of the couple will have entered the marriage with the best of intentions. Each will have hoped that the marriage would last. Sadly, too many marriages end in failure.

There are all sorts of reasons for this. Couples grow apart or find that over time they become incompatible. Sometimes one of the couple will become abusive. Sometimes the pressures of life are just too much, and each will pull in different directions.

It is often the case that one of the couple concludes that the marriage has broken down irretrievably before the other. They may have grieved the end of the relationship and made plans to move on before the other is aware. This can mean that when the difficulties come to a head that one of the couple is in a very different place emotionally to the other.

It is not unusual for one or both of the couple to have feelings of anger, betrayal, sadness, grief, depression at the breakdown of a marriage. One or both may well have anxieties about what the future will hold.

Child doing jigsaw - divorce lawyerIf the situation is difficult for the adults, it is often much worse for their children. At least the adults have some control over what happens next. Children are often caught in the middle between parents and have their own uncertainties and anxieties about what the future will hold and why mum and dad no longer get on.

The importance of a good divorce lawyer

Divorce has legal implications. Marriage is a legally binding contract. Ending the marriage involves obtaining a court order – the Decree Absolute. Achieving a clean break or other financial settlement also involves obtaining a court order. These court orders should be obtained.

Where child arrangements are concerned a court order can also be obtained to determine what the child arrangements should be. Such a court order will give certainty, but it is not the best outcome.

The best outcome for children and their parents is that the child arrangements should be agreed between their parents and that these should be reasonable and flexible and where both parents support the child’s relationship with the other parent and the parents work together and communicate well. This is often easier said than done.

When someone chooses a divorce lawyer – they want to achieve fairer outcomes and they do not want to make a difficult situation worse.

A good divorce lawyer should be able to assist their clients to make good choices and to help support them through a difficult time in their lives in a way which is as painless as possible – both emotionally and financially.

What do I need to look out for when finding a good divorce lawyer?

I would say that there are several things that you need to think about when looking for a good divorce lawyer.

Negotiation skills

Going to court over child arrangements or about financial arrangements can be very expensive and never helped anyone get on better with each other.

Most financial settlements are achieved through negotiation. The best arrangements for children are also achieved through negotiation. Therefore, you should look for a solicitor who is able to demonstrate their negotiation skills. Ways in which this can objectively be demonstrated are by the solicitor being qualified as a mediator or collaborative family lawyer or if they work within a team where good negotiation is clearly embedded in the firm’s DNA.

Negotiation choices

It is not good enough in this day and age simply to say that our default position is to make an application to the court and to negotiate – essentially at the door of the court.

In financial cases, negotiation cannot really start until financial disclosure has taken place – but there are choices about how the negotiation might be conducted. The skill of the lawyer is to assist their clients in finding the best process for them.

Mediation

We are supportive of mediation. This involves referring the client to third party mediator (or one of our mediators acting neutrally for the couple) and providing legal advice in support of the mediation process. With mediation the couple will negotiate themselves – but are supported in doing so.

This is a good option but is not the right thing for everyone. Sometimes one of the couple will find the other overpowering and sometimes one or both of the couple will have difficulty saying yes to what is a reasonable final outcome (in part because they are in the habit of saying no to each other). Mediation works best where there is a confidence in each of the couple and they understand what they need and what the other needs and are prepared to make compromises.

Our team includes experienced mediators in both myself and my colleague David Howell Richardson. We encourage the use of mediation by the rest of our team.

Divorce lawyers meetingCollaborative family law

A better process is in our view collaborative family law. This is an out-of-court process – because the couple make a commitment to negotiate solutions without going to court. The collaborative law process proceeds through a series of confidential meetings. The core participants are the couple and their collaboratively trained lawyers. Additional professionals such as accountants or financial planners or child consultants can be brought into the meetings and work with the couple parallel to the meetings in order to assist the problem-solving approach. We think that this is the best process. Both of the couple are supported by their solicitor and disagreements between professionals can be talked through so that the couple are better able to make pragmatic decisions.

Within our team, both myself and my colleague Fiona Griffin are collaborative family lawyers. I was one of the first to train as a collaborative lawyer in Devon and Somerset back in 2005.

Young girl surfing in DevonFinding the best outcome

Progressive practice means recognising that negotiations sometimes don’t get all the way to a final agreement. However, combining mediation or collaborative family law with arbitration is away to bridge any final gaps. Arbitration is another form of dispute resolution where a couple choose to instruct a private judge called an arbitrator to determine any outstanding issues in a way that is legally binding. This process fits well with mediation and collaborative family law.

Both mediation and collaborative family law are talking solutions. This is particularly important when there are children. The best outcome for children require parents to continue to talk to each other. Negotiating and agreeing solutions together should improve outcomes for a couple’s children.

Talking processes can be difficult at first – because of underlying emotions and a lack of trust, but the rewards of success should normally mean that these difficulties should be embraced and overcome (which is why in our view collaborative law is better – because the couple are better supported)

Experience

Experience is important – but is not the be all and end all. Practitioners can get into bad habits or become set in their ways. They may have been reluctant to embrace mediation or collaborative family law because they think that court-based solutions are the only solutions.

A younger solicitor with less year’s post qualification experience may be more committed to progressive practice than an older solicitor.

Nothing should be taken for granted. All I can say is that within my team I demand a commitment to progressive practice from everyone.

The divorce puzzle Panel membership

Family law solicitors are accredited by the Law Society and by resolution. Both have robust accreditation schemes. Having a panel membership is a way of demonstrating expertise and competence. These do not necessarily demonstrate a commitment to progressive practice – but they are a factor which should be taken into consideration.

Transparency about costs

The days are long gone when clients should not expect to have a straightforward conversation with their solicitor about costs.

In 2018 the Solicitors Regulation Authority introduced a requirement that solicitors provide some transparency over pricing. The requirements were limited and only applied to a small number of types of work/processes. It is often hard to find the required information on firm’s websites.

We have always been open about our charge rates. We have always published our base charge rates on our website. Few firms do this. We do not understand why there should be any mystery.

We also recognise that as well as transparency clients want pricing choices. We are very open to working to fixed fees and two other pricing options. Getting fixed fees right is important and this is not something that can really be done properly at an initial meeting. This is because until contact is made with the other party – and there is greater clarity over what needs to be done – and what process will be used to try and achieve an outcome – there are too many unknowns. What we can do is commit that as soon as the situation becomes clearer – we will offer a client a range of pricing choices from proceeding based on hourly rates as well as fixed fee choices.

Meeting with a divorce lawyerClient experience and technology

We recognise that the world around us is evolving and the technology through which we deliver our service is better than it was five years ago and much better than it was 10 or 15 years ago.

We have recently adopted a client engagement tool which also sits on our website. This enables clients to provide us with a lot of information prior to their initial meeting with us. In the past the first half-hour of a meeting with a client would have involved asking lots of questions. This time can now be reduced – so that more time can be spent talking about the issues and options from the outset.

This is just one thing that we do. We do however recognise that some clients want to be able to undertake some tasks themselves – in order to keep costs down. We are very happy to have an open discussion with the client about who does what – when it comes to scoping out the work to be undertaken by us.

Another thing that we do is her that we subscribe to the best family law practice support service – which provides us with an extensive library and database and practice support tools which would have been unimaginable (and completely unaffordable) 15 years or so ago.

Whilst we are happy to share some of what we do in a post – there are other things which we will share with a potential client after they have made contact.

But the bottom line is that best practice for service delivery doesn’t stand still and good family law solicitors/good divorce lawyers will move with the times

Prizes and awards

Some firms invest heavily in public relations and enter the ever-increasing number of awards that are around. These awards are not necessarily judged by practitioners or relevant practitioners and certainly there are many firms that don’t enter or don’t have the time to enter.

As our practice has been growing, we have invested our time in other matters which we believe are more worthwhile – such as achieving the Law Society Lexcel Practice Management Accreditation. This is not an award based on a 1000 word also submission but where our practice is independently audited over two or more days to an extensive standard set by the law society. We would take the view that this is a better measure.

Making the choice

Ultimately you need to find someone that you can work with and have a rapport with.

To assist potential clients, know who we are – we have included on our website short video clips so that you have the chance to meet us on video before you meet us in person. We hope this How can I find a good divorce lawyer article has helped with your search.

If you have more questions about how to choose a good divorce solicitor you can see some common FAQ’s over on this page

If you would like to know more about us and to meet one of our team in person then please use the contact form below.


Contact a Good Divorce Lawyer in our team

 

 

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With the summer fast approaching, many divorced and separated parents will want to take their children on a well-deserved summer break.

However, whether you can legally take your children abroad without the consent of the other parent, or anyone else with parental responsibility, will depend on your individual circumstances.

Should I seek the consent of the other parent?

If there is a Child Arrangements Order (CAO) in place and you are the parent with whom the child is to live, then you can legally take your child out of the UK for up to one month without the consent of the other parent. You can do this as many times as you wish, as long as each individual trip does not last longer than one month.

However, we would always advise that, where possible, you seek the consent of every person with parental responsibility in any event to keep things amicable and so that the other parent, or persons with parental responsibility, are made aware of your plans.

A parent who is not named in the CAO as the person with whom the child should live must seek the consent of the other, before the child is taken on holiday.

What is parental responsibility?

(PR) is defined in the Children Act 1989 as “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”. The gestational mother (the mother who carries the baby to term) will automatically have PR.

The biological father will obtain this if he was married to the mother at the time of the birth, is named on the birth certificate, has entered into a “parental responsibility agreement”, has applied to the court for a “Parental Responsibility Order”, has been appointed as a guardian, has obtained a CAO or has married the mother after the child is born.Young girl surfing in Devon

Can the other parent stop me from taking our child on holiday?

Even if there is an existing CAO in place, if the other parent objects then they can make an application to the court for a “Prohibited Steps Order” for the court to decide whether the holiday should go ahead.

When considering such an application the court’s paramount consideration will be the child’s welfare. Generally, courts do consider that a holiday is in the best interests of the child and they will not look favourably upon a parent who withholds their consent to “score points” against the other.

What if there is no CAO in place?

If a Child Arrangements Order has not been made then in theory, either party can take the child abroad without the consent of the other. However, we would warn against doing so as you may be faced with an application for a “Prohibited Steps Order” or even charges of child abduction, should you proceed to take them out of the country without consent or a court order.

Under the Child Abduction Act 1984, it is an offence for a parent of a child or any person with parental responsibility, to take or send their child out of the UK without the consent of all the persons with parental responsibility or permission from the court. This does not apply where there is a CAO in place (see above).

Top tips

  • Always get consent in writing from every person who holds parental responsibility for the child, in good time.
  • If you have written consent, take a copy of this with you to the airport as some airlines check that the child being taken abroad is not being trafficked.
  • If you are concerned that someone plans to or has already taken your child abroad without your consent, then seek legal assistance as soon as possible. Your solicitor will then give your further guidance on your options.
  • If the other parent (or those holding PR) refuse their consent, then consider making a “Specific Issue Order” for the court to decide the issue. Again, your legal advisor will be able to provide you with further advice.

Should you require any further information or assistance with the above then please do not hesitate to contact a member of our team, who will be pleased to assist.

Imogen Powell is a Solicitor with Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors which is a leading Family Law Solicitors Practice in the South West, with offices in Exeter, Taunton, Honiton and Weston-Super-Mare and consulting rooms in Yeovil and Bridgwater. Here Imogen discusses whether parents are able to take their children on holiday following divorce or separation.

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