It is always nice to receive good client feedback.

Here is the latest feedback we have received about Karen Elliott (this week)

Many thanks for your final letter and cheque, and a big thank you for the lovely card you included with it, so thoughtful.

I appreciate your kindness and am truly grateful I found you to represent me during this challenging time in mine and xxxx’s life. without your help and advice I don’t think I’d be in this position now and I thank you once again..

Things are settled now and I feel at peace with the whole situation, (former partner) and I are managing to communicate better. 

Anyway life goes on.. xxxx and I are happy and that’s all that matters.

Wishing you all the best in 2019 Karen..

(And a very big bunch of flowers was also received by Karen from the same client)

Another client commented:

Karen dealt with difficult conversations and offered constructive advice in a way which meant it was all much easier than it could have been with a less sympathetic person. Everything was clearly explained…

And a former client from several years ago has also reinstruct to Karen.

It is always very pleasing to receive the good feedback. The above are good examples of the feedback that we regularly receive about Karen’s work.

I appreciate all feedback from all clients. There are inevitably occasions where things haven’t gone completely according to plan. If a client has not been 100% happy, then I need to understand from their perspective what the difficulties have been. We can then as a team learn from this and improve what we do.

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On the 11 and 12 October 2018 travelled to Nottingham to attend Resolution’s annual Dispute Resolution Conference. The aim of the conference is to bring to together family law experts in dispute resolution to share their experiences and to discuss and learn about the latest ideas for innovation and promoting best practice.

The Resolution Dispute Resolution Conference is organised by Resolution’s Dispute Resolution Committee, of which I am a member. (Although I hasten to add that I was not on the conference organising subcommittee).

There were around 160 – 180 delegates from all around the country. It is always enjoyable to catch up with friends and colleagues and to meet other like-minded professionals. The majority of the delegates are either mediators, collaborative family lawyers or family arbitrators or like myself all 3 (as well as being practising specialist family law solicitors and barristers).

Promoting collaborative family law

Amongst the topics discussed were promoting collaborative family law as the normal way of family law practice.

Sadly we are not quite there yet, with collaborative family law being the normal way of family law practice with some lawyers practising within family law still taking a litigious approach which can exacerbate family difficulties – and which is avoidant of the use of family mediation, collaborative family law and arbitration

Other topics included; Innovation in family law/mediation/collaborative law/arbitration; better preparing clients for stressful meetings including by encouraging clients to make use of techniques such as mindfulness and by accessing counselling; working together with complimentary professionals (such as financial advisers and children experts) and integrating working together in different aspects of practice; better assisting families to implement children court orders achieved through court proceedings (often with high conflict) or mediation and assisting couples to better work together in order to avoid returning to court.

Amita Sehgal – dealing with stress and anger

The Henry Brown Lecture (named after Henry Brown – Henry is a pioneer of the use of family mediation in the UK and who incidentally trained me as both a family mediator in 1996 and a civil/commercial mediator – Henry is now enjoying his retirement) was given by Amita Sehgal who is a couple psychoanalytic psychotherapist accredited by the British Psychoanalytic Council through the Tavistock Institute of Medical Psychology. This considered the impacts of dealing with stress and anger and steps that could be taken to minimise the negative impacts of these.

Jo Berry and Patrick Magee – Building Bridges for Peace

The highlight of the conference was undoubtably the keynote address given by Jo Berry and Patrick Magee of Building Bridges for Peace.

Jo Berry is the daughter of Sir Anthony Berry MP who was amongst those killed in the bombing of the Grand Hotel, Brighton by the IRA (Irish Republican Army) on October 12, 1984. Patrick Magee is the man who planted the bomb and who was convicted and sent to prison for that act.

Jo described how within 2 days of her father being killed she resolved to find something positive out of what had happened and to bring meaning to and even understand those who had killed her father.

Jo and Patrick met 16 years later after Patrick was released from prison as part of the Northern Ireland peace process. The charity Building Bridges for Peace was launched in Brighton in October 2009 on the 25th anniversary of the bombing.

Building Bridges for Peace works to enable divided communities and the general public to explore and better understand the roots of war, terrorism and violence. Jo and Patrick promote dialogue and mediation as the means to peace.

Jo Berry and Pat Magee have given talks in Palestine, Lebanon, Rwanda and throughout the UK.
There is a quote on the Building Bridges for Peace website http://www.buildingbridgesforpeace.org/ from Terry Waite CBE which is worth repeating;

To be a subject of a grievous wrong is always wounding and painful and can frequently provoke anger.

However, anger, if allowed to fester is like a cancer of the soul. It does more harm to those who hold it than against those whom it is held.

Jo Berry knows from personal experience what it is to have to face deep suffering as her father was blown up in a IRA bomb. She has let go of personal need for revenge and empathised with Patrick Magee, the man responsible for planting the bomb.

To hear her speak alongside the one who killed her father is a living demonstration of the transforming power of reconciliation when two people who have been on different sides truly listen and can see each other’s humanity, an example this sad world so desperately need.
Terry Waite CBE – humanitarian and former hostage

It was particularly inspiring to hear Jo and Patrick speak on a day that was in fact the 34th anniversary of the bombing.

Terry Waite’s words encapsulate the importance of the work of Jo and Patrick not only in the theatre of political conflict but also in the theatre of personal conflict.

Anger in personal conflict

As family law practitioners we are very often assisting clients who have been wronged and who are angry with their former partner who they feel has caused them that wrong.

The anger and pain is very often a two-way thing. Unresolved anger can play out in making it much harder to reach objectively reasonable outcomes and can be compounded by further anger generated through the process of divorce/separation and having orders/outcomes imposed. A couple’s children can be caught within this conflict and this can be very damaging indeed. This can play out in children being psychologically harmed, losing contact with one parent or family members (sometimes with parental alienation) or not receiving good role modelling to equip them to deal with resolving disputes in their own lives in the best way.

I would strongly recommend that if you ever have the opportunity to listen to Jo and Patrick speak then you should take this up. What they have achieved together, both on a personal level as well as through their wider work is truly inspiring.

The delegates to whom I spoke, all left thinking about how they could better assist their clients through their own personal conflicts.

Conclusion

I left the conference re-energised that as a practice we are clearly on the right track in terms of how we are trying to assist our clients and over the next few months we will be reflecting further upon how we can make improvements to our service and to supporting our team to do this.

I am already looking forward to the 2019 Resolution Dispute Resolution Conference.

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Collaborative Family Law vs Mediation

Collaborative family law is a fantastic but underused family dispute resolution process.

With mediation, couples are assisted to reach solutions through confidential negotiation assisted by the neutral mediator.

With the normal model of mediation, each of the couple will seek their own independent legal advice between meetings. The neutral mediator cannot give advice – but can give information in a neutral way.

One of the problems with mediation is that couples in mediation may decline to take legal advice or they may not ask the right questions of their solicitor, or they may not fully hear the advice that is given. This can mean that in some mediations, one or both of the parties will struggle to say yes or even maybe to what might otherwise be reasonable proposals.

Feedback from mediation information and assessment meetings and mediation is occasionally that one party declined to enter mediation, struggled with the mediation process because they felt under supported, or were concerned that the other party would be too overbearing for mediation to be able to work.

If mediation is not suitable, or is not quite the right process, then there are alternatives.

A genuine alternative to mediation

This is where collaborative law fits in. With collaborative family law, both of the couple commits to finding negotiated solution, whilst also avoiding court proceedings. Like mediation the negotiations are confidential. The collaborative law contract, which is called the participation agreement, includes a commitment from both of the couple not to go to court. It is agreed that if the collaborative law process breaks down that the couple will each need to instruct different solicitors. This is a further incentive to settle.

The key to collaborative family law is that there is no neutral mediator (although in some circumstances a mediator could be drafted in, if negotiations got particularly complicated). Instead the couple are reach represented/advised/assisted by their own solicitors. The mediation works through a series of 4 way meetings. The solicitors will work together in a collaborative way.

Advice will be shared and by collaborative working complex issues can be unravelled as a practical and fair solution is worked out. The couple are reach better supported and each will be better able to say yes to a reasonable agreement when the time is right. The solicitors working with their clients are better able to keep the process moving along than with mediation. Letter writing is avoided.

When appropriate other professionals can be brought in to the collaborative law process, such as financial advisers or family consultants (who can assist with coaching around children issues).
Key to the success of collaborative law is that each of the clients have a good relationship and trust in their solicitors and then that there is a good working relationship and trust between both solicitors. To qualify as a collaborative family lawyer specific training is required and this needs to be backed up by regular meetings with other collaborative lawyers and ongoing training.

The alternative to mediation and collaborative law is either negotiation through solicitors letters or roundtable meetings which do not have the protection of the collaborative law agreement or a court process. These negotiations will often be more tetchy and divisive (even if that is not intended).
Collaborative family law offers a way to achieving a better divorce/separation/negotiation in the way that mediation also does.

Working with other Collaborative Family Law Solicitors

You don’t build and sustain good working relationships with other collaborative family law solicitors without meeting and talking.

This year Devon Resolution organised a Collaborative Law Training Day for Devon Collaborative Family Lawyers with the leading collaborative law trainers in the UK – namely Helen Garlic and Suzy Power. (Incidentally, Helen had been one of the helpers on the mediation training that Ian Walker undertook with the renowned Henry Brown and Felicity White, back in 1996). Suzy was one of the trainers when Ian arranged with Resolution the foundation collaborative law training which brought collaborative law to Devon in 2005.

It was good to catch up with Helen and Suzy and also with other collaborative law solicitor colleagues from around Devon. You can never have too much skills training.

By us meeting and training together and building and maintaining good relationships, we can as a group assist our clients better.

Collaborative Family Law is a good option. Give us a call to find out more.

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I am pleased to confirm that we are now certified as compliant with the requirements of the Cyber Essentials Scheme.

Cyber Essentials Scheme: overview

The Government worked with the Information Assurance for Small and Medium Enterprises (IASME) consortium and the Information Security Forum (ISF) to develop Cyber Essentials.

Cyber Essentials is a set of basic technical controls to help organisations protect themselves against common online security threats.

The full scheme, launched on 5 June 2014. It is backed by industry including the Federation of Small Businesses, the CBI and a number of insurance organisations which are offering incentives for businesses.

The Cyber Essentials scheme addresses the most common Internet-based threats to cyber security — particularly, attacks that use widely available tools and demand little skill. The scheme considers these threats to be:

  • hacking — exploiting known vulnerabilities in Internet-connected devices, using widely available tools and techniques
  • phishing — and other ways of tricking users into installing or executing a malicious application
  • password guessing — manual or automated attempts to log on from the Internet, by guessing passwords

The Cyber Essentials scheme helps organisations to protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of data stored on devices which connect to the Internet.

Advantages of certification

Certification and compliance provides reassurance to customers that we are working to secure our IT and their data against cyber attack

It shows that we take cyber security seriously.

Trusted IT supplier

We don’t claim to be IT experts ourselves. Our IT is very important to how we deliver our service. For this reason we have a trusted IT supplier in the form of Alchemy Systems.

Alchemy Systems have been assisting us over the last 4 years. Because Legal Services IT support is one of their specialisms, they have been able to give us outstanding and pro-active support. Thanks to all at Alchemy.

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Leading Exeter Family Law Solicitor and Exeter Divorce Lawyer David Howell-Richardson joins Ian Walker Family Law And Mediation Solicitors – adding to one of the most experienced teams of family Law solicitors and divorce lawyers in Devon and Somerset

David Howell-Richardson has spent many years assisting clients in Exeter and throughout Devon to achieve good outcomes for their divorce and child related problems.

David Howell Richardson qualified as a solicitor in 1978 and as Head of Family Law and partner at Stones Solicitors, Exeter and then Trowers and Hamlins Solicitors, David will have assisted thousands of clients in Exeter and Devon with his child focused but tenacious approach. David has spent many years as a member of the Law Society Children Panel and on the Law Society Family Mediation Panel.

David Howell-Richardson is well known and well liked in the Exeter and Devon family law community. He is an active member of Resolution, which is leading force in the development of good practice for family solicitors and divorce lawyers. David’s reputation and experience assists him in achieving good outcomes for his clients.

Leading Devon and Somerset family law solicitor and divorce lawyers

Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors was founded by leading Devon and Somerset family law solicitor and divorce lawyer Ian Walker in 2013. Ian Walker is the long-standing chair of the Devon region of Resolution and is a former member of the Law Society Family Law Committee and a former trustee of the Family Mediators Association.

It is the mission statement of Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors to set standards of excellence in the practice of family Law and mediation. Also, to assist clients to find the best solutions for their family law issues in a way that is child focused, cost effective and as un-traumatic as possible.

A progressive approach to family law and divorce

An example of the progressive approach of Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors is that the practice has always published its charging rates on their website https://familylawandmediation.co.uk/payments-2/these charges are consciously lower than comparable city centre practices. However, if clients are concerned for some reason that the law firms in Exeter charging rates are not high enough, there is an ongoing offer in the firm’s fair charging policy https://familylawandmediation.co.uk/payments-2/fair-charging-policy/ to price match a more expensive charging rate and donate the difference to a children’s charity.

One of the most experienced teams of family Law solicitors and divorce lawyers in Devon and Somerset

Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors has quickly developed one of the most experienced teams of family Law solicitors and divorce lawyers in Devon and Somerset. In addition to Ian Walker and David-Howell Richardson, two of our other family Law solicitors and divorce lawyers have been partners and head of family law and divorce at their previous Devon practices, namely; Kim Stradling (Everys Solicitors) and Sandy Powell (Dunn and Baker Solicitors).

There are currently 7 specialist family Law solicitors and divorce lawyers in the team at Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors, but there are already plans in place which should see this rise to 9 specialist family Law solicitors and divorce lawyers by early 2019. This will make the team one of the largest specialist teams of family Law solicitors and divorce lawyers in Devon and Somerset, assisting clients from its offices and consulting rooms in Exeter, Taunton, Honiton and Yeovil.

The practice has a well-regarded website https://familylawandmediation.co.uk/ which includes lots of useful information about family law, child law, divorce, family mediation and family law arbitration. The website includes pages with helpful advice to assist clients to choose their best divorce lawyer https://familylawandmediation.co.uk/family-law/divorce/best-divorce-lawyer/ and about what to do if social services have concerns about parenting https://familylawandmediation.co.uk/what-to-do-if-social-services-have-concerns-about-your-parenting/

David says:

I am delighted to be a member of the family law solicitor and divorce lawyer team at Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors. I have known Ian Walker, Kim Stradling and Sandy Powell for many years and they together with their team are excellent family Law solicitors and divorce lawyers. The philosophy behind the firm is about combining best practice, the good use of technology and reasonable charging. I am very pleased to be part of the team and to continue to assist families in Exeter and Devon.

Ian Walker says:

David Howell-Richardson has fitted easily into our team. We are building a leading family law practice to serve clients throughout Devon and Somerset from our offices and consulting rooms in Exeter, Taunton, Honiton and Yeovil. 2018 has been a year of excellent results and of growth for the practice and I am looking forward to further growth in 2019.

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I founded Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors from scratch in 2013. Initially it was just me and a computer.

From 2015 we started to build a team. This now consists of 6 Solicitors and a Legal Executive plus 5 support. By the time we get to 2019 we are expecting to add at least one more Solicitor.

We have an experienced and respected team. Three of the Solicitors in my team have been partners and heads of the family law departments at previous practices. In fact are now one of the most experienced family law teams in Devon and Somerset. 

Grown through recommendation and good business planning and by being well connected and respected in our local family law networks. 

I am the longstanding chair of the Devon Region of the family solicitors organisation Resolution. I am also a past member of the Law Society Family Law Committee.

Following a mid year review of our organisation, we have identified the need for a new member in our support team…

The Role; Administration assistant/legal assistant/paralegal/Legal PA

We are recruiting an administration assistant/legal assistant/paralegal/Legal PA who will be responsible for;

  • Document management (paper and digital)
  • Preparing Trial Bundles
  • Diary management
  • Telephone contact with clients and professionals and new enquiries.
  • Assisting with move to digital working and compliance with professional standards.

We don’t have traditional secretaries, so there is no audio typing.

Person Specification

Most importantly we are looking for someone who will fit into the team, who is hardworking and self-motivated with a good sense of humour.

The successful candidate will have/be most of the following:

  • Previous experience in a similar role
  • Outstanding IT skills
  • Tidy and organised
  • Team player
  • Familiarity with SOS connect case management software
  • Experience of time recording
  • A sunny personality/good sense of humour

More about the role

  • You will be based in Honiton. We could have based ourselves in Exeter but don’t like sitting in commuter traffic! (We see clients in Exeter/Taunton/Yeovil offices by appointment)
  • There is a carpark at the East Devon Business centre where we are based.
  • All team members have 5 weeks holiday a year. We have also given additional discretionary days when closing the office between Xmas and New Year.
  • We try to have a team curry 3/4 times a year.
  • This is a full time role.
  • Normal office hours.
  • Salary dependent on experience.

Please email your CV and covering letter to me at ianwalker@familylawandmediation.co.uk

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We are a little over midway through the year and are feeling very inundated with good quality work.

This means we are at a stage where we could really benefit from adding to our legal team.

We have a versatile team led by Ian Walker (Chair Devon Resolution). Kim Stradling, Sandy Powell and David Howell-Richardson have been partners and heads of family law at previous practices. We have built a strong team of experienced practitioners.

Our main base is in Honiton in the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty but we also have offices in Exeter, Taunton and Yeovil.

We are particularly looking for someone to help us grow our Exeter office (within the Senate, Southernhay Gardens)

  • We have verified our Legal Aid Contract Tender for Family Law and Family Mediation
  • We make good use of IT using SOS Connect and Lexis PSL and are currently moving toward a paperless office.
  • We benefit from being niche. Our website traffic has tripled since 2015. As a practice we are agile and open to new opportunities.
  • For the right candidate there are equity prospects.
  • Possibility of fee share or employment or mix
  • We are open to applications from finance or child law specialists or perhaps family generalists who now wish to specialise. We can adjust the role to right person.

We have an experienced and respected team. We have grown through recommendation and good business planning.

We enjoy the work we do. It is important to us that we do our work in the right way; also, that we all get on with each other and that we are a genuine team. No office politics please. We have a commitment to Legal Aid and fair charging.

We will be pleased to hear from candidates with all levels of experience. What is important is that they either are already or want to become an outstanding family lawyer who wants be part of our growth.

Person Specification

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_MG_5336I am a Solicitor who has specialised in Child Law since qualification in 1992. I was admitted to the Law Society Children Panel in 1996. My practice has one of the most experienced teams of child law specialist solicitors in the South West.

Over the years I have represented many parents and grandparents in Court Proceedings brought by Social Services. The Court now expects most cases to be finished in 26 weeks or less. This means that the window of time for parents and grandparents to make the right choices so that they will succeed is very small. Good decisions need to be made at the very start of a case.

No Solicitor who represents parents and grandparents in Social Services cases can claim that they have succeeded in keeping children with their parents/grandparents in every case. Sometimes the problems are simply too great to overcome in the timescale of the court process. Sometimes clients are unable to follow our advice or panic and switch off.

We always try hard to make sure that our clients give themselves the best chance of achieving the best realistic outcome and that their case is clearly heard by the Court. Over the years we have helped clients to achieve some excellent outcomes.

Avoiding Court Proceedings

Being taken to Court always involves the risk of a bad outcome. This is because decisions are made by someone else. The best way to succeed is always to avoid ending up in Court in the first place.

There is no substitute to seeking specific advice from an experienced Solicitor. The following is a good place to start:

  1. Don’t panic. The main job of Social services isn’t to remove children and place them for adoption. The main job of Social Services is to make sure that children are safe and that the standard of care which they receive is good enough (you won’t have to be perfect). Most cases do not end up in Court.
  2. Understand where you have been going wrong. Nobody is perfect. Listen. Ask what changes you need to make to improve your care and what support is available to help you do this. Take up that help.
  3. Work with Social Services. If you tell them to go away, they won’t and
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The Supreme Court has announced this morning that in the case of Owens v Owens heard 17 May 2018 the appeal has been dismissed.

This means that Mrs Owens is forced to remain married to Mr Owens against her will.

She is a prisoner in her marriage!

The Supreme Court

Whilst the Supreme Court has, reluctantly, applied the law correctly, the fact that they have done so confirms there is now a divorce crisis in England and Wales, and the government needs to take urgent action to address it.

The Supreme Court was not satisfied that Mrs Owens had sufficiently proved that Mr Owens had behaved sufficiently unreasonably so that the Unreasonable Behaviour test was met.

The Problem

To get divorced, couples are legally required to assign blame for the relationship breakdown, unless they’ve lived apart for two years. This makes an amicable agreement between the couple more difficult and can have a negative impact on any children involved.

The 1996 Family Law Act did contain provision to end fault based divorce, but the politicians never allowed those provisions to come into force. These provisions have long since been repealed (completely scrapped).

Current divorce law is not fit for today’s modern society

It shocks many couples when they find out that, unless they blame their partner, they must wait 2 years for a divorce.

Blame can bring out feelings of injustice and recrimination, and evidence shows it can affect parents’ ability to put children first.

The Solution

Resolution proposes a divorce procedure where one or both partners can give notice that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The divorce can then proceed and after six months if one or both parties would still like to proceed the divorce is finalised.

We support this. But change cannot happen until the politicians decide to pass new laws (whilst they are at it, they can do something to fix the increasingly broken legal aid system).

This is important – Divorce without blame will increase the chances of non-court dispute resolution, reducing the burden on family courts.

Many countries around the world – including Australia, the USA and Spain – allow for divorce without blame. Why can’t we have no fault divorce here?

Facts and figures

1.7m people have been compelled to apportion blame in divorce since failed attempt to provide no-fault divorce option in 1996.

In 2015, 60% of English and Welsh divorces were granted on adultery and behaviour (Finding Fault 2017) (60,000 cases!)

95,000 children affected by divorce in 2013 (ONS 2015)

Time for a change please

We are a progressive practice. We encourage the use of Mediation and Collaborative Family Law, but our job is made more difficult by a divorce law which goes back to 1973. Can we have a change please?

The world has moved on since 1973 and the divorce law needs to catch up.

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Legal Aid statistics

The Legal Aid Agency have very recently published Legal Aid Statistics for the quarter January to March 2018.

Headlines are:

  • There were 9% fewer legal help new matter starts (these are for the initial advice level of legal aid) than in the same period of 2017.
  • The volume of completed claims also decreased, by 8%, and expenditure fell by 11%. Not surprising if less cases are started.
  • This is a continuing downward trend.
  • Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings were 19% lower than in the same quarter of 2017.
  • Mediation starts (full mediation cases, rather than assessment meetings) between October and December 2017 were down by 18% and currently running at just under half the number of starts since the implementation of the LASPO Act.
  • 6% more certificates were issued compared to the same quarter in 2017, due to demand for public family law representation. In other words more cases are being brought by social services.
  • This category (social services cases) accounts for three quarters of the Family workload and 80% of Family expenditure.
  • Changes in the acceptable evidence of domestic abuse from January 2018 have resulted in more certificates being granted on this basis.
  • 746 applications for Exceptional Case Funding were received in the last quarter. 59% of them were granted – the highest number and proportion since the scheme began – up 5% compared to last year.
  • The number of legal aid provider offices has fallen by a third in the last five years.

https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/legal-aid-statistics-january-to-march-2018

It appears that there will be a further decline in the number of firms offering legal aid when the current legal aid tender completes.

Why the decline in legal aid?

We would suggest the following reasons;

  • It is increasingly uneconomic for solicitors and mediation services to offer. The rates of pay/fixed fees have not been increased for a long long time. 15+ years… eventually inflation catches up
  • The means limits for eligibility no longer rise with inflation… eventually inflation catches up
  • The evidence requirement to prove eligibility seems to be increasing difficult to meet.
  • It feels like there is a hostile environment around legal aid, both to those who need it and to providers. This is so sad on what is essentially an important part of the welfare state.

We continue to offer legal aid and are specialists in cases involving social services.

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