That is the snappy title of a 55 page document published this month by the Family Justice Council. The foreword by the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby explains that the “guide” is ” designed to help Litigants in Person (“LIPs”) who may be confronting the seemingly daunting prospect of negotiating their own agreements in the context of divorce and family breakdown”, is intended to “…demystify what a complex area of law which many (LIPs) find intimidating” and “…is specifically aimed at a lay audience…”.
Given the ever increasing number of LIPs appearing before the Courts it may be inferred that the Courts accept that they are here to stay and that the view is that the most effective use of the Courts` and Judges` time will be achieved by ensuring that LIPs have a better understanding of how the Courts will define their needs and assist them in bringing about a fair outcome.
No doubt such an outcome can be reached in straightforward cases e.g. short, childless marriages involving easily identified assets of low value where the parties are on relatively good terms but how do the Courts deal with the dishonest husband who conceals his assets from his wife, the vulnerable wife who is persuaded by her husband that she has no interest in his huge Pensions or Pension sharing where both parties have significant Pension funds and refuse to commission a Pension Valuation Report?
Family Law is not formulaic, there being no “one size fits all” approach as is demonstrated by the guide, four of whose answers to FAQs begin with “ That depends…” and three of which begin with “Potentially, yes…”
Given the findings of the Citizen`s Advice Bureau (see my earlier post headed “Why DIY Law should carry a Health Warning”), caution should be exercised by any party contemplating flying solo in any case involving significant assets particularly Pensions whose values frequently run into many hundreds of thousands of pounds. The first thought should be not “ I can`t afford to be legally represented” but “How can I not afford to be legally represented?”
Surely there can be no substitute for taking advice at the outset from a Solicitor with long experience in Family Law. Anything less simply does not make sense in all but the most straightforward cases. As Sir James says in his conclusion “All too often, decisions have to be taken at a time when either or both of the parties may be feeling emotionally vulnerable; all too often the children may be confused and uncertain about what the future holds as their parents contemplate separation”.
If the above is of interest to you or you would like further information about the services which we provide, please call Stephen Gallagher on 01276 20551.