A very warm welcome to the next in our series of departmental newsletters. This month’s focus is on our Family team.
DeBrieF FACT SHEET
Anita Shepherd – partner and head of Family – discusses Divorce Mediation and how it works.
How does divorce mediation work?
Deciding to separate from your spouse can be difficult enough without having to get involved in stressful and costly legal disputes. Attending mediation early on in the separation can give you both a better chance of resolving any differences that you have. It can also mean much less cost, time and stress than dealing with court proceedings.
So, what exactly is mediation?
Family mediation is a voluntary and confidential form of alternative dispute resolution. An impartial mediator is appointed to help you and your spouse figure out solutions to your own particular issues. Whilst they cannot impose a decision, or provide legal advice, they can help with the following:
- Facilitating discussions
- Identifying potential solutions
- Assisting both parties to reach informed decisions
You and your partner will retain control over all aspects of decision making – both inside and outside of the mediation process.
The mediator will ask questions and summarise conversations to better understand disputes as well as your respective interests and priorities.
They may encourage you to discuss emotional issues, unconsciously blocking your path to resolution. They will help to refocus and bring you back to the issues in dispute, facilitating discussion and they will use techniques to help you move beyond any deadlock.
Your mediator will then work to develop a joint problem solving approach to help you identify and explore possible settlement options. Each decision should be evaluated by both parties, with the mediator helping to test out how each option will work. Participation in all sessions is necessary as is being ready to consider and decide on suggested options.
The mediator will also help you deal with financial disclosure, preparing an open statement setting out your financial circumstances when all relevant information and documents are gathered.
You can either get in direct contact with a mediator or be referred to a mediator or mediation service by your lawyer or another professional third party.
Is it the only support needed?
Mediation does not replace the need for independent legal advice on the terms of any agreement reached. Nor does it exclude the involvement of lawyers.
It is common for separating parties to attend family mediation without lawyers and to take legal advice outside or alongside the process.
Is mediation obligatory?
It is compulsory to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before making a formal court application to address children and financial issues, as courts want evidence that all other possible avenues have been explored beforehand.
What will be the outcomes of mediation?
Mediation can end in any of the following circumstances:-
- When you reach an agreement on all issues in dispute, the mediator will prepare a without prejudice memorandum of understanding recording both parties’ agreement. This should then be given to your lawyer to give independent legal advice and draft the legal paperwork to give effect to the agreement.
- If partial agreement is reached the mediator will record this, together with any progress you have made to narrow the issues in dispute in a memorandum of understanding.
- You may decide to end or suspend mediation if you want to attempt reconciliation or attend counselling before progressing further. You may also decide to suspend mediation pending the occurrence of a specific event (for example, a child completing exams).
- The mediator can conclude the process if they consider it inappropriate to continue because during the course of the sessions, a power imbalance has developed between the parties which cannot be corrected or one party has become abusive towards the mediator or the other party.
Mediation has several advantages to court proceedings, such as speed and saving costs. But most importantly, mediation promotes and advocates healthy outcomes for separating couples as the process assists in preserving relationships, which is vitally important when children are involved in the separation. The outcomes can also be more creative and tailored to your specific needs.
All in all it is a valuable process in addition to obtaining legal advice from a family lawyer specialising in relationship breakdowns. If you require information about Family Mediators in your area please do not hesitate to contact me or alternatively search your local mediator at: http://www.familymediationcouncil.org.uk/find-local-mediator/.
DeBrieF TEAM SPOTLIGHT: Caroline Bilous, senior solicitor
What does your role at Davis Blank Furniss involve?
I am a senior solicitor in the Family department and I deal with all aspects of Family Law. My main areas of experience and expertise are divorce, resolving financial matters on divorce and associated disputes regarding children. I am also able to act on behalf of interveners in matrimonial finance proceedings. My remit often extends to advising unmarried couples in relation to property disputes and advising and making applications for injunctions both financial (within divorce proceedings) and non-molestation injunctions. Also, every now and again I become involved and advise in relation to international disputes; whether that be in relation to children and/or financial proceedings.
What is the best thing about your job?
Every day is completely different; one day you could be presenting your client’s case to the court, the next meeting and instructing experts – whether that be forensic accountants, pensions actuaries or tax specialists. You also never know what case you are going to encounter next or if your case is going to settle, the parties reconcile or if it will be a fight to the end.
What is the best case you have been involved in?
There have been so many so it is difficult to decide which one has been the best! If I had to pick one then it would probably be one of the various cases that I have had that involved every aspect of Family Law. The client in question was extremely challenging at times and despite great efforts on the part of all professionals involved it did run to a lengthy five days before the Family Court at Manchester. I received judgment whilst on holiday and I was probably more overjoyed (and celebrated a little more) than the client to have received such a favourable outcome (on almost the precise terms as those that had been offered!). It really makes the job worthwhile.
Name the person who has been the biggest influence on your career.
It’s a cliché but totally true; my parents have always been an inspiration to me. They have always worked tirelessly themselves and have instilled in me a great work ethic.
If you were not a lawyer, what would you be doing?
When I was younger I always wanted to help people; whether that be solving problems or with a particular task. I recall one day, when I was about five years old, asking my dad if he needed a secretary. Suffice to say, he didn’t take me up on my offer. I would hope that I would be doing something in the same vein and giving something back… probably teaching.
For more information on Caroline and her work, please click HERE.
DeBrieF CASE LAW DEVELOPMENTS
Holly Rogalski – trainee solicitor – discusses Waudby v Aldhouse (Financial Remedies: Delay in Application)  EWFC B63
In the case of Waudby, a Husband appealed against a lump sum order and a periodical payments order made in favour of the Wife some 20 years after the parties had separated.
Husband and Wife married in 1982. They did not have any children. In 1992 Husband started an affair which was later discovered by Wife. The parties separated in 1994 and in the same year Husband had a child with his new wife. At the time of separation, both parties had been declared bankrupt and Wife suffered a breakdown, retiring on grounds of ill health. Wife then commenced divorce proceedings leading to the marriage being dissolved in 1995. However, at the time that the marriage was dissolved Wife did not pursue any financial claim against Husband believing that he would make provision for her voluntarily and would “see her right”. It was therefore only much later, in 2014, that Wife brought financial proceedings against Husband.
At the initial hearing, the trial judge considered the impact of Wife’s delay in bringing the application and decided that there is not currently a fixed point after which an application for financial relief cannot be successful. The trial judge attributed Wife’s breakdown and subsequent health problems to the “discovery of the husband’s infidelity, her own childlessness, the loss of her home and her bankruptcy” and ordered that Husband should pay a lump sum and periodical payments to Wife. The appeal judge agreed with the reasoning of the trial judge in relation to the time delay, however, he disagreed with her reasoning in respect of there being a causal link between the relationship and Wife’s need for financial support. In particular, he questioned whether Wife’s illness was a result of her relationship with Husband. The appeal was allowed and Husband did not have to pay the lump sum or periodical payments to Wife.
This case is one in a series of recent cases where an ex-spouse has made an application for financial relief many years after the parties have divorced. Last year the case of Vince v Wyatt hit the headlines when a wife made a successful claim for financial relief some 19 years after the parties had divorced. In the case of Waudby, the Husband argued that a party should not be able to bring a claim for financial relief more than 6 years after the petition for divorce. However, the Court did not agree with this approach and emphasised that there is no fixed point in time after which it is impossible to make a successful claim for financial relief. Therefore, the current case law indicates that it is possible to bring a claim many years after divorce provided that the party bringing the claim has not been caught by the ‘remarriage trap’. This occurs when a party remarries and has not made an application for financial relief either in the divorce petition or by way of formal application. If you believe that any of these issues affect you or if you would like any advice in this regard, please contact the Family department on 0161 832 3304.
Meet the Family team – Anita Shepherd, Kirsty Morbey, Caroline Bilous and Holly Rogalski
Anita Shepherd, head of Family, was promoted to partner in April 2016. Anita joined the firm in 2012 and works at both the Manchester and Glossop offices. She handles all aspects of Family Law and is also a Resolution Advanced Accredited Specialist with a focus on domestic abuse and advanced financial provision. Before qualifying, Anita studied Applied Social Studies at Sheffield Hallam University and she then completed her Legal Practice Course at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Kate Oldfield – managing partner – said: “Since arriving at Davis Blank Furniss, Anita has made a huge impact; her drive, enthusiasm, rapport and knowledge of the law have all helped to grow the team so her promotion is much deserved and is a clear reflection of her talent”.
Anita added: “The last four years have been a period of growth for me as Kate and the partnership have allowed me to grow my work in my own way. That level of autonomy has really inspired me. Becoming a partner is – of course – a milestone in my career, but my focus is now on adding more value to the business and our clients”.
Kirsty Morbey, solicitor and collaborative lawyer, was promoted to associate solicitor in April 2016. Kirsty is based in our Glossop office and has been with the firm since April 2013. Kirsty focuses on providing high quality and specialist legal advice, in a local setting. She deals with all areas of family disputes and is committed to finding non-adversarial solutions to problems, wherever possible. Before joining the firm, Kirsty was part of a large team of family lawyers, at an international law firm and consequently, has brought a wealth of experience in her field to her role.
Kirsty said: “I was thrilled with my promotion. I feel that it was a great recognition of all the hard work, from Anita and myself, that has gone into building up the Family department in Glossop. We now believe that we are the first port of call on Glossop High Street, for anyone seeking legal advice regarding family problems”.
Holly Rogalski, trainee solicitor, is assisting and training in Family Law and Wills and Probate having commenced her Private Client seat. She is proving to be a natural as her attention to detail and sensitive client skills have endeared her with clients at what can be a very difficult time of their life.
Caroline Bilous. It is with great pride that we are able to announce the expansion of the Family team with the arrival of family lawyer, Caroline Bilous. Caroline will be based at the firm’s headquarters in Manchester but will also handle cases out of our Glossop office.
Her new role will see her acting on behalf of clients seeking advice and assistance in relation to family matters including divorce, civil partnership dissolution, nullity, financial proceedings and children proceedings. She will also be working closely with Anita Shepherd – head of the Family team – on business development.
Caroline has joined Davis Blank Furniss from WTB Solicitors. She qualified in 2006 and has also worked at Beardsells.
Anita Shepherd commented: “Caroline’s arrival is great news for the firm. We have worked together in the past so I know she will be a great addition to the team. Her talent and enthusiasm are first class and I’m sure our clients will benefit from her experience”.
Caroline added, “Davis Blank Furniss is one of the region’s most respected law firms so I’m delighted to now be part of it. It’s great to be back working with Anita and I’m now looking forward to help grow the Family team”.
In other news…
HOTPOD Update (Glossop)
HOTPOD is a professional practice group, launched in March 2013, which actively promotes and raises the profile of the collaborative law option for clients. Kirsty Morbey has worked tirelessly in Glossop to continue promoting the benefits of this very valuable family law service.
HOTPOD are holding an informal networking event on 10th November 2016. For further details, please visit:-
Glossop Working Mums’ and Ladies Networking Group (Glossop)
The group is still going strong having been set up by Kirsty Morbey in 2013. It now has a greater uptake of delegates showcasing their services and is proving to be a valuable referral network in the Glossop/Derbyshire area.
The next meeting of this group is scheduled to take place on Thursday 8th December 2016. Details will be posted on our website shortly.
If you have any queries or require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact our team of specialist solicitors on 0161 832 3304.