Family law is an incredibly complex area, so to give you an introduction to what to expect from us, we’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked questions our clients have when they first talk to us.
Remember, if you have a question, you can always talk to OGR Stock Denton. Get in touch, or call us direct, and we’ll do everything we can to help.
What do family law solicitors do?
Family law solicitors are trained in all aspects of family law, from divorce settlements and child access agreements to cohabitation and pre-nuptial agreements, international family law, and arbitration. We understand that family disputes can be highly emotionally charged, particularly if there are accusations of domestic abuse.
We make sure that you are treated with the utmost respect and empathy from the very start. We’ll listen to you and give you impartial advice that treats everyone fairly. We’re here to act as mediators between parties, to assist with submitting paperwork and forms to the court, and to respond to your needs, even if things change dramatically halfway through.
In short, we’re in your corner from the outset, providing professional legal advice and guidance.
How much do family solicitors cost in the UK?
One of the biggest concerns our clients have is how big the bill is going to be. Legal costs can be high. But at OGR Stock Denton, we don’t believe that cost should preclude anyone from getting the support they need. Family law still falls into the Legal Aid category, especially in cases where domestic abuse is a factor. For those on a low income, there is always the option of applying for Legal Aid through OGR Stock Denton.
If you are concerned about the financial cost of accessing our family law services, talk to us, and we’ll give you an honest appraisal of the potential costs as accurately as we can. Obviously, unknown variables can affect the overall cost of any case. But you can be absolutely sure that with OGR Stock Denton, we won’t add any ‘unexpected extras’ to your fees.
How long does a family court hearing take?
The legal system is there to help parties reach a speedy resolution, especially in family matters and particularly if there are children involved. Court proceedings are seen as a last resort. Wherever possible, we will advocate using mediation to settle matters with as little stress as possible. But if one party wants a divorce resolved in court, for example, it usually takes between 12-16 weeks.
The fact that much of the paperwork (and the fee payments) can be done online tends to speed the process up. Your family law solicitor will take you through each step of the process, ensuring that the process isn’t delayed due to misfiled forms or incorrect information.
Do you need a lawyer for family court?
Technically, you don’t need legal representation in a family court. However, it’s always best to have qualified legal advice from a professional. They will know the court system intimately, including all of the paperwork that has to be submitted for a case to proceed.
A trained family law solicitor can tell instantly if there are any errors in a document before it’s submitted, which will save you time and keep costs down.
In our opinion, unless you yourself are a qualified family lawyer, we strongly recommend that you have proper legal representation when you go to court.
Can you request a different judge in family court?
Judges of different ranks sit in family courts, from magistrates who have little or no formal legal qualifications to fully qualified High Court judges with decades of experience. The judge you get will depend on the type of dispute and its complexity. If you’re unhappy with the judge’s decision, you can lodge an appeal, which a higher-ranking judge will examine.
If the judge in your case is already a senior-ranking judge, the case may have to be referred to the Family Division of the High Court or even the Court of Appeal. This can prolong the case considerably, increasing the costs, stress and inconvenience.
Before you ask for a review, you need to discuss the situation with your family law solicitor, who will be able to advise you accordingly.
Can a family member be your lawyer in a family law case?
This may not be possible due to the potential perceived conflict of interest. This is particularly the case in family law, especially in divorce cases or cases that involve child agreements. It is always advisable to be as honest as possible in your dealings with the courts, as they may rule that a conflict of interest means a divorce proceeding is overturned.
It is always best to have an impartial representative who can give you honest advice based on the facts of the case, rather than biased and potentially damaging guidance from a well-meaning but conflicted family member, regardless of their qualifications.
Do you get Legal Aid for family court appearances?
Most cases that go through the family courts are means-tested. If you demonstrate that you are unable to pay legal costs, the government may step in and cover some or all of the costs for you through Legal Aid. To qualify for Legal Aid, you must provide information about your financial status, including your income, any benefits you receive, your savings and any property you own.
There are some instances where Legal Aid is available regardless of your financial status. There is no means-testing for cases involving children that are subject to supervision or care orders. If there is a threat of domestic abuse, or domestic abuse forms part of divorce proceedings, then you may be eligible for Legal Aid without means-testing.
Talk to your family lawyers, who will be able to tell you whether you are entitled to Legal Aid and what to do next.
Can you get low-cost legal advice?
At OGR Stock Denton, we want to make sure that everyone has access to affordable legal advice. If you don’t qualify for Legal Aid, there may be ways that we can give you the help you need with an arranged payment schedule to help spread the cost.
We can guarantee that your case will be dealt with in complete confidence and by an impartial advisor. We will never advise a course of action that we believe could cause you more emotional or financial distress.
How to report a breach in a family court order
A contact order is a court-issued order that determines who is allowed to communicate with a child. That can be in person (such as visitation rights), by phone, or indirectly by letter or email. Anything that does not comply with the specific guidelines in the order can be considered a breach.
However, unless a breach is considered intentional and repeated, courts will not normally take action against a party for a ‘one-off’ incident. In this instance, it may be better to ask your family law solicitor to talk to the other party and mediate between you to ensure that the order is adhered to in the future.
Talking should always be the first port of call to determine why a breach occurred. If there has been a change in circumstances, then a discussion to see how the order can be amended is a far less confrontational way of dealing with the situation.
The court doesn’t have to approve these changes, but our advice is to make sure it is put in writing by your solicitor in case of any dispute further down the line.
If talking doesn’t work, you may need to ask your family lawyer to contact the other party in writing and to remind them of their obligations according to the court order.
Finally, if there is still no resolution and the breaches continue, it may be necessary to escalate the situation to the family law court. You’ll need to complete form C79 and serve it to the other party. For the court to look at the breaches, you will need to demonstrate that other forms of resolution have been attempted first, so make sure you keep copies of any emails or letters.
The resolution is then down to the courts. They can take a number of actions, depending on the circumstances:
- They can impose a community service order that can result in the parent in breach of a child arrangement order carrying out up to 200 hours of community service
- They can fine the parent that has breached the order
- They could impose an order that forces the parent breaching the order to pay compensation if the breach led to financial loss
- They can, in extreme cases, impose a prison sentence. This, however, is very rare.
Can a parent stop a child from seeing the other parent?
One of the most emotionally-charged situations in family law is when custody or access rights to the children are denied by one party. This is a difficult decision to make, but in extreme cases where the child’s welfare could be at risk, it may be necessary.
If you think continued contact with an ex-partner may be detrimental to your child’s well-being, you need to talk to your family law solicitor urgently. Do not simply stop contact, as this could put you in breach of a court order, especially if a child arrangement order already exists.
If there is no order in place, it is still essential to talk to your family law solicitor first. Any change on your part may provoke the ex-partner to apply for a child arrangement order of their own.
A court will rarely support a complete break of contact between a parent and their children. However, if you are concerned that there may be extreme circumstances that could affect the child’s welfare, the court may support your request. These can include:
- A concern that the child may be abducted and taken abroad
- Concern over the mental well-being of the ex-partner
- Concern that the ex-partner may not be in a position to take care of the child due to homelessness, substance or alcohol abuse.
There may be a host of other reasons why you feel that your ex-partner should have either limited or no contact with your children. However, they may not be valid reasons to amend a child arrangement order.
Before you make any decision, talk to your family law solicitor, who will be able to advise you on your best option while taking into account the welfare of the child at all times.