Inspiring separating couples to make their own informed decisions

Posts tagged ‘Dispute Resolution’

Changes To Civil Legal Aid – No April Fool!

The damming family legal aid cuts are now in force as previously discussed in my post dated 23 November 2012; this is certainly no April fool!

For those of you who are dealing with family break up, it could not come at a worse time – not only are you going through probably one the most difficult and challenging experiences in your lifetime but you are now faced with the real possibility that you will have to deal with this crisis without the benefit of legal help if you are unable to pay for the services of a family solicitor and if you do not qualify for legal aid within the new ‘exceptional circumstances’ criteria as set out in the LASPO Act (Legal Aid,Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012).

BBC News has set out useful information in an article on the legal aid changes, answering key questions that will concern most of you who need legal help now or in the near future with matters arising in relation to civil and/or family law issues. Please see the BBC News article here.

Most people will no longer qualify for legal aid unless there are grave issues about child welfare and/or domestic violence/forced marriage and if the applicant for legal aid is within scope on the basis of the new financial test, covering both income and capital resourses.To see if you qualify for legal aid under the new scheme,please check out your position on the online eligibility calculator here.

If you do not qualify for legal aid and you cannot afford to pay for legal services, you may be able to get a ‘Legal Services Order’ from the Court. This new statutory provision, provides for an Order or Orders requiring one party to the marriage to pay the other (‘the applicant’) an amount for the purpose of enabling the applicant to get legal services for the benefit of the proceedings. To obtain such an Order you must satisfy the Court that you cannot secure a loan to pay for the help of a Solicitor and your Solicitor will not agree to postpone payment for their services until the end of the case from settlement funds i.e. by way of a ‘legal charge’ over the settlement funds.

In light of the legal aid cuts and the possibility of having to represent yourself in proceedings about your relationship break up, whether it be in relation to children arrangements or financial matters, it is now even more important that you give serious consideration to resolving your disputes via dispute resolution services like family mediation, where legal aid will still be in place for those who qualify under the new financial test.

For more helpful information please visit my ‘useful Links‘ page. The links will prove to be an invaluable resource to anyone who is forced to represent themselves in Court proceedings or negotiations with a Solicitor acting for the other party.

English: Gulfport, Miss., September 15, 2005 -...

Advertisements

Separating Couples:How Will the Welfare Reforms Affect You?

Bedroom

Bedroom Tax (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn_be_back_on_Jan_20th)

On 12th March 2012 the Welfare Reform Act was given the green light – this will be the biggest changes in the UK Welfare system over the past 60 years.

The key  aim is to make the benefits and tax credit system fairer and simpler to understand and administer. For a more detailed account  of the main elements of the changes,please visit the DWP website.

The changes that may affect you are:

  •  The introduction of Universal Credit, which will give you a single  payment direct into your bank account with a proposed cap of £500.00 per week for a couple or single parent with dependant child/ren and £350.00  per week cap for a single adult person. This will replace :
    • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
    • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
    • Income Support
    • Child Tax Credit
    • Working Tax Credit
    • Housing Benefit
  • Bedroom tax. The reforms will cut the amount of  Housing Benefit that you can get if you are deemed to have a spare bedroom in your rented home. Separated parents who share the care of their children and who have an extra bedroom to accommodate this  will be unfairly penalised under the new rules as there must be a designated ‘main carer’ for the child/ren who receives the extra benefit. The  cut proposed is 14%  if you are deemed to have one spare bedroom and 25%  if you are deemed to have two or more spare bedrooms. In cash terms this can be on average, a loss of £15.00 per week. For more information, please visit the National Housing Federation website.

If you are contemplating separation be ready for the  impact of the new Welfare Reforms and make sure that consideration is given to how they may affect you and your ex partner and more importantly any children of the family.

Please remember, when considering how to deal with your separation/divorce, it will serve you, your ex partner and any children of the family to give consideration to out of Court settlements via Dispute Resolution options like, family mediation.  Such options are not suitable in every case and in some circumstances, the matter should be placed before for the Court for significant issues to be determined by a Judge/Magistrates.

Research studies have shown that family disputes resolved via mediation (where the case is assessed suitable for mediation) are less acrimonious than those that are settled through the Court system. Further, decisions made by you and your ex partner by agreement are more likely to be kept as opposed to Court imposed Orders.

New Year Blues – Divorce Day

The first working day back in the New Year is classed as ‘Divorce Day’ by most lawyers. Usually after the festive season those couples who have kept it together for the sake of their children or simply to avoid the stress of a breakup during what should be happy times, make the decision that something needs to be done to end the façade and on going struggles/misery by taking formal steps to end their relationship.

It takes a lot of courage and a strong person to take this bold step but with the right advice and support unhappy couples can make the right decisions about where their relationship is going. Unhappy relationships don’t have to end in Divorce/separation – sometimes all that is needed is  time apart to allow you and your partner the time and space to reflect upon what the real issues are in your relationship. Can they be resolved with professional help and support? Visit the useful links  page for information an agencies such as Relate that may be able to help.

If there is no third-party involvement by either party and no serious issues about the safety or welfare of either party or any child/ren of the family then in some cases the answer maybe to have counselling, therapy, coaching through professionals trained to help couples in such circumstances – to help you get back on track to re-kindle your love and admiration for each other. There are no quick fixes and both you and your partner would have to be committed to this process to have a good chance of succeeding in a reconciliation.

However, sadly in a lot cases you and your partner will have reached the point of no return and therefore serious consideration will need to be given to formalising your separation. The Government is encouraging separating couples to consider family mediation as their first port of call to avoid protracted Court proceedings and the added stress and costs of the traditional Court based approach. Read the related articles below.

Where a case is suitable for mediation, I would strongly recommend that you and your partner at least keep an open mind about the out of Court option and give family mediation a fair go. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Government’s New Sorting Out Separation App

Having to go through separation/divorce can be classed as one of the most stressful experiences in your lifetime.

Some would say that it is far more difficult to cope with than the bereavement of a close family member or friend – it is a ‘living bereavement’.

Whilst there are grave concerns about the impact of the cuts to family legal aid that come into force in April 2013, thankfully there is help at hand for those of you who will not qualify for family legal aid as a result of the cutbacks and cannot afford the services of a solicitor.

The Government has launched an online application/website  for separating couples to give you much needed help, support and guidance. It covers the following topics with useful contact information, tools, videos and links to help you make informed decisions after a break-up:

  • Children &  Parenting
  • Health
  • Housing
  • Legal
  • Money & Finance
  • Relationships & Conflicts
  • Work & Benefits

By answering a series of questions, the web app will give you a personalised action plan. Click here to check out the new sorting out separation web app.

However, where  you are unsure about your respective rights and responsibilities or where there are complex issues arising out of your separation, a word of caution, it is always sensible to get specialist legal advice. Many solicitors offer an initial fixed fee service, which can prove to be invaluable.

To help you and your ex-partner have a dignified and amicable separation allowing for future co-operative parenting, family mediation, when suitable, can be a better way of reaching out of court agreements.

Related articles

 

New FM1 Form For MIAM’s

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has issued the following press release regarding the new FM1 form for MIAM’s.

The MoJ anticipates that the press release will highlight the wider plans to reform the family justice system, which encourages more people to consider mediation and other types of out of court resolution.

Having considered the new form, whist it has the benefit of giving additional information about mediation, for completing the form and on sources of help (on pages 4 & 5), the wording in some parts of the form could have been written better for people to understand.

Press Release

On 1 December 2012 the Ministry of Justice is launching a new version of the Family Mediation Information and Assessment Form (FM1).  The form should be completed by anyone applying to the Courts for assistance in resolving a dispute about parenting or finances following relationship breakdown.

This requirement forms part of the Pre-Application Protocol for Private Law Proceedings, issued by the President of the Family Division in April 2011. This asks that parties involved in disputes of this nature attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to learn about mediation before making an application to the Courts.

A Self-Represented Litigant, their legal representative, or an accredited family mediator trained to carry out a MIAM, must sign the relevant section(s) of the form confirming that either an exemption applies, mediation is not suitable or mediation was attempted but failed. The form should be filed at court on application.

Legal and mediation practitioners are reminded of the need to advise their clients – potential applicants and respondents – of the current requirements.

The new version of form FM1 will be available on the HMCTS Form Finder from 1 December 2012.

To support the launch of the revised form, Guidance for HMCTS has been provided to assist court officers in processing private law applications and to provide advice on what to do if an applicant has not completed form FM1. While there is at present no legal requirement to file form FM1 on application we anticipate a more robust approach across the Courts in implementing the requirements of the Pre-Application Protocol. 

Changes to form FM1

Changes to the form include highlighting the requirement for Part 2 of the form to be signed off by an accredited mediator, one who is affiliated to one of the Member Organisations of the Family Mediation Council and trained to carry out MIAMs. This will, we believe, help to direct potential clients to quality mediation services.

The Form also now includes notes and information about mediation, for the benefit of Self-Representing Parties. Links are included to the Family Mediation Service Finder, legal aid information and the recently launched Sorting Out Separation web app.

Background

Changes to the form have been brought about following collaboration between the Ministry and the Family Mediation Steering Group, HMCTS and the Family Procedure Rule Committee.

The primary aim of the changes is to encourage more people to consider mediation and other types of out of court resolution. This comes as part of wider plans to reform the family justice system, following the Family Justice Review which concluded in November 2011.

Lord Wilson shares his wisdom

In a recent publication on the FMA website Lord Wilson shares his vision on the future of family mediation. He states,

‘When we face serious family problems, we still usually say to ourselves “I must find a solicitor”. But in many ways (though not all) cases, we would do better to say “We must find a mediator’.

This vision resonates with my personal perspective on family breakdown and reaffirms the harsh reality of the difficult choices that people have to make when they face life-changing circumstances.

The complete article can be viewed here.

%d bloggers like this: