This October was a double anniversary for me: I celebrated my 13th anniversary of coming to work at Neves, on my birthday.
When I started my eldest had just started school and now she is in her last year of ‘A’ Levels. There have been many positive changes in Family Law over the past thirteen years. To name but a few, family lawyers have whole-heartedly embraced alternatives to litigation, reducing confrontation between separating couples and keeping legal costs down.
Court is now a last resort, rather than a knee-jerk reaction to an impasse. It does have its uses but increasingly family lawyers are turning to alternative ways of resolving disputes such as mediation, arbitration, or the process of collaborative law. These focus on common ground and put children first. Exchanges of emails and letters as a result become less bombastic and more helpful.
Legally, there have been some really positive changes in such fields as protecting victims of domestic violence and focusing on children’s needs on divorce/separation. We have seen some positive changes in pension legislation that enables greater flexibility when sharing pension assets on divorce.
This is not to say that we don’t have challenges ahead. The biggest threat to justice in my career has come with the withdrawal of Legal Aid and the over burdening/underfunding of the Court system. The Government has still failed to grapple with the changing dynamics in our society. Co-habitants still get a raw deal and we still do not have a “no-fault” divorce. Yet the life of a family lawyer is full of challenges – the biggest challenge is to bring family law more inline with the changing realities of our society.
I remain passionate about family law, and look forward to being part of that solution.