Essex Family Law Family Law Done Differently

About Us

Essex Family Law is a specialist family law firm. The focus is on each client as an individual. No two families are the same and no two family disputes will be the same. We have a wide range of tools available to meet the needs of our clients. Working exclusively in family law means that we have the knowledge and expertise to help clients build solutions that suit their circumstances and their budgets.

We believe that a team of specialist professionals involved from the start will give you the best possible advice from the right people at the right time. You may worry whether this is a good use of your money. Our experience shows that in fact you will get better use of your money by using specialists than if you instruct one person to deal with everything themselves.

t: 07704 982770

About Me

Karen qualified as a solicitor in January 1999, having worked in the legal profession since 1991, while she retrained.

Resolution’s Code of Practice is central to the way Karen works. The Code requires solicitors to behave in a way that will not inflame a difficult situation. Wherever possible clients are encouraged to see the benefits of non-court based solutions.

As a founder member of Essex Family Solutions, an inter-disciplinary group of family professionals, Karen has an extensive network of trusted contacts who work with clients to make sure they get the best advice from the most appropriate person.

Clients value Karen’s empathy and ability to explain legal jargon and procedures in simple, every day language. Other professionals, including lawyers, acknowledge her commitment to her clients and determination to find the best possible outcome.

Away from the office Karen is a keen ice-skater and knitter (not usually at the same time) who enjoys spending time with family.

Divorce Support Services

Divorce support services are designed to help you manage your divorce. Breaking down what needs to be done into separate pieces of work, gives you the opportunity to plan when and how you would like to deal with things and budget for them too.

  1. Initial assessment
    To review current situation and plan initial steps
    Fixed fee meeting for individuals or couples, with solicitor plus any one additional family professional (see information page for details)Fixed fee meeting for individuals or couples, with solicitor plus two additional family professionals
  2. Compiling information and preparation
    Fixed fee work with financial professional to review your finances and collect all necessary information (with referral to other professionals if necessary to obtain pension reports, mortgage assessments etc).
    Access to professionals to help with communication issues
    Access to professionals to agree arrangements for children
    Review with solicitor for assessment of relevant legal issues
  3. Implementation
    Fixed fee meetings with both parties and all relevant professionals (up to two hours, including preparation and debrief) (additional time by agreement of all parties and subject to charge at an hourly rate)
    Preparation of appropriate documentation (may require additional payment of court fees for formal divorce and orders)

Ways to resolve issues

There are many formal and informal ways to resolve disputes. They range from simple do it yourself methods to those where parties rely on professionals to resolve disputes for them. The most common methods are shown on the tabs below.

Mediation
Mediation – provides an independent and neutral way of resolving disagreements about children and/or finances.  It does not produce a legally binding agreement, so proposals should be reviewed and incorporated into a document which can be relied upon.

Sessions usually involve both people, after the mediator has carried out an initial assessment, because this gives you both the opportunity to explain what you are concerned about and to hear what the other person has to say.

Legal aid may be available, depending on how much income you have although not all mediators are able to offer this.

Usually the costs of a mediator are lower than those of a lawyer on an hourly basis.

Collaborative practice
Collaborative practice this is a contractual agreement to deal with issues outside of the court process.  Each person has their own lawyer to provide them with legal advice.  Issues are then discussed in joint meetings between both clients and their lawyers.  Ideally a family consultant will also be involved to help manage the meetings and make sure that communication is clear and concerns are dealt with.

This is a very flexible process because independent financial advisors, mediators, counsellors and other specialists can all be brought in to provide advice to the couple.  The length of meeting, the number and timing of them is all controlled by the parties themselves.  The process is also completely confidential.

Once agreements are reached the lawyers deal with the legal documentation needed to put those agreements into effect.

Costs can be agreed at the outset and controlled by the parties who can plan for the number of meetings that are likely to be needed.  By using teams of specialists in different fields, the parties get the best possible advice about finances, communication and the legal landscape and a more cost effective use of their money.

Solicitor negotiation
Negotiation is the process of bartering to get to a mutually tolerable position.  This can be done by individuals themselves or their solicitors and will often take place alongside and within the other processes.  This is the traditional way that solicitors deal with their cases whether or not there are also court proceedings.  It can be slow and cumbersome as each person waits for a response from the other.  Care needs to be taken to make sure that there are no misunderstandings.  If charges are based on hourly rates, it can also be expensive.
Arbitration
Arbitration – provides a legally binding decision about one or more issues outside of the full court process.  The parties jointly instruct an experienced arbitrator, who is usually a retired judge or experienced legal practitioner.  The arbitrator decides what information they need to make a decision and can ask for papers or for the parties to attend a meeting so that he/she can ask questions about the dispute.

Costs can be agreed in advance and will be cheaper than a full application to the court although you will also need to factor in the costs of the lawyers who will need to prepare the papers for you and instruct the arbitrator.

Court proceedings
Litigation – this is the term used for any court process.

For family disputes parties must now attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to find out whether or not mediation can resolve the dispute.  It is only if the mediator believes that mediation is not appropriate for some reason, that you will be able to issue your application.

It is good practice to write and let people know you intend to apply to court for an order and explain why you are doing this and what you would like to happen.

Once the application has been sent to court there will normally be several preliminary stages to deal with the evidence that may be needed, before a judge (or magistrates) make an order.  Parties are always encouraged to try to reach agreement with each other, rather than having the judge make the decision for them.

That order may then need to be implemented, or enforced if the other person does not comply with the terms.

Court proceedings are usually slow, often with fixed timescales imposed by legislation.  There are often delays in fixing hearings, because of cut backs in court administration and the time available to deal with cases.

This is the most expensive way to resolve disputes but may be necessary if parties are simply unable to reach agreement any other way.

Money

Most people who live together rely on each other to meet day to day expenses, make investments and plan for the future. When a relationship ends, those financial arrangements need to be separated so that each person is able to move on. Often this means there will need to be a period of adjustment and sometimes on-going financial support from one person to the other.

Both people need to provide information about their own finances and prepare budgets so that they and their advisors have all the factual information they need to work out what needs to be done. There is no difference in the information that is collected and shared, whether this disclosure is done voluntarily, with mediators or as part of the court process.

Once there is agreement about how the income, capital and pensions are going to be shared, this needs to be documented in a way that is clear and can be relied on. Where there are divorce proceedings, this can be done with a consent order.

If there are no legal proceedings, at the very least there should be a formal agreement drawn up and signed by the parties and their lawyers. This ensures that everyone is clear about what has been agreed (and why).

If it is not possible to reach agreement about dealing with money then different types of application can be made to the courts. If you are not married you will be limited in the types of application that can be made, so it is important to take specialist advice as soon as you can about your options.

Children

Most parents have parental responsibility for their children. This is automatic when people are married or if you are not, when your name is on the birth certificate. Most people think that they are the ones who have rights. There are also responsibilities. The factors that need to be taken into account are set out in The Children Act 1989, but are intended to help people decide what is in the best interests of the child (or children).

Many people are able to decide for themselves how they will share the care of their children. If you are able to do this then there is no need to involve lawyers or the courts. You do not need to have a court order (although you may like to have an agreement drawn up or share a parenting plan).

It is only when parents are not able to agree about what should happen with their children that anyone else needs to be involved. Courts can make child arrangements orders. Just as the name suggests, these are orders which set out what the arrangements will be for the children. This could be where they will live, when where and how they will see each parent, whether or not they will go to a particular school or move abroad.

child

Cohabitees

Living with someone does not give you the same legal rights as being married. There is no such thing in our legal system as a common law marriage. This means that if you are thinking about living with someone, you may need to decide how you are going to deal with your finances. A cohabitation agreement can set out these arrangements, so that if the relationship ends, you will both be clear about what should happen.

If you do not have a cohabitation agreement and you cannot decide together what should happen, the legal processes dealing with property are different from those in a divorce. The courts do not have the same flexibility to reach “fair” solutions so it is important to take advice about your legal position, as soon as you can.

cohabit

Useful Links

  1. Essex Family Solutions
    Essex based collaborative family practitioners (lawyers, financial advisors, mediators, counsellors). Specialists in their own areas who are used to working in teams www.essexfamilysolutions.org
  2. Gingerbread
    support for single parents with information about local groups www.gingerbread.org.uk
  3. Money Advice Service
    Free service, includes information about budgeting , benefits, pensions and more. www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk
  1. Only Mums
    Support forums for single mums with access to the Family Law Panel directory of accredited specialists. www.onlymums.org
  2. Only Dads
    Support forums for single dads with access to the Family Law Panel directory of accredited specialists. www.onlydads.org
  3. Resolution
    Resources for separating couples with directory of specialist family practitioners. www.resolution.org.uk

Essex Family Law is the trading name for Karen Taylor. Essex Family Law is regulated by the SRA (SRA Reg no. 629066)

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