More people than ever are representing themselves at Court, including in applications for financial orders when they divorce, or end a civil partnership. These proceedings are held in private, meaning that how decisions are made is little understood by anyone who hasn’t had personal experience of the process, or a relevant professional background. In a BBC radio documentary, Splitting the Assets, judges, lawyers and former litigants discuss this complex area of family law. First broadcast on the 3rd February, you can hear a repeat at 10.15 p.m. this Saturday, 6th February 2016, BBC Radio 4 FM.
If you’re going through divorce proceedings, it’s important to know that the divorce petition process alone doesn’t deal with your property and finance issues. You’ll need to apply separately for a financial order, even if there isn’t a property or much money involved. The Government has recently published some guidance about how to go about this.
If you’ve reached a settlement through mediation, you’ll still need a consent financial order to make your proposals legally binding.
If you’ve applied to the Family Court about your children, or if the other parent has made an application, a CAFCASS Family Court Adviser (FCA) will become involved in your case. CAFCASS have released a video explaining how FCAs work, and what you and your children can expect to happen. The video features actual service users and FCAs, rather than actors, and you can watch it free online here
Clive Anderson’s ‘Unreliable Evidence’, on Radio 4, recently discussed ‘The Law and Parenthood’.
What was really interesting was the discussion around how the courts apply the ‘welfare principle’ (a term that comes from the Children Act, 1989) when making decisions about children. The panel pointed out that the court’s interpretation of the welfare principle focuses on children’s long-term outcomes, and not automatically on what the parent(s) might think is best. One of the main things that came across was how the welfare principle is held in principle, but interpreted flexibly to take account of individual circumstances.
The Family Justice Council recently launched another free online video. This one gives general guidance about what to expect if you’re representing yourself in Family Court in England and Wales. The video is just for guidance, and isn’t a substitute for specific legal advice, which you should always take if you can.