Family law solicitors – choose the best for you

The best family law solicitors often play a dual role for their clients by providing both legal advice and personal support when needed.

Few areas of law trigger the emotions more than family. The issues involved are often the most difficult and stressful you ever face. It will help you a great deal if your solicitor can provide a friendly face and emotional support as well as dispassionate legal advice.

That’s not to say you have to become best of friends, but when choosing someone to represent you, it helps to know you can get on well on a personal level.

Areas of Law Covered by Family Solicitors

The tile family law covers a vast area of legal rules and procedures. Some solicitors will cover most of the categories but many focus on only one on or two areas because they can be so specialised.

These are some of the main areas covered by family lawyers. Most of them are often emotionally charged.

Divorce and Dissolution of Civil Partnerships

Divorce is one of the most stressful experiences people go through. A good family solicitor will help to make it as stress-free as possible by helping you navigate the legal process, including division of assets, financial settlements, child custody arrangements, and spousal maintenance.

Financial Settlements

Divorces invariably involve a financial settlement which lays out how the marital assets should be divided.

The starting point is that it should be a 50-50 split but there are numerous caveats and exceptions to this. Your family lawyer will be able to ensure that your interests are protected and you get your fair share of the wealth you have helped to accrue over the years of the marriage.

Child Custody and Parental Rights

What happens to the children is usually the most important issue to be resolved during divorce proceedings.

It’s also one of the most emotionally charged. Both parents have equal rights and most couples are able to come to an amicable arrangement as to who the children should live with and what level of access should be available to the other spouse.

It can get complex though and if you and your spouse can’t agree, you may have to go to court. The judge will always prioritise the needs of the children over those of either parent.

You will need your solicitor to advocate on your behalf to ensure that child custody, residence, contact arrangements, and parental rights are dealt with fairly and in a way you and your spouse can agree on going forward.

Child and Family Mediation

Disputes with your spouse don’t have to involve court action. Mediation is becoming increasingly popular as a way of reaching an amicable arrangement instead of slugging it out in court.

Your solicitor will be able to recommend a good family mediator and then guide you through the negotiations required to reach an agreement that is fair to both sides.

Child care proceedings

Official organisations like council social services can become concerned about the welfare of children in some families.

They may want to take your children into care and limit the amount of time you can spend with them. Such organisations mean well and want to do their best for your children but sometimes they get things wrong and overstep their powers.

If you face this kind of issue, a solicitor will be able to represent you in court and ensure that your rights are not overlooked and your children are not taken from you by mistake or by misuse of regulations.

Child Abduction and Hague Convention

Child abduction is perhaps the most traumatic event you’re likely to face after your divorce or separation.

It’s what happens sometimes when one parent isn’t happy with a court decision about child custody or living arrangements. They take the children illegally to another country and refuse to return them.

Thankfully most countries across the world have signed up to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Family solicitors have become expert in applying the convention to secure the children’s safe return to their country of habitual residence and to the parent who was granted custody.

Adoption and Special Guardianship

Legal assistance and guidance is essential for couples seeking to adopt, as it’s crucial to comply with adoption laws and regulations.

The same applies to special guardianship orders, which grant legal rights and responsibilities to individuals caring for children who cannot live with their birth parents.

Cohabitation Agreements

Contrary to what many people think, cohabiting couples do not have the same automatic legal rights as married couples in the event of separation.

Cohabitees may find they have no right to remain in the family home, even though they may have helped to pay for it. They may also lose out financially and have no right to financial support from their partner, or full legal rights relating to their children.

Successive governments have shown no inclination to change this so many couples now draw up cohabitation agreements, sometimes referred to as living together agreements.

A family solicitor will be able to help you draft a cohabitation agreement outlining the financial agreements, child arrangements, property rights, and other responsibilities that should apply in case of separation.

Disputes between unmarried couples

As we’ve have seen, disputes between cohabitants can be more complicated than between married couples because they have no automatic legal rights.

The best approach is to draw up a cohabitation agreement while your relationship is still strong. 

If you break up without an agreement, your solicitor will be able to advise you on how best to get a beneficial agreement on property and financial matters, as well as child-related issues.

Pre-Nuptial Agreements

Pre-nups are no longer the preserve of the super rich. Thousands of couples are now using them to protect their interests in case their relationship ends in divorce.

Many people use them to protect non-marital wealth, ie wealth accrued by one of the spouses before the marriage. Others want to protect future family inheritances from a potential divorce settlement.

Pre-nups can cover several areas but they have to drawn up carefully and be fair to both partners; otherwise the courts may not accept them during divorce proceedings.

Although pre-nups are not automatically legally binding, the courts have shown an increasing willingness to accept them, mainly because family lawyers have been careful to ensure they meet all the legal requirements.

Surrogacy legal issues

Surrogacy law is complex but it’s crucial to get everything agreed in advance to avoid future disputes. This is another area in which emotions can play a major part and lead people to try to avoid legal obligations.

The more comprehensive the agreement and the more it is fair and in line with legal requirements, the less you are like to face problems going forward.

Make sure you get a solicitor to advise on a surrogacy agreement that complies with UK legal requirements.

Fertility Law

As with surrogacy, fertility law can be charged with emotion that leads to disputes, even where agreements are in place.

Before proceeding, ask a solicitor for guidance on fertility law and the legal aspects of assisted reproduction, donor agreements, and embryo storage and use.

International Family Law

Family law can complex when restricted to one jurisdiction. It gets even more complicated when the disputes cross borders.

Thankfully, there are solicitors specialising in international family law.

They can handle cases involving cross-border relationships, including international divorce, child custody disputes, and complex jurisdictional matters.

Same-sex couples

Same-sex couples face the same kind of issues as heterosexual couples and the legal solutions are usually much the same.

There can be differences though. Seek advice from your solicitor in areas such as civil partnerships, adoption, surrogacy, and dissolution of partnerships.

Grandparents’ Rights

Sadly, grandparents have no automatic rights to see their grandchildren if the parents don’t approve.

However, the courts will consider applications for contact and grant access if they feel that would be in the best interests of the children.

It’s worth seeking advice from a family solicitor if you have been frozen out and can show that your grandchildren are being impacted by not having a relationship with you.

You may be able to assert some legal rights in matters related to child custody, access, and contact with your grandchildren.

Domestic Violence and Protective Injunctions

Victims of domestic violence should seek help immediately from police and social services.

Family solicitors will also be able to provide legal support by obtaining protective injunctions, occupation orders, and non-molestation orders for the safety of the victim and the safety of their children.

How family solicitors help

Family law solicitors can play a pivotal role in helping you navigate challenging legal issues by providing the following assistance:

Expert Legal Advice

Fully qualified solicitors possess an in-depth understanding of family law legislation and case precedents. They provide you with expert advice tailored to your specific circumstances, empowering you to make informed decisions.

Emotional Support

As we have seen, family law matters can be emotionally distressing. Good family solicitors not only know the law, they offer empathetic support, guiding clients through the legal process while addressing their wider, emotional needs.

Negotiation and Advocacy

Your solicitor will negotiate on your behalf to secure the best possible outcomes. They will advocate for your interests in court, presenting the most compelling arguments and evidence when necessary.

Objective Perspective

During emotionally charged situations, family solicitors provide an objective viewpoint, ensuring clients make decisions based on rational considerations rather than emotions.

Choosing a family law solicitor

Selecting the right family solicitor is crucial to ensuring a positive outcome for your issue

Here are some factors to consider when making your choice.

Specialisation and Experience

Look for a solicitor who not only specialises in family law but also has extensive experience handling cases like yours. They should be knowledgeable about the specific area of family law relevant to your situation.

This is important because family law is very wide. The solicitor who will get you the best divorce settlement may not be the best choice to secure the return of your abducted child or prevent a local authority taking your children into care.

Professional Accreditation

Check if the solicitor is a member of professional bodies such as Resolution, which promotes the highest standards of practice in family law.

Accreditation indicates a commitment to ethical conduct and ongoing professional development.

Testimonials and Reviews

It’s good to read client testimonials and reviews to gauge the solicitor’s reputation and the satisfaction of previous clients. This can provide valuable insights into their communication skills, effectiveness, and professionalism.

However, the reviews need to be taken with a pinch of salt because, sadly, they are all too easy to fake. Make sure you are confident that they are genuine before letting them influence your decision.

Personal Connection

Schedule an initial consultation to assess your comfort level with the solicitor. Effective communication and a good rapport are vital, as you will be working closely with them throughout your case.

Fee Structure and Transparency

However, suitable the lawyer, cost will always be a major factor in deciding who to instruct.

Discuss fees and costs upfront, ensuring transparency in billing practices. Understand how the solicitor charges (hourly or fixed fees) and inquire about any additional expenses that may arise.

Availability and Accessibility

You may choose a good solicitor but are you sure they have the time and commitment to your case to ensure they get a good outcome?

Ask whether they can provide the level of attention and availability you require.

Prompt responsiveness and clear lines of communication are essential for a smooth legal process.

A good solicitor can make all the difference

A good family law solicitor can make all the difference in achieving a good outcome for you.

They can offer invaluable assistance in navigating a wide range of legal issues affecting your family and your relationships. They will give you advice on the correct legal approach to suit your case and provide emotional support when needed.

They will also give you perspective as a detached but concerned observer, acting as a sounding board to tell when you something is worth pursuing and when it might best left alone.

This can sometimes be the most important support of all.

Divorce solicitors