Family Solicitors Suffolk – Divorce and its impact on extended family

Amanda Crowe

‘Divorce has never been easy and we at Barker Gotelee never underestimate the impact it has on not just the separating couple, but the wider extended family. Some people find the process incredibly difficult, resulting in using the court system to get an agreement with their spouse in relation to either the finances or their children. Many people found their only way to access justice was under the Legal Aid scheme. However, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) brought in dramatic changes to the Legal Aid system. Under the new criteria a person can only obtain legal aid to assist them with their private law divorce, financial, or child matters if domestic violence or the need to protect the children can be adequately proved.

This has resulted in a number of people being forced to negotiate the court system alone, as they cannot meet the threshold criteria for legal aid and cannot afford to privately pay for solicitor advice and assistance. This also puts added pressure on the family courts, as a number of applications made by self-representing parties may not necessarily have reached court in the first instance if they had the benefit of solicitor advice. This is clearly evidenced by recent statistics published by CAFCASS. CAFCASS is the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, with the aim of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children. CAFCASS have reported that May 2013 was the highest ever month on record for private law cases, and between April and May 2013 they have received a total of 9,398 new private law cases. This is an increase of 27% from the same period last year. The full reports can be read here but many family practitioners believe this is just the start of our already strained court system reaching breaking point.’

Amanda Crowe is a family law solicitor at Barker Gotelee, solicitors in Suffolk

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