4 December 2020

Demystifying separation and divorce, present and future

In our brand new podcast, 'Breaking Good', hosted by comedian Marcus Brigstocke, the Forsters Family team looks at 'rethinking separation and divorce' and demystifying aspects of the process in an informative and entertaining way.

In the first episode, Marcus and Jo Edwards, Partner and Head of Forsters' Family team are joined by another Partner in the team, Rosie Schumm. In a lively discussion they explore the 'past, present and future' of family law and along the way set the record straight on a few 'divorce myths'.

The episode begins by explaining what is the role of a family solicitor. From Jo's perspective, it is wide-ranging and often clients become friends and confidants. Indeed, she is sometimes invited to their second weddings! It is about striking the right balance between being a 'peace-maker' and knowing when it is necessary to become a 'rottweiler' (or rottiedoodle), to protect our clients' positions. Rosie makes the point that family solicitors need to have the right combination of compassion and level headedness. Clients are often going through a personal trauma when they instruct us, and we need to see them through to the other side of their process. A big element of the job is to be part-therapist. Although there is a lot more training for family solicitors than there used to be, many of these therapeutic skills are 'learnt on the job'.

Marcus was particularly interested to know whether it is true in all cases that divorce takes an incredibly long time. His own experience of divorce was lots of paperwork and meetings, and mounting costs. Jo and Rosie discuss with Marcus that we, as family lawyers, encourage people to take control of their own process. There are many more options now available for divorcing couples, for example mediation. Marcus speaks about his own positive experience of mediation and how he and his wife were asked to bring photographs of their children to the sessions, which helped with focus and was a stark reminder of what they were trying to achieve.

The discussion then moves on to what has changed in family law since Jo and Rosie first started practicing. One of the main transformations from Jo's perspective is the complete change of pace and how it is now much more 'fast moving'. She reminisces about not even having an email address when she first started out! Rosie speaks about the changes in the way that we work and how the idea of agile and flexible working and the balance with home life has vastly improved. She speaks about her own experiences of being a working mum at the very beginning of her career, the challenges she faced and how family law is now much better focused on work/life balance.

No podcast in 2020 would be complete without discussion of the impact of Covid-19. Marcus, Jo and Rosie engage in a thought-provoking chat about the knock-on effects of the pandemic on family law. Jo and Rosie talk about how systems have had to come up to speed incredibly quickly in order to mitigate the effects of the pandemic and to ensure that the public still have access to justice. Before this year, most of the divorce process was still paper-based and video hearings were almost unheard of. Although there will be many cases where remote hearings are inappropriate longer term, the strides the English Courts have been forced to take this year mark an important and helpful change going forward.

Marcus moves the discussion on to why everyone going through divorce would opt for a DIY service. He speaks of his own experience and although very conscious of the cost of solicitors, he was terrified to embark on the journey without professional help. Jo and Rosie discuss that, unfortunately, for most people who go it alone it is a question of cost, especially after the legal aid cuts in 2013. Although there is lots of information online, there is no substitute for taking initial, tailored legal advice. Not everyone has the budget for 'Rolls Royce' legal representation but the system is complicated and judges have broad discretion. It is worth investing in some initial advice if possible.

Marcus, Jo and Rosie also speak about how people's expectations of the law have changed. Jo discusses how clients are now better informed before they come to see her, having spoken to friends or taken advantage of the plethora of information out there. They also discuss the growing emphasis on sharing care of the children, rather than the traditional dichotomy of homemaker and financial provider. Couples want to work together as parents.

Looking to the future, Marcus asks Jo and Rosie about trends in family law. This could be a whole podcast in itself! To name but a few, Jo and Rosie discuss the existence and growth of more creative alternatives to court, more self-help being available, processes becoming more accessible and the introduction of more remote hearings, which means the courts may become less congested and give judges more time. Jo and Rosie also speak about modern families and how family law needs to catch up with society in order to offer sufficient protections. Additionally, cohabiting couples are the fastest growing family type in this country and this creates huge challenges as they are not well provided for under the law. Jo and Rosie speak of their desire to see the law change.

The podcast ends with Marcus asking Jo and Rosie whether London will remain 'the divorce capital of the world'. Their conclusion? Absolutely.

The next podcast sees Jo and Senior Associate, Jamie Gaw, talk to Marcus about the introduction of 'no-fault divorce' and the significant improvements this will bring for divorcing couples in England and Wales.

Anna is an Associate in the Family team.

Breaking Good - Rethinking Divorce and Separation

Introducing Breaking Good, the new Forsters' podcast. Comedian Marcus Brigstocke teams up with leading family lawyer Jo Edwards and members of Forsters' Family team to demystify the divorce and separation process. An informative and entertaining guide to modern family law.

Breaking Good - Rethinking Separation and Divorce podcast graphic

Forward-Thinking Approaches to Divorce and Separation

Coming to a decision to separate or divorce is difficult and often distressing. For many, the process that lies ahead is a mystery and it is assumed that it will be confrontational and drawn-out. However, there is in fact a wide range of forward-thinking, constructive approaches to resolving the issues flowing from your divorce or separation.

Forward Thinking Approaches to Divorce and Separation

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