Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ten Myths About Family Lawyers

I know this isn't going to go down well in some quarters, but I thought it about time I did my bit to improve the image of my profession, so here I 'debunk' ten myths about family lawyers. Yes, I know there are exceptions that prove each of these myths, but I believe that that is all they are - exceptions.

Myth #1. Family lawyers are only interested in their fees, rather than achieving a good result for their clients. Aside from the issue of professional pride, family lawyers are in business and much of their work comes from recommendations, so they have a vested interest in client satisfaction.

Myth #2. Family lawyers will follow their client's instructions no matter what. Good family lawyers will only follow their client's instructions up to a point. If it is obvious that to follow instructions would be against the client's interests, then the lawyer will refuse to act - see this recent post.

Myth #3. In children proceedings, family lawyers are biased towards mothers. Why should they be - they act for fathers as well?

Myth #4. In financial settlements, family lawyers aim to take the other party 'for every penny'. Most family lawyers are fully aware that this approach is unlikely to best serve their client's interests, and many subscribe to Resolution's Code of Practice, which requires them to conduct the matter in a constructive and non-confrontational way.

Myth #5. Family lawyers live off the misery of others. We provide a service at a time of great stress, and if it is a good service then that stress will be eased. Having said that, in a large number of our cases the parties are quite amicable - where they are not, the Resolution approach aims to reduce the misery.

Myth #6. Family lawyers are in cahoots with one another. This one is often raised when the lawyer for one party 'fraternises' with the lawyer for the other party at court. But why not? They often know each other, and just because their clients are 'daggers drawn', it does not mean that they must be too. And just because they are friendly, it does not mean that they are doing a deal behind their client's back either.

Myth #7. Family lawyers are resistant to any change in the law that will adversely affect their interests (i.e. do them out of work). On the contrary, family lawyers have supported changes that will do just that, such as encouraging mediation and supporting no-fault divorce.

Myth #8. Family lawyers encourage animosity, to draw-out matters and thereby increase their fees. See 4 above.

Myth #9. Family lawyers charge extortionate fees. Yes, some do, but for most their fees are based upon their experience and their expenses (see this post). Like any business, we have to be competitive, and if we overcharge, our clients will go elsewhere. We do not operate 'charging cartels' - in fact, lawyers rarely discuss their fees with one another. Further, if a client is unhappy with his/her lawyer's fees, they can always request the court to assess them.

Myth #10. Lastly, all family lawyers are rich. If only it were the case. True, some at the top of the profession earn very large sums of money, but isn't that true for most professions? On the other hand, the high-street family lawyer doing predominantly legal aid work will be struggling to make a living at all.

[I'm tempted to disable comments for this post, but I will not!]

25 comments:

  1. Whoopee, I'm first!

    With regard to #3, given that the courts are biased towards mothers, then it is inevitable that family lawyers will be also. Having said this, I'm not actually meaning this as a criticism, rather a recognition that family lawyrs can be pragmatic.

    Of course, I started this with a contentious point, but I defy anyone who wishes to disagree to justify the recent Lords ruling re B (A Child) [2007] EWCA Civ 1055
    in which the distress that might be caused to the mother by the court refusing to allow her to take a child away from the father was considered to be the paramount criterion.

    Season ticket holder

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi STH!

    The courts may be biased towards mothers, but that does not necessarily mean that family lawyers are also - it can be extremely frustrating sometimes acting for a father.

    B (A Child) was a Court of Appeal decision, and did not adjudicate upon the residence issue, only that the lower court had taken the wrong approach to the issue of the movement of children within the United Kingdom, and that the matter should be retried. The general principle is, of course, that parents are free to move anywhere within the United Kingdom. When the matter is retried, the court will decide what is best for the child, and the implications of the mother moving to Northern Ireland will be one of the factors that will be taken into account.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi John,

    perhaps 'biased' is the wrong word (I'm not a lawyer!) and of course I was being deliberately provocative. However, it is still the case that lawyers have to work within a court system that can be biased towards mothers, as you say, and it is not the lawyers who have the responsibility of making the system fairer.
    With regard to the Court of Appeal decision, my understanding of the basis on which the appeal was granted was that the underlying issue was the distress caused to the mother by being refused permission to move - never mind either, first, the distress caused to the father by the removal of his children (with the knock-on effects on the children), or second, the effects on the children themselves of the restricted contact they will have with their father.
    The law has moved on over the last five or so years with respect to the making of shared residence orders, which recognise the importance of the role that a father (who wants this) can make in the life of a child. Is it not time that the 'mother's distress' argument (which, of course, circularly encourages mothers to think that they can move the children around like a record collection) is put to bed?
    STH

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi STH,

    The system merely reflects the views of society at large, although it can be slow to catch up. At present the prevailing view may be in favour of mothers, but I think that's changing, and we may move to a system where the starting-point is equality.

    B (A Child) was not really about the distress to the mother, but rather about the liberty of persons to live where they wish. The effects upon the child will be considered when the matter is retried.

    ReplyDelete
  5. John,

    the decision is 'dressed up' as being about the liberty of persons to live where they wish, but no one was stopping her from moving. The real issue is whether or not she could take the children with her if she moved, and not whether or not she was being prevented from moving herself.

    In circumstances where one parent wishes to move to a location where contact with the other parent is restricted, no matter what happens the children will lose out. In these circumstances, the responsibility for the children's distress lies fairly and squarely with that parent.

    Surely it is not in a child's interests for a parent to automatically assume that if they want to move they can take the children with them - an assumption which the 'mother's distress' argument currently provides (as family lawyers will undoubtedly tell the mother).

    I wonder what would happen if the courts started to say 'you can move, but you can't take the children'? Would this lead to fewer instances of a parent deciding to move?

    STH

    ReplyDelete
  6. There can't be any hard and fast rules. If a mother wants to take the children to another part of the UK and the father objects, then he has two options: to apply for a prohibited steps order to stop her taking them there, which will only be granted in exceptional circumstances, or to apply for a residence order, in which case the court will decide whether it is best for the children to remain with him in the same area, or to go with the mother.

    ReplyDelete
  7. John,

    of course those are the two options that the father has - which have to be seen, as you have yourself strongly implied above, in the context of the courts being biased towards mothers.

    I came across the 'distress' argument at my last home game, when my children's mother tried to get a 91(14) Order on those grounds, neatly overlooking the fact that court action had only ever been necessary because she always refused to participate in any mediation process!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Every lawyer myth is true as a rule in the USA. Here is another set of true rules.

    Every lawyer wants the family destroyed. It competes with central government for authority. Central government is run by the lawyer.

    The family lawyer has made it so only idiots get married. So business has dropped. The family lawyer needs more work. So the family lawyer wants homosexual marriage to replace business.

    The US family lawyer destroyed the black family in the 1960's. He destroyed the white family in the 1990's.

    The hunt is on for the productive male. The family lawyer wants to steal all his assets.

    The family lawyer vicious predator must be stopped, to save our families. The upsurge in single motherhood is catastrophic for all of us.

    The overwhelming fraction of divorces have a low conflict. The feminist family lawyer seeks to churn conflict to pump up fees.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Wouldn't have an axe to grind by any chance, would you?

    ReplyDelete
  10. If you as an individual are facing any such situation and are planning to resolve the issue for good, the best way is to consult a well-experienced family lawyer who can guide you to the best solution to suit your situation. ...

    ReplyDelete
  11. John: Do you have a more lawyerly response than that personal remark?

    ReplyDelete
  12. A more 'lawyerly' response to your original comment would have been to strike it out for being vexatious. I chose not to do so, preferring to let it speak for itself.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I fully agree with your first sentence.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Then you understand the legal definition of 'vexatious', i.e. instituted maliciously, and without probable cause.

    ReplyDelete
  15. John: I understand that it annoyed you. I understand that 144 times, the Supreme Court has held the regular dictionary definition is the legal definition.

    I understand the lawyer has zero tolerance for questioning of assumptions, especially the one that promotes rent seeking by hyper-proceduralism, and the fomenting of disputes among low conflict marital separations. Why? Because the lawyer has a bounty on the productive male. The biased lawyer run court is rigged airtight to acquire the assets of the productive for the parasitic, especially the lawyer.

    Lawyer gets enriched. American family gets on its last legs.

    ReplyDelete
  16. On the contrary, your bigoted comments amuse me, but they are too absurd to merit a serious response.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Please, rate these on a scale of annoyance and vexatiousness.

    Loving criticism of the lawyer profession.

    A lawyer churned up divorce, where the husband has to pay the wife's lawyer to plunder all he has worked to achieve, and to destroy his family. Then, lawyer sexual intercourse with the unfairly enriched ex-wife remains ethical.

    ReplyDelete
  18. John: I just noticed your disclaimer. What is their purpose?

    1) Are you afraid of being sued?

    2) Do you believe the disclaimer results in legal protection, either precluding a client lawyer relationship, or shielding you from copyright claims?

    You seem as oppressed by the criminal cult enterprise that is the lawyer profession as everyone.

    ReplyDelete
  19. John: Sorry. I just read your profile. I thought you were in the States. Here lawyers are viewed as criminals. Everyone wants them dead. I do not. I want the hierarchy of the US lawyer profession in federal prison. I really don't care about British law.

    Your specialty has its own stresses. Heard a news segment on the frustration of London divorce specialist barristers, with the inscrutability and unpredictability of judges' biased, and arbitrary choices. This is despite the $800 an hour fee you boys charge. One Brit twit, laughing heartily, said, I love forum shopping cases. Great fun.

    He represented your specialty with a lot of class.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Apology accepted. Lawyers over here don't have a great reputation with the general public, but perhaps their reputation on your side of the pond is even worse! Unfortunately, we don't all charge $800 an hour...

    ReplyDelete
  21. John: US radio news show about British divorce situation. They have a marked left wing bias.

    http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2008/01/17/divorce_eu

    It includes the quote from a colleague loving forum disputes for wealthy foreigner divorces.

    If the current chaos, hyper-proceduralism, and the high fees make it harder to get a divorce in England, then change will make things worse. Any change that makes it easier to get a divorce attacks the family. Most divorces are of low conflict, and should not happen. That the divorce lawyers wanted change casts suspicion on the any reform. Divorce experts always make more money from family destruction than from family preservation. So, if the lawyer has a Mercedes Benz repair coming up, he will churn up conflict.

    In the US, child support is a percent of income. The government made the collection of child support a federal function. So leaving a state no longer protects the productive male from collection. Child support is a percent of income. So the husband made $10,000 a year and agreed to pay $2000 in child support. He now makes $1 mil a year. The child support becomes $200,000, automatically. The government pays a federally enforced bounty to the parasitic wife to get a divorce. That punished the formation of white families. The black family was destroyed by another method in the 1960's, by the government lawyers. The pathologies from black family destruction will now visit white families.

    This is a British report summarizing the result of family destruction by the US lawyer.

    http://www.civitas.org.uk/pubs/experiments.php

    Do not imitate the US in any divorce reform.

    ReplyDelete
  22. John: Do not imitate these folks either.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/01/20/nsharia_120.xml

    ReplyDelete
  23. Yes, I almost posted about that earlier today, and may yet do so. I have previously posted about the subject, here.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Well I am a father and my experience is that my own lawyer acted in the best interest of my ex-wife and ripped me off in the process.

    Furthemore, my experience of court proceedings as a result of my ex-wife refusing all attempts for mediation and negotiation is that they are kangaroo courts, with kangaroo judges and kangaroo judgements. I went to court with a very favourable CAFCASS report with a recommendation for shared residence and the judge completely rubbished the report and the court officer and refused the shared residence order. I have followed up on the judges comments regarding the CAFCASS report and CAFCASS totally reject the comments made by the judge and stabd by the report and the receommendations. It is quite clear to me that the judge was totally biased and prejudiced against me and deliberate obstructed justice for my children, not me, my children! It is quite from this court matter and others I have had to participate in that judges deal with matters in a biased, prejudiced and discriminatory manner and that they are therefore not fit for purpose and should be "de-frocked" as they are incapable of being impartial.

    And finally being a member of Resolution means absolutely nothing to many solicitor - they themselves have told me that!

    ReplyDelete
  25. I think perhaps the judge is thinking about the rights of the child and what is best for them. My ex is fighting for more contact time with our child but is using this facility not to see the child more but just as a tool for revenge. He was given alternative weekends and then missed most of them through the choice to go on holiday instead. He canceled and then demanded other times which suited him. He keeps claiming I limit his time but he often refuses to see her if it doesn't suit him. Then when he does he spends most of it being nasty about me. My daughter comes home confused and upset. I think the role of the family lawyer has to be the protect the child and also to help the primary carer

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for taking the time to comment on this post. Constructive comments are always welcome, even if they do not coincide with my views! Please note, however, that comments will be removed or not published if I consider that:
* They are not relevant to the subject of this post; or
* They are (or are possibly) defamatory; or
* They breach court reporting rules; or
* They contain derogatory, abusive or threatening language; or
* They contain 'spam' advertisements (including links to any commercial websites).
Please also note that I am unable to give advice.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.