Christine Pickwell

Christine Pickwell

christinepickwell

Christine has been a Partner of Ringrose Law since 1999, and her specialisms are dealing with Divorce, Child Care and Mediation. Christine is a Resolution trained Mediator. She is a member of the Law Society's Family Mediation Accreditation Scheme and approved by the Law Society to conduct MIAMS (Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings).


A recent BBC television programme Panorama dealt with the issue of DIY Justice in the light of Legal Aid reforms that were introduced in April 2013. It looked at the increasing number of “Litigants in person”, i.e. people who represent themselves in court because Legal Aid is not available and they cannot afford to pay for Legal Representation.

Legal Aid was introduced in 1949. By 2010 the Legal Aid spend was £2.1 billion. In April 2013 the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) came into force with the aim of cutting £3.5 million from the Legal Aid budget.

Under the new reforms Legal Aid is not generally available for most divorce, financial cases or children cases.

There are some situations where Legal Aid may be available but this is extremely restrictive; domestic violence victims can apply for Legal Aid but there is a time limit of 2 years. If they are outside that time Legal Aid is not available, so a victim is potentially cross examining his/her abuser in court.

LASPO introduced the concept of “Exceptional Case Funding” which was a discretionary ground for the granting of Legal Aid.

In reality, it has not operated as a safety net. In 2014 1,500 applications were made for Legal Aid, and only 69 were successful.

Many litigants in person struggle filling in the court forms or understanding the court process, let alone representing themselves at a hearing. It is important that a case is presented in the right way and not only do litigants in person not have any experience of this, but they are also emotionally involved in the case.

Cases involving litigants in person take 50% longer than if both parties are legally represented. There is a worry about miscarriages of justice and that the scales of justice are tipping against those who cannot afford representation.
In some circumstances Mediation may be an alternative to court proceedings; it is not a panacea for all ills but it does give participants control over decisions that they make.

Before any Mediation takes place the Mediator conducts a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to assess fully whether the case is suitable for mediation. The MIAM process involves screening for domestic abuse which may mean that Mediation is not suitable.

In some cases parties do want to mediate but they do not wish to be in the same room. In that situation, shuttle mediation can be offered which means that the participants have their own rooms and the mediator travels between them in mediating a settlement.

Legal Aid is still available for mediation subject to the parties financial means. If a Mediation is successful then the parties can still have a Court Order made at the end of the day to make an agreement legally binding. This can be either in relation to the children or in relation to financial matters.

If you would like to explore Family Mediation further, please contact Christine Pickwell at Ringrose Law on 01205 314617 or [email protected]

Christine has been a Partner of Ringrose Law since 1999, and her specialisms are dealing with Divorce, Child Care and Mediation. Christine is a Resolution trained Mediator. She is a member of the Law Society's Family Mediation Accreditation Scheme and approved by the Law Society to conduct MIAMS (Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings).

Over the past few years we have seen a huge change in the way people access legal advice. New organisations aside from Solicitors have entered the market to offer legal advice — ranging from Co-op, the AA and Eddie Stobart to name but three!

Increasing amounts of information is available online and we have seen the introduction of cheap online divorce services.

I believe that such services should come with a “health warning”. Whilst the divorce process is relatively simple, working out a financial settlement is a specialist area which requires specialist legal advice.

There is no set formula that can be applied to work out what is appropriate. The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 provides the statutory framework supplemented by case law developed over the years.

Some online divorce services do not offer advice on financial settlements; some do and provide basic draft Court Orders. I have experience with a person who was relying on an online service for her financial settlement and was on the brink of accepting a settlement of £10,000. Fortunately, she decided to take legal advice from a solicitor and after investigation and negotiations received a settlement in excess of half a million pounds.

If I am ill, I go and see my doctor. I do not diagnose my symptoms from the internet as it is potentially too risky. The same applies to sorting out finances on divorce or separation. In my view, there is no substitute for seeing an expert on the subject.

The moral of my story is don’t risk losing out on what you are entitled to and make sure any agreement is incorporated into a correctly drafted legally binding Court Order.

Christine has been a Partner of Ringrose Law since 1999, and her specialisms are dealing with Divorce, Child Care and Mediation. Christine is a Resolution trained Mediator. She is a member of the Law Society's Family Mediation Accreditation Scheme and approved by the Law Society to conduct MIAMS (Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings).

A relationship breakdown can have an impact not only on your health but also upon your wealth.

To be ready for family mediation you must be prepared to negotiate. Often in the heat of a family dispute it is too easy to be hot-headed and unreasonable.

Mediation is not a battleground or a re-run of your past problems. If you want family mediation to succeed you must stay cool, keep calm and engage in the process that you really want to work.

A family mediation service is a process in which you both meet with an independent mutual mediator who will help guide you through your dispute, help you communicate with each other and reach a solution which can then be incorporated into a court order.

It is a cost effective way of resolving issues whether about property, maintenance or children and in some circumstances Legal Aid is available.

The golden rules for family mediation:

  • Focus on the real issue
  • Be civil to each other (and the mediator)
  • Always keep your aim as resolving the dispute without running off to court
  • Attempt to walk a mile in the other person’s shoes and think about the dispute from his/her perspective
  • Be prepared to concede issues or offer to give up something in return for something else

The dont’s of family mediation:

  • Be abusive or unnecessarily confrontational
  • Attempt to take over the process and impose your will
  • Ignore your opponents concerns
  • Make ultimatums
  • Be afraid to make concessions. You are not weak in doing so, it is expected of the process

Christine has been a Partner of Ringrose Law since 1999, and her specialisms are dealing with Divorce, Child Care and Mediation. Christine is a Resolution trained Mediator. She is a member of the Law Society's Family Mediation Accreditation Scheme and approved by the Law Society to conduct MIAMS (Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings).