Book Review: Financial Remedies Under The Family Procedure Rules 2010 & The @eGlance Guide

Zoe SaundersThis review is a guest post written by  Zoe Saunders, barrister at St John’s Chambers, Bristol. Zoe has particular expertise in cohabitation disputes, including applications for financial provision for children and trusts of land issues, and financial remedies on divorce. You can also find Zoe on twitter (@ZASaunders).

Financial Remedies Under the Family Procedure Rules 2010 by Singer, Mostyn, Marks & Smith 

Financial RemediesThis is a really useful book for anyone who does what we must now call 'financial remedies' formerly known as ancillary relief. The commentary on each chapter is likely to continue to be useful long after one has gained familiarity with the overall structure of the news rules and for those who are not yet familiar with the new FPR they are a really helpful guide to the most important changes.

The book is clearly laid out with commentary on the relevant sections of the rules preceding the rules themselves. It is a neat volume which is much more portable than the red book. It is clearly aimed at practitioners but does manage to balance adequate explanation without being excessively detailed.

Purchase of the book (£95 from Class Legal) also gives you access to the www.familyprocedure.com website which contains the full text and updates. One minor quibble is that it would be useful to see exactly what has been updated without re-reading the whole section, but other than that it is a useful resource and means that you can access the text without the physical book, which can be handy for when other members of chambers borrow it without asking! In my view although expensive I think this book is a worthwhile purchase.

@eGlance

We also got access to the @eGlance site for which you can get a discounted 12month subscription on purchase of the book (£30 off the usual £85 cost).

@eGlance suffers from two major flaws - the first of which is that it is not Apple compatible, which in the brave new world of ipads seems to me to be a really fundamental error and one which I think the authors / publishers really should get a grip on as soon as possible. The second flaw it that the user-interface looks like something which was designed 20 years ago and hasn't been touched since.

In my view these two errors run the risk of putting off potential users, which would be a real shame, because once you get past the initial impression and start to actually use the software it is really pretty impressive. It has pretty much everything you could really ask for in a programme designed to help with anything from big money downwards. You can print off information and calculations and I suspect that it could become a really invaluable tool, if you can repress the urge to snigger every time you load it!

Both the Financial Remedies book and the @eGlance software can be purchased through Class Legal.

Book Review: Safe Routes to Child Support: A Resolution Guide

Jody Atkinson

 

This review is a guest post written by  Jody Atkinson, barrister at St John’s Chambers, Bristol. Jody is instructed in both children and money cases, and has a particular interest in the trickier areas of family law, such as cohabitation and child support.

Safe Routes to Child Support: A Resolution Guide by James Pirrie, Benjamin Carter and Stephen Lawson (Resolution, 2011)

 

Safe Routes to Child Support

As this guide wisely points out, the law pertaining to the agency formerly known as the Child Support Agency (now calling itself C-MEC, but frequently continuing to use the Agency's vast stocks of headed note paper), is an area that many family lawyers instinctively shy away from. This is because it is an alien landscape; decision makers operate on the basis of statutory formulas rather than wide discretions and disputes often end up before the specialist Appeal Tribunals rather than the more familiar courts.

 

At the present time, the two other guides to child support law are published by CPAG (the Child Poverty Action Group). The Child Support Handbook is part of the same series as the Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook and is aimed primarily at those advising benefits claimants. Ancillary relief solicitors may not find that it specifically meets their needs. Child Support: The Legislation, written by Upper Tribunal Judge Edward Jacobs, is the annotated statute book. This is essential for those who actually plan to contest tribunal cases before the Appeals Tribunal, but is not a text book, and will be utterly impenetrable to those who know little about child support law.

 

For most family lawyers I would unhesitatingly recommend the Resolution Guide. The first thing I would compliment it upon is its readability. The child support regulations are notoriously complicated and discussion of them can be very dry. The authors manage to inject some humour into what could otherwise be a dull read. The pre 2003 assessment formula, abandoned because of its unworkable intricacies, is described as 'a thing of beauty'. This may be true, but it is a terrible beauty. As befits a Resolution publication, the authors remind the readers that family lawyers are practical creatures, and, rather than getting bogged down in the regulations, frequently return to exhortations not to lose sight of the reality of the situation for the clients. In the same practical vein, there are checklists, frequently asked questions, and sample letters and agreements towards the back of the book.

The book starts off with a helpful chapter about the inter-relationship between court orders and the Agency's calculations. This is frequently misunderstood and is something that all ancillary relief solicitors need to know. Another useful chapter explains how Agency decisions are to be challenged. This is alien to county court lawyers, child support law has its own language of revisions, supercessions and variations. The time limits are tight and the approach required can be counter intuitive. Any solicitor approached by a client with an existing relationship with the Agency needs an understanding this area or they will get lost very quickly. I have been approached by solicitors who, frustrated by the obtuse nature of the Agency staff, are already contemplating judicial review. JR is, of course, the remedy of last resort, and thus rarely appropriate, especially when there is a costs free tribunal set up just to deal with child support claims. However, JR, and also less extreme methods of making a complaint, are dealt with towards the back of the book.

 

Overall this book, reasonably priced at £70, would be good addition to any family law practice's shelf, and again shows the excellent service that Resolution provide to their members and to those involved the family law system.

This book is published by Resolution and can be purchased through their website here.

 

 

 

Book Review: Family Mediation: Appropriate Dispute Resolution in a new family justice system

Sarah PhillimoreThis review is a guest post written by  Sarah Phillimore, barrister at St John's Chambers, Bristol. Sarah joined St Johns Chambers in January 2011 from Coram Chambers in London. She has experience of all areas of family law and is training to become an accredited family mediator.

Family Mediation: Appropriate Dispute Resolution in a new family justice system, Lisa Parkinson (2nd Ed 2011)

Family Mediation

For about the last ten years I had seen myself as a particularly forward thinking and enlightened family lawyer, frequently holding forth about the potential benefits of mediation to resolve family law disputes. I was somewhat peeved to discover by page 4 of Lisa Parkinson’s text that I am several thousands years too late. She points out that Confucius in 5BC urged people to meet with a neutral peacemaker, rather than risk going to court which may leave them embittered and unable to co-operate.

 

It raises perhaps uncomfortable questions about human nature that the benefits of mediation have been recognised for thousands of years but for most of them we have clung to a largely adversarial family law system which encourages participants to think of themselves as ‘winners’ and ‘losers’.

 

Part III of the Family Law Act 1996 began to push at the door by requiring those who wanted public funding to at least consider the prospect of mediation (as re-stated in the Access to Justice Act 1999). More recently, the Government has made it very clear that active steps will be taken to encourage people to mediate due to the speed, cheapness and perceived better outcomes provided by mediation.

 

Lisa Parkinson recognises that a simplistic portrayal of mediation as ‘good’ and litigation as ‘bad’ is not fair to either system but the central message of her text is that disputants who risk being caught up in adversarial proceedings – at great emotional and financial cost - surely have a right to know the differences between mediation and litigation so that they can make an informed choice.

 

The need to understand the benefits and limitations of all systems of dispute resolution applies with equal force to family lawyers. Whatever our previous level of involvement or interest, it is now clear that there can no longer be much indulgence for continued  lack of curiosity about what mediation involves; whether we are toying with the idea of training as a mediator or simply wish to offer our clients clear advice.

 

At first glance, this text is not cheap at £75 but on a cost/benefit evaluation it is excellent value. It is wide ranging and very informative and should prove accessible and interesting for those who have very little prior knowledge of mediation as well as those who are more experienced and wish to build up or reinforce their existing knowledge. It provides explanation and discussion not just about the theory of mediation, but also how it operates on the ground, so that the aspiring mediator can get to grips with best practice in conducting the mediation itself.

 

There are 14 Chapters which examine the development of mediation and the different approaches involved across all domains of family law. I found it particularly useful for its analysis of the stages and skills of mediation, with many ‘real life’ examples of how the complexities of individual mediations played out. A chapter is devoted to ‘Dealing with Deadlocks’ which I anticipate I will return to many times to help me through out of court negotiations in particularly tricky private law disputes

 

There are a further 7 useful Appendices, including the Family Mediation Code of Practice and a template for a Mediation Agreement.

 

Any family lawyer with an interest in human nature, communication and how to mange conflict (which hopefully is all of us) should read this book.

 

This book is published by Jordans and can be purchased from their website.