Written by Emma Palmer

Emma specialises in international family law. She is a Law Society Children panel Member and
Resolution Accredited Specialist in Domestic Violence and Child Abduction.

The role of a family solicitor is varied. We advise clients from all walks of life inrespect of divorce, civil partnership dissolution, financial matters on separation, injunctive relief such as non- molestation/ occupation orders and children matters.

The children matters themselves are varied and can include social services involvement, international parental child abduction and disputes from parents when they do not agree on which parent the child should live with and how much time the child should spend with the other parent.

It is really difficult seeing a client upset and feeling like their world is crashing down around them.

The way we work changes depending on our client’s needs and circumstances. Some cases require a more conciliatory stance and may benefit from mediation whereas some cases necessitate a robust stance taken within court proceedings. To get the best outcome for our client we consider each case in its own unique circumstances and tailor our advice accordingly.

We advise clients on the law and what they can do to better their prospects of achieving their aim. We prepare legal documents such as skeleton arguments and prepare client’s statements. We manage the case throughout liaising with the other parties/ their representatives and other agencies as appropriate. We represent the client in court by negotiating with the other party and advocating the client’s position to the Judge. Where a barrister is used we prepare the documents for the barrister so that they know the client’s case before they meet them.

The challenges of the job

When people need a family solicitor it is often because something has gone wrong in a relationship and this understandably brings a great deal of emotional turmoil, stress and anxiety for the future. We always try to be sympathetic and explain things carefully to our clients but inevitably we sometimes have to tell clients things that they do not wish to hear such as a likelihood that a child will spend more time with the other parent than they wanted, or that the child may be taken into foster care. It is really difficult seeing a client upset and feeling like their world is crashing down around them. Our clients deserve and get from us honest advice and prospects of success but sometimes it is difficult for them to accept that advice.

My job is rewarding when…

The job is very rewarding when we get a great result for our client and the client is happy. When we manage to get an outcome which is clearly going to benefit the client and the children there is a great sense of satisfaction. Hearing from past clients months or even years after we have represented them and being told that everything is running smoothly and they are happy is a wonderful boost too.

Tips for parents

Do make sure that you are completely open and honest with your solicitor. It is so much easier to prepare and advise when we know the full facts. It is much harder to resolve something when it comes out unexpectedly in court.

Do make sure that you keep the children’s best interests at the forefront of your mind at all times. This will mean that any court proceedings are usually quicker and work out better for the whole family.

Don’t send communication to the other parent or their partner in anger. If you receive inflammatory communication from them such as a text or Facebook message, turn your phone off and don’t pick it up until the next day.

Don’t try and cover up drug or alcohol use by lying about it to a drug or alcohol testing provider – they will find out and the court will realise that not only is there a drug or alcohol problem but also that you cannot be trusted. Trust is a key part of a court order going your way.

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