Hartlepool lawyer backs shake-up of family justice system to speed up separations

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A TOWN solicitor believes a shake-up of the family justice system to speed up the process of couples separating will be of “great benefit” to both adults and children.

The new single-tier Family Court in England and Wales has come into force as part of a major redesign for the family justice system, replacing three separate layers of court that previously dealt with such issues.

And today solicitor Paula Bailey, from Smith and Graham Solicitors, in Church Square, Hartlepool, who specialises in family law and also sits as a part-time judge in such cases, told the Mail: “Anything that can reduce delays for children can only be a good thing, it will be of great benefit.

“Everybody in the profession from solicitors and the judiciary are determined that these changes will work.”

The changes make it compulsory for couples to first take part in mediation to see if agreements can be reached first to see if expert advice can be avoided, and care proceedings for more vulnerable children must now be dealt with within a 26-week time limit.

But for those people whose issues cannot be dealt with through mediation, then they will still be able to battle it out in the courtroom.

Mrs Bailey said that due to Legal Aid being abolished for most people in April last year, those who must go to court will have to represent themselves if they cannot afford the often costly solicitors fees.

“Going to court yourself can be quite difficult when you haven’t got anybody to speak for you and you don’t understand the language and procedures of the court room,” she said.

“But judges are getting used to more people representing themselves and have adopted a much more simple use of language.”

Mrs Bailey said her firm of solicitors offers free workshops for people to attend, where they can speak to a qualified solicitor to get advice and knowledge on what to expect if they have to speak for themselves in the courtroom.

These are held at Smith and Graham’s offices, in Church Square, on Fridays from 10am until noon and at the Peterlee Office, in Upper Yoden Way, Peterlee, from 2pm until 4pm.

For further details email paula.bailey@smithandgraham.co.uk