Cuts to family law legal aid, prenuptial agreements, Tchenguiz v Imerman… Regular readers will have noted that I hold some strong views about the latest family law developments and their implications for divorcing couples up and down the country. So when Solicitors Journal invited me to contribute an editorial about the “key issues facing family lawyers right now”, the biggest challenge was to fit everything within my allocated column inches! You may be pleased to hear that this family law blog gets a mention.
Justices are fiddling with top-dollar divorces while normal families burn, says Marilyn Stowe
I have never known a summer like this one. For a family lawyer it is like standing in no man’s land, with the ‘haves’ on one side and the ‘have nots’ on the other. In more than 25 years I have never seen family law riven by such manifest inequality.
At the height of the holiday season, the Legal Services Commission (LSC) has slashed the number of firms offering family law legal aid by 46 per cent – from 2,400 to just 1,300. Pity the legal aid family lawyer now returning from a hard-earned summer break. The charter flight was probably delayed; the lawyer was probably laden down with kids and suitcases. They get up early to go into the office and face the correspondence that always arrives when you are away. But this time that correspondence is far, far worse: the lawyer has been thrown out of a job.
The LSC is putting lawyers out of business with the swing of an axe, while telling the media that it is “putting quality of services above cost”. I am pleased that the public is not buying this glib argument. The truth is that for clients, particularly those from less well off or disadvantaged backgrounds, justice has suddenly become less accessible than it was. Now it will be about having the means, while an already overloaded service collapses into meltdown. In the meantime, how many tragedies will there be?