Change and Challenge
Published on 30 April, 2020 | Alison Fernandes
I’m delighted to be writing this, my first ‘blog for Hall Brown having joined the firm to head up its new office in Sheffield.
As the Yorkshire Post has reported (https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/business/hall-brown-family-law-establishes-base-sheffield-increase-market-share-2550360), the decision to open Hall Brown’s third office is something of a natural progression, given that an increasing amount of our case work originates in Yorkshire – the opposite side of the Pennines to where the firm was established four years ago.
Having lived and worked in Sheffield for many years, I’m very familiar with the city and its people.
The decision to move to Hall Brown reflects my desire to accept a fresh challenge with a firm which is committed to providing the very best support possible to clients having to deal with a broad range of family law issues.
Of course, we know that our new office comes at a time of great uncertainty for so many people.
I’m writing this, in fact, at the start of the sixth week of the lockdown imposed by Government in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Whilst the prospect of an extended time together has been regarded as a tonic for some families who might often have to spend periods apart because of work, it has undoubtedly exacerbated tensions for others.
They include individuals whose relationships may already have been experiencing difficulties before the restrictions on movement were announced by ministers.
Many will have reached an agreement about how best to live under the same roof without their situation becoming any more delicate or fractious.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that a split is automatically on the cards. We always ask clients about whether their relationships really has irretrievably broken down and make sure that they have at least considered the possibility of counselling.
It’s genuinely heartening to see couples who believed that they should part subsequently work out a way in which they can stay together.
Nevertheless, there are others who find it impossible to continue. For them, there is still a way forward during lockdown.
Even though courts are limiting the types of cases which they’re dealing with for the time being, some of the necessary preparatory work can still be carried out to enable them to make a fresh start as soon as they’re able to.
The end of marriage can be an emotionally sensitive point in anyone’s life but the support is still there to try and ensure that, if it cannot be avoided, it can at least be done as smoothly as possible.
All of us at Hall Brown are firm believers in mediation or what’s also known as ‘Alternative Dispute Resolution’ (or ADR, for short).
It’s a service which is still available remotely to effect a relatively calm separation.
There are, though, those circumstances which demand more urgent attention.
The BBC has reported a surge in calls to a helpline advising on domestic abuse (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-52433520).
Such behaviour doesn’t have to involve physical violence but can feature emotional or psychological abuse. Whether during the lockdown or at a more normal time, it shouldn’t be tolerated.
For those on the receiving end, help is still available at the moment. They can be confident that their requests for assistance will be taken seriously by the authorities and that they don’t necessarily need to remain in the same property as their alleged abuser.
One of the other critical issues at the moment relates to the children of couples who are no longer together.
Immediately after the Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the introduction of Coronavirus restrictions, there were some concerns as to whether children would be allowed to move between the homes of parents who now live apart.
As a result, Katie Welton-Dillon, the head of Hall Brown’s Children’s Law team, wrote a very informative article on this ‘blog setting out the practicalities of looking after children in just such a predicament (https://hallbrown.co.uk/coronavirus-and-childcare-some-helpful-clarification/).
Although another colleague, Melanie Kalina, was interviewed by the Daily Mail during this last weekend about some parents using lockdown and the risk of Coronavirus infection to frustrate court orders allowing their exes time with their children, there are still things which can be done to reduce the potential for difficulty.
That entire approach is one of the reason why I decided to join Hall Brown.
Along with a shared belief in plain-speaking, we understand that the best solutions to the problems which can and do arise in families are generated by collaboration not conflict.
It’s far better for spouses or parents to reach a position which they have been responsible for than to have an outcome imposed by a court.