£69.95, Law Society
It has been a while since family lawyers had this kind of publication to hand. The one I remember was published so long ago that CD-ROMs, like the one accompanying this book, had probably not even been invented.
This book is broad in its extent, covering all the steps involved when resolving a financial matter, whether by consent or to a final hearing. It does not, however, confine itself simply to financial applications in divorce. It also covers applications relating to finances for children under schedule 1 to the Children Act 1989.
As such, it contains more than 40 template documents. These include suggested letters, not only to clients but also to third parties, as well as experts. Precedent court documents also feature, including draft orders (one within a schedule 1 application is particularly useful). Others are examples of completed documents. There are also helpful schedules both for assets and income needs.
Of course, many family law teams may feel that their whizzy software might give them virtually everything they need. As a user of one or two slick packages, I can say that they really do not cover most of the ground that this book does. In fact, this provides comprehensive and authoritative step-by-step guidance to the reader. Moreover, it offers a good-practice approach which can only help reduce the risk of overlooking something in one’s drafting or advice.
An example of one of its many helpful tips is to remind us of the potential additional expense created after voluntary financial disclosure in divorce fails to achieve settlement. This means that the Form E must be updated wholesale for the court process, particularly if it was only partially completed in the first place, which is an unfortunate approach at best. Written advice on this point helps manage a client’s expectations.
Another example, in the context of self-help, is to advise a client to withdraw any prior permission, given to their spouse, to access the client’s bank accounts, emails or other online documentation. There is also a crucial reminder to tell your client to change security passwords and settings.
It would be wrong to think that more experienced practitioners would not need this kind of book. There is something for every level of lawyer. However, many junior family lawyers and busy general practitioners will treat this book as something of a lifeline once they have opened it for the first time.
Quite why we have being waiting for a book like this for a decade or more is anyone’s guess. This toolkit makes a worthy addition to any family law team’s library.
Tony Roe is a family law arbitrator and principal of Tony Roe Divorce & Family Law Solicitors, Theale, Reading. He is also a member of the Law Society Small Firms Division committee