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Don’t Panic!

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Wasn't it Michael Caine who used to say, "not many people know this ..... but ...." Well, outside of the world of family law, not many people know that from 1 April 2013 there is a momentous change taking place in how some family law case work in England and Wales will be handled.

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) will take effect.

All local legal firms who have been able to offer family law Legal Aid, covering many varieties of family law case work, will be affected by this change. In reality, only a tiny part of the family law world will be covered by legal aid in future. Only issues concerning child protection and domestic violence. There is some scope for those who have experienced domestic violence to get help with family case work if they can comply with quite a complicated list of scenarios to register themselves as eligible. As always, there are financial eligibility requirements in this area.

Indeed, it will be difficult for many families, because of this government action; which is entirely based on a need to save money in this area. The Ministry of Justice are hoping that more people will find solutions through mediation services.

Do not despair, however, in thinking that local family practices are not still able to help you. They as practitioners are committed to all the principles that support fairness in outcome, the welfare of the children involved in parental disputes, and support for families, and have thought long and hard how those who previously needed legal aid can still be provided with legal services. My own firm now offers to all our family clients a variety of fixed fee services that enable a client to take advantage of bite-size chunks of legal advice and representation at a cost that suits the client's pocket. A simple enquiry through our family and mediation service (01323 434415) will enable a client to contact one of our team to discuss the scenario. A funding package designed to meet the immediate requirements will be worked out. This practice, Stephen Rimmer LLP, remains absolutely committed to our many clients and contacts to ensure that LASPO does not undermine our continued support in family and child cases.

We appreciate that for some of our clients the imposition of LASPO will cause some great concern. We are offering to speak to anyone (subject to conflict checks) if they would like to see a member of the family and mediation department onSaturday 6 April 2013at our Family Law Clinic between 10.00am and 4.00pm, if you care to call 01323 434415 to register and make an appointment.

But, I say again, do not despair. Your local solicitors are working to ensure their services can still be offered to you whatever your financial means may be. Furthermore, mediation services, which have a background firmly in the realistic legal world, are expanding. Stephen Rimmer LLP has been granted by the Ministry of Justice contracts to provide the limited family legal aid for legal advice and representation from 1 April 2013 but also a contract for the provision of Mediation with public funding - a new development.

Now the family case system actually requires all who wish to make a court application whether acting through a solicitor, acting in their own right, with or without any legal aid support, to investigate mediation as an option for solving the problem. A particular meeting has to take place with a Mediator leading to either the progression of mediation through the process hopefully to a suitable agreed resolution or the provision of a form signed by the Mediator which then can be lodged with the court to justify the issue of proceedings.

The meeting is called the MIAMS (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting). The Mediator can see both adults involved in the issue, or just one if appropriate. The mediator's job is to ensure that the availability of dispute resolution methods other than through the court process are fully understood and encouraged, so that conflict-solving through the sometimes expensive and long winded court exercise can be avoided.

My practice and others, have reviewed their funding structures, to ensure that those who consult us can still take advantage of our specialist experienced family advice and representation at fixed fee prices for agreed pieces of work so you can be helped at your hour of need.

Do contact us if you wish to take advantage of our Family Law and Mediation Clinic on Saturday 6 April 2013 - 10.00am to 4.00pm by appointment, without charge, 01323 434415.

To comply with our professional obligations we will need to take some brief details from you on the telephone, check our systems to avoid professional conflict before an appointment can be made but I and my team will be on hand to talk through how we can assist you in this forthcoming new world of "access to justice".

Stephen Rimmer LLP Family and Mediation Team remain entirely committed to the welfare, needs and support of our clients

These are the personal views of the writer. He holds no responsibility for any action taken as a result of your reading of this article and should you have a family law issue you should initially take clear and focused advice before taking any action to progress to a legal solution.

Written by John A Stebbing - Solicitor and Mediator, Stephen Rimmer LLP

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