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FAMILY

It takes years of training and experience to handle sensitive personal problems. We've got more than our fair share of both.

Services 
Care proceedings

Care proceedings can be commenced by the Local Authority if they are concerned about the safety or wellbeing of your child/ren. 

If the Local Authority are concerned in relation to the care of a child/ren they can provide to parents a letter called a “Pre Proceedings Letter” or “PLO Letter”, this will be the parents last chance to either show they can improve the care they provide the children and work with the Local Authority or that the concerns of the Local Authority are severe enough for them to issue court proceedings (care proceedings).

If the Local Authority is planning to issue care proceedings in relation to your child/ren, an application will be made to the Court and you will receive a court date which will be the commencement of the court process.  Care Proceedings will normally last 26 weeks.  It is possible at the initial court hearing that you will be asked whether you agree for the child/ren to be placed into the care of the Local Authority foster carer whilst the proceedings are ongoing and you may be asked to complete assessments to assist the court to determine whether you should care for the child/ren, for example a parenting assessment to look at the care you can provide the child/ren. 

When you receive a copy of the initial court papers you will have the opportunity to respond to the evidence prepared by the social worker and we will assist you with preparing a statement in response.  This will ensure that the Court have your version of events as soon as possible.

BTMK Solicitors understand that families who are involved with the Local Authority and in care proceedings will extremely confused and stressed about the process.   We help families understand what is happening at every stage and more importantly we will explain the process in terms which you will understand to try and stop some of the overwhelming feelings. Our specialist team are able to attend court at short notice to assist you.

If your family is involved with the Local Authority, please do not hesitate to contact one of our friendly members of staff who will put you at ease and arrange for you to attend an appointment at our office to answer all your questions.

Legal Aid is available to you for care proceedings so you do not have to pay for us to represent you.

Child Abduction

In relation to child abduction it is extremely important that you act quickly and contact one of our specialist team as soon as possible to enable us to be in the best position to make an application to the relevant authority.   It is important to remember that preventing a child from be removed from the country is better trying to secure the return of a child.

If your child/ren has been abducted by a stranger (i.e. someone other than a parent, guardian or family member) you MUST first of all contact the police as the person is likely to be committing an offence under the Child Abduction Act 1984.

If you believe that your child has been taken by a family member and you believe that your child remains in England and Wales we can need to make an urgent application for his or her return to your care.  It is possible to also put an “all ports alert” out to ensure that your child is not removed from the England and Wales; this will depend on the circumstances of your case.

If you think that your child/ren has already been abducted outside the jurisdiction (removed from this country) there are a number of different procedures which could assist you with the return of your child/ren.  The primary legislation dealing with this situation is the Hague Convention. It is extremely important that you provide us with all the information available to you as determining which country your child/ren has been removed is relevant to what procedure is followed.

Child abduction is a complex area of law and urgent legal advice is required to ensure the safe and prompt return of your child/ren to this country. If the wrong steps are taken this can lead to delay which needs to be avoided at all costs and we will work as quickly as possible to ensure that no delays occur in your case.

If you are concerned that your child/ren is to be abducted or has been abducted contact one of our specialised team TODAY.

Child Protection

If the Local Authority becomes concerned about the care you are providing your child/ren you may receive a visit from a social worker asking you to attend Child Protection Conference.  A Social Worker can convene a Child Protection Conference if they believe a child/ren are suffering or likely to suffer i) neglect, ii) emotional abuse iii) physical abuse and iv) sexual abuse.  This could be as a result of your direct care or the situation the child/ren live.

At BTMK we understand that it is always daunting to have Social Services involved in your live, however, the Social Worker will want to help you through the concerns they have discovered to ensure that matters improve.  IF your child/ren are placed on the Child Protection Register a plan will be convened to ensure you know what is required of you and what is required by the professionals involved in your life.

We understand that you will feel frustration, anger, confusion and upset when you receive involvement from Social Services into your life.  These are normal reactions and we appreciate the emotions you will be feeling and will assist you the best we can.

It is important that you always do your best to cooperate with the Social Worker.  You should not feel like you are being bullied by Social Services and therefore our assistance can help you in this process.

If you receive a letter from a Social Worker arranging a Child Protection Conference or have any concerns involving Social Services, please contact one of our specialist team and we can advise you throughout the process.

Divorce and Dissolution

General
You can apply for a Divorce or Civil Partnership Dissolution if you have been married for more than a year and your relationship has irretrievable broken down.

To demonstrate to the Court that your marriage has irretrievably broken down you need to assert one of five supporting facts. This can be adultery, unreasonable behaviour, two year separation, five year separation or two year desertion.

Divorce is started by filing a document known as a Divorce Petition or in the case of Dissolution, a Dissolution Petition. This will then be served on your spouse or civil partner.

If your spouse or civil partner completes the Acknowledgement of Service form confirming that they agree to the Divorce/Dissolution, or you can prove service of your Petition, then you can apply for a Decree Nisi or Conditional Order.

A Decree Nisi or Conditional Order is a document setting out when you can apply for your Decree Absolute or Final Order. This is also the document that gives the court the power to make orders in relation to the financial settlement.

Six weeks and a day after the pronouncement of your Decree Nisi or Conditional Order; you can apply for your Decree Absolute or Final Order. This document legally terminates your marriage.

Children
When a relationship breaks down, if arrangement for the children are agreed between the parents then no further action needs to be taken.

if the parents cannot however agree on child arrangements, one party is free to make an application to the court for a child arrangements order. This order can ultimately set out who the child lives with and how much time they spend with the other parent.

If you are an unmarried father and your name is not on your child’s birth certificate or it is on your child’s birth certificate but the child was born before 1st December 2003, then parental responsibility can be granted by an agreement from the mother or by an order from the court.

The law relating to children can also be used for specific purposes such as seeking the courts permission to take a child on a particular holiday where the other parent would not agree, or even perhaps asking the court to decide upon which school the child should attend if the parents cannot agree. It can also be used to prevent someone from doing something in relation to a child, such as removing them from England and Wales without the other parents' consent.

Financial Settlement
Within divorce or dissolution proceeding there are often financial matters that need resolving. Some parties try and reach an agreement through mediation which is often a more cost effective and more amicable way or proceeding.

Some parties choose a collaborative approach where the parties and their solicitors work together to achieve a financial settlement that both parties are happy with.

Financial settlements can be agreed by way of negotiations through solicitors. However the financial agreement is reached, we can assist in all necessary steps to turn an agreement into a financial order approved by a judge.

If the parties are unable to reach an agreement through any of the methods above or by directly communicating between themselves, then they are free to make an application to the court for a financial order. It is however a requirement to attend mediation before this can be done.

Domestic Violence

Our specialist team understands that domestic violence can be physical, emotional, sexual or mental abuse of one person by another, with whom they have or have had an intimate relationship. 

If your partner or ex-partner is hurting or threatening you, then you should telephone the police as the police have a duty to help you.  If the police are unable to help you, then we are able to write a letter to your partner or ex-partner warning them that if their behaviour does not stop you will pursue an application to the Court for a Non-Molestation Order or an Occupation Order. 

A Non-Molestation Order is an Order of the Court which states that your partner or ex-partner cannot use or threaten violence against you, nor can they intimidate, pester or harass you.  An Occupation Order states that your partner or ex-partner should leave your home and must not re-enter the property.  In some circumstances it is possible to obtain an Order which prevents your partner or ex-partner from coming within a certain distance from your home. 

Our Team can assist you in making an application to the Court and obtaining an Order to protect you.  We will prepare the necessary documentation on your behalf, represent you at any Court Hearings and arrange for any Orders to be personally served upon your partner or ex-partner as it is at that time that the Orders become effective.  This means that a third person will hand to your partner a copy of the Order.  Once the Order has been handed to your partner, he or she will be subject to the terms of the Order.

If it is apparent you are in serious danger and you have been subjected to physical violence, this firm may be able to assist you in obtaining a Non-Molestation Order without giving your partner or ex-partner notice of any application, provided that the police have refused to prosecute your partner or ex-partner.  We will prepare the necessary application for you and attend Court with you when a Judge will consider whether or not to grant you a Non-Molestation Order. 

Legal Aid is available, provided you are financially eligible, for us to provide assistance to you with the above.

Mediation

What is Mediation ?   

The Mediation process provides an opportunity for separating couples to come to their own decisions on matters arising from the breakdown of their relationship.  Mediation is a voluntary process which allows parties to engage in constructive discussions from the outset.  The Mediation process is generally  much quicker and cheaper than the alternatives, such as court proceedings or protracted correspondence between Solicitors.  

The Mediator is completely impartial and their role is to narrow the issues, identify the parties needs and guide the parties to a negotiated agreement.   Once agreement has been reached the Mediator will draw up a Memorandum of Understanding and an Open Financial Statement which the parties will then take to their respective Solicitors to obtain legal advice.

Your key contacts

Yvonne Hume
Yvonne Hume
Solicitor, Director & Joint Department Head

Area of expertise

Tracey Rowley
Tracey Rowley
Joint Department Head

Area of expertise

Sarah Law
Solicitor

Area of expertise

Charlotte Fedarb
Charlotte Fedarb
Legal Executive

Area of expertise

Jenny Lapwood
Legal Executive

Area of expertise

Jaime-Lee Johns
Paralegal

Area of expertise

Why choose us?
Don’t take our word for it, see what others have to say about us.

As a guardian, I have worked extensively with Yvonne Hume. Efficient, knowledgeable and competent in what is a very sensitive area of the law. What’s more, she’s friendly and approachable resolving matters in the least adversarial way possible.
Charlotte Asamani, Family Court Adviser - Colchester
Tracey co-ordinated our huge team with consummate skill, never losing her cool. I can think of few solicitors, even those amongst the 'magic circle' of family law firms who could have handled such a complex matter better.
Lucy Stone QC, QEB Barristers' Chambers


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