Telephone Hearing: A joined up approach in lockdown

Kate Stovold continues to share her positive experiences of remote hearings and in particular the constructive involvement of  CAFCASS.

I was recently involved in a First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment at a Court in the South West.  It was conducted via telephone, as is fast becoming the new ‘normal’.

In accordance with directions, all parties provided their telephone numbers to the Court – clients, barristers and solicitors.  We were all joined into the call by the Deputy District Judge.  The Hearing started on time, with arrangements for the e-filing of the Bundle being made in advance.

To my mind, the most positive aspect of the Hearing was evidenced by the proactive and child-focussed involvement of the duty social worker from CAFCASS (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service).  This body, “independent of the courts, social services and education and health authorities, represents children in family court cases, putting children’s needs, wishes and feelings first and making sure that children’s voices are heard at the heart of the family court setting, and that decisions are made in their best interests.”

Under normal circumstances with a Hearing at a Court building, the duty social worker would have been at Court too, moving between the parties and assisting with discussions about interim child arrangements.

As we all know, lockdown requires flexibility and so for this Hearing, the social worker spent much of the morning on the telephone.  She spent time with the father, and time with the mother.  She reported back.  She suggested compromise options.  She was both proactive and reactive.  In short, she helped the parties narrow the gulf between them, and appeared to do so in a friendly and constructive way.

That the social worker was then able to join the Hearing and provide further insight and guidance to the Judge served only to further enhance the effectiveness of the Hearing.  In particular, the Judge was able to hear the social worker’s views on one discrete issue.  This enabled the Judge to make a careful and informed decision.

This was joined up approach.  The solicitors preparing the case.  The barristers conducting an effective Hearing.  The social worker sharing insight and recommendations.  The Judge making child focussed orders and directions.

A positive step for this family, and proof that remote hearings in lockdown work and can be successful.

2020 Spear’s Family Law Index – LMP founding partners once again recognised as “Top Recommended Family Lawyers”

The latest edition of the Spear’s Family Law Index was published online this week with Simon Pigott and Jeremy Levison recognised as “Top Recommended Family Lawyers”.

This is what the Spear’s research say about the featured LMP partners:

Simon Pigott

“For Simon Pigott there’s no such thing as a ‘good’ divorce, only ‘slightly less unpleasant’ ones.

‘No one goes through it with any sense of pleasure,’ he tells Spear’s. ‘As solicitors, our role is to understand that and recognise that for a lot of clients it is all-consuming and worries them hugely.’

It’s the sort of plain-speaking wisdom that has made Pigott’s firm an outlier. Co-founded by Pigott in 1998, it specialises solely in family law and continues to draw in big-money cases.

Despite expanding, the firm remains true to its boutique ethos. ‘We always do what’s best for them and it goes at a pace that suits them,’ he says. ‘We don’t want to fight unless we have to.”

Jeremy Levison

“‘Utterly brilliant’ and ‘one of the best family lawyers in the industry’ are among the testimonials from clients of Jeremy Levison.

The founding partner of his boutique has more than 40 years’ experience of complex financial disputes, especially those with an international dimension. His cross- border experiences led him to found the International Academy of Family Lawyers in 1986, which pools together legal expertise across 40 states to improve the overall quality of client service.

Levison, a member of the American Bar Association and the Central London Collaborative Forum, is also chairman of the Old Carthusian Art Society and owns a gallery in Bermondsey Street.”

The Spear’s Research Unit annually publishes its assessment of the UK’s leading family and divorce lawyers. In 2020, barristers were included for the first time.

See full indices here.