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Resolution - First for Family Law

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Martin Chambers is a Resolution member and family law solicitor at BakerLaw in Farnham, Surrey. Jake Hughes, who is responsible for the BakerLaw blog, spoke to Martin about his membership of Resolution and how it affects the way in which he deals with clients, fellow professionals and more.

Jake Hughes: What is Resolution and why did you become a member?

Martin Chambers: Resolution (formerly known as the Solicitors Family Law Association), is an organisation of family lawyers with some 6,500 members. Resolution's members are committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes. Resolution members follow a Code of Practice that promotes a non-confrontational approach to family problems. Resolution members encourage solutions that consider the needs of the whole family - and in particular the best interests of children.

Further details of Resolution can be found by visiting their website:-

http://www.resolution.org.uk/

I joined the Solicitors Family Law Association ("SFLA") (as it then was) since I shared the organisation's approach to the resolving of family problems. There are other benefits of membership which include Resolution's support of the development of family lawyers through training programmes, publications and "Good Practice" guides. Resolution also trains and accredits mediators. I trained as a mediator with the SFLA. Resolution is also the only body providing training and support for collaborative lawyers in England and Wales.

JH: So how long have you been a member of Resolution?

MC: I joined the SFLA on 1 January 1996.

JH: Are you the only Resolution member at Bakerlaw?

MC: No. My BakerLaw colleagues Victoria Hedges and Nikki Lynch are also members. Nikki has been accredited by Resolution as a specialist family lawyer in two areas; complex financial/property matters and children law (disputes between parents or relatives).

JH: How does being a member of Resolution affect the way you advise clients?

MC: I am mindful of the need to approach family matters in a constructive, non-confrontational way and to adhere to the Resolution Code of Practice. For example, I encourage clients to put the best interests of any children first and emphasise the importance of being open and honest in all dealings. However, nothing in the Code of Practice or my membership of Resolution prevents me from acting in the best interests of my clients and ensuring that they are fully and properly represented.

JH: Can you act for both parties in a dispute?

MC: I cannot act as a solicitor for both parties in a dispute because of the possibility of a conflict of interest. This would not arise if the parties were mediating because a mediator is independent, neutral and does not act for either party.

JH: Does Resolution membership have benefits if there are children involved?

MC: Yes. As already stated, Resolution members encourage clients to put the best interests of any children first. In addition, the Resolution Code of Practice requires members to keep financial and children issues separate. It is important to remember that while the nature of the parties' relationship has changed, they remain the parents of their children. Their relationship as parents will therefore continue after divorce, separation, etc.

JH: How does Resolution membership differ from mediation and collaborative law?

MC: Mediation and collaborative law are both methods of alternative dispute resolution ("ADR"). Many members of Resolution are either mediators and/or collaborative lawyers. To quote from the Resolution website:-

"Mediators are trained to help people resolve disputes. A mediator will meet with you and your partner and will identify those issues you can't agree on and help you to try and reach agreement. Mediators are neutral and will not take sides in any dispute. They are not advisors and will not give advice on your individual position to either of you and will usually recommend that you each obtain legal advice alongside the mediation process.

"The collaborative family law process is a relatively new way of dealing with family disputes. Each person appoints their own lawyer but instead of conducting negotiations between you and your partner by letter or phone you meet together to work things out face to face.

"Each of you will have your lawyer by your side throughout the entire process and therefore you will benefit from legal advice as you go. The aim of collaborative law is to resolve family disputes without going to court".

JH: How long have you been working in Family Law?

MC: I have dealt with family matters throughout my professional life; initially while training as a solicitor then from my admission as a solicitor on 1 February 1984. My caseload became predominantly of a family nature in April 1999. I now practice exclusively as a family lawyer.

JH: What did you have to do to become a member of Resolution?

MC: I submitted an application form, having been nominated by an existing member and seconded by another. My application was then considered and the (successful) result of it was notified to me. The application process has changed since I joined the organisation. Full details of the current process, including the application form, are available on the Resolution website.

You may be interested to learn that non-lawyers who support Resolution's aims can become affiliate members. Affiliate status is open to a wide range of related professionals such as independent financial advisers, mediators, guardians, family therapists and counsellors. Applicants for affiliate membership are required to complete an affiliate membership application form and be proposed by a Resolution member. Again, full details of the current process, including the application form, are available on the Resolution website.

JH: How often would you see a client?

MC: This would vary from case to case. A straightforward case involving only divorce, civil partnership dissolution, nullity or judicial separation might require only one meeting. However, the number of meetings is likely to increase considerably if there are financial/property/pension and/or children issues to be resolved. Having said that, it is often possible to deal with the majority of matters using email and telephone, thus reducing the need for face to face meetings. This means that I am able to act for people both throughout England and Wales and internationally.

JH: What advice do you have for someone considering ending a relationship or who finds themselves the injured party?

MC: I would always recommend that independent legal advice is sought at the earliest possible stage. Many Resolution members offer a free or fixed fee initial meeting where a potential client's individual options can be discussed and it can be considered whether mediation or collaborative law are right for that person. There is a number of, what I term, "urban myths" about family law matters. These include that a marriage or civil partnership ends automatically after two years of separation; that there is such a thing as a "quickie" divorce and that "common law marriage" is recognised under English law. It is essential that people obtain advice from someone able to address such misinformation.

JH: You have mentioned that affiliate member status is open to a wide range of related professionals such as independent financial advisers, mediators, guardians, family therapists and counsellors How can lawyer Resolution members and other professionals work in conjunction to assist the same person or are these disciplines entirely incompatible?

MC: I believe that there is an obvious synergy between the ways in which lawyer Resolution members and counsellors, family therapists, etc. work. Indeed the Code of Conduct requires Resolution members to "inform clients of the options", including counselling and family therapy. In respect of independent financial advisers, their assistance can be invaluable in areas such as pensions, mortgages, and the calculation of income needs, both present and projected forward. For this reason I have formed a network of other professionals and I am pleased that I am able to pass their details to my clients where appropriate.

JH: Thank you for your time today, Martin. How can any potential clients get in contact with you?

MC: I can be contacted at Bakerlaw. Our address is Bakerlaw, Union Road, Farnham, Surrey GU9 7PT. The firm's telephone number is 01252 733770 and our fax number is 01252 730751. My direct dial telephone number is 01252 730752 and my email address is martin.chambers@bakerssolicitors.com.

I offer initial advice in respect of many aspects of family law on a totally free of charge and no obligation basis.

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