Book Review: Family Lifeline - Matrimonial Finance Toolkit (The Law Society)
12 February 2018
The Law Society Gazette

It’s 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 that accompanies this book, probably weren’t even invented.

This toolkit is broad in its extent, covering all the steps involved in resolving a financial matter, whether by consent or all the way to a final hearing. It does not confine itself simply to financial applications in divorce. Its title is a slight misnomer as it also helpfully covers applications relating to finances for children under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989.

As such, it contains over 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, with a particularly useful one being within a Schedule 1 application. Others are examples of completed documents. There are useful schedules both for assets and income needs, too.

Of course, many family law teams may feel that their whizzy software might give them virtually everything they need. Being a user of one or two slick packages personally, these really do not cover most of the ground that this work does. In fact, this toolkit offers comprehensive and authoritative guidance step-by-step to the reader. As such, it does offer 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 one’s client to withdraw any prior permission, given to their spouse, to access the client’s bank accounts, emails or other online documentation. There’s also a crucial reminder to tell your client to change their 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 here. 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 decade or more for a book like this 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’s Small Firms’ Division committee.

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