The Committee has regular involvement and liaison with the local Courts in attending a number of Committees chaired by the designated Family Judge. The Committee meets 5 times a year for an hour at Liverpool Law Society offices in Helix, Edmund Street.
The Committee is dedicated to promoting and providing excellent conference and seminar facilities to all family lawyers at a reasonable price and there are conferences in Public Law Children Matters, Private Law Children Matters and Finance Matters on an annual basis.
2013 was a year that probably saw the greatest threat to those practitioners in family law for whom the majority of their work was within the public funding arena. The introduction of LASPO in April of 2013 saw Legal Aid taken away from the vast majority of private law cases; the same only being available to those parties who could evidence themselves as victims of domestic violence. As a result, the vast majority of those members of the Family Sub-Committee have had to look at ways of helping and supporting clients who still wish to access legal advice and make the same affordable.
There was further change in April 2014 with the introduction of the single Family Court and need for any party now seeking to issue proceedings in Children Act matters or financial matters within the family context to have attended at a MIAM. However, it should be noted that many of the not for profit mediation providers in the Merseyside area went out of business shortly following the introduction of LASPO in April of 2013. Therefore the pressure on those firms and agencies that provide mediation with a Legal Aid contract is high.
The impact of the withdrawal of Legal Aid has been the increase in litigants in person within family proceedings. This has an impact on all our practitioners at the Sub-Committee whether they represent primarily fee-paying clients or clients who are still eligible for public funding and the pressure that litigants in person bring to the Court process, cases often take longer where there are one or more litigants in person.
Many of our committee members are also trained as collaborative lawyers. This is a concept in that both parties and their lawyers agree at the outset by way of a participation agreement that they will not use Court to resolve their differences. Both the lawyers and the parties commit to reaching an agreement to resolve their differences by a series of four way meetings between the lawyers and the parties. Thereafter at the conclusion of such negotiations and when agreement is submitted it can then be put before the Court by way of a Consent Order. It is another important way forward for families to consider when separating.