Henry discusses Family Law in The Directory, and can be found here.
The Directory contains businesses recommended by families from Thomas’s schools.
Why did you become a family lawyer?
When I first qualified I did commercial litigation for a while until I was asked, in the mid 1990’s by one of my older colleagues to help with a family matter. I found (and many years later still find) the work fascinating for its combination of technical requirements, its perpetual novelty, and the possibility (more in this area of law than any other I know) of really helping people overcome an obstacle in their lives. Relationship breakdown is a sad reality in life, and so much depends on how it is conducted. There are some horror stories of course, and these are the ones so often played out in the press; but the “good divorce” really does exist and it is very satisfying helping someone achieve it.
What are the latest developments in family law?
The introduction of no-fault divorce in April 2022 was a major step forward. Before then, to obtain a divorce, either one spouse had to blame the other for the breakdown of the marriage, or they had to wait two years after separating. Now, it simply needs to be asserted that the marriage has broken down, and spouses can make a joint application for divorce if they wish. The need to attribute blame often increased acrimony at an already difficult time, so this is a welcome change.
It comes as part of a wider recognition of the harm that an acrimonious divorce can cause not only to the separating couple, but also to their children. As a result, there has been increasing emphasis on out-of-court dispute resolution – using one of a number of available processes to reach a constructive agreement, rather than battling it out in court.
I have just launched a new process called Resolve, a “one-couple one-lawyer” service. It’s one of a small but growing number of such services, in which a single lawyer advises both sides of a separating couple. It’s a big departure from traditional practice, and it won’t be suitable for everyone, but it recognises that there are separating couples who have a common interest in reaching a fair resolution without going to court, and want to work constructively together with the benefit of top-class legal advice.
What are the key benefits of Resolve?
The legal advice that I give is informed by the needs of the family as a whole, and I encourage interest-based discussions rather than positional bargaining, enabling the couple to reach an agreement which is fair to them both and which works for their family. It’s a respectful process which facilitates a constructive post-separation relationship, something that can make a real difference to their children’s well-being. It’s also cost-effective, as the couple are only paying for one legal team rather than two, and is likely to be quicker, enabling settlement to be reached up to a year earlier than would be possible through court proceedings.
Do you also advise individual clients?
Absolutely. Resolve is not for everyone, and cannot be used where there has been domestic abuse or there is a significant power imbalance. Many people will want their own lawyer. That doesn’t have to mean going to court – there are a number of ways to reach a constructive settlement such as round-table meetings, lawyer-supported mediation, early neutral evaluation from a barrister, and more. Sometimes, though, court proceedings are needed, for example where one person is refusing to give disclosure of the financial affairs. In every case I’ll work with my client to identify the processes that are likely to be best in their situation.
Tell us about your firm, Hunters.
I joined Hunters in 1984 and was incredibly honoured to be appointed the firm’s Senior Partner in 2022. We are a full-service firm based in Lincoln’s Inn, advising a range of individuals, trusts, landed estates, businesses and charities on all their legal needs. This is a great benefit to me as a family lawyer – I can call on my colleagues’ expertise on matters such as property, tax, and business law when these issues inevitably arise in family law cases. What is particularly important to me about Hunters is the value we place on our relationships with our clients – a partner is personally responsible for each client and this relationship, often built up over many years and sometimes spanning multiple generations, is the bedrock of our firm.
What’s your connection to Thomas’s?
All of my five children went to Thomas’s Kensington, with all three boys going on to Battersea after that. We had a child at the school for a continued period of 14 years, which is quite a thought. Such is the power of social media that my children have all retained many friends from their times at the schools, and my wife and I also made many friends from amongst the fellow parents.