Comments

What people are saying about access law:

"Thank you for your kindness and expertise in what was a somewhat lengthy battle. I really appreciate everything you have done for me"

~ Ms. R, Divorce Case

"A HUGE Thank You for your compassion and encouragement. Since leaving the Women's Refuge the battle with my now ex-husband at times became overwhelming. You all have been able to keep me grounded and focussed and have always been friendly. I am really grateful"

~ Ms. S, Family Finance Case

"Thanks again for everything that you have done for me - warmest wishes"

~ Ms. W, Mental Health Case

"... a massive thanks for all your work and for making buying my first property an easy thing to do!"

~ Ms. E, Conveyancing Case

"... a big thank you for your help with the lease and sale of my flat"

~ Ms. L, Conveyancing Case

"Thank you for your excellent service again... We appreciate your caring and personal help"

~ Ms. W, Probate and Conveyancing Case

"Thank you so much for doing the conveyancing on our flat sale! We really appreciate it!"

~ Mr. & Mrs. K, Conveyancing Case

"Many thanks for all you have done. There is a lot I could not have managed without your help"

~ Mr. G., Probate and Conveyancing Case

"Thank you for all your hard work, time, help, advice and patience"

~ Ms. K., Family Finance Case

"I just wanted to say thank you so much for all the help and advice you've given me... It's made such a difference to my situation and really made me feel supported and that I'm doing the right thing in times when I've felt anxious and stressed. You've been very kind and generous to me and I will always be grateful. If only there were more lawyers like you! You are definitely one of a kind."

~ Ms. R., Family & International Child Abduction Case

"Thank you for providing a first class service"

~ Mr. & Mrs. A., Family Finance Case

"... a very big thank you for helping us purchase our 'forever' home. You were very patient and very informative when we were unsure of things. We couldn't have done without you so thank you"

~ Mr. W. & Ms. F., Conveyancing Case

"You have been so supportive and helpful with my situation and I felt so much better after having the meeting with you... You were so thorough in finding out information and gave me useful facts, which I have not experienced with any other practices as often they can be quite vague. I truly feel like I'm not on my own in this so much now and you have given me more confidence to stand up for what I think is right for [my child]. I really am so impressed with your service and it completely exceeded my expectations, so thank you very much"

~ Ms R., Family Case

"Thank you for all your hard work and support"

~ Ms W., Family Case

"To all of you at access law... you were always so helpful, supportive and kind through a horrid time in my life.  Many thanks to all of you"

~ Ms H., Divorce & Finance Case

"Thank you so much for all your help and support in the passing of [relative]. You are so lovely, caring and warm and [I] appreciate all you have done by just being there. I know it is your job but I thank you for the personal touch you have given me at such a difficult time"

~ Ms L., Probate Case

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for everything and achieving such a good result"

~ Ms B., Family Finance Case

"Thank you for all your help during this difficult sad time"

~ Mr & Mrs P., Probate Case

"Thank you ... for all your work.  It has been a pleasure to do business with you once again"

~ Mr. S., Conveyancing Case



Case Studies

Here are a few selected case studies which illustrate the type of work we do and how we go about it.

Child Abduction

We were consulted by Ms. J., who had fled with her two teenage children from their home in Spain on the pretence of a holiday with family in the UK. She had been going through divorce proceedings in Spain. Although the family had lived in Spain for over 10 years, Ms. J. did not speak a great deal of Spanish.

The father, Mr. K., applied under the Hague and European Conventions on Child Abduction to return the children to Spain.

Ms. J. had been served with orders which prevented her from leaving the country and requiring her to hand over her passport and those of the children. An urgent directions appointment had been scheduled by the Court for less than seven days time and Ms. J. was required to file a Defence and Affidavit to the Originating Summons and Affidavit of the Solicitor acting for Mr. K.

As Ms. J. worked part time and received no maintenance from Mr. K., public funding was applied for using devolved powers. A defence was filed together with an Affidavit.

Matters were considerably complicated by the fact that the eldest child suffered from behavioural problems and had recently taken an overdose of tablets requiring hospital treatment. She had been saying to her mother she would rather kill herself rather than return to Spain.

Ms. J.'s description of the lifestyle in Spain was almost that they were living in a bubble. The family were not registered at any local GP and retained their UK GP; the children attended a British school and there was very little engagement with the local community as all of their friends were part of the English "ex pat" community. Neither of the children wished to return to Spain, one threatening to kill herself and the other saying he would run away from home.

The defence primarily relied on the Article 13 defences of the children suffering grave and serious harm if they were to return to Spain and that they were of an age and had sufficient maturity that their expressed views ought to be followed.

A thorough report was prepared by the Reporting Officer who is appointed to be the "eyes and ears" of the Judge and to investigate and report to the Court.

Such was the clarity and strength of the children's views, the conclusion was very much that the children should be allowed their wish to remain in the UK.

Despite this, the father was still seeking a return of the children to Spain and there was a fully contested hearing the result of which was that the Judge decided that he could safely follow the wishes and feelings of the children and allow the children to remain in the UK with their mother.


Divorce - Finances and Distress

We were instructed to act for Mrs. W. who had been married for over 20 years. Her husband had been arrested for indecent assault and rape of their daughter and family friends, over a period of years. He ultimately pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

It was a very difficult time for Mrs. W. necessitating sympathetic and sensitive treatment, whilst still providing her with expert legal advice.

We commenced divorce proceedings on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour and we decided it was not an appropriate case for the petition to be served on the husband prior to sending to the Court as this might ultimately cause further distress to the client. The divorce was not defended and the Decree Nisi was pronounced.

We did not apply for the Decree Absolute as we then had to deal with the financial issues and these had to be resolved before the Absolute in order to protect Mrs. W.'s interests with the matrimonial home being the major asset.

We wrote to him in prison, always advising him of the right to seek independent advice, and eventually he agreed an outright transfer to Mrs. W. with her providing an indemnity for the mortgage.

However, after the Order was prepared and signed, the Judge was not happy that the husband was giving up so much of the equity and suggested a life interest to the Mrs. W. but with the husband receiving his share on her death.

Mrs. W. felt that this was not appropriate as she now had to pay all the household expenses herself with no assistance from her husband who had previously been the breadwinner. We therefore asked the Court to fix the matter down for an oral hearing and to arrange for the husband to be produced from prison. At the hearing he confirmed he was happy with the draft Order and was aware he was giving up his share of the equity and confirmed he had been provided with the opportunity to seek legal advice.

The District Judge therefore approved the Order of the transfer on the basis of a clean break.

We then applied for the Decree Absolute but as it was more than 12 months since the Decree Nisi we had to advise the Court that there had been no resumption of cohabitation or any child born to the client and the Absolute was approved.


Children - Emergency Court Hearing

Mrs. A. asked us to act for her in a case where she had separated from her husband due to domestic violence issues and he had applied for contact to their child.

She instructed us on a Monday and the hearing was on the following Thursday so we devolved powers and granted her emergency Legal Aid.

Mrs. A had come to the UK on a marriage visa and had not yet received her permission to remain in the country so could not have recourse to public funds; her only income was child benefit and child tax credit. However, we checked the position with the Legal Services Commission (LSC) who confirmed we could grant funding in these circumstances.

We considered whether there was need to refer her to a specialist advisor on immigration, as it was known that she could apply for indefinite leave to remain due to the issues of domestic violence, but she already had an immigration Solicitor acting for her and it was that Solicitor who had recommended us for the children matter.

Mrs. A. had lived a terrible life since she came to England and was not allowed any contact with her family by the husband who had criminal convictions for violence, had been in prison and was a drug user. Both Mrs. A. and her child had been repeatedly assaulted by the husband and she wanted to be able to protect both herself and her child.

We arranged a Barrister to represent the Mrs. A., choosing a Barrister from our list of approved third parties and with her consent. Mrs. A. did not speak English so we chose a Punjabi-speaking Barrister which was very reassuring for her.

At the hearing the Barrister raised the issues of the concerns about the domestic violence and drug taking and in light of the Court Practice Directions since the House of Lords case of Re L advised the husband's Solicitor she would be seeking a fact finding hearing and drug tests.

The husband did not want to go down that route so completely withdrew his application for contact.


Finances and the negligence of a previous Solicitor

Mrs. M. was referred to us by her current Solicitors as they were unable to continue to act. Her husband had sold the former matrimonial home and spent all the proceeds.

Although a Homes Right Notice had been registered against his sole name he was the Petitioner in the Divorce and after Decree Absolute, when the notice was cancelled, sold the house. The Solicitors had not made an application for a restriction at the Land registry even though Ancillary Relief proceedings were in progress and then failed to make any application for a restraining order. By the time we were instructed the husband had spent approx. 85% of the net proceeds and had voluntarily placed the remainder of the proceeds with his Solicitors.

We advised the Mrs. M. that although her Solicitors had been negligent she had a duty to mitigate her losses so we had to proceed with the financial claim against the husband.

We arranged for the Legal Aid Certificate to be transferred to access law and worked through the huge volumes of files on the case as we were the fourth Solicitor in this case and there had also been injunction and residence proceedings. The matter was further complicated as the child of the family was disabled and suffered from a serious health condition.

There was a financial dispute resolution hearing when the District Judge indicated that although it was unfortunate that the husband had spent the funds he could not order him to pay any further monies where there were no realisable funds available.

We sought the advice of a Barrister selected from our list of approved third parties and with the consent of the client. He advised that the client should seek the residual amount deposited with the husband's Solicitor and as the husband had a small pension, seek a pension sharing order and the matter was therefore compromised on that basis.

A Consent Order was therefore prepared and approved by the District Judge. The statutory charge to the Legal Services Commission applied and the costs were high due to the other proceedings, the client only receiving £3,000.00, the exempt amount at the time [this is no longer applicable].

We then had to deal with the negligence claim against the Solicitors by preparing a very detailed letter of claim setting out the chronology, allegations and financial losses. The insurers confirmed liability was not in dispute so we then had to deal with actual amount of compensation due.

We alleged that if the sale had been prevented or the monies placed on deposit the client could have argued that she needed the majority of the proceeds to provide a home for her disabled child and that she would not have received any maintenance as the husband was emigrating to America.

We ultimately compromised on a sum which was more than half the total equity realised in the sale and which was comparable with the amount Mrs. M. could have expected to receive if her previous Solicitors had not been negligent.


Probate - Deed of Variation

We were instructed to act on behalf of Mr. D.'s estate as he had recently died. His Will had been drafted to provide only a small share of the estate to Mrs. D. so that when she died there would be no Inheritance Tax to pay on the total estate remaining. The law had since changed allowing Mrs. D. to retain more of the estate for herself without paying Inheritance Tax on her death.

As it was best if the surviving spouse was able to have all the assets so she could deal with them as she wished during her lifetime we suggested that a Deed of Variation be created so that the Will was varied so the whole estate went to Mrs. D. This can be done within two years of death.

The residuary beneficiaries, namely the children, had to agree and they all signed the Deed.

The Grant of Probate was therefore obtained on that basis and the assets collected in and paid out to Mrs. D.


Care Case Studies

Care Case 1

We acted for Mrs. P. Her baby had sustained a suspected non accidental injury and the Local Authority felt they had no alternative to take the children of the family into care pending investigations.

We made sure that proper medical experts were instructed and ensured the letter of instruction set out all the relevant and pertinent issues.

The Doctors found there was absolutely no evidence of any injury caused by the parents or by their lack of care and the children were all returned to the family home.

Care Case 2

We acted for Miss T. who had a child taken into care.

Social Services felt that she could not safely care for her child because of her partner and his violence towards her. They were concerned that the child would get caught up in violence between her and her partner and they wanted to have an Order so that they could share Parental Responsibility with the Mother whilst all the assessments were going on.

However, after she co-operated fully with Social Services on our advice and undertook a parenting assessment it was agreed by all the relevant parties in the case, including the child's Guardian, that the child should return to his Mother with support by way of a Supervision Order to the Local Authority for a year.

Our advice enabled her to see how she needed to co-operate and what steps she needed to take and enabled her to show her success as a Mother and that she was able to put her child's interests first.

Care Case 3

We were instructed to act for a four month old child in a care case and acted with the assistance of the child's Guardian. His mother had learning difficulties and the father had many criminal convictions and mental health problems.

The case was adjourned for a report on the Mother's cognitive ability and a psychologist report on the Mother's ability to care for the son.

The reports showed that the Mother had considerable problems and ultimately she agreed that there should be a care order to the Local Authority and a Placement order so the child could be adopted by a loving family.

We ensured that the child's interests were first and paramount in the conduct of the case.


Conveyancing - Transfer of Equity

We were acting for Mrs. Q. in divorce proceedings and there was a Court Order that she would vacate the former matrimonial home by a specified date and the husband would pay her a lump sum. We drafted the paperwork to transfer the house over but the husband refused to pay although the wife had vacated on the required date.

We then had to make an application to Court to force him to complete the transfer and also pay interest for delay and Court costs.

So through our persistence we managed to ensure that the completion finally happened - five months after the due date - and we were able to pass the funds to the client along with five months' interest. The husband had to pay our costs for the delay he had caused.

This page last updated 9 - Sep - 2016

Author: G. L. Hewstone