Eleanor White-Andrews – Solicitor, Family team
I start the day with a cup of peppermint tea and open my laptop to begin the day.
Today, I have a client hearing in relation to matrimonial finances for which I have instructed a barrister. We have been given a block listing at the court for this hearing, this means that our matter could be heard by a judge anytime between 10.00am and 2.00pm. As a result of this, I am meeting both the client and the barrister via a video conference at 8.30am this morning to go through any further information that is required before the hearing and also to ensure that the client has the opportunity to ask the barrister or me any final questions they may have. Given that this is a hearing in relation to matrimonial finances there is a general discussion about the points that the other side have raised in their position statement. (A position statement is a statement that is drafted before the hearing and should be sent to the Court the day before the hearing, to allow the Judge to understand each party’s position prior to the hearing).
During the meeting, the barrister receives a call from the other side’s barrister, and they have a discussion about whether matters can be settled before the hearing. This is common practice before attending the hearing and allows the parties to be clear on points that are agreed and points that the parties will need the Judge to make a decision on. The barrister recounts her conversation with the other side’s barrister and explains what this means and what we will ask the Judge when parties are called in for the hearing.
The majority of hearings now occur remotely due to Covid-19 restrictions. This has reduced travel costs and allows both parties and representation to be more time efficient, but it does sometime lead to technical difficulties. The barrister receives an email from the court asking her to set up a video conference for the hearing.This is unusual as normally the court does it via their CVP platform. This leads to about 20 minutes of rushing around to try to find suitable log-in details and also ensure that the client, both barristers, the other side and the judge can log in and see each other in preparation for the hearing. By the time this meeting ends the parties are ready to go into the hearing remotely and it is about 10.00am. To reduce costs to the client I do not attend the hearing but keep in contact with both the client and barrister throughout the day to check on progress and offer opinions when needed.
I am then able to consider emails from other clients that have come in whilst I have been in my meeting and overnight and respond to some of these emails.
I then prepare and consider a Form E which is a financial form used to disclose a client’s financial information. This takes some time to complete as I need to consider the client’s bank statements and use this information to input information into the form. I also need to ensure that I have all the correct documentation.
It is now lunchtime and we have an internal meeting to check how we are all doing, what the firm is doing, and our plans for the future. These meetings now occur online due to many of us working from home.
As soon as this meeting is over, I receive a call from the barrister in relation to the hearing, to provide an update on the case. It is more positive than we were initially expecting as it appears that the parties are a lot closer to agreeing matters than at the start of the day.
Once I am off the phone, I prepare a bill to send to the client and prepare a letter to go with this.
I also have a telephone conversation with the Head of the family team, Paul Wild. This enables us to update each other on our cases and offer support where needed. Prior to Covid-19, Paul and I shared an office, so we did not need to set aside time to communicate with each other. However, we now find that when we do speak to each other we have longer conversations because we do not see each other on a daily basis.
I continue with some general work including making an application for Decree Nisi and a Statement in Support.
Towards the end of the day I receive a call from the barrister stating that the parties have been able to agree matters and that she is due to have a video call with the client to go through the results of the hearing and the proposals. I join the meeting and we go through what has happened during the hearing. As we are talking and confirming matters, the barrister is drawing up the Heads of Agreement. Heads of Agreement are very important as once they have been agreed they are incredibly difficult to amend and form the basis of the Order. We therefore go through the Heads of Agreement in detail and I add my comments and suggestions. Counsel goes through this with the client to ensure that the client understands everything and also specifies the importance of understanding and agreeing to them.
By the time I finish this conference it is past 5 o’clock. However, I still have some work to do and counsel will be sending a draft Order through later in the evening. Once I have received the draft Order, I consider this and propose some amendments to the barrister. I then log off for the day and relax in preparation for the next day ahead.
If you have a Family Law query, please contact our Family Team on 0118 958 9711 or email us on [email protected].
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If you would like further information, Eleanor White-Andrews offers an initial one hour fixed fee meeting at a cost of £95 (inc. VAT). During these meeting we can discuss your personal circumstances, options and possible next steps.
Due to the current circumstances, meetings can occur via telephone. We are hoping that meetings at our office in Reading can occur soon. Please call the office on 0118 9589711 or email [email protected] if you would like to book a meeting.
Eleanor is a Family Law solicitor and a member of Resolution. Eleanor specialises in divorce, financial matters and private children matters.