Devon Life Business & Professional talks to ACT Family Law
PUBLISHED: 14:13 05 July 2012 | UPDATED: 21:35 20 February 2013
If you think families are complicated, try working with them! That's what keeps solicitors Ian Downing and Rebecca Wilson busy at Act Family Lawyers
If you think families are complicated, try working with them! Thatswhat keeps solicitors Ian Downing and Rebecca Wilson busy at Act Family Lawyers
reated in 1997 as Plymouths first law firm to specialise purely in family law matters, Act has clients throughout the South West and beyond. Ian and Rebecca are both experienced practitioners, and to them, it isnt about due process and paperwork, its all about encouraging (often angry) partners to make the right decisions for themselves, with as little legal intervention as possible. Its a delicate balancing act but one that they clearly relish.
Its endlessly different, says Ian. You never know what people will bring through the front door. No two cases are ever the same, and these days its getting more diverse. The structures are different, people are on their second marriages, we see cohabitees, same-sex couples, its a wonderful panorama of issues. Sometimes its as much psychology and accounting as it is law, but thats the interest of it.
Ian sees his role as an advisor and a mediator as well as a lawyer. He is a big fan of Collaborative Law, and likes to think of the Courts as a last resort.
Collaborative Law is a process of four-way discussion, guided by solicitors, but in which the two people involved set the agenda. It puts the couple in the middle of the process, which can be very hard. Its inventing the solutions to issues that are in front of you.
Another of Acts specialities is advising Armed Forces personnel and sorting out issues that can arise from the problems that are unique to service families. Long periods of separation, upheaval, and often the adjustment to civilian life can damage even the strongest relationships. Its something Rebecca has developed a particular interest in after her work advising personnel at RNAS Yeovilton earlier in her career.
They receive advice well but sometimes you have to be fairly strong in making them understand that the outcome they have envisaged for themselves may not be likely. Sometimes you have to tell people things they dont want to hear, but that is an important part of our job.
Ian says that the Service pensions are a big stumbling block. Pensions can be fantastic and they certainly dont want to give them up. For long-serving members the pension pot can be well over a million pounds and they retire early. It is almost the first thing most servicemen will ask: Will she get my pension?
If there is one thing both Ian and Rebecca are passionate about it is making sure mistakes dont happen in the first place. With relationships becoming ever more complicated, interest in pre-nups and cohabitation agreements is increasing. Ian calls it the Daily Mail effect. The constant stream of high-profile divorce cases in the papers making people more aware of the financial consequences of their relationship commitments. Rebecca would rather couples were prepared from the outset of a relationship, although its a difficult message to deliver.
Rather than dealing with people who are breaking down and need help, you find yourself talking to people who are very happy and dont always want to listen to sensible advice. Individuals will come and take advice but they dont always go ahead with it.
So with the law constantly evolving to cover our increasingly complicated society, the family courts are also changing and modernising. For lawyers like Ian and Rebecca, its about staying one step ahead and keeping a cool head. If you ask them what hurts most about their job, theyll say its the misery and heartache that can been avoided with good, early advice.