If you’ve watched last night's episode (episode 3) you will have seen various family law topics being played out by the show’s characters. As family solicitors, we're not taking the fictional drama too seriously as it is filled with inaccuracies and doesn't paint the greatest picture of our profession. As a mediator, I'd much rather see divorcing couples sat around a table sorting out matters concerning their finances and children in a constructive and friendly manner. However, many would say that wouldn't make for good TV.
Let me know how you do!
1. At the beginning of the episode, Ruth suggests to Nina that she ‘cold call’ for new business. Solicitors are allowed to cold call members of the public.
FALSE. Under the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2011 (chapter 8: Publicity) solicitors are not allowed to make unsolicited approaches to members of the public by telephone or in person.
2. Hannah refers to the FDA as being the first court hearing in the McKenzie case. An FDA is short for the First Directions Appointment (FDA) and is the first time the parties will attend court in relation to proceedings dealing with their finances on divorce unless either party is seeking interim maintenance from the other.
TRUE. The FDA hearing is most commonly the first hearing before the Court unless either party applies for Maintenance Pending Suit (MPS) where they require urgent funds from the other to meet their outgoings pending the determination of their overall finances.
3. In the McKenzie case, Hannah and Mrs McKenzie arrive at Court just before they are called into the courtroom for the FDA hearing. This is normal procedure.
FALSE. It is common practice for the parties and their legal representatives to arrive at court an hour before the hearing in order to discuss and potentially agree upon the directions that they are asking the judge to order at the hearing.
4. At the FDA Mrs McKenzie is represented by a barrister. This is a requirement of the court.
FALSE. A person can be represented by a solicitor at the FDA hearing or they can represent themselves if they do not have legal representation. Depending upon the complexities and nature of the case, a client may be advised that a barrister should be appointed to represent them at the FDA hearing.
5. In the McKenzie case, the barrister informs the judge that they cannot have an effective FDA because Mr McKenzie has not disclosed a bank account he has an interest in. If either party fails to disclose any part of their financial circumstances the Court must adjourn the FDA and require that party to resubmit their Form E (financial statement).
FALSE. One way in which the court could have dealt with this matter would have been to allow the FDA hearing to go ahead (‘be effective’) on the basis that both parties would have filed questionnaires in relation to the other party’s Form E within which they would have sought any further disclosure from the other. At the FDA hearing the court could have then ordered these questionnaires to be answered in advance of the next hearing which would be the FDR, Financial Dispute Resolution hearing.
6. At the end of the FDA hearing, the Judge leaves the court room with the legal representatives and their clients and chats to Ruth about book club. All parties including the judge would normally leave the court together.
FALSE. A Judge would usually leave the courtroom from a separate exit to the parties which takes them back into their chambers or if the hearing takes place in chambers, the judge would remain in the room after the parties have exited at the end of the hearing.
7. In the Lee case, Mrs Lee meets her barrister Nathan a day before the final hearing. Barristers can be appointed to represent individuals at such short notice and do not need to be appointed throughout a client’s case.
TRUE. Barristers do not need to be appointed from the outset and can come on board at the last minute to act for clients at court hearings. However, it is usually advisable to appoint a barrister early in the proceedings, if funds allow, to adopt a collaborative approach between the solicitor and the barrister.
8. In the Lee case, Mrs Lee accepts a last minute offer made by Mr Lee on the day of the hearing. It is too late to accept offers on the day of the final hearing and the judge has to decide the financial order.
FALSE. It is correct that parties can reach a financial settlement for the court to approve even on the day of the final hearing.
So, how did you do?
If you have any queries in relation to the issues raised in tonight’s episode or would like any advice in relation to divorce proceedings please do not hesitate to contact our family law director, Laura Clapton on 0113 322 9222 or at firstname.lastname@example.org