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09.06.2019

Have you been invited to a PLO meeting?

Written by Rosita Mendonca

What is a PLO (Public Law Outline) Meeting?

If a local authority is involved with your family, you will have a social worker assigned to do direct work with you and your child/ren.  There are a few levels of social work intervention such as children in need plans, child protection plans, PLO intervention and court proceedings.

When social workers have been working with a family for some time and/or if serious concerns are highlighted as to the safety of any child/ren in the family, the local authority can decide to invite parents to a Public Law Outline Meeting (PLO) or a pre-proceedings meeting. A PLO meeting tends to be the last opportunity to try to resolve matters by agreement prior to the issue of care proceedings.  If care proceedings are issued, you are entitled to free legal advice – legal aid – and you should not delay in securing representation ahead of the first hearing date.

What is the purpose of the PLO meeting?

The main reason for the meeting is to discuss the concerns the local authority has in respect of the perceived safeguarding concerns for the children, this could be due to neglect, suspected abuse, domestic abuse in the parents’ relationship or a child/ren that is beyond parental control.  The local authority will discuss what needs to change and they will explore if an agreement can be reached to prevent the commencement of court proceedings.

Parents are advised to instruct their own Solicitor who can then attend the PLO meeting with them. Together with the social worker and the Local Authority’s Solicitor, they can then try and reach an agreement as to how to keep their child safe and well.

If an agreement can be reached, the local authority will draw up a written agreement which will need to be signed by the parents. A PLO meeting may also be used to inform the parents that care proceedings are being commenced if they feel the risk of harm to the child is too high.

What do I do if I have received a letter?

If you receive a letter inviting you to a PLO Meeting it is vital that you seek urgent legal advice. If you are a parent you will be entitled to legal aid and will have representation at that meeting for free. If you are not a parent but are the main carer for the child, you may still be eligible for free legal advice.

If you wish to seek advice in relation to Social Services involvement, please contact Kirsty Richards on Kirsty.richards@nationallegalservice.co.uk

20.05.2019

London Legal Walk 2019

Written by Rosita Mendonca

As part of the firm’s wider charitable activities, we will once again be taking part in this year’s London Legal Walk on the 17th of June.

 

The London Legal Walk is a 10km sponsored walk across the city to raise funds for charities that give free legal advice. The team will be walking alongside a number of other law firms, chambers and organisations raising money in aid of a great cause.

 

#WhyWeWalk

 

There were 870 non-profit legal aid providers in 2013, according to statistics from the Ministry of Justice. By 2014 this had fallen to just 95. Significant cuts to Government spending as well as Legal aid has resulted in reduced funding bring available for important issues such as immigration and homelessness.

This year again, we walk with other members of the profession to raise funds so the poorest and most vulnerable people in the community can have access  to justice  and avail free legal advice.

 

Harun Matin, Head of Crime commented :

We took part in the walk last year and felt the community came together perfectly to highlight the importance of supporting vulnerable people. These ongoing funding cuts affects those who are vulnerable and on the margins of society, it’s our duty to ensure that their plight is not forgotten

Kirsty Richards, Head of Family said:

This is such a worthy cause and its lovely to see so many legal professionals and all those involved with law coming together to champion what we do on a daily basis. NLS will continue to be a part of this walk as it is vital for spreading awareness of the plight of legal aid

If you would like to sponsor the team and raise money for a great cause, please visit our fundraising page here. Any donations would be greatly appreciated.

17.05.2019

Domestic Abuse & Mental Health  

Written by Rosita Mendonca

An estimated 1.3 million women & 700,000 men experience domestic violence each year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ending March 2018)

 

It is now well accepted that domestic abuse can have a profound impact on a survivors’ mental health and is the main cause of depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders.

  • 64% ( almost two thirds) of domestic abuse survivors  experience post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 1
  • Between 30 and 60% of psychiatric in-patients had experienced severe domestic abuse 2
  • 16% of victims report that they have considered or attempted suicide as a result of the abuse, and 13% report self-harming 3
  • Exposure to domestic violence has a significant impact on children’s mental health. Many studies have found strong links with poorer educational outcomes and higher levels of mental health problems

 

Head of Family, Kirsty Richards comments

Domestic abuse has far-reaching consequences for the victims and the children of those families.  Many of the clients that we help at NLS describe the often-devastating impact on their mental wellbeing from the abuse they have suffered/ are continuing to suffer.  There is a lot of campaigning for better understanding of domestic abuse which is seeing a positive change in the wider understanding of abuse and its impact on the health and wellbeing of victims but we need to keep talking about it.  The more we discuss abuse and the mental health implications, hopefully strength is given to other victims to recognise they too are in an abusive relationship and hopefully give them the confidence to escape the life and put protective measures in place.  Sadly, most of us will be impacted by domestic abuse at one point in our lives be it directly or through a loved one or friend that is a victim.  We need to keep up the pace of these awareness campaigns to ensure that there are options for victims and we at NLS certainly remain committed to providing as much support as possible to anyone needing advice about what to do

 

If you have been a victim of domestic abuse and have decided to leave your abuser, there many organisations that can help you :-

 

  • National Domestic Violence helpline

The National Domestic Violence Helpline is a 24 hour helpline which provides advice and support to women and can refer them to emergency accommodation. The National Domestic Violence Helpline is a 24 hour helpline which provides advice and support to women and can refer them to emergency accommodation.

Telephone: 0808 200 0247 (24 hours)
Email: helpline@womensaid.org.uk
Website: www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk

 

  • Refuge

Refuge offers advice and support to women experiencing domestic abuse and also provides safe, emergency accommodation through a network of refuges throughout the UK, including culturally-specific services for women from minority ethnic communities and cultures.

Telephone: 0808 200 0247 (24 hours)
Email: info@refuge.org.uk
Website: www.refuge.org.uk

 

  • Men’s Advice Line

The Men’s Advice Line is a confidential helpline for all men experiencing domestic violence by a current or ex-partner. They provide emotional support and practical advice, and can give you details of specialist services that can give you advice on legal, housing, child contact, mental health and other issues.

Helpline: 0808 801 0327
Email: info@mensadviceline.org.uk
Website: www.mensadviceline.org.uk

 

  • Women’s Aid

The Women’s Aid website provides a wide range of resources to help women and young people

Telephone: 0808 200 0247 (24 hours)
Email: helpline@womensaid.org.uk
Website: www.womensaid.org.uk

 

  • ManKind Initiative

The ManKind Initiative is a charity offering information and support to men who are victims of domestic abuse or violence. This can include information and support on reporting incidents, police procedures, housing, benefits and injunctions. They can refer you to a refuge, local authority or other another support service if you need it.

Telephone: 01823 334 244
Email: admin@mankind.org.uk
Website: new.mankind.org.uk

 

  • Everyman Project

The Everyman Project offers counselling to men in the London area who want to change their violent or abusive behaviour. It also has a national helpline, which offers advice to anyone worried about their own, or someone else’s, violent or abusive behaviour.

Email: everymanproject@btopenworld.com
Helpline: 0207 263 8884

 

1 Trevillion, K., Oram, S., Feder, G., & Howard, L.M. (2012). Experiences of domestic violence and mental disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLOS One, 7, e51740

2Howard, L.M., Trevillion, K., Khalifeh, H., Woodall, A., Agnew-Davies, R. and Feder, G. (2010), Domestic violence and severe psychiatric disorders: prevalence and interventions in ‘Psychological Medicine’ (2010), 40 ,881-893. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

3SafeLives (2015), Insights Idva National Dataset 2013-14. Bristol: SafeLives

4 Gilbert, R., Kemp, A., Thoburn, J., Sidebotham, P., Radford, L., Glaser, D., & MacMillan, H. (2009). Recognising and responding to child maltreatment. The Lancet, 373(9658), 167–180

 

12.05.2019

Staff Spotlight Series

Written by Rosita Mendonca

Each month we will now be featuring one of our Solicitors, Chartered Executives or Paralegals- this way you can learn a little more about the members of the NLS team and what makes them tick!

 

This week’s spotlight is on Jasbir Raindi, Supervising Solicitor for our Birmingham Office.  Jasbir is a Family Solicitor with particular expertise in the areas of Domestic Abuse, Parental Disputes involving Children, Care and other Public Children Law Proceedings, Divorce & Matrimonial matters.

 

What is your current role and how did you come about working at NLS Solicitor?

 

My current role is supervising a team of caseworkers, paralegal and a solicitor in our Birmingham office. I was previously working for a national law firm managing the Milton Keynes branch as well as supporting the Luton and Cardiff offices as a Director of the Family Law. I ultimately joined NLS, six months after my initial contact with them– I felt it was a natural progression for my career and me as a person. I accepted an offer to join and moved back to Birmingham to help launch & staff our Birmingham office.

 

What inspired you to pursue a career in family law?

 

My very first responsibility was to support a senior partner in childcare cases.  I realised family law was my strength as I was helping the court make decisions for children – some of the most vulnerable in our society – and helping people in difficult family related situations.

 

I took on a family law caseload whilst still a paralegal and trained in the area. Now, I look back and feel it was the best decision and I am learning new things every day.

 

What are your specialisms?

 

I specialise in private family disputes between families/couples in respect of children, divorce, matrimonial finances and domestic abuse protection. I also specialise in childcare law assisting parents and accredited by the Law Society to represent children and their interests involved in court proceedings including removal from their parents, supervision by the local authority and being placed in secure accommodation.

 

What are your strengths as a family solicitor?

 

I particularly enjoy being in court- I believe I am an effective advocate in court and able to absorb large amounts of important information quickly and submit the key points to a court succinctly.

 

I am accused of being a perfectionist when it comes to content and presentation of court documents; I feel I am able to work well with vulnerable clients assisting the court in understanding their needs.

 

What was the last thing you accomplished at work that you were most proud of?

 

Challenging a local authority about the unfair and arbitrary way they had been treating my client over a month. This meant applying to court and waiting a further month before being able to bring the local authority to task about their behaviour. Once in court my actions asking for an urgent hearing were vindicated with the lack of care for my client being admitted by the local authority.

 

How is NLS Solicitors different to other firms? 

 

NLS is a firm focussed on client care- we deal with large volumes of vulnerable people whom need our help and help from the court.

 

We help our clients achieve what they need to safely live their lives without fear. To do this, we monitor every client very carefully ensuring discussions take place and court orders are secured where available within several days of first contact with a client.

 

Solicitors and caseworkers are directly available for clients to speak to, our teams are trained to high standards with direct support to empower them to work their best for the benefit of our clients.

 

What is your favourite part of the job?

 

My favourite element of my work is achieving a positive outcome for my client allowing them to walk away from court having achieved what they sought or needed for a safe, peaceful life or to ensure any children involved are safe & happy.

 

Do you undertake any volunteering roles?

 

I am a volunteer for the University of Law and Birmingham City University as a mentor for students seeking help, guidance & support with entering the legal sector and working life.

 

What do you do like to do in your spare time?

 

When not at work, I enjoy spending time with my wife & sons, reading, cooking and keeping fit.

 

 

 

06.05.2019

Advice On Facing A Violent Ex-Partner At Court

Written by Rosita Mendonca

National Legal Service Solicitors has supported over 3000 victims of domestic abuse in the past year. One of the biggest fears expressed by our clients is the potential of having to face their violent ex-partner in court.  We hope this blog can offer some advice on what to do if you find yourself in this position.

 

 INTIMIDATION AT COURT

 

  • Some courts offer separate waiting rooms. While the facilities vary, it is recommended you call the court and request a separate room.

 

  • You can also request the court to put ‘special measures’ in place. This can include putting a screen to protect you from seeing your ex-partner or in extreme situations, arranging for you to give evidence by video link.

 

  • We always encourage our clients to bring a friend or family member to court for support (they may not be allowed in the court room if the other party objects but they can support you before and after the hearing)

 

INTIMIDATION AFTER COURT

 

  • If you are worried about being abused by your ex- partner on your way home, you can wait in the court building for a short period until they have left the building. If you explain the situation, the court security staff could also escort you to your vehicle.

 

  • In some courts there is a side or back exit that court staff will arrange for you to use if you are worried.

 

If you are the victim of domestic abuse, you may qualify for legal aid and therefore may be able to get legal representation to support you even more.

If you’re not entitled to legal aid (due to income or assets) , you act in person but instruct us to undertake a particular task in your presence such as the drafting of a statement; the drafting of court pleadings etc.

 

For more information, please review our fees page or  contact us 0203 601 5051

25.04.2019

Parental Responsibility : What does it mean & who is entitled to it?

Written by Rosita Mendonca

Parental Responsibility is defined in section 3(1) Children Act 1989 as being:

“All the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”

 

Parental Responsibility is the legal term for the right of the parent (to be involved in decisions regarding the child) as well as the responsibility of the parent to ensure the welfare of the child. A person with Parental Responsibility can make decisions such as choosing a school, naming a child, getting medical treatment as well as disciplining a child.

 

Mothers who give birth to children, automatically have Parental Responsibility for the child. Fathers automatically have parental responsibility if they are married at the time or named as the father on the birth certificate.

 

If you are the father of a child but you are not married to the mother and are not named on the birth certificate, read our blog on the rights of cohabiting parents.

 

Also, just because someone is not listed as a parent on the birth certificate, does not mean that they cannot obtain parental responsibility. You can enter into an agreement with the mother called a ‘Parental Responsibility Agreement’. Alternatively, you can make an application to the court & obtain a Parental Responsibility Order. You can also apply for a Child Arrangement Order.

 

If you are no longer living with your children, parental responsibility does not disappear – you still have a responsibility to ensure that your children have appropriate arrangements in place.

 

If you are concerned about matters regarding your children or that you do not have parental responsibility of your child, please contact one of our family law experts on 0203 601 5051. Our services include:-

  • Preparing Parental Responsibility agreements
  • Assisting a parent in applying to the Court for a Parental Responsibility agreement.
  • Applying for a Prohibited Steps Order where one party seeks to exercise parental rights contrary to the wishes of the other. This could become appropriate when a parent decides to leave the country permanently  without the others consent.
  • Applying for a Specific Issue order. This includes instances wherein an agreement cannot  be reached on decisions such as which school a child should attend or which religion a child should follow
12.04.2019

Impact of Domestic Abuse on Children- Children Law Explained

Written by Rosita Mendonca

Domestic Abuse can have a devastating impact on children and young people. There is consensus amongst medical experts, child psychologists and welfare organisations that exposure to domestic violence has an effect on a child’s emotional, behavioral and cognitive state. As a result, courts take the ‘Potential for Harm’ to children extremely seriously.

A pattern of abuse does not automatically disqualify a parent from having contact with a child- It does however indicate who is best placed to care for the child. With **62% of children living with domestic abuse being directly harmed by the perpetrator of the abuse, the Courts do not expect a parent to place their children at risk by facilitating contact.

If an offending parent wishes to re-establish contact with a child, the court will need to consider the following in the Child Arrangement Orders:

  • The impact of domestic abuse on the child
  • Reason for wanting to making contact
  • If the offending parent is making a conscious effort to change their behavior.

When there is a history of domestic abuse, it is important that relevant safeguarding measures be put in place. A few examples of safeguarding measures with an offending parent include-

  • Supervised contact
  • Monitored indirect contact
  • Therapy for individual or family as a whole

At NLS Solicitors, we understand the effects of domestic abuse on children, and when domestic abuse is present; contact with children may have to be specially considered. Our advice is clear and based on many years’ experience of children, families and the law.

Anyone concerned about domestic abuse and its effect on his or her children should seek expert legal advice. If you or your child or children have been victims of domestic abuse, you may be entitled to legal aid.  For more information, please call us on 0203 601 5051

**Caada (2014), In Plain Sight: Effective help for children exposed to domestic abuse. Bristol: Caada.

10.04.2019

No Fault Divorce Law Coming soon

Written by Rosita Mendonca

The BBC reported yesterday that divorce laws in England and Wales will be overhauled so that couples can divorce more quickly with less acrimony

Under the current rules, a couple can file for divorce proceedings on grounds of unreasonable behavior or adultery. These facts are considered ‘Fault Based’ as they seek to assign blame to the other person. However, as per the new legislation, couples will only have to state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The proposed changes broadly include the following:-

  • Couples do not need to live separately for two years before divorcing
  • Couples no longer need to provide evidence of unreasonable behavior
  • Removes opportunity for the other side to contest the divorce

Organisations such as Resolution have been campaigning for years for a change in the law, which has remained the same for the past 50 years. It’s interesting to note that Sweden has had no-fault and mutual divorce law since 1973!

Justice Secretary David Gauke said the changes would help to end the “blame game”. The changes follow the Supreme Court’s rejection of a woman’s appeal for divorce after her husband refused to agree a split.

Kirsty Richards, Head of Family & Resolution Member shares her initial thoughts:

This is a great victory for all those involved in the campaigning to eradicate blame in divorce proceedings. The breakdown in any relationship is rarely amicable and almost certainly is emotionally draining at times. The impact of a family breaking up is one that affects not only the adult couple but also the children of the family. Anything that can be done to lessen the guilt/ shaming and blaming for the adults will certainly help the children at the centre of it

There is sufficient evidence to highlight the negative impact of the current system or ‘ blame game’  on couples, families and children. The reform to the current law is long overdue, and  NLS Solicitors welcomes the decision.

The new legislation will be introduced ‘as soon as parliamentary time allows’

NLS Solicitors offer initial consultations to assess your specific needs and determine the best route to achieve a successful & amicable outcome for you. For more information call us on 0203 601 5051

29.03.2019

What to do after a divorce

Written by Rosita Mendonca

Going through a divorce and managing life after is never easy. However, the right counselling, coaching and support system will help you deal with the anxiety and stress it causes.

Divorce is a form of finality so here are a few things to think about once your divorce comes through:-

Sort the finances:

A divorce does not address issues relating to marital finances. If there are no assets to divide, consider obtaining a Clean Break Order- this will prevent either party from making a claim in the future. If you have agreed about how to divide the finances/assets, you should consider having a Consent Order drawn up- This is a legally binding document that records what you have agreed. If you cannot reach an agreement, you should seek advise from a specialist family solicitor

Arrangements regarding children:

When parents separate, there are often decisions which need to be made about a child’s upbringing. It is important to maintain open channels of communication, which are centered around the best interest of the child.  For more information on Child Arrangement Orders, click here

Do a will:

Most married couples have wills leaving everything to their significant other. It is interesting to note that while re-marrying revokes all prior wills, a divorce does not! So, if you do have a will, make sure you revise it.

Change your name:

Ladies may wish to revert to their maiden name on divorce. Start with the important documents like your passport and driving license before moving onto bank/ doctors/ employers documents etc

 

The family law team at NLS includes specialist Family Law, Divorce Solicitors and Children Law Solicitors with Resolution Accreditation. Resolution is a national organisation of Family Lawyers committed to non-confrontational divorce, separation and other family problems.