When you’re entering one of the most daunting periods of your life, you really do want someone like Kirsten Bennett by your side…
Co-founder of family law firm Lund Bennett, Kirsten’s approach – filled with compassion, positivity and empathy – is only rivalled by her and her team’s legal expertise.
The Altrincham-based firm was established in 2012 and offers a bespoke and name- not-a-number service to those needing legal representation in matters such as divorce and children’s law. A year on from our first meeting, we caught up with Kirsten to talk about latest developments within the firm and the advent of the new no-fault divorce and its positive impact on matrimonial proceedings.
Great to see you in person and not on a screen, Kirsten! What changes have happened within the firm since we last spoke?
We are extremely pleased to have had Hollie Aspinall join us in April of this year. She is a great young solicitor who specialises in matrimonial finance and is a fluent Welsh speaker. This is such a huge bonus, as we support and represent people f rom all across the UK. The rise of the video call during the pandemic means most people are now comfortable with remote meetings, which makes it easier for us to act for people who aren’t living on our doorstep.
What makes a good family solicitor?
Knowledge of the law is a must, but confidence, presenting well and appreciating that family law is as much of an art as a science are extremely important too, as is being able to balance empathy with professional and effective advice to best serve our clients. At Lund Bennett, we are great communicators, we know how to listen and react a p p r o p r i ately. Clients are individuals and we will put them at ease by being relatable and human but also professional and effective.
Being a family lawyer can be quite a feat of personality, where the practitioner can be confidante and advisor but also needs to be strong and self-assured. Sometimes, a client needs to be told something they don’t want to hear.
What’s keeping the team busy at the moment?
No-fault divorces – known officially as The Divorce, Separation and Dissolution Act 2020 – are definitely keeping us busy. They came into being in April and have changed the face of divorce proceedings entirely.
Tell us more…
Under the old regime, you had to rely on one of f ive facts. The f irst two were unreasonable behaviour and adultery – both fault-based and required one spouse to make accusations about the other’s conduct in order to demonstrate that the marriage had broken down. The third and fourth were two years’ separation with the other person’s consent or five without the other person’s consent. The fifth, final and extremely rare factor was desertion. Now, all you need to do is show that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. No consent is needed.
What are the overriding benefits of the new law?
It can fundamentally improve the tone at the outset of proceedings. Couples are no longer required to be critical or readdress old wounds, which should in turn help ‘control the temperature’ and minimise emotional charge. This leaves couples the space to focus on other issues, such as f inances and children. It removes the ‘blame game’ and it too avoids the ‘one party refusing consent’ scenario, which always had the potential to leave somebody locked in an unhappy marriage if a judge ruled they could not adequately prove their case. Yes, there’s still an element of trepidation, but with no allegations having to be made, it’s certainly less scary. It’s certainly helping people who might have otherwise opted not to make the initial move towards divorce – put off by the requirement of identifying fault and fearful of their partner’s reactions to it.
Divorce is always pitched as something that has to be fraught with drama (there’s even a TV show The Split dedicated to it!), so client apprehension must be high?
It is, but we are here at Lund Bennett to put people’s minds at rest. Divorce doesn’t have to mean a fight. We guide them through the process and help them with the legalities of it all, putting everything into layman’s terms. We show them that it doesn’t have to end up in court. There are lots of ways to resolve disputes without going to court – round table meetings, mediation and even private court hearings. A private court hearing is where a paid barrister sits as judge and gives an indication of what the outcome may be if the matter proceeds to a contested hearing or a trial. This indication is intended to oil the wheels of settlement and to help the parties reach an agreement, thus avoiding expensive, both emotionally and financially, court proceedings.
One of your other specialisms is dealing with missing persons cases. Tell us how your gentle-yet-expert touch can help clients at one of the most difficult times in their lives?
Luckily, the law changed in 2013 and the process of obtaining a certificate of presumed death was simplified. The old process was extremely convoluted and was, in essence, a mixture of common law (judge-made law) and statute. It was often the case that a person could be declared dead in one court but not the other. The change in the law was very welcome. I regularly act for clients who are still coming to terms with the disappearance of a loved one and help guide them through the process, address unanswered questions and, ultimately, obtain the certificate, which allows them, for example, to deal with their loved one’s financial affairs. I try to lessen the upset and pain during what is an unimaginably distressing time.
To book an appointment with Lund Bennett, call 0161 924 0079 or email [email protected] | Visit the website: lundbennett.co.uk Location: 9 The Downs, Altrincham, Cheshire WA14 2QD