June 1, 2015

Why men only divorce firms can backfire when children are involved

The latest American export to the UK is a men-only divorce firm.

Targeting men who feel let down by our family courts, lawyers in London are offering a service exclusively for husbands.

Rather like certain sickly sweet US chocolate, this latest stateside import leaves an unpleasant taste.

Gender specific legal practices are simply divisive and are likely to ignite confrontation and set one party against another – resulting in more harm to any children involved.

Family law firms with all male client lists have been growing in popularity in the States since the 1990s amidst concerns that wives and mothers are likely to get a better deal.

The law firm setting up in London told American divorcing husbands “we’re going to help you keep the dollars you earned”.  As Susan Jacklin QC, chair of the Family Law Bar Association observes: “It’s just a way of bringing in a certain sort of client.”

I share the view that such firms are pandering to those who believe that men will always be short-changed in family courts. In my experience our courts do their best to be fair – and as Ms Jacklin points out: “The court’s focus is on the welfare of the child.”

To act purely for one gender or another is nonsense. A firm offering services solely to men or to women will be blinkered, in my opinion. As divorce lawyers we need to understand the issues from the perspectives of both genders in order to help our clients reach solutions that work for them and their families.

When you act for both men and women you are constantly updating your own knowledge, experience and understanding of the finances and respective needs of both parties. That wider perception can only be helpful to clients, regardless of their gender, when it comes to conducting negotiations that are both productive and realistic.

Family break up is painful. As we have said before, mums and dads who regard each other as the enemy can cause lasting damage to their children. At Jones Myers we take a holistic approach to helping families deal with a divorce that might involve bringing in mediators and other experienced professionals who can help parents and children cope. Firms who only help one gender are unlikely to take such a collaborative stance.

Of course fathers can experience difficulties after separation and divorce – it’s estimated that around one million children in the UK grow up with no contact with their dads. However, the unfounded suggestion that men are oppressed or unequal in the eyes of our family legal system is far from helpful.

If you have any questions about contact with children or any aspect of separation or divorce please leave us a comment below or contact us. You can follow us on Twitter at @helpwithdivorce