Month: February 2018


If you want to ensure there’s more widely available access to your legal expertise, how best to make sure it reaches those in need? Not by just sitting in a city centre office waiting for people to navigate a maze of names and find their way to you.
This is why I launched our ‘on the road’ family law service #LawtoDoor – a name which reflects a long-held belief that the law should be visible and those who practise it should be accessible.
Currently, we operate monthly #LawtoDoor days in Cumbria and London.
In our hometown of Manchester we’re as happy meeting those we can help in their homes or places of work as at our offices.
It’s about making it as easy as possible for people to get the qualified legal help they need.
We are often the first professional service to be consulted and that is not a responsibility to be taken lightly. Some people are nervous about seeing a solicitor; by the time they sit down to talk to us it’s most likely their marriage or relationship is nearing an end, if not yet over. Acknowledging this and starting that conversation is undoubtedly hard.
Seeing clients in a less threatening, less invasive environment hopefully helps them and it’s important as there’s a lot of information that needs to be exchanged. From there it’s up to us to explain how it will be and what to expect. Maybe it’s the northerner in me, but I’m inclined to tell it like it is. It’s important that our clients are told what they need to know, not what they want to hear.
Often at the outset clients can also fear that months later they will be left with little money or without an arrangement that allows for quality time spent with their children. Contrary to this our aim is to ensure they achieve the best outcome in all the circumstances and can look forward rather than live in the past.
Legal aid is now only available in a small number of cases but there are many family lawyers with a genuine desire to help.
Here at Merrick we now have three levels of service offering. We call them Prestige, Benchmark and #AccessUs – more information about them can be found here.
We are proud that #AccessUs allows us to act for those who may not otherwise be able to afford the best available legal advice.
With #LawtoDoor we are redefining boundaries that otherwise limit accessibility to our services.
Both are #lawforgood, another of our initiatives which we will talk about in a future post when we consider the importance of rebuilding trust in our legal system.
As someone commented on Facebook in response to our latest #LawtoDoor event:
‘To make access to the law is a vital basic human right. Thank you for this innovation. So much of our legal rights are now eroded we have to use the legal system because it is the backbone of history. It is slowly being tampered with to make access impossible. This is a very good move.’
To find out more or make an appointment telephone 0161 838 5410 #itsgoodtotalk #familylaw
Future dates for London and Cumbria can be found here.
Amanda J Merrick


A primary concern for any parent divorcing or separating is the effect this has on any children in the relationship.
It’s clearly an unsettling time for all concerned but possibly more so for those witnessing the breakdown of their parents’ relationship. With more than 100,000 couples filing for divorce each year, one in three children is likely to experience parental separation before the age of 16, according to the Family Mediators Association.
Going to court can sometimes polarise parents creating additional tensions. Children inevitably feel these. Mediation is a more informal way to resolve the conflicts and disputes that can arise.
In particular it can be a very useful forum to address issues relating to children. These are so often driven by emotional factors, which the Family Court is unable to resolve.
Due to the communication involved in the mediation process relationships are often better preserved. This gives an opportunity for separating parents to continue to work together in the future for the benefit of their children.
At Merrick, our focus is on resolving disputes as quickly and cheaply as possible.
Most agreements need some give and take from both sides. Even so an agreed outcome is almost always preferable to the imposition of a solution by a judge.
Our job is to empower our clients, so they understand the impact of any compromises and are on an equal footing with their ex, when they need it most.
We strongly recommend that legal advice is obtained before entering mediation to give it the best chance of success.
We certainly would not advise anybody to enter such a difficult and far-reaching process on an uninformed basis. Believing that mediation is a quick-fix, cheap option to end a relationship without understanding the legal ramifications is not helpful and can often have unintended consequences.
Each individual set of circumstances are different. Only after listening and understanding those circumstances will we advise a client whether or not their case is suitable for mediation. If it is, and mediation is their preferred option, we will make the appropriate referral.
Here are some important points about the mediation process:
Mediation is voluntary for both parties.
If both parties agree to it, the impartial mediator facilitates negotiation and has no vested interest in the outcome.
Whilst being flexible to the needs of each party, the mediator is in charge of the process ensuring that sessions have focus and the whole process is going somewhere.
Mediation is confidential, except where there are any concerns of risk of harm to a child or vulnerable adult. Details of the mediation will not be referred to in evidence in any court proceedings about the same issues.
Typically, more than one session is needed to reach an outcome to stand the test of time and deal with underlying issues of conflict.
The decision-making rests with the participants. If an agreement is reached it is presented to the court for approval. This isn’t simply for rubber-stamping. The judge will consider the reasonableness of the terms proposed in all the relevant circumstances.
If, unfortunately, a negotiated settlement does not prove possible, we will support clients through the court process.
Family law is complex and each set of circumstances unique. Whether you are fact finding or have already made a decision, do seek properly informed legal advice.
More from Merrick about children in divorce here. Useful information from the Family Mediation Council here.