An Associate at award-winning Dorset law firm Blanchards Bailey LLP has qualified as one of the most outstanding mediators in the country.
Solicitor, Laura Martin, part of the expanding firm’s Family Law department, has become a Law Society Accredited Family Mediator.
Her success comes as the Government announced a decision to update 50-year old laws to introduce ‘no fault divorces’, meaning more mediation is likely.
Eighty-strong Blanchards Bailey is a Legal 500 firm – making it one of the top firms in the UK and is based in Blandford with offices in Dorchester, Shaftesbury and Weymouth.
The firm’s Family Law department is recognised in the Legal 500 and Laura Martin is recommended individually as a Legal 500 solicitor.
Laura went through a rigorous two-year qualification assessment process which included a lengthy portfolio/dissertation and the provision of evidence of expertise and experience.
Her new status means she is among Accredited Family Mediators who must be consulted before any family proceedings go to Court.
Laura, with Blanchards Bailey since 2004, said: “In a sense it means I am outstanding in my field and I am able to deal with all aspects of family law in mediation including arrangements regarding children and finance.
“Mediation is voluntary, but the overburdened Courts say all options must be looked at during the divorce process, and mediation can reduce the stress and cost for all parties.
“I have dealt with many highly complicated and difficult cases and my knowledge and experience of family law stands me in good stead.”
Family Mediation Accreditation was first established by The Law Society, the professional body for solicitors, in 2000 to enable those in need of family mediation to confidently choose an accredited and competence-assessed mediator.
Laura is also a member of Resolution, the national organisation of 6,500 family lawyers and professionals committed to a non-confrontational approach to divorce, separation and other family problems.
She said: “Resolution has been campaigning for 30 years for change. Current, outdated law makes dealing with the consequences of relationship breakdown inevitably acrimonious and difficult as fault against one partner is always introduced.
“The Ministry of Justice’s long overdue announcement is a step forward for family law. It recognises that there is a need to reduce conflict and allowing more focus on resolving arrangements for children and finances is imperative.
“At Blanchards Bailey we offer a range of options to help couples who are separating, including mediation, but we will not hesitate in acting robustly if in the best interests of our clients and go to Court when necessary.”
Blanchards Bailey Principal and Chief Executive Alan Horne said: “We are delighted that Laura’s hard work, dedication and many hours of studying have seen her qualify as a Law Society Accredited Family Mediator – a status which will enable Blanchard’s Bailey to offer an even more enhanced and comprehensive service and the best possible legal advice to our valued clients.”
The move towards ‘no-fault divorce’ comes following a 12-week public consultation, with legislation to be introduced to Parliament when time permits. A 6-month timeframe is likely, allowing couples to reflect on their decision.
Currently, one spouse has to allege adultery or unreasonable behaviour by the other for divorce proceedings to start straight away. In future, they will simply need to confirm the marriage has broken down irretrievably. Also, one partner will not be able to refuse a divorce if the other wants one.
According to the Office of National Statistics, an estimated 42 per cent of marriages in England and Wales end in divorce. Latest figures for 2017 show there were 101,669 divorces amongst opposite sex couples and 338 divorces of same sex couples.
Blanchards Bailey received unprecedented recognition in UK’s leading law sector directory, the Legal 500. The annual publication, The Legal 500 2018/19, recommends the firm in a record seven specialist categories with 11 individual lawyers mentioned, including all five Principals.
The firm won a hat-trick of titles at the 2019 Dorset Legal Awards: Law Firm of the Year (up to 99 employees), Company Commercial Team of the Year and Private Client Team of the Year.
Blanchards Bailey has shown particularly strong growth over the past five years of 10 per cent a year, helping fulfil its aim to be the firm of choice in rural Dorset.