Financial & Legal News

Language Matters in Legal Separation Cases

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Legal language can often be off-putting and no more so when it’s adversarial, now in an effort to make it easier to understand and more user friendly for families it is proposed that the legal language of family separation be reassessed.

The best interest of the child children act 1989

The Children Act 1989 made an effort to focus on the child and their well-being has quite rightly become central, over above parental rights in cases.  However, at the same time, the language used in court has remained the same and at times this can be confusing.

The Family Solutions Group have made a number of key recommendations about how legal language is used in separation cases.  This is not a change in the law, merely a proposed change in how the law is delivered.

“Legal ‘speak’ has not evolved much over time, it has derived from an accusatory adversarial legal system which could at times be accused of being divisive and adversarial,” said Pearson Family Solicitor, Emma Kendall.

“A change in language and tone could help to minimise conflict and enable the divorce to be dealt with in a respectful and amicable way.   It won’t change the law but I think going forward Judges may comment on documents lodged with the Court that don’t fall in line with the recommendations,” she added.

Legal Separation & Language Recommendations

“Keep your words positive because your words become your behaviour”

This quote from Ghandi could be so true of the family courts, if the language used is combative the whole process can become a battleground and in all cases, divorce, separation and care cases our solicitors strive to put the child at the centre and work out what is best for them.

The Family Solution Group wants to encourage language which is:

  • Plain English – avoiding legal jargon
  • Personal – using family names rather than legal labels
  • Proportionate – to the issues discussed
  • Problem Solving – constructive language
  • Positive Futures – not past recriminations

“The Solicitors and apprentice Solicitors in our Care and Family teams work together and have long adopted this approach and we are always mindful of the need to do so,” added Care Solicitor at Pearson, Pamela Walsh.

This is endorsed and encouraged by the organisation Resolution in their best practice guides and several of our team are on their specialist panels.

Even something as simple as removing for example Smith V Smith, in which V is automatically combative meaning against and replacing it with ‘and’ gets proceedings off to a smoother start.

“We look forward to seeing if these suggestions are taken forward as children’s needs and welfare should be central and the courts can become a friendlier place for families,” added Pamela and Emma.

How can we help

For legal advice on all family, related matters including divorce, separation and child care contact our specialist family and care solicitors on 0161 785 3500 or email 

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.

Written by Emma Kendall


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