For this month’s interview series, we spoke to Fiona Lyon who is a Partner in the top-rated family law team at Anthony Gold LLP based at London Bridge. Fiona has been practising in the field of family law for nearly 13 years and is an expert in this field of law.
What are the aspects of family law that your firm covers?
We cover divorce and civil partnership dissolution – we are known for our work with same-sex couples. We also practice in the area of child law, which includes contact and living arrangements, disputes in relation to school choice and medical treatment, child relocation and child abduction. We can also help unmarried parents who are making financial claims on behalf of their child from a former partner.
We cover financial settlements for married or unmarried couples upon separation. We can also advise in relation to variations to existing orders, such as a reduction to a spousal maintenance order (we have received increased inquiries for this service during the pandemic). We can help with enforcement issues if you have not been paid what you are owed under a Court, draft pre-nuptial, and post-nuptial agreements.
We have unfortunately seen a steep rise in relation to domestic abuse during the pandemic and we are able to help with protective injunctions to regulate the behaviour of an abuser or in certain circumstances remove them from a property and freeze financial assets.
How do you help in cases like surrogacy?
In relation to surrogacy, we would assist the intended parents in acquiring a parental order to legally recognise their status as parents. This can involve one or more hearings and the production of evidence to satisfy the Court that you are entitled to the parental order under the legislation. If it is an international surrogacy arrangement, this can be more complicated as there will be immigration issues to deal with.
What are some tips you have for couples entering a relationship?
We have seen a steep acceleration of relationships due to the pandemic. There are lots of couples living together who may have waited longer. In terms of legal protection, if you are thinking about co-habiting and you are not married you may wish to consider a co-habitation agreement. This will set out regulate your finances and obligations and give more certainty in the event of separation. If you are purchasing a property as a couple and you are unmarried, you should think carefully about who’s name(s) the property is registered in. If you have made unequal financial contributions you may wish to enter into a declaration of trust to quantify your interests in the event of a sale. If you do not do this, you may find that it is difficult to recover what you put in without a dispute arising.
If you are going to get married and wish to protect any assets you are bringing into the marriage, you should consider a pre-nuptial agreement. It is correct that these agreements are not legally binding as the relevant legislation has not been passed yet. However, in reality they will be determinative if they have been entered into properly and fairly. If you are already married, you can enter into a post-nuptial agreement to achieve more certainty of outcomes if you were to divorce. Although this may seem unromantic, it is an insurance policy against the worst-case scenario and in some ways is no different to obtaining a Will.
How do you help make the ending of relationship easier?
I am a member of an organisation called Resolution and the ethos is to resolve issues of family breakdown in a non-confrontational and constructive manner. Court will always be a last resort and clients are assessed on an individual basis as to which procedure best suits the situation. I will always support parties in exploring mediation or private settlement if that is possible.
What are some of the myths that we perhaps do not know enough about?
There is no such thing as a common law wife. When unmarried couples separate significant issues can arise regarding ownership of property and provision for children. Many wrongly assume they will have the same rights as married people because they are “common law spouses”. This is not the case and can result in unfairness and hardship on the economically weaker party.
What do you love most about your job?
It may sound clichéd, but I chose to do family law as I wanted to help people. I am fascinated by people’s stories and it is immensely rewarding to see the journey individuals take from the first meeting to the last. It is often the case that you see your clients reborn during the process and they come out on the other side able to embrace life again.
How has the recent lockdown affected your business?
Family law has seen an overnight revolution, from paper-based working and court-based hearings to being paperless and having remote or online hearings. The move to paperless eliminates paper bundles which is a huge environmental win and it is far easier for clients to access our help with zoom meetings.
How you manage work life balance- any tips?
I am a big believer in mindfulness and slowing down the brain. I try to go for a walk before work, at lunchtime and after work in order to ensure I have a break from my desk and I put some distance between myself and the office at regular intervals.
What do you love about the Clapham area?
I lived in Clapham North with friends in my 20s and absolutely loved it! I love the common and all the sporting activities you can get involved in there. The people watching is fabulous and there are so many great restaurants and bars.
If you had to give one piece of advice to younger self, what would that be?
Don’t sweat the small stuff, be confident, keep following your path and it will all come good!
To read more about Anthony Gold Solicitors, you can read our post here.
Anthony Gold Solicitors are offering Clapham Mums a free 20 minute consultation.