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Understanding the different roles in Family Law

There are many different professions involved in family law and they all help make a difference to the lives of individuals and families who are dealing with some challenging and emotional situations. When instructing solicitors, it can be very overwhelming and somewhat confusing as to what the best route is for you to take and who you should be instructing to ensure you get the best outcome possible.

At Band Hatton Button, our family team consists of a paralegal and 3 solicitors, 1 of whom is also an accredited mediator. We all work very closely together to ensure that we meet clients’ needs and objectives as best as possible.


Family Law solicitors are legally qualified professionals who can advise and represent clients on a wide range of areas in family law. Solicitors will provide legal advice, negotiate outcomes, draft legal documents, instruct specialists to prepare reports or serve papers on other parties and prepare paperwork for court proceedings. Some solicitors may also represent you in court instead of instructing a barrister.

Solicitors are regulated by a number of different organisations, such as The Law Society and The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). To be a member of these organisations you must fit certain criteria. To be sure that your solicitor is qualified and can deal with your case appropriately, then you can check whether they have been admitted to the roll of Solicitors on the link below.

Some solicitors are also members of Resolution – First for Family Law. Solicitors who are members of Resolution are required to follow a code of practice which promotes a constructive and conciliatory approach to issues and considers the needs of the whole family. Resolution members will avoid using confrontational language and processes and will promote agreement between parties in the most amicable way possible. Issuing court proceedings is usually the last resort for a solicitor who is a member of Resolution although even the Court process will promote discussion and agreement over the Court making a final decision

Solicitors often charge by an hourly rate, and this can vary depending on the amount of experience the solicitor has and the geographical area they practice in. Solicitors can seem expensive although that is because they are properly qualified after many years of training, regulated, and insured to give you the correct legal advice.

Chartered Legal Executives

Chartered Legal Executives are authorised lawyers who have trained to the same level as a solicitor but specialise in one specific area of law. They work alongside solicitors carrying out reserved legal work such as advising clients, drafting legal documents, researching cases, and interacting with other legal professionals such as a barrister. With limitations they can also represent clients in court.

CILEX is the professional association and governing body for over 20,000 Chartered Legal Executives. To be sure your Chartered Legal Executive is qualified and able to deal with your case then you can check on the link below.

Chartered Legal Executives will often charge an hourly rate and like solicitors this can vary depending on the amount of experience the chartered legal executive has.


Family Law paralegals provide support to solicitors and tend to be the first point of contact for clients, they will establish the clients’ needs and work out the best way to support them. This could be offering them a fixed fee meeting with a solicitor to discuss finances or child arrangements or assisting them with divorce proceedings whether they are an applicant or respondent. Paralegals will often attend court with the client and their barrister, to provide support throughout the day and take notes to ensure everything is documented.

Paralegals are not qualified to give legal advice and are not insured in the same way that a solicitor must be. Accordingly, time spent by a paralegal is much cheaper and they usually support more experienced lawyers/solicitors.


Family Law barristers are specialist advocates and are often instructed to represent clients in court proceedings. Barristers will speak on your behalf and present your case to the court and try and persuade the judge to give the outcome you want. They will be briefed by your solicitor on your case prior to your hearing and what you seek to achieve at court. Having a barrister represent you at court can relieve some of the nerves and provide you with support throughout the hearing. To be sure that your barrister is authorised to practice and represent you in court, you can check that they are registered on the Barrister’s Register on the link below.

Barristers’ fees are usually charged on a fixed fee basis and the fees can vary depending on whether the barrister is of junior, senior or silk level. Barristers’ fees usually include their attendance at court to represent you, drafting of any documents, correspondence between parties and travel expenses and will be agreed up front.

McKenzie Friends

A McKenzie friend is someone who can provide you with support throughout court proceedings if you are a litigant in person and can help deal with any paperwork. It is very important to remember that McKenzie friends cannot provide you with legal advice or speak on your behalf in court as they are not qualified or regulated and are uninsured for any liability.  Such services are for support only and cannot conduct a case in the same way that a solicitor can and will.  They may have some professional background and may even be retired as solicitors.  If they are no longer on the roll of solicitors for any reason, they cannot provide the same service as a solicitor and will not be insured to give advice or act on your behalf and should not hold themselves out to.


Mediators can help parties come to an agreement without the need to go to court. A mediator helps parties focus on the issues and come up with solutions to try to resolve areas of difficulty by exploring compromise and reality testing options. The process is not limited to helping couples with issues arising from divorce or separation. It can help with wider family issues as well, such as grandparents and their contact with grandchildren where there is friction in the wider family.

The mediator will listen to the needs of the parties and what they wish to achieve and joint sessions usually take place to discuss these needs in a calm and managed environment.  Both parties contribute to the discussions and attempt to find a compromise to their situation that they are both comfortable with.  If they do the mediator can record that for them.  Sometimes an outcome cannot always be agreed, so a mediator can assist and suggest things which could help the parties move towards an agreement. Mediators are regulated by the Family Mediation Council, and you can check whether they are accredited on the link below.

Mediation is usually significantly cheaper than each party instructing opposing solicitors or instigating a court process. Mediators will give information about their fees prior to any meetings taking place and payment is usually made as each meeting happens.

Finally, if you find yourself facing the breakdown of your relationship, or this is happening to someone close to you, consider getting a copy of ‘(Almost) Anything But Family Court’ by Jo O’Sullivan and published by Bath Publishing.  This currently costs £20, and you get two copies, one for each person.  The book has valuable information about all sorts of issues in this area and can be a very helpful guide to people who just don’t know where to start or are embroiled in a situation and feel that some guidance would help.

At Band Hatton Button, our lawyers are all members of Resolution – First for Family Law and are all correctly qualified to help you resolve matters in a conciliatory and appropriate way.  We also have an Accredited Family Mediator who can assist with all types of Family Mediation.

For more information visit the family pages of our website by clicking here or call the Family team for initial help with no obligation on 024 7630 9307.


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