Our Family department is known for its exceptional ability to deal with complex and emotionally charged family related matters and the legal issues that surround them. We support and guide those involved in the difficult circumstances of separation, divorce and the impact these may have on an entire family. In particular, we work closely to ensure the best outcome for any children involved and are key supporters of Voices in the Middle, a charity dedicated to this cause.
Our team is made up of experts who will handle your case confidentially and with sensitivity and tenacity. We understand how to protect our clients’ interests and will always try to ensure the best outcome for all those involved in a family break up.
Our work ranges from assisting with cohabitation/pre-nuptial agreements and advising on family mediation, to dealing with forensic analyses/disclosure issues in financial disputes, and working with clients on international claims and asset recovery issues which involve foreign nationals.
We also advise on questions relating specifically to children, from helping to resolve everyday arrangements, to surrogacy and international child abduction. Our team is comfortable both in assisting with traditional procedures, enforcing legal separation and divorce, and using alternative dispute resolution including mediation and collaborative models where these are best suited to our clients’ needs.
Divorce is often a painful process, and your choice of legal representation will make all the difference to your experience. We will guide you through the process, ensuring that your interests are looked after, whilst avoiding unnecessary cost, stress and anxiety.
When considering your financial entitlement, we will ensure that your voice is heard, and we will encourage a sound agreement if possible. If a reasonable settlement is not possible then we will provide first class legal advice and judgement to guide you through the process to the contested hearing.
We are experienced in advising on complex financial situations and have relationships with tried and trusted experts in areas such as forensic accountancy. We also advise on questions of jurisdiction which are raised now with increasing frequency.
We never forget that our fees are most often paid from family savings and at a time when most people can least afford it. Our costs are reasonable and transparent and we will provide you with regular updates on accumulated fees.
The law which governs rights on the breakdown of a co-habitation is complex and the consequences can sometimes come as a surprise. There are widespread misconceptions in this area, for example the idea of a ‘common law marriage’ which, in reality, does not exist in the UK.
When co-habitation breaks down you need to obtain legal advice from a specialist who understands the intricacies of this area. We explain the law clearly and will clarify your options so that you understand your position. We address the issues with understanding and tact, taking a conciliatory and pragmatic approach wherever practicable. However, we are tough opponents if that becomes necessary.
Disputes regarding child issues are rarely straightforward. The right legal advice and guidance is clearly of critical importance.
We understand the court process and how judges are likely to interpret the law. The law always focuses on what is best for the child and we will work with you to increase the likelihood that the outcome will be the best for you too. We regularly deal with issues of residence (where a child lives, and with whom), contact, and specific issue disputes, such as the choice of school.
Voices in the Middle
We are proud to have been chosen as a regional partner of the charity Kids in the Middle, and to be given the opportunity to promote its ‘Voices in the Middle’ campaign within the Greater London area.
All too often during a separation, when parents are stressed and angry at each other, the real interests of the children can be overlooked. One way of changing this is to show parents how children feel during this process and Voices in the Middle does this. The charity also provides support for children going through the separation process.
Pre-nuptial agreements are becoming increasingly popular and although they are not enforced automatically, they can have a significant effect in determining entitlements in the event of a subsequent breakdown.
We advise people who are planning to marry or enter civil partnership on what to expect if the relationship breaks down, and we also prepare pre-nuptial agreements to prepare for this eventuality.
Before couples start to live together it is important for them to consider an agreement which will set out the rights of each party to property (amongst other issues) in the event of a break-up.
We always encourage people embarking on co-habitation to enter into a co-habitation agreement.
Such an agreement clarifies each party’s intentions and can prevent a great deal of anguish and legal expenditure further down the line. We will prepare an agreement tailored to your needs.
There is an increasing understanding that alternative models of resolving problems or disputes can be invaluable in helping individuals reach an agreement, avoiding the emotional and financial cost of litigation. We take a creative and progressive approach to problem- solving and where possible we encourage our clients to resolve matters without the need for court proceedings.
Mediation can be hugely beneficial – enabling individuals to involve themselves more personally and directly in the negotiations and decision-making process. The mediator is an impartial third party who sees both people at the same time and assists the parties in reaching an agreement.
Mediation is a very flexible model and the process can be moulded to fit the individual circumstances of the case – it can be used to deal with a single problem, or equally well used to cover a whole spectrum of issues.
In Collaborative law, clients take an active part in the negotiation process and they report a very high level of satisfaction with this approach to problem solving. In this model, negotiations take place for the most part during round table meetings with the parties and the lawyers in attendance. The approach is once again constructive and consensual, providing the opportunity for clients to be present and involved in the decision-making whilst retaining the protection of legal advice throughout.
Jane McDonagh, Lara Wulwik and Tessa Bray are Family Mediators and Jane is also a Resolution-trained Collaborative lawyer. Lara Wulwik conducts Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAM). Before an application can be made to court, parties are now required to attend a MIAM. The aim of the meeting is to see if mediation, or any other alternative dispute resolution method, could be used to resolve difficulties, rather than going straight to court.
“Its thoroughness is breath taking and the team is always one beat ahead. Level headed and pragmatic the lawyers gave me utterly sound advice. But also its human and empathetic side meant that the lawyers felt like partners rather than service suppliers” Legal 500, 2022
“SMB is an under-rated but truly excellent practice. It has quite an inimitable style of being slightly under the radar, compared to some of its more “shouty” competitors which clearly pays dividends. A strong and classy act.” Legal 500, 2022
“A growing presence with, rightly, growing recognition as a class act of a team.” Legal 500, 2022
“My impression of the Simons Muirhead Burton family practice is that it has a modern and progressive perspective, coupled with an effective and yet still compassionate approach. I view the team as definitely on the up.” Legal 500, 2021
“The lawyers are always ahead of the game when it comes to the opposing party, which has been such a key strength. Legal 500, 2021
“A very reliable firm, prompt with their responses and with the work.” Legal 500, 2021
“A very strong young team and guides it well – it is a star firm of the future.” Legal 500, 2019
“A rising family department that is easily able to take on the well-established ‘Magic Circle’ firms.” Legal 500, 2019
“Attracts high calibre clients.” Legal 500, 2019
“Outstanding and very thorough.” Legal 500, 2018
“I hold them in high regard. They are very good for both businesses and individuals and they do work in a lot of specialisms.” Chambers & Partners, 2021
Chambers & Partners, 2021
“Really impressive. They have been successful in obtaining a suitable outcome and assisted me through the entire experience.”
Chambers & Partners, 2021
“A dynamic yet approachable firm.”
Latest feedback from the legal directory in the 2022 Legal 500 guideRead more
Originally written for The Transparency Project, Teena Dhanota-Jones discusses how the term 'childless' has been linked with the duration of a marriage when determining the division of assets in divorce proceedings.Read more
SMB are very pleased to announce that Family Partner Tessa Bray will be speaking at ThoughtLeaders4 Event, 'What is in a Name? Changing Name & Title on Divorce: Comparing France, England, Italy & the US Approaches'.Read more