Legal First As Family Law Judgement Is Given In Plain English

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The Law Of... making legal judgements understandable

Every day Family Judges make hugely important decisions – which parent should a child live with? Should a child be removed from their parents and placed in care? Which spouse gets to live in the family home?

The Law Of... making legal judgements understandable

They are also responsible for explaining their reasons for making these decisions.

But what happens when a client doesn't understand the decision made? Partner Paul Foster discusses a recent case where Mr Justice Peter Jackson gave his decision in plain English, and what it means for Family law cases in future.

An Uncomfortable Situation

For many family lawyers, leaving the courtroom and finding out that their client has understood very little of what has happened means that an uncomfortable discussion about the outcome may have to take place.

Sometimes, this is because the client was too anxious to pay attention, but often, this is due to the language used by other lawyers and the judge.

By its very nature, the law is a complicated system to process, and the facts of some cases are very complex. This is usually reflected in the language used; it is also complex and difficult to understand if you are not legally trained.

Sticking To Plain English

In the first of its kind, Mr Justice Peter Jackson yesterday gave a judgement using plain English in a children's case, which was designed to be understood by the mother and children involved. Paul comments:

"It is really surprising, and frankly rather disappointing, that this is the first time this has been done, and I very much hope it is not the last. In an ideal world, it would become normal practice. The language we use in court shouldn't get in the way of a client understanding the judgement made."

"It is a sad reality that cuts to legal aid means more and more people find themselves without legal representation at court. Whilst that will always be a difficult situation to find yourself in, the least we can expect is that everyone can understand what is going on at court. This should be true if you have a lawyer – and if you don't."

"At Simpson Millar we are committed to helping clients get access to justice, and this plain English judgement is the one of the many steps towards this."

"Always take the time to tell your lawyer if you don't understand something that's said, or any documents that you receive – it's our job to make sure you understand what is happening throughout and what our advice means for you. After all, the law is for all people, not just for the lawyers."

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