Meet the Lawyer - James Haworth, Director or Family
James Haworth is our Director of family law and based in our Leicester office and the family law team extends to Market Harborough and Wigston offices.
I was raised in New Zealand and studied law at Auckland University which means I am dual-qualified and also entitled to act as a barrister in that country.
I started my early career as an articled clerk at Lincolnshire firm Chattertons. After my training in 1990 I joined Broadbents in Derbyshire as a family solicitor. In 1993 I spent a year at Bright Richards (now Nelsons) and then spent four years at Josiah Hincks in Leicester.
I joined Leicestershire law firm Lawson-West in 1998, where I made partner in 2003 and director in 2011 when the firm became a limited company. I have overall responsibility for the family department.
What is your role?
The clients who need legal support are those with family disputes, often divorce, separation, or child law issues. My motivation as a lawyer has been to provide helpful legal support and assistance to people over the years. I want to help people through life’s personal difficulties and get them from A to B as quickly and inexpensively as possible, helping them limit and overcome personal distress and anguish.
Being a family lawyer is not an easy career choice. Family law means dealing with emotionally-charged situations and a diverse set of problems.
What is a typical day like for you?
I spend about 60% of my time meeting clients face to face and speaking to clients over the phone. The rest of my day is taken up with managing the family law team, drafting and reviewing legal documents and liaising with opposing solicitors, legal counsel and the Courts. In addition, I am a member of Lawson-West’s Board with responsibilities that include acting as the firm’s Compliance Officer.
What types of client do you represent?
It is true to say that after 30 years in family law I’ve begun to see a pattern of recurring relationship issues where legal advice is required and one could argue that people in the following scenarios are more likely to require legal protection. Typical client situations include:
- A young family man, unmarried, whose relationship ends after many years and whose partner takes the kids with no contact for him, or the grandparents, to see the children.
- A young working couple in their late 30’swith both children under 18. The wife is part-time or on a low income, the house is mortgaged, assets are modest, savings low. The relationship has broken down and the couple wants to divorce and split their assets, however this relationship is based on double-income, combined resources and splitting the household means both parties are unable to afford a mortgage on their own. One or both parties end up living in rented accommodation. Sometimes a new start means moving away or meeting a new partner and complex contact situations arise – for example a parent not turning-up for contact with their children, maintenance being stopped or a refusal to allow contact to children.
- A couple where one person is very controlling. This is more common than you think. Both men and women can be extremely controlling individuals in a relationship. One person might be strong, the other less so. Communication starts to break down and fail when one party doesn’t believe the other person; a person is caught out in a lie; or trust is irreconcilably damaged.
- A property that is registered in the sole name of one party, but occupied by that party and their unmarried partner can be a minefield when the relationship breaks down. There is no presumption that the non-owning partner is entitled to a share of the property, no matter how long they have lived there together. The non-owning partner must prove that they have acquired an interest in the property which must be done using trust law which is complex. Where both parties are going to contribute towards a house it is best to have the title deeds put in both names.
- A person whosebehaviouris unreasonable. I have seen so many instances of emotionally-charged individuals who do not take a reasonable approach. It is really difficult for emotions not to run high, but I would always recommend keeping things amicable and not to seek vengeance or entertain bitterness. Good resolutions are those where each person maintains dignity and composure, not resorting to anger or deliberate annoyance. These are the types of disputes that can take months and months to resolve, which can only damage the relationship you have with your children.
What do you think of No Fault Divorce?
The future introduction of no-fault divorces will have a dramatic effect on the time it takes to divorce. The removal of proving one of the parties are ‘at fault’ (adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion) or the time required to live separately (2 years of separation or 5 years of separation) means that divorces will become simpler. I don’t personally believe this will increase the volume of divorces and it won’t completely ease the stress and pain that couples and their children endure during separation, but it is likely to make it more straightforward for couples to divorce.
What changes would you like to see to UK law?
I think there needs to be greater legal protection for cohabiting couples; those living together but unmarried. What some call ‘common law’ needs clarity and definition in the law.
How have clients responded in the past?
I host a Citizens Advice Bureau legal drop-in as part of my pro bono work and their comments make me realise how being a family lawyer really does help others to overcome some pretty challenging times:
At Lawson-West, we have over 40 years’ experience dealing with relationship breakdowns, helping couples and families to overcome broken relationships to find resolution.
If you would like help or advice now, or at any stage in the future, please feel free to contact James Haworth.
“I’m here to help you if you need further discussion, guidance or assistance, by phone or appointment.”
James Haworth, Family Solicitor
Lawson-West, 4 Dominus Way, Leicester, LE19 1RP
Direct Line: 0116 2121086View all