A chat with.. Carina Smith
This week we chat to Carina Smith, Partner in our Family team about her area of practice and Family law developments in 2021.
Tell us about your own area of legal practice?
My practice covers private family law matters. The bulk of my work is in relation to divorce, finances and private law children issues. I have a broad range of clients including High Net Worth individuals, professionals and creatives. My practice has become increasingly international (current clients include Swedish, Russian and Nigerian nationals for example) and I am experienced in (and enjoy) dealing with the particular jurisdictional and other issues that come with international work. I advise people if their relationship breaks down and I am also frequently instructed to advise in relation to wealth protection and the drafting of cohabitation agreements and prenuptial agreements. I am a member of Resolution and so am committed to helping people resolve matters amicably wherever possible but I will not shy away from court proceedings if they are necessary in order to achieve the best outcome for a client.
The “no fault” divorce legislation is due to come into force later this year, do you see it reducing the complexities of divorce? How much easier will it make the process in reality?
I think that the no fault legislation is long overdue and am delighted that it is finally coming into force. On a practical level the paperwork and complexities will not be hugely different in my view. The impact of the new legislation is that it will take the heat out of the first stage of the divorce process and hopefully
that sets the tone for resolving financial and children matters.
The problem with the current process is that unless a couple wants to wait two years to start the divorce process, their only option is to provide a list of their spouse’s unreasonable behaviour. It is a very damaging way to start proceedings in circumstances where temperatures are often already running high and is particularly unhelpful for couples with children who will need to maintain a relationship going forwards as coparents. I very much hope the new legislation will have a very positive impact by removing that requirement.
Has the divorce process become any more or less streamlined/efficient as a result of the pandemic?
My experience of the divorce process during the pandemic has been incredibly varied. The court (and practitioners) have embraced the online systems and the new online divorce portal has now been adopted as the norm. Starting up proceedings has become much faster as a result (days rather than weeks). However, past the initial stages, the courts are really struggling to cope with online hearings. Many have a huge backlog partly because a lot of hearings in the family law arena (particularly those relating to children) are simply unsuitable for remote hearings. As a consequence there have been lengthy delays in some courts. Hopefully as the restrictions ease this will improve.
Tell us something we might not know about you…
I am a keen scuba diver and learnt to dive about 20 years ago in Lake Malawi. I am not too good with the big fish however and recall one particular dive which my husband and I sought out in order to see sharks and then could not get out of the water quick enough when they appeared!
Carina Smith, Partner
T: 020 7227 6716