Fiona talks about Coercive Control

One of our brave clients, Fiona, spoke to the Hull Daily Mail recently about her experiences of coercive control, in particular the financial control her ex partner held over her.

Read all about it here:

Contact us if you need help with child arrangements or separation/divorce

Introducing Erika

Not-for-profit legal service expands to support more vulnerable women

Hull’s award-winning not-for-profit legal service, Affordable Justice, is expanding its team this Christmas to increase their support to vulnerable women and children.

The first legal firm of its kind in the country, Affordable Justice was launched in February this year as a response to the drastic cuts to Legal Aid that took place in 2013.  It is based at the Preston Road Women’s Centre in Hull and offers family law legal services and representation, supporting women to escape from violent and abusive relationships, and allowing them to rebuild their lives.  Many women are referred to Affordable Justice by domestic violence agencies across the city.

Joining the team will be Erika Williman, a solicitor with over twenty years’ experience. Erika has worked throughout Yorkshire and will be providing services relating to divorce, finances and the consequences of relationship breakdown. She was a member of the Women’s Aid management committee in York for several years and has worked with survivors of abuse throughout her career.

Sue Sedgwick is the lead solicitor for Affordable Justice and is delighted that Erika is joining the service: “We have had some excellent outcomes for women and children in our first 10 months, and demand is increasing, so it is fantastic that Erika is joining us and we can expand our services to help more women.  Affordable Justice can now offer advice, assistance and representation on all family law matters including domestic abuse, children issues, divorce and separation and financial matters.”

Erika is excited about her new role:  “I am looking forward to developing further the services offered via Affordable Justice, given the savage cuts to Legal Aid which has resulted in unfair outcomes for individuals. I firmly believe that in a democratic society that everyone regardless of income should have equal access to the legal system. I am delighted to be part of the country’s first not-for-profit law firm and the ethical stance it represents.”

In October, Affordable Justice won the Start-Up of the Year category in the Social Enterprise Yorkshire & Humber (SEYH) awards.  The awards were presented at the SEYH gala dinner in Leeds.

Erika’s appointment coincides with an awareness campaign about Affordable Justice running on local buses over Christmas and the new year. “Sadly we know that the pressures of Christmas are often a trigger for relationship breakdowns, and can exacerbate domestic violence” says Sue.  “We want to make sure that women know that they can turn to us if they need legal help to get out of dangerous or difficult relationships without racking up huge legal bills.  Typical costs for legal representation in family law proceedings can average £1600 but we offer an hourly rate that is a third of high street solicitors’, and is in some cases lower than public funding rates, bringing the average cost of proceedings to around £500.”

Fiona’s story

Testimonial Content

When we hear the words ‘domestic violence’, we naturally think of physical violence or aggression.  However, emotional and financial abuse is just as dangerous.

Fiona* had a good job and children, but was emotionally and financially controlled by her partner for years until she found the strength to seek help and leave him.   He applied for a Child Arrangements Order that the children would live with him, so Fiona had no choice but to seek legal advice.

The process of going through the courts was proving very costly and Fiona found herself having to take out a loan she could ill-afford to pay her legal fees. Even when her ex-husband rang her solicitors, they charged Fiona every time they had to speak to him, and on one bill alone from them she had to pay £120 just for his calls.

Her costs increased to £7000 and she still hadn’t finished court proceedings.  At the end of her tether, she discussed it with her domestic violence support worker.  As it happened, her DV worker had a copy of the Affordable Justice leaflet on her desk, gave Fiona the details…and she didn’t look back.

From her first meeting with Sue, they were in court two weeks later and sorted out the Child Arrangements Order within two sessions. Fiona is delighted with the result:  “I didn’t feel that Sue was judging me, I was able to ask her anything” she says. “She’s very approachable, really easy to talk to and doesn’t make you feel stupid.

“If it wasn’t for Sue and Affordable Justice I would be badly in debt, so I’m really grateful that my DV worker had the Affordable Justice leaflet on her desk that day.   Although our court proceedings are finished, I still have some legal bits to sort out and, thanks to Sue, I’ve now got the confidence to represent myself.

“I know that lack of money is a huge barrier for women who want to leave their partners, and I would recommend Affordable Justice to anyone who is in the situation I was.  £47/hour compared to an average of £190 per hour plus VAT makes all the difference between staying in a horrible, dangerous situation or getting out and getting a better life.”

Sue said: “Representing such a courageous woman who had overcome incredibly difficult circumstances was a hugely rewarding experience.  I saw first-hand how Fiona’s confidence increased and her anxiety lessened as the proceedings continued.  The fact that she now has the confidence to represent herself is a really positive outcome for Fiona and indeed Affordable Justice”.

*Fiona’s name has been changed