Updated: Sep 17, 2021
Sarah Cutler I CWC Director I 04 June 2021
When we enter a relationship or start a family, it is always usually with optimism of the happiness that lays ahead. We don't always think of the various unexpected situations we may potentially find ourselves in, and what rights we have when they happen. Kristie Silsby is a local Family Lawyer who helps people to understand their rights and to put plans in place to protect themselves and their family members. Kristie also likes to write articles to help clear up the common myths and misconceptions surrounding topics like the rights of co-habiting couples. We got to ask Kristie a few questions about working in family law...
Hi Kristie, so you’re a Family Lawyer – tell us a little about the areas you help people with?
As a family lawyer I help people navigate through the maze of their relationship – whether it be protecting them at the start, during or at the end of their relationship...
Advising couples not married (ie cohabitating couples)
There is a common misconception that by virtue of living with your partner if you are not married or in a civil partnership, that you can enjoy the same legal rights as those who are married. This isn’t the case, and although it’s not the most romantic of things to think about, I help people with putting together a cohabitation agreement which describes their finances, possessions and family relationships, as well as setting out what should happen to these in the event a relationship breaks down. It offers valuable protection, and reduces stress, if sadly, the relationship goes sour.
Advising couples getting married or entering a civil partnership
For those planning their weddings or civil partnerships, I help them to understand how to protect the assets and income they’ve worked hard for or may have inherited and prevent future disputes from occurring by preparing pre-nuptial agreements or pre-civil partnership agreements (or post-nups, for those already married!).
Advising couples separating or when the relationship has come to an end
I also support people who are going through a breakdown of their relationship irrespective of whether they are married or not. I’m the experienced advocate that is by my client’s side every step of the way to ensure that any agreement reached is within my client’s best interests. I often support clients with their full divorce or dissolution proceedings, helping them to resolve the finances and agree any arrangements involving children.
I also act for victims of domestic violence to ensure that they have got the support and protection that they need.
Did you always want to work in law?
From the age of 16 or 17 I knew that a career in law was certainly something that would interest me as I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to study law at A-level and thought it would be a sensible fourth subject to choose. It soon became my favourite subject and I achieved my best grades in it too and so it seemed like the logical choice to go on and complete my law degree.
The third year of my law degree was a compulsory placement year and so I spent 12 months working as a legal assistant at a personal injury firm in Cheltenham. It was really beneficial to get that hands on, practical experience of what life is really like working in the legal sector and so from then on, I knew that I wanted to qualify as a solicitor.
Why do you feel it is so important for women to know their rights and options?
Even now, some women are completely reliant upon their partners for financial support (particularly where women may have taken a career break or given up their career altogether to raise any children) and they have little to no involvement in the family’s finances and so on the breakdown of a relationship, those women are not only dealing with the emotional aspect of such a significant life event, they are also having to learn a whole new way of life. They have to start managing their own finances, thinking of ways to maximise their income and sometimes are still caring for the children at the same time.
It is therefore really important for people to get professional advice about their situation early on so that they understand the position they are in, the next steps and the options available to them moving forwards.
You also write articles to share your advice, do you enjoy writing?
Yes I do, it’s important to highlight the pitfalls in the law that people often aren’t aware of until it’s too late.
Talking of pitfalls, one example of this is the common law marriage myth. I’ve recently written an article with my top tips for cohabiting couples as this is the fastest growing family type in England and Wales yet the law in this area is in desperate need of reform to offer more protection if that relationship breaks down in the future. A well-drafted cohabitation agreement can help couples to avoid unnecessary acrimony, legal costs and the uncertainty of litigation after the cohabitation comes to an end by setting out their clear intentions as to how they handle assets, finances, the dog etc but many aren’t aware of its importance nor the risks without it.
Tell us a little about yourself, what do you like to do when you’re not working?
I enjoy keeping fit and so will often be found jogging or doing some form of exercise in my downtime. My two-year-old cocker spaniel also keeps me very active and we are lucky to live in Gloucestershire with such lovely countryside walks to make the most of.
I am pleased that restaurants are back open again now too as I love eating out and we are spoilt for choice when it comes to amazing places to dine out in in the Cotswolds.
Do you have any exciting plans for the future that you’d like to share with us?
Some may say that divorce lawyers must be quite cynical about relationships, but I am due to get married myself this summer in the beautiful Cotswolds (Covid restrictions permitting of course!) and so I am very excited about that.
Kristie will be sharing her tips and advice with our CWC community. Read her article 'Legal Protection for Cohabiting Couples - Top Tips'
Family law solicitor at Willans LLP, a leading firm based in the heart of the Cotswolds.
T 01242 542908
A 28 Imperial Square, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 1RH.
Willans is a recommended firm of solicitors who are large enough to provide first-class specialist services yet small enough to give genuinely personal service to our clients. We act for local, national and overseas clients from our Cheltenham offices.
Willans goes that extra mile to help people with their legal needs in every aspect of their lives, whether it be business or personal. This is backed by our customer feedback surveys with a score of over 98% satisfaction, Lexcel - a national standard only awarded to law firms which meet the highest management and customer care levels, and our rankings in national legal guides whose researchers undertake extensive research and speak to our clients about their experiences.