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About Alternative Family Law

Andrea Woelke set up Alternative Family Law in 2005 because he felt that the way he as a family lawyer works with his clients and meets their needs differs greatly from the way lawyers work with clients in other areas of law. Family law touches very personal and intimate areas of people’s lives and most clients prefer to have a personal relationship with their lawyer. In other areas large teams may deal with a case and work is streamlined into an efficient computerised case-management system, with day-to-day tasks often done by junior lawyers or non-legal staff. By contrast family law clients require an expert lawyer who is easily accessible and has overall day-to-day responsibility for their case. Andrea’s particular expertise and experience in international cases and issues involving lesbian and gay clients made Alternative Family Law well-suited for a niche, specialised family law practice.

Why “Alternative Family Law”?

First, we believe that litigation in the courts is not the only way to resolve family conflicts, and it is often the worst. We offered our clients the whole range of options to resolve the problems arising out of relationship breakdown. This provides a strong alternative to litigation for those families where this is appropriate. Secondly our clients came from a wide range of backgrounds and countries and included those with unconventional family set-ups including same-sex couples and their families. In this way, the word is also meant to signify the alternative family structures we have experience in. Some of our colleagues in other firms called themselves “matrimonial” lawyers. Our clients came from a wide and diverse range, including single-parent families, unmarried and same-sex couples. Therefore we firmly saw ourselves as family lawyers and not just matrimonial lawyers or divorce lawyers.

Why the photos of fruit and vegetables?

Our office was near Borough Market, just across London Bridge from the City. Borough Market’s roots go back to Roman and medieval times when the old London Bridge was too narrow for carts to cross and those coming from Kent and Surrey to supply London with their produce had to unload on the south bank. A market therefore developed along Borough High Street, which later moved to its present location. Until the late 1990s Borough Market was simply a wholesale market operating in the early hours of the morning. Since then it has developed into Britain’s premier location to buy specialised foodstuffs and produce with a wide range of traders from all over the world selling top quality goods. Most of the traders are experts in their particular field, selling only a small range of goods, sometimes only a single item, be that the best Parmesan cheese, or the most delicious wild mushrooms. Although you will not find any cheap-range items here, especially seasonal fruit and vegetables are often less expensive than in the supermarkets because the traders do not carry the overheads of the large operations with all their advertising etc. Alternative Family Law equally was a small law firm specialising in a niche area.

Areas Of Law

We dealt with divorces of opposite-sex couples, whether there are children or not and whether there is little in finances to sort out, or complex assets, sometimes in several countries. Such cases can involve complicated aspects of international family law. In the same way we used to have many clients who dissolve their civil partnership and are sensitive to the special ways lesbians and gay men structure their relationships. When unmarried couples separate there can sometimes be legally complex aspects in relation to the home, which may be jointly owned, or owned in the name of one partner, with the other one claiming an interest. In such cohabitation cases, there may also be issues in relation to children, whether they are biological children of both partners or not. Of course we also used to deal with property disputes between co-owners of flats or houses where there is a co-ownership dispute about the beneficial interest, whether it is a buy-to-let property or their former home. To prevent later disputes, some couples decide to have a pre-nuptial or pre-registration agreement drafted, or a cohabitation agreement or a deed of trust, if they are not married or civil partners. Sometimes a situation at home is so unbearable because of the behaviour of one of the parties, sometimes including domestic violence, that an urgent application to the court for an injunction is necessary. If a close member of the family dies, the law allows in certain circumstances inheritance claims against the estate from close relatives who have lost out.

Regulation and Insurance

Alternative Family Law is an information website on English family law. When it was a law firm it was  regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (No. 420801) and in particular by the Solicitors’ Code of Conduct. Our VAT number was 859006905. Run-off cover is provided by Travelers insurance. We have always striven to give our clients the best possible service. However, if at any point you become unhappy or concerned about the service we have provided then you should inform us immediately, so that we can do our best to resolve the problem. If you would like to make a formal complaint, then you can read our full complaints procedure here. Making a complaint will not affect how we handle your case. The Solicitors Regulation Authority can help you if you are concerned about our behaviour. This could be for things like dishonesty, taking or losing your money or treating you unfairly because of your age, a disability or other characteristic. The Legal Ombudsman can help you if we are unable to resolve your complaint ourselves. They will look at your complaint independently and it will not affect how we handle your case. Before accepting a complaint for investigation, the Legal Ombudsman will check that you have tried to resolve your complaint with us first. If you have, then you must take your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman within six months of receiving a final response to your complaint and

  • No more than six years from the date of act/omission; or
  • No more than three years from when you should reasonably have known there was cause for complaint.

If you would like more information about the Legal Ombudsman, please contact them (0300 555 0333 between 9am to 5pm; enquiries@legalombudsman.org.uk; Legal Ombudsman PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ) 
31 August 2019 by Andrea Woelke