Who Cares Trust Charity Cycle Ride: The Finish!

After 200 miles of cycling across France, Julia Clayton and the rest of the cyclists reached the finish yesterday, as they arrived at Lyon! Saturday saw a relatively easy cycle route along cycle paths, and through the longest tunnel in Europe at over one mile long, before they reached Macon on Saturday evening.

Yesterday however proved a much tougher day of cycling, with no more cycle paths in site but instead rutted paths for around 30 miles, before stopping for lunch. The cycle ride then took the cyclists all along the Saone river, where a number of them made the most of the scenery, having a mid-cycle dip in the river! Luckily the afternoon ride proved a little easier than the morning, and all the cyclists were extremely happy to finally reach the finish line at around 6.00 pm.

Julia and her team mate Jacquie Spragg, a self-employed Guardian, won the award for best new comers and also the most inventive fundraisers! So congratulations to all the cyclists who took part, and in particular to Julia, who still managed to complete the ride despite a fractured shoulder!

Who Cares Trust Charity Cycle Ride: Day 2

Unfortunately for Julia and the team of cyclists it’s not just England who are suffering from rain! It wasn’t quite the start they had all hoped for as they began the first 20 miles of their cycle ride through France in the rain, before arriving in Beaune at 8.40 pm. It wasn’t all bad though, as their route took them through many vineyards and pretty wine growing villages.

Needless to say their early start at 8.00 am this morning to embark on the next 60 miles presented a little bit of a challenge after having sampled the wine that Beaune had to offer! Julia has been joined on the cycle ride by many other children panel solicitors and Guardian’s, and so far her shoulder is holding up. So we will all keep our fingers crossed, and we will update you again on their progress when we know more!


Who Cares Trust Charity Cycle Ride: The Off!

Today Julia Clayton one of the Directors of Hartnell and Chanot and Partners, begins the much awaited journey to France, where upon arrival she will embark on a four day cycle ride through Burgundy in France, tackling over 200 miles, all in the name of charity!

Julia will be part of a group of 57 amateur cyclists all undertaking this challenge for the Who Cares Trust, a charity supporting children who are in, and leaving care, with a fundraising target of £40,000! This challenge will be made even harder for Julia, given the fact that during a training ride she suffered a tumble which resulted in a fractured shoulder! However undeterred, she is determined to complete the full 200 miles.

We all wish Julia the very best of luck, and you can keep up to date with the progress which she and the rest of the team are making by clicking on the link below. Good luck Julia!


Hartnell Chanot Welcomes Consultation on Parental Contact Following Separation

Hartnell Chanot & Partners has welcomed the government’s consultation, announced yesterday, on plans to ensure that children continue to see both parents after a separation or divorce.

The proposed changes to the Children Act 1989 will seek to ensure that both parents’ roles are recognised and that there is no discrimination between parents. The proposals do not recommend an equal sharing of time after parents’ separation but place emphasis on the quality of the time that each parent has with the children, and that unless there are real safety or welfare concerns, the usual expectation will be that the children can spend quality time and retain a good relationship with both parents.

The consultation will also look at how to toughen sanctions to enforce breaches of court orders regarding care arrangements.

Commenting on the consultation Norman Hartnell, Director said: “We are pleased to see that the government is looking at ways to improve the system in the best interests of children. Many of our clients face child contact issues and it is extremely distressing for both the parent and the child when one parent is unreasonably denied access to their own children. Provision has to be made of course to protect children from harm where that has occurred, and that will not change. We hope however that the emphasis on purely punitive sanctions will give way to greater encouragement to solve problems, to enable parents who are in the midst of their own emotional turmoil to place their children’s needs uppermost in their minds.

He added: “In dealing with such difficult situations the children’s interests need to be put at the centre of any arrangements. This is our fundamental approach and it would appear that the government is taking the same direction with this consultation.”

The consultation closes on Wednesday 5 September and can be accessed here.

“The Importance of Being a Grandparent” – The Grandparents Association Annual Conference

The Grandparents’ Association Annual Conference 2012 will be held on the 18th June 2012 at Legal and General, One Coleman Street, London.

The focus of this year’s conference will be on the importance of being a grandparent and will feature speakers and debate from a cross section of professionals who are working to highlight the importance of grandparents.

Family lawyer, Stephen Sowden, of Hartnell Chanot & Partners will be one of the speakers and will be sharing his experiences and providing advice on how grandparents can work with the legal system to resolve access issues.

Other speakers include:

  • Robert Halfon MP
  • Cathy Ashley, Family Rights Group

To see the full agenda and to register your place please click here.

The Grandparents Association was set up in 1987 by a group of grandparents whose grandchildren had been put into care, adopted from care or were not allowed any contact with them. It has grown into a thriving national charity, with around 1,000 members nationwide made up of grandparents and organisations. Its mission is to  improve the lives of children by working with and for all grandparents.


Foster Care Fortnight 2012

Foster Care Fortnight 2012 takes place from Monday 14 to Sunday 27 May.

Foster Care Fortnight is the Fostering Network’s annual campaign to raise the profile of fostering and is the UK’s biggest fostering recruitment campaign.

The Fostering Network estimates that every 22 minutes a child comes into care and needs a foster family and suggests that at least 8,750 new foster families are needed in 2012 alone. A new website: www.22minutes.org.uk has been launched especially for Foster Care Fortnight, which contains 22 inspirational films about fostering.

To celebrate Foster Care Fortnight, The British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) has launched a new film to help recruit more foster carers to provide families for the growing number of children in care across the UK.

The film, made in partnership with the BBC Outreach volunteer initiative, shares the stories and experiences of real foster carers giving a true insight into the challenges and the rewards of fostering. To see the video click here.

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a foster carer please visit the Could You Foster website.

Grandparents Rights to Access in the News

Last night the BBC South West news programme, Spotlight, featured the sad story of Derek Vaughan, 81, from Lynton who fought for many years for access to his grand daughter, Serena. Tragically Serena died at the age of 25 in January 2012.

Following a family break up Serena lived with her grandparents for most of the first five years of her life but then had to leave. Derek and his wife then spent many years battling to gain access to Serena whilst visits became fewer and fewer. Derek says of Serena, “She was frustrated beyond belief.”

Derek believes she took her own life and says, “the system let her down”.

Grandparents do not have an automatic right to contact with their grandchildren and when relationships break down losing contact with grandchildren causes great heartache for grandparents and their grandchildren. This is a particularly complex and emotive area of law.

Stephen Sowden, Director at Hartnell Chanot & Partners and comments: “Wherever possible we always encourage grandparents to try and talk things through with the grandchild’s mother or father first. If this fails mediation is an effective way in which to resolve contact issues and keep legal costs to a minimum.

If the situation cannot be dealt with amicably then court should be the last resort. The courts now recognise the huge role that grandparents have and the contribution they make. It is unlikely that court would refuse a grandparent access to grandchildren but there are no guarantees and the process can be costly.”

He added: “Over the past few years the profile of grandparents has been raised tremendously with many national organisations, such as The Grandparents Association,  highlighting the asset that grandparents are to the family. There is still a long way to go, however and we will continue to lobby the Government for more rights for grandparents.”

For more information on your rights as a grandparent and what to do if you are being denied access please visit the Grandparents area of our website.

Julia Clayton Appointed as Family Recorder

Hartnell Chanot & Partners is delighted to announce that Julia Clayton, Director and children law specialist, has been appointed as a Family Recorder to the Western Circuit.

Recorders are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor, after a fair and open competition administered by the Judicial Appointments Commission.

Family Recorders sit in county courts and their jurisdiction is broadly similar to that of a Circuit Judge. Julia has been authorised to hear Private and Public Family Law Cases subject to attendance at an induction course and sitting in with an experienced family Judge for a number of days.

Julia specialises in all matters relating to children, in particular representing children, parents and grandparents in care proceedings, complex residence / contact disputes and international child abduction and adoption. As a Recorder she will be required to sit in court for up seven weeks per year.

Stephen Sowden, Director and Head of the Children Team at Hartnell Chanot comments: “We are delighted that Julia has been appointed as a Family Recorder. This is a prestigious appointment and demonstrates recognition of her expertise in family law.”

New Children and Families Bill: Putting Children at the Centre

Today the Queen set out the Government’s legislative plans for the next year in her speech at the state opening of Parliament. Measures which the Government says will put families at the “front and centre of national life” are contained within the new Children and Families Bill, one of 19 Government Bills, announced today.

Here is a summary of the new Children and Families Bill:

Rights for Fathers

The Government intends to strengthen the rights of divorced fathers to see their children to ensure children have a relationship with both their parents after family separation, where that is safe, and in the child’s best interests.

The Government says it will consult shortly on how the legislation can be framed.


A child’s ethnic background and that of the prospective adopters will come second to efforts to place the child swiftly in a permanent home. Local authorities in England will not be expected to find a perfect racial match for the child, if there are couples waiting to adopt.

Children in Care

There will be a new time limit for cases of children going in to care. In England and Wales family courts will be required to make a decision on whether a child should be taken from their parents and placed in care within six months.

This is part of the Government’s drive to speed up the adoption process. It believes too many children stay too long in care and miss out on the stability of a caring permanent home.

Flexible Leave for Parents

Mothers will be allowed to transfer some of their maternity leave entitlement to the child’s father and return to work earlier.

Special Educational Needs

Families will get more choice on education for pupils with special educational needs (SEN). The system of SEN statements and Learning Difficulty Assessments will be replaced in England from 2014 by a “single, simpler assessment process and (an) Education, Health and Care Plan”.

All the changes will apply to England, but some such as flexible working will also apply to Scotland and Wales.

Rachel Buckley, Director at Hartnell Chanot & Partners comments: “We welcome these proposed Government changes to support children and family life. In particular the new arrangements for family law which aim to put the needs of the children first. Our core ethos has always been to put children at the centre and we are pleased to see that the Government appears to be adopting this approach.”

Exeter Family Lawyers Cycling for Charity

Cyclists from left to right: Emma Thomas, Jacquie Spragg, Julia Clayton

Luckily, after a week of rainfall, the weather turned out to be on the sides of Julia Clayton, Jacquie Spragg, and Emma Thomas, as they embarked on a 35 mile bike ride in preparation for the 200 mile bike ride across France, which both Julia and Jacqui will undertake in June of this year.

Julia Clayton, a Director at Hartnell Chanot and Partners, and Jacquie Spragg, a self-employed Guardian, will join 48 other cyclists in a 200 mile cycle ride in France, over a period of three days, all in aid of the ‘Who Cares Trust’, a charity dedicated to helping the lives of those children who sadly end up in the care system. As part of this enterprise, each individual cyclist aims to raise £600, which if successful, will mean the bike ride could raise in excess of £30,000. All of this money will go towards helping the lives of some of the country’s most vulnerable children.

On Friday 20 April as part of this fundraising, and as a little ‘taster’ of what is to come in France, Julia and Jacquie, with the help of Emma, cycled from Torquay to Exeter, via the Teign Valley, a total of 35 miles.  Along the way they stopped at a number of local businesses, who were there to show them their support and make donations towards the charity. As part of this fundraising a number of solicitors firms partook in a ‘dress down Friday’ as a means of raising money, including Hartnell Chanot and Partners, Torquay based Woollcombe Beer Watts and Exeter based solicitors, Cartridges. Donations were also received from Wollen Michelmore in Torquay, Stephens and Scowns, Tozers and CAFCASS, with a fantastic total of £452.80 being raised.

After one tumble, one puncture and one brake failure, the cycling trio couldn’t have been happier with the fantastic support they received throughout the day, a boost which is certainly most welcome, as they now prepare for the mammoth task ahead.

Speaking about the fundraising and the charity Julia said: “The aim of the cycle ride on Friday, was not only to help raise money for the charity, but  also to encourage other local professionals who represent parents and children in care proceedings to get involved in further fundraising.”

Determined to raise in excess of the £600 set per person, Julia and Jacquie will be holding a skittles evening on the 18 May 2012. Local businesses have kindly donated prizes which will be auctioned off during the evening, and all money raised will go towards their fundraising goal.

However, at Hartnell Chanot and Partners our charitable efforts don’t end there. Last week, 25 year old trainee solicitor Harriet Jones, took to the streets of London, as she completed the London Marathon in aid of the Stroke Association, raising in excess of £2,000 for the charity. Although a challenge that she told herself she would never do again as she crossed the finish line, it seems one week on she has changed her mind, and has already applied  for next year’s London marathon!