James Schofield

I am a specialist family law barrister.  I have extensive experience in all aspects of the law relating to children.

My approach

I welcome direct access clients because I believe in providing the best possible service for clients at an affordable cost.

In some cases, it may be possible to resolve your problem without going anywhere near the door of a court. But if the dispute continues, I have the advocacy skills to give you the best possible chance of securing the outcome you want.

I work very hard for my clients. I prepare properly. I believe in fighting for my client’s case.

My work

Private law disputes
I have wide experience in disputes between parents or family members or other carers over child arrangements. This means that I can advise and represent you in a dispute about:

*    where your child or grandchild lives 
*    when and how much time he or she spends with you or with another relative or carer
*    when and what other types of contact, such as phone calls, should take place
*    what school your child or grandchild should go to, whether they should have a religious education and other questions about how he or she is being brought up
*    any other decision about the child’s upbringing
*    parental responsibility
*    relocating with the child to a new home in England or Wales
*    moving to live overseas
*    special guardianship
*    changing your child’s or grandchild's first name or surname
*    appeals against a Court decision

I have a special expertise in cases that involve children with social, developmental and educational needs, especially Asperger’s syndrome, and children with specific learning difficulties such as dyspraxia. I was an accredited tribunal representative of IPSEA (the Independent Panel for Special Education Advice) from 2004 to 2007.

I have wide experience of cases where a child has expressed hatred or strong dislike for one of its parents, making access by the rejected parent very difficult or even impossible. Where there are allegations that someone has been responsible for physical, emotional or sexual harm to a child, I can help you to prove or disprove these allegations at Court. Where a Court Order has been ignored, I can help you to enforce it.

Family law injunctions
I can help you to secure or to defend an application for a non-molestation order or occupation order.

Public law proceedings
I can advise and represent you when a Local Authority has become involved with your family, or is threatening to become involved, because it is concerned about your child’s welfare. When this happens, it is vital to obtain good legal advice as soon as you can. I have particular expertise in cases involving:

*    care or supervision orders
*    placement orders
*    secure accommodation orders
*    emergency protection orders
*    wardship cases
*    the Achieving Best Evidence guidelines
*    special guardianship
*    allegations of neglect
*    allegations of serious physical, emotional or sexual harm 
*    alleged non-accidental injury to a child

These are usually the most complex and most serious proceedings to be heard by the Family Court. I have wide experience of advising and representing families in these cases, especially where the problems are compounded by alcohol or drug misuse or where the parent or carer is very young or vulnerable.

I also have a very good understanding of the resourcefulness required by those who care for children with special educational needs, including those on the autistic spectrum and children with specific learning difficulties.

International family law
I can help you when your case has a European or other international element, including: 

*    access and custody issues
*    movement to Hague and non-Hague Convention countries
*    Brussels II revised
*    habitual residence
*    child placement abroad
*    adoption with a foreign element
*    wrongful removal
*    wrongful retention

What I can do for you

If you are the parent of a child or other family member, I can help you to understand the perspectives that are brought to bear upon decisions to initiate proceedings in the first place and to help you make the right choices and to take the right steps.
 
*    I am able to represent you in the High Court, the Court of Appeal, the County Courts and family proceedings courts.

*    I can help and advise you in writing or in conference and negotiate on your behalf, which may mean that you can achieve your aims without having to take your case to court.

*    I can negotiate on your behalf.

*    I can prepare the formal written documents you may need.

*    If your case requires a psychologist, psychiatrist or other expert, such as an expert on some aspect of the law in another country, I can advise you on the choice of a suitable expert and help you to prepare a letter of instruction.

*    If you are considering an appeal, I can advise you on the procedure for lodging an appeal and draft the grounds of appeal.

*    In relation to family law injunctions, I can assist you with an application for a non-molestation or occupation order.
 
*    Where there are allegations that someone has been responsible for physical, emotional or sexual harm to a child, I can help you to prove or disprove these allegations at Court. 
 
*    If you are considering an appeal, I can advise you on the procedure for lodging an appeal and draft the grounds of appeal.

About me

I am a member of Coram Chambers, a leading family law chambers in the centre of London with a national reputation for excellence in advocacy and client care across all areas of family law.

What my clients say

"I would strongly recommend James to anyone finding themselves in Family Court with complex Child arrangement cases, including leave to remove applications. His calmness and reassurance in a time of distress was most important to me and the outcome for our children's well-being could not have been better."

"I Instructed James under the Direct Access Scheme after having attended a First Hearing and Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA) following my wife leaving the family home with our children after making allegations of controlling coercive behaviour against me and while residing in a women's refuge with our children. At the FHDRA my wife distressingly made an application to permanently remove our two children from the jurisdiction, which left me in complete anguish. I discussed my case with James in conference and he reassured me that my wife's case was not strong and he prepared a masterful position statement for the hearing outlining the complexities of the leave to remove and why this would not be in our children's best interest. James' negotiation skills at that hearing were second to none and he managed to reach agreement by consent with my wife's counsel that there would be no need for a finding of fact hearing and secured me overnight stays with both of my children which would be implemented progressively. I was so impressed by James at that hearing that I appointed him again for the next directions hearing, where he persuaded the judge to further increase my contact with our children to two days a week in the run-up to the final hearing on the leave to remove. At the final hearing, James made a very thorough cross examination of my wife which exposed the shortcomings of her case. His cross examination of the Cafcass officer was also very thorough, exposing the lack of impartiality of the officer's perception and persuading the judge to dismiss Cafcass advice against shared parenting. James made a powerful final submission exposing all the inconsistencies and deficiencies of my wife's case and the merits of mine. My wife's leave to remove application was refused on all grounds, with a severe judgment made of her actions and an Order made for our children to live with both of their parents. I have since appointed James for a further three hearings to increase the apportionment of time, culminating in a final hearing on apportionment of time in which a final order was made for equal care of our children, clearly in their best interests." - AE (2018)

“Thank you for all of your help. You were absolutely brilliant today and it's all down to you that we got the result we wanted. I'll be forever grateful.” -  Ms S, the Respondent in a case about whether her children should divide their time between their separated parents or live with one of their parents and spend time with the other.

“After two and half years of ongoing disputes concerning the arrangements for my children I felt that the problem was irresolvable and I was extremely stressed and despondent. I had also paid a considerable sum of money on solicitors’ fees which had had no impact on my wife's intransigence. I approached James as a direct access client, my wife having made an application to the court alleging emotional and mental abuse on my part towards my children.

I met James in conference and he immediately grasped the fundamentals of the situation and was able to direct me in my response by preparing a position statement for me and suggesting how the matter should be addressed in front of the Judge. At the subsequent hearing James was able to negotiate an agreement with my wife which no one had been able to achieve before. The allegations were dismissed by the Judge due to James’ advocacy and an order agreed which was far better than I had hoped for. James had now given to my children through his skill as a negotiator and advocate a shared care arrangement that both of them had wanted and which will most certainly work in their best interest. 

Without James’ calm, intelligent and determined approach my children would still be caught up in a battle between my wife and I and restricted as to the amount and quality of time they now spend with me. I cannot recommend James highly enough to those caught up in long protracted disputes.” – Mr C (2016)

Professional & academic

Education
BA Hons (Oxon)
MA (Oxon) 
Postgraduate Diploma in Law (2000 – 2002) “Commended”
Bar Vocational Course (2002-2004) “Very Competent”
Languages: reasonably fluent French
 
Professional Memberships
Family Law Bar Association
Association of Lawyers for Children

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