Eluned Roberts

What our recent recruits think – Eluned Roberts

What our recent recruits think – Eluned Roberts

We have captured the thoughts of some recent recruits to give any potential job applicants an insight into what it is like to apply for a role at, and to join Cullimore Dutton.

This second instalment of the series features Eluned Roberts who joined our Family Law team as an Associate Solicitor in February 2022. We asked Eluned:

Why did you decide to apply for a role with us?
Cullimore Dutton was always on my radar, and I was aware of the firm’s great reputation. I like the way we approach Family Law and the Changing Lives ethos behind that so when the role became available I knew it would be a great fit for me.

How did you find the recruitment process?
It was really relaxed, simple and swift. I emailed my CV and was invited for an informal chat with Brenda, Head of Family Law, and Andrew, Managing Director. This turned out to be my interview, but it was very relaxed and friendly. We were able to get to know each other and to chat about the role. A week or so later I received a phone call from Brenda offering me the position.

What have you enjoyed so far about our business and your role?
Everyone has been friendly and welcoming, not just in the family team but across the whole business.

I’ve been really impressed with the work-life balance and how the welfare of staff is a priority. It was refreshing recently when a storm was rolling in that the priority was to ensure that the whole team got home safely.

My role essentially replaces recently retired Legal Director [and Cullimore Dutton legend – Ed] Diana Williams and it was great that I was able to spend several weeks with Di as part of that transition. I was eased into the role and there was a real focus on client care as I took on Di’s caseload. During this period, I was brought fully up to speed with each case and Di introduced me to each client ensuring that they were comfortable with me representing them.

How would you describe the culture at Cullimore Dutton?
Very friendly, welcoming, and supportive with a real focus on providing the highest quality of service for our clients whilst ensuring that colleagues have a true work life balance.

I find the whole We Change Lives vision inspiring and something I am proud to stand behind. There is also a refreshing approach to how the different sides of the business are managed, which is something the clients will never see, but I think it works really well.

What are your hopes and ambitions for your career?
I have a real desire to build my reputation in Chester and support and help as many clients as I can.

Join Eluned
We are currently recruiting for several positions, so if you are interested in joining Eluned and the rest of our team visit the careers page of our website where you will be able to view our available roles and apply.

Brenda Spain

No Fault Divorce to become Law

Further to our earlier article, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 will reform the law on divorce, dissolution and separation in England and Wales as from 6th April 2022.

Effectively, this will remove the requirement to provide evidence of conduct or separation and instead is replaced with the simple requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown.

It will remove the ability to defend a divorce or separation, it will enable couples to make a joint application to the Court for divorce or separation.

The Act introduces a new minimum overall timeframe of 20 weeks from the start of the proceedings to the Conditional Order (formerly Decree Nisi) and then 6 weeks between Conditional Order and when it is made final, so a period of 26 weeks overall.


Action Necessary

The new law comes into effect on 6th April 2022.

Anybody wishing to proceed with a divorce or separation based upon the previous facts i.e., adultery and unreasonable behaviour, will need to submit a paper application received by the Court no later than 4pm on 31 March or a digital application to be online no later than 4pm on 31 March.

The new Act represents the biggest reform of Divorce laws in half a century and aims to reduce the impact of allegations of blame on individuals and family and in particular, reduce acrimony where children are concerned.

For further advice on remediate action, contact the Family Department at Cullimore Dutton on 01244 356 789 or email

Please note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.


Fran Crank

Francesca Crank appointed to the role of Trainee Solicitor within our Family Law team

We are delighted to announce that Francesca Crank has been awarded a training contract here at Cullimore Dutton and will take up the role of Trainee Solicitor with immediate effect.

Francesca who joined the Family Law team in January 2021 as a Legal Assistant, graduated from the University of Manchester in 2018 with a degree in Law with Criminology before completing the Graduate Law Diploma (GDL) and Legal Practice Course (LPC) with Masters at the University of Law in Chester in 2019, achieving a Distinction.

Francesca will begin her training in our Family Law department under the guidance of Brenda Spain, Head of Family Law, and this promotion will enable Francesca to realise her long-held ambition of qualifying as a solicitor. Brenda stated: “Throughout her time with us Francesca has demonstrated a professional attitude, hard work and a commitment to providing our clients with the best in client care, this promotion is as a direct result of her efforts, dedication and commitment.”

Francesca’s appointment to this position follows the awarding of two additional training contracts in the last 12 months to both Trainee Solicitor Jesca Knott in April 2021 and Trainee Solicitor Patricia Taylor in December 2021. All three appointments are clear examples of the career pathway which is available to all our team and further demonstrates our commitment to changing the lives of our Colleagues, Clients and Community. We hope many of our colleagues follow in Francesca, Patricia and Jesca’s footsteps and advance through our career pathway during their time with us.

We would like to wish Francesca every success as she begins this new chapter of her career, and to offer our continuing support to her throughout her training and beyond.

Good luck Francesca.
The Cullimore Dutton team 



Brenda Spain

Are you considering ending or exiting a relationship

If you are considering ending or exiting a relationship, whether that be a marriage or cohabitation, you would be advised to consult a solicitor to discuss the steps you need to take to ensure that your interests are well protected.

Things you should consider include:

1. Joint accounts – are you protected?
2. Your pension – have you protected your death in service benefits?

3. Your capital assets i.e., investments/pensions/contributions/businesses – how will these be treated in the event of divorce or separation?

4. Jointly owned property – are you aware of the rule of survivorship? If anything should happen to you what would happen to your interest in that property? If you live together are you aware that there is no such thing as a common law husband or wife? How property is owned will affect any contributions you may have made?

5. Your will (even if this is a holding will). This is crucial as your ex-partner could still benefit under your current will, or,
if you have not made a will, they could still benefit from, or be appointed to administer your estate under the rules of intestacy.

These issues are hugely important, and you should take professional advice at an early stage to ensure that you are well protected.

We have expert teams specialising in Family Law, Wills & Probate, Residential Conveyancing and Financial Services who will be able to help, support
and guide you through the steps needed to ensure the protection of your interests.

We would be delighted to arrange a free initial consultation to discuss these issues with you and to make sure that you are on the right track, if indeed
this is the path you decide to follow.

If you would like a free initial consultation to discuss your will with one of our team contact us on 01244 356 789 or email

Please note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

Susan Alexander

Free parenting guide offered to separating families

New free parenting guide offered to separating families in Cheshire and North Wales.

The Parenting Through Separation Guide is written by family professionals and advises parents on how to put their children first during a separation.

The guide is being published by national family justice organisation Resolution, during their Good Divorce Campaign Week (29 Nov – 3 Dec), As Resolution members we are offering the guide for free to local families who are divorcing or separating.

We know that the pandemic has put huge pressure on families and even more so on those who are separating. Every parent wants to put their children’s interests front and centre, but all too often they don’t know where to turn for help and aren’t given the support they need in order to do this.

It’s important for parents to have access to good, authoritative and professional advice that helps them to parent responsibly through their separation. We hope all local separating parents will use the Parenting Through Separation Guide, to help them find a better way forward for them, and for their children.

The free guide is available to any parent seeking help during their separation. It contains advice about how to co-parent with a former partner, background on the common disputes that arise between separating parents, and how to talk to children about the painful topic of divorce or separation, plus much more.

Juliet Harvey, national chair of Resolution, said:

“I’m really pleased to have Cullimore Dutton’s support during Good Divorce Week. Resolution members like them do really important work in their community to help families separate in a constructive and amicable way. The more families who know about and use the free Parenting Through Separation Guide, the better equipped they will be to navigate the challenges divorce and separation brings, particularly when it comes to putting children first.”

In addition, Resolution have created this video to help support separation parents:

Here’s an extract of advice contained within the guide:

Top tips for discussing divorce with your children

If your situation allows, try to have a joint conversation when all of your children are present. Keep this age appropriate.

Plan a series of conversations, including different follow up conversations, if your children are different ages. Be mindful that their reactions will depend on their age, developmental stage and their individual personality.

Reassure your children that it is okay to feel sad or scared and showing emotion is good. They can always talk to either of you and ask questions.

Remember you are a role model and your children are watching how you manage this situation. If they see that you are still their parents, making decisions together about them, then they will cope better.

PDF copies of the guide can be downloaded from:

If you would like a free initial consultation to discuss your will with one of our team contact us on 01244 356 789 or email

Please note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

Jesca Knott

Does Christmas have to be a time of stress for separated parents?

As we approach the end of another eventful year, thoughts are beginning to turn to Christmas and the prospect of spending Christmas with family and friends now that lockdown rules have eased.

For separated or divorced parents, Christmas can be a difficult and tense time so it is important to agree plans as to where and how children will spend the festive period.

But does Christmas have to be a time of stress for separated parents? Here are three suggestions that may help to ease any such tensions.

1. Make plans early Be sure to make the arrangements for the Christmas holiday as early as possible. If you cannot reach an agreement, seek to involve a mediator or family law solicitor, who will help focus on finding solutions that work for you and your family. Our team would be more than happy to arrange a free consultation with our mediator or one of our family solicitors to discuss any concerns or immediate worries you may have in the lead up to December.

2. Put the children first The Christmas period is centred around children and bringing families together. If your children are of an appropriate age, talk to them about traditions they would like to continue and with whom. It is important to maintain a level of stability and familiarity for children whilst accepting and explaining that there may be some changes to this Christmas compared to previous years if family dynamics have shifted.

3. Try to be flexible and open-minded Rigid and inflexible plans at a time like Christmas are unlikely to ease tensions and can often lead to arguments or disputes with children being the ones who affected the most. Approaching arrangements with an open and flexible mindset will not only make the holiday period more enjoyable but certainly benefit children who see their parents being able to work things out.

Christmas should be a time of happiness and happy memories, especially of the children. Planning arrangements in advance whilst considering your children’s wishes in an open-minded way can ease some of the potential pressures and allow you and your family to be able to relax over the festive season and enjoy time together.

If you would like a free initial consultation with a member of our expert Family Law team to discuss child arrangements during Christmas or any other family law issue, please contact us on 01244 356 789 or email

Please note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

Susan Alexander

My Ruby Anniversary as a Solicitor

I was lucky enough to be taken on as a trainee by my university lecturer in Evidence and Procedure and had a great training in a Glasgow City Centre firm, specialising in civil litigation. I was only 20 years old when I had started my training in 1979 and extremely wet behind the ears. It is true that everyone in the office, including the one-legged mail man, knew more about the job than I did. On my first day I had to get a client to sign a form. This should have been a simple task, but I only asked him to sign on one page, not realising that he needed to sign on two. I was so terrified of getting into trouble that in the evening I took three buses to his home with the form for him to sign and once signed three buses back. In the morning no-one was any the wiser about my foul up.

The work was so different in those days and looking back, I feel like Methuselah. There was basically no tech although I do vaguely remember a Telex machine. There were no computers or even electronic typewriters, no faxes, email didn’t exist, mobile phones had yet to be invented. Yet at the same time Richard Susskind was a contemporary and even in these early days was writing about how lawyers would be taken over by machines.

In the mornings, the solicitors would arrive, their secretaries would serve them tea, sit down with a notepad and pencil and take their dictation to answer that morning’s post. Everything came by letter or was delivered. Conveyancing completions took place in person with the purchaser’s solicitor going personally to the seller’s solicitor’s office to exchange the money for the deeds. The court solicitors would then head down to the Sheriff Court in Glasgow to do their trials and proofs or appear in the Ordinary Court. The Ordinary Court was a massive court with around 30 or so lawyers gowned up in the benches with litigants and members of the public watching on. It was the size of a small theatre. This was a civil court which dealt with over 100 applications and civil interlocutory applications every day. Our firm did a lot of agency work and once I qualified, I became a regular at the Ordinary Court as an advocate doing scores of applications each morning. I had to learn to be very organised to make sure I had all the relevant paperwork at my fingertips, and I learned to think on my feet. The other lawyers nicknamed me the Iron Pussycat (this was of course, Mrs Thatcher’s era).

At lunchtime all the solicitors (all men, I was their first female) would adjourn to the Blue Chip for lunch. We would be joined by other solicitors from other firms and my bosses would regularly settle their cases with them over lunch. In the afternoon, we would be booked solidly with client appointments, yet no one seemed to work beyond 6pm.

It was a rarefied existence looking back on it. It took me a good nine months to even begin to feel like I could do the job. The salary was abysmal, but you were considered lucky to be paid as before my time budding solicitors had to pay for their training. I remember I was paid £8 per week. My parents lived far away from the City so I lived in digs which took up all my pay. I had a second job working most nights as a barmaid at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow, which is the home of Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet, so at least I got some culture.

I relocated to Chester in 1993 and passed the exams to become a solicitor in England and Wales in 1994 and have practised here ever since.

It is hard to believe I’ve done the job for 40 years and that I was so young when I qualified. If you genuinely love the study of law and find people endlessly fascinating, then there is no better career. Out of my cohort of friends who graduated at the same time, only one other woman is still working in law. This is not a career for the faint hearted and you need to be very resilient.

Advice I’d give to my younger self (given to me by an older colleague): Don’t be so hard on yourself.

If you would like a free initial consultation with a member of our expert Family Law team, please contact us on 01244 356 789 or email

Please note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

Brenda Spain

Cohabitation Agreements

The property market has boomed over the last year with many unmarried couples purchasing their first homes together. This is an exciting time for these couples, but what plans are in place should the relationship come to an end?

In this article Head of Family Law Brenda Spain looks at why unmarried couples should consider a Cohabitation Agreement.

Why you need a Cohabitation Agreement.
If you live with your partner or are considering moving in together you may have thought about a Cohabitation Agreement. There is, of course, no legal requirement to have a Cohabitation Agreement to live with a partner but it can be useful to protect your finances and establish practical arrangements both during the relationship and unfortunately if that relationship comes to an end.

What is a Cohabitation Agreement?
A Cohabitation Agreement basically sets out what you and your partner would like to happen in terms of your financial arrangements both during the relationship and most importantly if it comes to an end. You should discuss the financial aspects of the relationship and set them out clearly in the agreement. It can be as detailed as you both wish.

Do cohabitants have the same rights as married couples?
The answer is no. Nor is there any such thing as a common law husband and wife, despite the length of the relationship.

One of the key incentives to enter into Cohabitation Agreements is to ensure that your arrangements and intentions are clearly set out.

Many couples who have lived together and separate end up in bitter disputes because there was no agreement about what should happen to the house, money, businesses or even what the children arrangements are likely to be.

Cohabitation disputes before the Courts can be very expensive and a Cohabitation Agreement can be evidentially helpful in those circumstances otherwise you are left to organise the division of assets informally at a time that may already be challenging and sensitive so it can be a helpful insurance policy against future difficulties.

Obtaining advise at this stage of your relationship can be crucial as it can affect many aspects of your financial arrangements for example:

How the ownership of the property should be set out. What if somebody is making a larger contribution that the other through savings, inheritance, or previous divorce settlement?

There are no maintenance right between parties should the relationship end.

There is no automatic entitlement to your partner’s pension. What can you do, including death in service benefits, Will and Estate Planning?

If you would like a free initial consultation with a member of our expert Family Law team to discuss a cohabitation agreement, please contact us on 01244 356 789 or email

Please note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

Susan Alexander

Update on No Fault Divorce

The Government has announced that the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, which will allow married couples to divorce without blame, will come into force on 6th April 2022.

The Act was due to come into force this Autumn but has been postponed allowing the divorce online IT system to be brought up to speed


How will the new Act be different?
In terms of the new Act one or both parties may apply for a divorce on the simple ground that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. However, before application can be made to the ‘conditional order’ (formerly decree nisi) stage, there is a waiting time of 20 weeks from the date of the application for divorce. Decree absolute may be granted 6 weeks after the date of the conditional order. The effect of this is that a divorce will take at least 6 months to finalise and more time if there are outstanding financial issues to be sorted out.

It is unlikely that the timescale will be any quicker under the new legislation but by removing the mudslinging of fault-based allegations, it is hoped that this will encourage couples to be more amicable about the other arrangements to be made in relation to the arrangements for their children and the splitting of the finances.

If you a facing divorce or separation and would like a free initial consultation with a member of our expert Family Law team, please contact us on 01244 356 789 or email

Please note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

Brenda Spain

The Perils of No Financial Agreement – Getting it right first time

Many separated or even divorced people do not realise they may be at risk of financial claims being made against them by their ex, even years after separation

When separating or divorcing it is crucial that your financial affairs are resolved properly at the time of the separation. Not to do so can leave you vulnerable to future financial claims.

As Family Lawyers we often hear:
We dealt with it ourselves
If so, how? Is it legally binding?

We didn’t have anything to protect
Is that still the case?

We have got a Decree Absolute, we are divorced
The Decree Absolute ends your marriage but not the financial links between you both. 

There have been many cases where the Courts have made financial awards long after parties have separated because no final and binding agreement was put in place. While the Courts have regard to post separation wealth, income etc, if the needs of your former partner have changed through loss of employment or ill health, those needs may have to be taken into account. The Courts will look at the assets as they are at the current time, so as an example, if you have grown a successful business since your separation or divorce, your ex may be able to make financial claims against it, a claim which may even result in you needing to sell the business.

Due to the passage of time, these disputes can be more costly to resolve, and having your financial affairs open to examination can result in cases being very emotionally charged.

What is the solution? 
The solution is to have a Court approved, final and binding, financial settlement agreement between you both.

What is the solution? 
We recently represented a client who at the time of his separation had transferred the house to his ex-wife along with their joint savings and provided ongoing financial support for their children.

A number of years later he decided to start a new life abroad. At this point he found his assets had been frozen, his ex-wife had fallen into ill health and had lodged a series of financial applications with the Court.

Had he ensured there was a legally binding finance agreement in place he would have avoided twelve months of litigation and the associated costs.

If you a facing divorce or separation and would like a free initial consultation with a member of our expert Family Law team, please contact us on 01244 356 789 or email

Please note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.