Tips for managing Christmas arrangements when you’re a divorced or separated parent

If you’re divorced or separated with kids, your Christmas arrangements may look a little different to the ‘traditional’ family’s.

Deciding who the kids will spend time with over the Christmas period can create a lot of tension and stress if not managed carefully.

Striking a fair and harmonious agreement about Christmas arrangements often means letting go of your image of the ‘perfect Christmas’ and making new traditions instead.

We’ve put together some tips and advice for keeping Christmas arrangements as amiable and stress-free as possible.

Make plans in advance

Making plans for Christmas well in advance of December will help to avoid disappointment and extra stress during the busy festive period. It is also in the children’s best interests to know what to expect at Christmas.

Have a ‘fake Christmas

Don’t hang all your hopes and dreams on Christmas day. Remember, it’s just a day and you can still do everything you want to do on an alternative day instead. If you’re feeling disappointed that you won’t experience the magic of Christmas eve or Christmas Day dinner with the kids this year, try recreating the events on another day when you’re all together, chances are the kids won’t object to spreading out Christmas and doing it all over again!

Prioritise the children
Remember, it’s not easy for children either and their preferences and feelings should always be the priority in your arrangements.

Make new traditions
Accept that Christmas will be different as a divorced or separated parent and embrace the change. Whilst it may be possible to continue some of your old traditions, don’t be afraid to get creative making new Christmas traditions with your children.

Keep it harmonious
No matter what form your Christmas is going to take this year, try to focus on enjoying the time you have together with your children rather than letting any disputes or bitter feelings take hold of the festive period. Try to stay positive about Christmas arrangements in front of your children to save them from getting mixed up in any disputes.

For help with divorce law, separation law or children law, get in touch with our team of family law solicitors here at Lund Bennett by calling us on 0161 927 3118.

What is a pension sharing order?

Since divorce pension sharing was introduced in December 2000, pensions have become part of the assets that must be considered during a divorce settlement.

Getting a divorce can be very stressful, with lots of important decisions to be made and paperwork to be filled out during what is already a very emotional time.

One of the biggest tasks that must be tackled is fairly dividing up the couple’s assets. Assets can include property, money, possessions and pensions, anything under a shared name must be considered.

Dividing up a pension
Pension sharing orders are not a compulsory part of a divorce. A pension is an important asset that should be considered during a divorce, but there are different options for dividing it up.
The three main options for dividing a pension are sharing, offsetting and earmarking. A pension sharing order offers a clean break solution.

What is a Pension Sharing Order?
If one party of a divorcing couple has no pension entitlement, then a pension sharing order can be granted by the court to give shared rights to the other party’s pension through a legal arrangement.

How is the pension split?
A pension sharing order does not always require a pension to be split 50/50.

Both party’s assets and finances should be assessed in order to determine how to fairly split the pension. If a decision cannot be reached, then it will be down to the court to decide.

Why do I need a pension sharing order?
If a couple decide that they wish to share a pension, then even if they can amicably agree the percentage split, they will still need to apply to the court for a court order.

This is because pension providers and pension schemes are not allowed to divide or transfer a pension without direction from a court.

For further help or advice with dividing a pension during divorce proceedings, speak to our team of family law specialists here at Lund Bennett by giving our team a call on 0161 927 3118.

What property rights do unmarried couples have?

As many young couples choose to shun married life, it’s important that cohabiting couples understand their property rights.

Cohabiting couples are the UK’s fastest growing family-type, but the law has not yet caught up with the country’s changing lifestyle trend. Currently, cohabiting couples, even those in very secure long-term relationships, have very different legal rights to married couples.

Married couples both have the right to live in the matrimonial home, whether that is rented or owned accommodation, however the law differs for cohabiting couples.

It’s important that all unmarried couples living together understand their property rights to help them to plan and prepare for the future and to avoid a nasty shock in the event of a separation.

Rented accommodation
When it comes to cohabiting couples that rent property, if your name is not on the tenancy agreement, then you have no legal right to stay in the property if asked to leave. If you are both named on the tenancy agreement, then you have equal rights to stay at the property.

Owned property
If a property is owned jointly by a cohabiting couple, then they both have equal legal rights to the property if they separate.

However, if the property is owned solely by one party then they are the only ones with ownership and the legal right to remain in the property. The other party may still be able to claim ‘beneficial interest’ if they can prove that they have made significant financial contributions towards the property.

If beneficial interest cannot be claimed, then the party will have no legal right to stay in the property.

Forming a cohabitation agreement can be an excellent way for cohabiting couples to gain some financial security. When forming an agreement, the couple will legally agree each party’s rights and responsibilities to help reduce the risk of disagreements in the event of a breakdown of the relationship.

For help creating a cohabitation agreement or resolving a cohabitation dispute, speak to our team of expert family law specialists here at Lund Bennett by calling 0161 927 3118.

Family Law Reforms Fall Due to Upcoming General Election

Due to the imminent General Election, two key pieces of family legislation will now definitely not progress within the current Parliament, which is expected to dissolve on Wednesday. The Domestic Abuse Bill, along with the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill are both at a stand-still with their future uncertain.

The Domestic Abuse Bill has been hailed by domestic violence awareness groups for its proposals to prevent victims of being cross-examined by alleged abusers when giving evidence in the family courts. Today’s confirmation that the election will prevent any chance of the bill achieving Royal Assent has been met with disappointment.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill includes proposals for significant reform of the law surrounding divorce within the UK. This includes, including provisions for ‘no-fault’ divorce which would allow couples to divorce without apportioning blame for the breakdown of the marriage to one party. It would also materially change the manner that spousal maintenance is paid.

Even if the bills are brought back onto the agenda in the future, there will at the very least be substantial delay before they reappear before the relevant committee. It is not known at this stage which party, or indeed parties in the case of a coalition, will be in Government following the election or where the bills will sit within their legislative agenda.

As reported in the Law Gazette, the Domestic Violence and Abuse bill was being considered by a public bill committee, which was due to report to the House of Commons by 21 November. However, Parliament’s website states that ‘due to the imminent dissolution of this parliament and the forthcoming general election, the bill will not progress any further and the public bill committee will no longer meet’.

Advice for easing the stress of a separation for children

Tension and emotions can run high during a separation, so it’s important to take steps to reduce stress for any children involved.
It’s normal for children to feel upset, angry and anxious if their parents are separating or getting a divroce. It can feel like their whole world is being turned upside down, so it’s important to do everything you can to make the transition less painful and confusing.

You can help your child to cope with the upheaval of a separation using the following advice.

Avoid the blame game
No matter what the circumstances of the separation, it is important to avoid playing the blame game in front of your child. Keep hurtful or distressing details about the reasons behind your separation private from your child to prevent them feeling torn or stressed about their relationship with either parent.

Minimise conflict
Try to keep all communications civil and polite in front of the children. Avoid talking about legal proceedings or conflict within earshot of your child to minimise confusion, stress and worry.

Minimise disruption
At a time that is filled with turbulence, it’s important to retain as much consistency and routine in your child’s life as possible. Maintaining routine will help to comfort them and keep them feeling safe and secure.

Keep them in the loop
As soon as decisions have been finalised about living arrangements, discuss them openly with your child. Chances are they will be worrying about what is going to happen next, so keeping them in the loop and talking honestly with them as much as possible can help to reassure them.

Make time for your child and tell them you love them
Sometimes the best thing you can do for your child is to be there for them, holding them and reassuring them that you love them. Life can be hectic, emotional and stressful during a separation, but don’t forget to take time out for 1-on-1 quality time with your child. Go out, do something fun and laugh together, you will find that it makes you both feel better.

Listen to them and acknowledge their feelings
Whilst communicating clearly with your child is very important, so is listening. Let your child express their worries, feelings and emotions to you, whether that’s using their words or through their behaviour. Acknowledge that this is a hard time for them and legitimise their feelings. Let them know that it is ok to feel sad or angry now and that things will get better.

For help or advice with separation law or children law, get in touch with our team of specialist family law solicitors here at Lund Bennett by calling us on 0161 927 3118.

Contact Centres: Not the only answer

The Law Gazette reported yesterday that since the cuts to family legal aid, more separated parents are self-referring themselves to contact centres without instructing solicitors.

Statistics from the National Association of Child Contact Centres show that self-referrals from parents have risen sharply from 3.7% in 2009/10 to 35.8% in 2018/19. In contrast, solicitor referrals drastically fell within the same period, from 67.8% to 21.9%.

In 2012, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 significantly reduced the availability of legal aid within private family proceedings. Those who are eligible must demonstrate evidence that they are both on a low income and are also victims of domestic violence. Funding for parents who are involved with public law care proceedings is still widely available.

Those who don’t fit into the above categories must fund the costs of legal representation for private children matters themselves. This is leading to parents who are unable to afford the costs of legal representation self-referring to contact centres in a bid to decrease the amount of stress and anxiety.

However, the downside to this is that parents do not have the benefit of advice as to the role of contact centres or a management of their expectations of the service available. We would always recommend that for disputes between parents, a contact centre alone is no substitute for clear and independent legal advice from a family solicitor.

If you require legal advice or support, give our team of family law specialists here at Lund Bennett a call on 0161 924 0079.

Christmas Arrangements for Children

It may seem early to be thinking about Christmas, but over the past few weeks the weather has well and truly changed, and winter is in the air. Now is the time that separated parents are starting to sort out arrangements who and where their children will spend time with over the Christmas period.

It’s not easy to undertake this. Christmas at the best of times is an emotional time of the year and there is a lot of pressure on parents to give their children a magical and memorable time. Splitting the 12 days of Christmas amongst more than one family can be challenging and often brings up feelings of resentment and nostalgia for times past. Balancing these two aspects is no simple task.

For the majority of families, parents are able to navigate this tricky time without the need for legal representation. Others however, for a number of reasons, need some additional help and guidance to formalise arrangements appropriate and fair to the individual circumstances. Court proceedings should always be the last resort but if these are initiated our advice is that legal representation should always be sought if possible.

If you have a family law query, then please contact our team at Lund Bennett Law LLP on 0161 924 0079.

What is mediation?

When a dispute cannot be resolved, mediation can be used to help all parties involved to communicate effectively and reach an agreement.
Mediation is a process whereby a professional third-party mediator sits down with all parties involved in a dispute and helps them to discuss issues constructively to reach an agreement amicably without involving the courts.

Most of the time neither party really wants the dispute to go to court, as it can be a costly and time-consuming process.
Instead, mediation can be used to successfully resolve most non-criminal disputes, including those between family members, neighbours, business partners, landlords and tenants.

Mediation is most commonly used to resolve conflict that arises after a divorce or the dissolving of a civil partnership. Mediation is very useful for helping couples going through a separation to come to an agreement about living arrangements for children, child maintenance, and other financial issues.

Benefits of mediation
Better control over outcome – When a dispute goes to litigation, the courts make the final decision on the outcome. Mediation allows you the opportunity to work together to come to your own decisions.

Confidential – Going to court can potentially become a very public process. Mediation goes on behind closed doors and is entirely confidential.

Informal – Taking a dispute to court is a lengthy, formal and intimidating process. Mediation sessions are informal and usually take place in a neutral venue of your choice.

Cheaper – Mediation is generally a much faster and cheaper process than litigation. Whilst mediation will usually cost just one fixed price, the price of taking a dispute to court can be very unpredictable and easily run into the thousands of pounds.

Less damaging to relationships – Going to court can be a stressful process fraught with conflict which can ruin relationships. Mediation focuses on helping parties to communicate calmly and effectively to repair and sometimes even rebuild relationships to reach an amicable agreement.

To find out more about the mediation services provided by our team of family law specialists here at Lund Bennett, give us a call on 0161 927 3118.

Who decides where a child lives after their parents separate?

Any separation can be difficult, but one that involves children can be particularly challenging and emotional.

The biggest decision that couples with children will need to make if they separate, is the children’s living arrangements.

Where possible, it is always easiest and less stressful for everyone involved if the family can come to an amiable agreement together.

However, this is not always possible. In instances where parents do not agree on where a child should live, they may need to seek help from one or more of the following:
•A solicitor specialising in family law.
•Mediation.
•The Family Court.

No matter which route you take to help decide the best living arrangements for your children, the welfare of the children is always considered first and foremost.

Family law solicitor
A family law solicitor will be able to advise you on all avenues open to you and provide you with sound legal advice and guidance.

Mediation
Mediation is a process guided by a trained, impartial, third-party that allows the two parties to have a constructive discussion and hopefully negotiate an outcome that all parties are happy with.

The Family Court
If an agreement still cannot be reached, then it may be necessary to apply to the Family Court for one or more orders to be made. A child arrangement order will decide who the child will live with, who they will spend time with, and when. In some cases, it may also be relevant for the court to issue a specific issue order or a prohibited steps order.

Lund Bennett are family law specialists based in Altrincham and Manchester. For legal help and guidance regarding disputes about child living arrangements, mediation services, or help applying for a court order, get in touch with our team of specialist solicitors by calling us on 0161 927 3118.

No Fault Divorce and Domestic abuse proposals may be revived in the Queen’s Speech

Two key bills which have a major impact on family law face an uncertain future given the recent prorogation of Parliament. Both the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill and the Domestic Abuse Bill have been halted due to lack of parliamentary time.

As reported in the Law Gazette, both of the bills were a result of extensive cross-party work and follow years of campaigning for reform. As there was no cross-over motion pre-prorogation then if the Government brings the bills back the process may have to start from scratch in the next parliament.

A glimmer of hope comes from the Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg who has stated that the Domestic Abuse Bill is “likely” to be a feature in the new parliamentary session.

He heavily hinted that it will feature with in the Queen’s Speech, saying: “I can’t tell you what is precisely going to be in the Queen’s Speech but I think I can give a steer that it’d be a great surprise to all of us if this Bill was not revived very quickly.”

Parliament has been suspended by the Government and is due to return on 14 October 2019.