Divorce Rates Fall to New Low

According to figures released by the ONS, heterosexual divorce rates in the UK have fallen to their lowest point since 1973.  

The last time divorce rates were as low as they are now, Britain was about to join the EEC which was later renamed the EU and Elvis Presley was still performing. Fast forward to 2018 and divorce rates are once again down significantly with 8.4 divorces per 1,000 heterosexual couples. This marked a 5.6% decrease on the previous year.  

In total there were 101,669 divorces of heterosexual couples in 2017, which was 4.9% less than the year before. So does this mean people are suddenly more likely to stick together or is this just a statistical anomaly? According to the ONS the reason there are less divorces is simply down to there being less marriages.  

People are increasingly more likely to cohabit that get married. Compare this to 1973 when cohabiting would still have been largely frowned upon and these latest figures can be put into perspective.  

It is too early to tell if there is a more positive trend towards heterosexual couples staying together rather than opting to divorce if marriages become strained. In fact, among older people, divorce rates have actually gone up.

What Is a Stay At Home Parent Entitled to In A Divorce?

Divorce is a major step for any couple to undertake and there are circumstances where a parent might be left at a significant financial disadvantage. This is particularly tru if for example you happen to be a stay at home mum with no regular income.   

Fortunately, this is the 21st century and there is no reason to remain in an unhappy marriage due to the fear of being left destitute. You will find that courts have plenty of power to ensure that where necessary your needs will be met through ongoing maintenance not just for the children but also for you personally depending on your circumstances.  

Child maintenance and spousal maintenance are the main sources of help but you can even apply for interim spousal maintenance prior to a final order if you are likely to suffer significant hardship.  Beyond that and following divorce, you could as a stay at home parent be entitled to spousal maintenance until your children have completed their secondary education and there are cases where orders can be indefinite.  

Unfortunately, you will need to make a clear case for spousal and child maintenance and awards can vary depending on your former spouse’s ability to pay, It is important therefore to seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity to achieve the best outcome.

Divorce – Can You Take the Money and Run?

Being married often means sharing everything you have with your spouse but when a relationship breaks down thoughts can turn to making a grab for assets and cash. If you have  a joint account then it can be tempting to access it and withdraw half or even all of the money in an account before you are forced to share half in a settlement. This can pose a problem, however, if it is seen by the court as over stepping the mark.  

On advantage of making withdrawing your half of what’s in the account before a divorce takes place is you then have the money in your possession whatever happens. This avoids any risk of not being able to get your hands on money if the account is frozen by your partner.  

Of course doing this will send a clear signal to your ex partner that you don’t trust them and it will almost certainly result in them not trusting you either.  

It is far better to come to some kind of agreement on joint finances to avoid bitter disputes further down the line. For example one partner may feel that they contributed more than half to the account and will feel aggrieved if half of the money is then taken without their consent.  

In extreme cases during a hostile divorce, accounts can be frozen preventing anyone from accessing the account or one partner may withdraw all of the money and spend it. In the latter case, it is almost inevitable that half of the money will have to be returned.

Tini Owens Case Reveals How Divorce Cases Are Not Always Open and Shut

Divorce is often thought to be a simple process and while the vast majority of cases are indeed simple and uncontested, a minority can turn into a battle to prove the necessary grounds.  

The Tini Owens case is one high profile example of just how difficult it can be to come up with sufficient grounds for divorce when the reasons are ruled as not falling into the main criteria used by judges to grant a divorce.   

The criteria on which divorce cases are judged in the UK are as follows:  

  • Adultery 
  • Unreasonable behaviour 
  • Desertion 
  • 2 years separation with consent 
  • 5 years separation (no consent required) 

As with any legal case, the grounds for divorce must be proven and while it may be straightforward to prove most of the above facts, unreasonable behaviour often relies on as many as six allegations if facts are not regarded as particularly serious such as those involving violence.  

Despite the Tini Owens case being referred to the supreme court, her case was ultimately lost on not being able to provide sufficient grounds for divorce.  

Under current laws it is simply not enough to be locked in an unhappy marriage and there are calls to make divorce easier for those trapped in this kind of situation.  

Relocating Children Abroad Without Consent

Sometimes when a relationship breaks down a partner may wish to relocate with the children to a place where they will have a strong support network or perhaps new career opportunity. This can in some cases be worked out with an agreement between a couple but in cases where the move is abroad, this can result in disputes that may end with criminal charges being brought if official permission has not been granted.  

These criminal charges are not to be taken lightly and can even end up with the parent who took the child abroad without consent facing a trial. This is because it is classed as an offence under English law to remove a child from the country without the consent of all concerned.  

This means that it is essential to obtain consent before making the decision to travel abroad with children even for a holiday.  

Even if official consent it sought, a parent who does not wish for their children to be taken abroad can submit a defence against their children being taken abroad. It is then up to the court to decide if it is in the child’s best interests and their welfare will not be impacted by their relocation abroad. 

This I why it is essential in these cases to obtain legal advice at the earliest stage to ensure that the reasons provided to the court for a child’s removal from the country will survive scrutiny.

What Can I Expect From A Public Law Outline (PLO) meeting?

PLO meetings are often held in advance of any court proceedings against parents in cases where the welfare of a child at home is a cause for concern. While a PLO meeting offers an opportunity to stop a case going to court, it should be taken seriously by parents who wish to avoid the consequences of court action being taken against them.  

A PLO meeting is requested either by the local authority or social workers who have reason to suspect that a child’s welfare is at risk. This can be for a variety of reasons and is based on the evidence obtained in each individual case.  

In such cases social workers or the local authority can apply to the courts to secure protection orders for a child if agreement is not reached with parents at the PLO meeting. In some cases, a meeting might not even take place if this puts a child’s welfare at further risk.  

Parents will be asked to bring along a solicitor to the meeting who can help negotiate an agreement and act on the parent’s behalf which prevents further action in court and provides a solution that is in the child’s best interests.  

If you receive correspondence from social workers or the local authority inviting you to attend a PLO meeting then you should seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity. You may also be entitled to legal aid and representation at the meeting which would be free of charge.  

The Rising Cost of Divorce

Taking the decision to go ahead with a divorce is not to be taken lightly with fees rising rapidly in recent years. Taking this into account, it pays to ensure you are using the right solicitors firm to represent you and that they provide value for money.  

According to a survey released by the insurance company Aviva, the average cost of a divorce increased from £1,280 to £2,679 since 2014. This doubling of the fees inevitably places an enormous burden on those who lack the funds to pay fees.  

It must also be considered that the better family law firms will ensure the best outcomes in contested cases, which means selecting the cheapest firms might end up costing more in the long run.  

Divorce cases where children are involved can often be more complex than for couples with no children and in these cases, costs have risen by 62% to an average £5,671.  

In order to pay these sorts of fees people are generally forced to either borrow money or turn to friends and family for help.  

If you are concerned about any aspects of divorce including the fees involved we would be happy to advise on how are services are competitive and aimed at achieving the best outcomes for our clients.  

What Happens To Joint Mortgages During And After Divorce

It is very common for married couples to take on a joint mortgage on their home but if a marriage ends in divorce it isn’t easy to make a clean break when the lender still expects payments to be kept up as before.  

Attempting to negotiate a way out of a joint mortgage will of course depend on individual circumstances. Also, if there are children involved, things can get even more complicated particularly if the couple relied on each other’s incomes to be able to afford a mortgage in the first place.  

Then there are cases where the partner who has custody of the children cannot afford repayments on their own when they either work part time or they care for the children full time.  In these cases the hope is that a former spouse will continue to make the mortgage payments even if they no longer live in the property.  

This however is asking a lot when that person will wish to move on with life after the marriage has ended.  

If you are the person left in a property unable to make the mortgage payments if your former partner refuses to pay their half, then you can contact your local Citizens Advice about potential benefits you may be able to receive.   

If you do have sufficient funds to cover the mortgage then you may be able to have the mortgage transferred to you as part of a clean break divorce by consent.  

Kirsten the Iron-Lady making waves for the NSPCC – not quite your regular Sunday lunch!

Lund Bennett Partner, Kirsten Bennett competed in the gruelling IRONMAN 70.3 on Sunday the 10thJune.

‘The Staffordshire’ consists of a 1.2-mile swim as an appetiser with a 56-mile bike ride for mains followed by a 13.1-mile run for dessert.

As the photos show, Kirsten managed the whole event with a smile and was delighted to have raised funds for the NSPCC.

Kirsten said “It was tough-going, especially on such a hot day. I’m pleased with my time and also feel proud to have raised awareness for such an important charity, the NSPCC” she went on to add “…as for next weekend, it’ll be back to Sunday lunch for me!”

 As she’s a past ‘London Marathoner’, be sure to keep a look out for Kirsten’s next outing………….

Getting A Divorce If You Have Children

One of the biggest concerns for parents contemplating a divorce is what will happen will happen to their children. From who gets custody to maintenance payments, the whole process of coming to an agreement can be difficult for both parties.  

If you are in this position then one thing you will be relieved to hear is that children are not included in the divorce case itself. Matter concerning the children are treated separately nowadays and cases are often quite straightforward. 

In some cases divorced parents can resolve what happens with the children themselves without having to go through lengthy court battles of the kind you might have seen on tv or in the movies. Arrangements for the children are now made via family courts under what is called a child arrangements order while housing and maintenance payments are dealt with again separately as part of financial relief proceedings.  

Even before any of these cases are brought before the courts there will be a mediation process to try to resolve any outstanding issues before going to court.  Family based arrangements can be made between ex partners to sort out child maintenance without the involvement of third parties which is often far less stressful than having to involve others.