Month: December 2017

When Loved Ones Go Missing – What Are Your Legal Options?

You might think that people going missing is a rare occurrence most people don’t need to worry about but it is actually quite common. According to official statistics, a person goes missing in the UK every 2 minutes.  

Not everyone who goes missing will disappear permanently and most people will be found within a short time particularly with the ability to reach more people on social media with appeals and so on.  

For some families, however, a person will go missing and never be found and this is the sad outcome in 3% of missing person cases. This causes a great deal of distress for those families and for husbands and wives who may be left to pick up the pieces as well as continue to look after their families.    

Financial affairs will need to be settled in addition to life insurance and so on. Prior to the introduction of new laws introduced in 2014, the process could have been described as difficult at best when marital status and the rights to receive a pay outs on insurance were brought into question.  

The Presumption of Death Act 2013 came into force in the UK in 2014 to help families cope better when a family member was missing or presumed dead. The act applies when a person is thought to have died or there has been nothing to suggest that the person has been alive for 7 years.  

Now For The Pre-Nuptials?

The recent engagement of Prince Harry and the actress Meghan Markle has attracted much attention in the media. The wedding is set for the Spring when the eyes of the world will once again be on the UK.  

Alongside all the romance that goes with this occasion some will be wondering id the couple have a pre-nup in place. This is something the general public will never know even if they do get to enjoy seeing the spectacular ceremony when the day arrives. 

Pre-nups are of course common amongst the rich and famous and any couple that doesn’t have one in place before their wedding can run the risk of having to share all their assets and wealth during a divorce and in some cases even more than that.  

While it would be unthinkable that ordinary people would go to the length of a pre-nup, today the reality is different. People tend to marry later in life these days and many will have accumulated property and other assets before meeting their partner.  

It might kill the romance to be pulling out forms to sign prior to a wedding but it is the only way to protect wealth if the relationship ends in divorce in the future.   

New laws allow unpaid child maintenance to be taken from joint accounts

Unpaid child maintenance backlog in the UK is at £3.8bn. At present, if a parent owes maintenance, payment can only be taken from a bank account held in their sole name. The government has stated that a ‘small minority’ are avoiding payments by opening a joint account with their new partner.

From early 2018, the Child Maintenance Service will have the power to recover child maintenance arrears from a bank account that is held in the joint names of a parent who is required to pay child maintenance and another person.

The Department for Work and Pensions has said that safeguards will be put in place when deducting funds from a joint account. One of these safeguards is that money will only be taken from a joint account when the paying parents does not have their own bank account or if there is not enough money in their own account. Bank statements will also be analysed to establish which funds belong to the paying parent and both named account holders will have a right to make their case before any money is taken.

The Minister for Family Support, Housing and Child Maintenance has stated ‘Our priority is for children to get the support they need. Only a small minority of parents try to cheat their way out of paying towards their children and this new power will tackle those who do’.

Securing child maintenance payments from a former partner can be difficult. Please contact a member of our team today on 0161 927 3118 to discuss your situation.

UK Parliament considers change in the law to facilitate single-parent surrogacy

Under UK law, the woman who gives birth to a child is automatically considered the child’s legal parent until the intended parents have obtained a parental order. A parental order gives the new parents parental and legal responsibility for the child and removes the surrogate’s parental and legal rights.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 (HFEA) governs surrogacy and specifies that applicants can only obtain a parental order if they are a couple living together as partners in an enduring family relationship or spouses.

Whilst it is possible for single parents to enter into surrogacy agreements, under the HFEA, once the child is born they will not be able to obtain a parental order providing them with parental and legal rights for the child.

Since the case of Re Z(A Child) [2016] last year, there has been widespread support for this situation to change. In the case of Re Z (A Child), despite the fact a single father had been able to obtain a judgment extinguishing the surrogate mother’s rights in the USA, he was unable to apply for a parental order in the UK. In giving judgment, Sir James Munby made a declaration that the HFEA was incompatible with Article 14 (no discrimination) and Article 8 (the right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

A remedial order has been put before UK Parliament which, if passed, will give single people the same rights as couples to become the legal parents of their surrogate-born children.

The remedial order is currently being considered by Parliament within the 60 day consideration period and is expected to be passed within 4 to 6 months. Once passed, it will apply to future applications for parental orders however there will be a one-off six-month period in which families can apply retrospectively if they were unable to do so before.

If you have any questions in respect of surrogacy arrangements please do not hesitate to contact a member of our specialist Family Law team today on 0161 927 3118.