Category: Child Benefits

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.

Child cases starting in the family courts continue to rise

Following an influx in new childcare cases in the family courts, the President of the Family Law Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane has launched a public consultation into our current system.  At the launch he described those working in the court system as needingto “run up a down escalator” to deal with the amount of cases progressing through the courts.

Last year there was a staggering 53,164 private children cases involving 123,334 children. There is no sign that this rise will abate in the coming years.

Another factor putting pressure on the family court stems from the cuts to family legal aid. Under the current system only those who can demonstrate that they are both victims of domestic violence and on a low income qualify for family legal aid. Because of this, more-and-more litigants are representing themselves at court without the assistance of legal advice.

We would always recommend that clients seek independent legal advice when undergoing family proceedings and before attending court.

One aim of the McFarlane review is to identify cases that could be resolved through mediation rather than through the court system. A quarter of cases coming before the courts do not involve domestic violence or concerns about the safety of a child so may be suitable for negotiations between solicitors.

We have a breadth of experience in all aspects of children matters and are able to advise our clients in a sympathetic and pragmatic manner.

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

Do I need consent from my ex to change our child’s name?

If a parent wishes to change their child’s surname, they should first seek the consent of any other person with parental responsibility.

There are several reasons why a parent may wish to change their child’s name after a separation or divorce. If the parents were married, then it is quite common for one party to revert to their maiden name. Similarly, if one person remarries, they may wish for the child to take their new family name.

Whatever the reason for the name change, everyone with parental responsibility should consent to the change in writing before it can be changed.

When there is consent

If all parties with parental responsibility are happy with the proposed name change then the change can be made via deed poll. If the child in question is aged between 16 and 18 then they too must sign the deed poll to consent to the change of name.

When there isn’t consent

If your ex disagrees with the name change and you cannot get their consent, then you will need to apply for a Specific Issue Order to change the child’s name.

The court will then decide whether the name change is in the best interests of the child. A few factors that will influence their decision includes the length of time the child has had their existing name, the reasons for the change, the effect changing or not changing their name could have on the child, and the child’s wishes.

Specific Issue Orders can also be requested by the opposing parent in order to prevent the name change.

Requesting a Specific Issue Order

If you require a Specific Issue Order to either apply to change your child’s name or prevent it being changed, get in touch with our team of specialist family law solicitors here at Lund Bennett by calling us on 0161 927 3118.

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 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.  

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.

Unreasonable conduct can cost you in children proceedings!

The general rule in civil proceedings is that the ‘loser’ should pay the ‘winner’s’ costs however in family proceedings, this rule does not usually apply, particularly in proceedings that involve children. However, in the recent case of S v S this position changed.

The case of S v S involved an application made by a father for his two sons (aged 15 and 13) to live with him in Switzerland. The application was opposed by the mother with whom the boy had always lived.

During the course of the proceedings, there was a report produced by an Independent Social Worker who advised that ‘given the strength of the boys’ feelings and wish to live with their father, I believe that there is no alternative to agree to his application’.

The father’s application was granted however due to the highly exceptional nature of these proceedings, a costs order was made against the father. Initially both parties applied for their costs however the father retracted his claim and invited the court to make ‘no order for costs’ whereas the mother continued to pursue her application.

The court held that although the father had ‘won’ his application, his behaviour was reprehensible in certain respects in a way which directly fed into the manner in which the proceedings arose, the way in which they were pursued and the fact that the matter had led to a final hearing. The parties’ total costs came to £938,000 and the court ordered that the father pay £150,000 towards the mother’s costs.

Costs orders in children proceedings are exceptional, however, this recent case is a reminder that it is possible to penalise unreasonable conduct within children proceedings with an order for costs.

Tax Free Childcare – What’s it all about??

Plans for ‘tax free childcare’ were initially proposed back in the 2013 budget and are set to be implemented in 2017. According to the gov.uk website the scheme will be available to around 2 million households to help with the cost of childcare.

Parents will need to open an online account with can be done through the government website and can pay into the account to cover the cost of childcare with a registered provider. For every 80 pence paid in, the government will top up an extra 20 pence up to a total of £10,000 which is equivalent to £2,000 per child per year (£4,000 for disabled children). The scheme will be available for children up to the age of 12 and 17 for disabled children.

To qualify a parent must earn more than £115 per week but not more than £100,000 per year. Self-employed parents now also qualify (unlike the previous scheme which was only available for employed parents).

The scheme will be rolled out gradually with all eligible parents being able to join the scheme by the end of 2017.

Child contact arrangements for Christmas – top tips

Christmas is traditionally a time for families to come together. However for parents who are separating, Christmas can be a very stressful time. Contact arrangements that work well over the year can become strained over the festive season whilst parents and children adapt to life after divorce. Avoid any unnecessary upset over the Christmas holidays this year by planning ahead and arranging child care agreements well in advance.

Here are a few ‘top tips’ to help separating couples to ensure that the holiday runs as smoothly as possible:

1. Plan ahead – Do not leave difficult decisions to the last minute. Although the conversation may be difficult and it is tempting to put discussions off this will make negotiations between you and your former partner more pressured which is likely to result in unnecessary animosity.

2. Communicate – Putting disagreements aside, co-operating and keeping your former partner informed of any unexpected changes during the Christmas period will make trying to arrange time spent with the children much easier.

3. Put children first – It is easy for parents to forget to ask the children what they want or consider what is best for them when trying to reach an arrangement which works for both you and the other parent. It is important to take a step back and think about what is best for your child when making contact arrangements. When you do spend time with the children over Christmas, try your best to relax, put your differences with your former partner and enjoy the time spent together. Couples often try and ‘recreate’ the Christmases they enjoyed prior to separation however it may be beneficial to embrace the change and try celebrating in a different way – as you can imagine, many children enjoy celebrating Christmas twice every year!

4. Look at the big picture – Think about the long term rather than just focusing on Christmas. It is likely that both parents will want the children to be with them on the first Christmas Day after separation; however there will be many others and other special occasions in the future. The most helpful approach is to alternate arrangements from one year to the next or even to share Christmas Day if you do not live too far apart.

5. Be flexible – Due to work commitments or extended family traditions it can be difficult to share time equally over busy holidays. Be willing to compromise and consider agreeing for the other parent to have the children on Christmas day this year, and swap the following year.

Don’t leave Christmas arrangements to the last minute. If Christmas contact is a problem, or if you need general advice in respect of child contact arrangements, please contact one of our family law specialists today on 0161 927 3118.

Former director of software company appeals against a suspended prison sentence after failing to pay court-ordered maintenance

The former director of a software company has won his appeal against a suspended prison sentence after failing to pay his ex-wife court-ordered maintenance. The couple were married for 25 years and separated in 2013.

The husband was successful and they lived a prosperous lifestyle however they also spent extravagantly. By the time the case came before the court significant debts were accumulating and the parties’ assets were no longer sufficient to meet both parties’ needs.

The wife was a former stay-at-home mother who gave up her career years before and had little earning capacity. As a result, and as priority was given to housing the couple’s children, the wife was awarded most of the remaining funds (£500,000) whereas the husband received £66,000.

The husband was also ordered to pay the wife £2,000 per month in maintenance and received a six week suspended prison sentence after failing to do so. At the husband’s appeal of this prison sentence his barrister stated that the husband had not deliberately neglected to pay maintenance, his company had gone into administration, he was evicted from his flat, relying on the charity of his new partner and that he was ‘homeless, insolvent and unable to meet his obligations’. The husband’s barrister then went on to argue that threatening the husband with a prison sentence over the unpaid maintenance was a ‘curious survivor’ of the Victorian era of debtors’ prisons which violated his human rights and is ‘not in keeping with the modern view that husbands and wives approach this court on an equal footing’.

Following these arguments the wife’s barrister announced that they would accept the dismissal of the prison sentence however the wife was still opposed to the proposed clean break on the basis that there is a ‘complete absence of clarity’ about the husband’s income, due to ‘contradictory statements and complete lack of disclosure’.

The Judges have reserved judgment and will give the ruling at a later date. Without a clean break, the wife could again seek to enforce the debt, putting him at risk of a prison sentence once more.