Category: Family Law

What evidence is required when applying for an occupation order?

Victims of domestic abuse should gather as much evidence as possible to support their case if they wish to apply for an occupation order.

Occupation orders are a type of injunction used to provide victims of domestic abuse with protection from their abuser and a safe place for them and their children to live.

If you meet the eligibility criteria to apply for an occupation order, then you will be required to gather as much evidence as possible to submit with your application. The more evidence you have, the better your chance of being granted an order.

Evidence may include:

Sworn statement

You will be required to write a sworn statement (sometimes called an affidavit) detailing the abuse that you have been subjected to and the effects that it has had on you and any children involved.

Although it may be painful and upsetting to recall events in detail, the more detailed and precise you can be, the better. If you know the dates and times that any of the incidents took place, then it is beneficial to record these in your statement.

Details about past events

Details about any past incidents should also be given as these can be useful in providing context to your case.

Independent evidence

If you can obtain any professional independent evidence like medical or police reports, then these will also strengthen your case.

The court will use the evidence you provide, and a ‘balance of harm’ and ‘core criteria’ test to consider the circumstances of your case in detail and the effects that an order would have on the health, wellbeing and safety of all parties involved.

If you require help, support, or legal advice relating to domestic abuseor occupation orders, please give our team of family law specialists here at Lund Bennett a call on 0161 927 3118.

How does the court decide whether to grant an occupation order?

When deciding whether to grant an occupation order, the court uses two tests to consider the effects that making the order would have on all parties involved.

When handling domestic abuse cases, the court has a duty of care to the applicant, the respondent, and any children involved in the case.

Granting an occupation order can temporarily provide victims of domestic violence a safe place to live by removing their spouse from the shared home.

The court uses the evidence provided and two tests to decide whether an occupation order is the best course of action.

The ‘balance of harm’ test

When carrying out the balance of harm test it is the court’s duty to consider and balance the level of harm likely to be caused to the applicant, the respondent and any relevant children, if the order was or wasn’t made.

Section 33(7) of the Family Law Act 1996 states that the court must grant an occupation order if they believe that the applicant or any relevant child is likely to suffer significant harm attributable to the conduct of the respondent if an order is not made.

Exceptions to this rule occur when the court believe that the respondent or child are likely to suffer significant harm or greater harm than the applicant if the order is made. In cases that involve a child, the child’s wellbeing is always the court’s paramount consideration.

The ‘core criteria’ test

The core criteria test takes into consideration the applicant’s relationship to the respondent and entitlement to the property.

If the applicant is entitled to the property, then according to Section 33(6) of the Family Law Act the court must then consider the following core criteria.

  • The housing needs and resources of each of the parties and of any relevant child.
  • The financial resources of each party.
  • The likely effect of any order, or of any decision by the court not to exercise its powers, on the health, safety or well-being of the parties and of any relevant child.
  • The conduct of the parties in relation to each other.

If the applicant is not entitled to the property then some additional factors will be taken into consideration, including, whether any children are involved, the length of the relationship, and the length of time since the relationship came to an end.

If you require help, support, or legal advice relating to domestic abuse or occupation orders, please give our team of family law specialists here at Lund Bennett a call on 0161 927 3118.

Am I eligible to apply for an occupation order?

An occupation order can enforce safe living arrangement for victims of domestic abuse.

If you have suffered domestic abuse you may feel unsafe living in the same house as your perpetrator. An occupation order can be used to provide you with a safe place to live by regulating who can live in your family home.

How can an occupation order be used?

Occupation orders are flexible and can be used in a variety of ways to offer victims protection. Some of the commonest ways in which occupation orders are used in domestic abuse cases include:

  • To exclude someone from the family home.
  • To enforce the right to remain in or return to the family home.
  • To set out who pays for expenses relating to the family home.
  • To exclude someone from a defined area around the family home.

Eligibility to apply for an occupation order

In order to be eligible to apply for an occupation order you must be ‘associated’ with the other person in one of the following ways:

  • Married, in a civil partnership, or engaged.
  • Previously married or in a civil partnership.
  • Cohabiting in a family scenario.
  • In an intimate physical relationship for a significant length of time.
  • Have parental responsibility for the same child.

Occupation orders are only applicable in very serious cases as they can grant access to a property that a victim does not have a legal entitlement to and deny access to a perpetrator with legal entitlement.

The court will assess whether an occupation order is suitable for your individual case by applying two tests. The tests are called the balance of harm test and the core criteria test. These tests take into consideration the health, safety and well-being of the victim and any children involved and their related housing and resource needs.

If you require help, support, or legal advice relating to domestic abuseor occupation orders, please give our team of family law specialists here at Lund Bennett a call on 0161 927 3118.

The new no-fault divorce law: What you need to know

The government are introducing no-fault divorces in a bid to end the divorce ‘blame game’ and make the process faster, simpler and more amicable.

When announcing the plans to reform divorce law, Justice Secretary David Gauke said: “While we will always uphold the institution of marriage, it cannot be right that our outdated law creates or increases conflict between divorcing couples.”

Current grounds for divorce

Existing divorce laws are over 50 years old and have been under fire for being outdated and causing unnecessary further conflict between divorcing couples.

Currently, couples who wish to get a divorce are required under the Matrimonial Causes Act to prove one of the following:

  • Unreasonable behaviour.
  • Desertion (for 2 years).
  • Mutual separation (for 2 years).
  • Have lived apart for 5 years (if one party does not agree to the divorce).

The new no-fault divorce

Under the proposed new laws, couples will simply be required to issue a statement saying that there has been an “irretrievable breakdown” of their relationship.

A minimum time frame of six months will be introduced to give couples the opportunity to work things out and change their minds before the divorce is finalised.

Other changes include the option to make a joint application for divorce, and the scrapping of the option to contest proceedings.

There is not yet a date for when the new law will come into effect, but the government have expressed that they are committed to introducing the new changes as soon as possible and expect it to be within the next year.

If you require legal help or advice with any aspect of divorce law, get in touch with our team of specialist solicitors here at Lund Bennett by giving us a call on 0161 927 3118.

When should a Prohibited Steps Order be used?

A Prohibited Steps Order can prevent one parent from making a significant change to a child’s life or upbringing that the other parent disagrees with.

When two or more people share parental responsibility of a child, it’s unlikely that their ideas about what’s best for the child will always align.

In most cases, it is possible to come to an amicable agreement, however in instances where an agreement can’t be reached, a Prohibited Steps Order may be applied for by the opposing person.

Applications for a Prohibited Steps Order can be made to the court, and if successful, they prevent a parent or guardian from performing an activity with the child.

What could warrant a Prohibited Steps Order?

When applying for a Prohibited Steps Order it’s important to remember that the child’s welfare will always be the key consideration in the court’s decision-making process.

Examples of the type of activity or decisions that may warrant a Prohibited Steps Order include if a parent or guardian wants to:

  • Move abroad with child.
  • Change the child’s school.
  • Change the child’s surname.
  • Allow child to have a medical treatment or operation.
  • Give the child a religious education.

When can a Prohibited Steps Order be used?

Prohibited Steps Orders are not restricted to parents, they can be made by anyone with parental responsibility, including guardians and those with a Residence Order in relation to the child.

However, you cannot apply for a Prohibited Steps Order when the child in question is in the care of a Local Authority or aged 16 or older.

For more help and advice with applying for a Prohibited Steps Order, please speak to one of our specialist solicitors here at Lund Bennett by giving us a call on 0161 927 3118.

What is included in a cohabitation agreement?

Cohabiting couples do not have the same legal protection as married couples, but a cohabitation agreement can offer some protection.

A cohabitation agreement allows couples living together to agree their financial commitments and obligations to each other, to avoid disputes later down the line.

With more people than ever now choosing to cohabit, the lack of legal protection for cohabiting couples can make breakups fraught and messy.

To avoid stressful disputes, many cohabiting couples are now choosing to create a legal cohabitation agreement, to iron out the details about what would happen in the event of a relationship breakdown.

A cohabitation agreement gives couples the opportunity to discuss who owns what, how property and assets should be split, and how children will be supported, should they decide to part ways in the future.

Creating an agreement in advance usually results in fair and realistic decisions being made, which isn’t always the case in the midst of a relationship breakdown.

are a few things that you should sit down and discuss in detail before creating a cohabitation agreement.

Whilst you’re cohabiting:

  • Who owns what?
  • How will bills and living expenses be covered?

In the event of a separation:

  • How will your possessions and assets be divided?
  • How will property be divided?
  • Where would children live?
  • How will children be financially supported?
  • How would money in joint accounts be split?
  • How would overdrafts and debt be split?
  • Who owns each vehicle?

For a cohabitation to be legally binding, you will each need to be able to confirm that you have received independent legal advice and entered into the agreement voluntarily.

For help and advice with a cohabitation dispute or creating an agreement, get in touch with our team of specialists here at Lund Bennett Law by giving us a call on 0161 927 3118.

Is It Worth Getting Married These Days?

Marriage is being brought into question more than ever these days and for some couples, simply living together is preferable. Some people view marriage as a huge expense just for a piece if paper. They me even live together for decades and have children in the process. So, is entering into a marriage or civil partnership worth it?  

The short answer from a legal perspective is yes if you want to protect areas such as inheritance and save on huge tax bills either for those left behind when you die or a partner die. While this is not an article designed to promote marriage, indeed for some couples it can be preferable not to pass on their assets to a partner when they die, let’s highlight how being married can save a number of legal headaches.  

Perhaps the biggest consideration for mature unmarried couples is the will. If your partner dies you won’t inherit anything and the best you can hope for is some provision towards living costs. If you had children together inheritance will pass to them. If there are no children then your partners family members will be next in line to inherit as part of Intestacy Rules.  

The next potential issue is inheritance tax. Couples who marry will and leave everything to their spouse will have ensured no inheritance tax is due on the estate. The opposite is true for unmarried couples where IHT can take away a significant chunk of the inheritance.  

These potential outcomes are avoided if a couple decides to marry and there have been some high-profile cases where a person has decided to marry just before death for this very reason.

Brexit Divorce Dilemma For Property Owning Couples

With Brexit looming large in March property prices may see a dramatic readjustment that could go one way or the other depending on the outcome. This may not be an issue for those not planning on moving anytime soon but for couples on the edge of divorce there is now a dilemma.  

Property prices to a great extent are driven by a mixture of national sentiment, the availability of credit and seismic shocks to the economy. The financial crisis of 2008 for example brought prices tumbling across the country and many areas are still yet to recover.  

According to the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, a no deal Brexit could see prices fall by 35% in three years. Whether this actually turns out to be the case is another matter. Forecasts by the Bank of England aren’t always as accurate as the weather forecast and then there is the prospect that we get a deal, everything is forgotten and there is a boom in house prices.  

So the dilemma for divorcing couples where property biggest is their biggest asset is whether to go ahead with the process of divorce and risk selling and dividing up a property at a potential loss, or speed up the process in the hope that advantage can be taken of more favourable market conditions. 

Depending on the view of the person thinking of filing for divorce, the strategy may be to wait until all the fuss is over before proceeding.

Is Facebook Bad for your Marriage?

According to statistics it is. Research into reasons given for divorce in the UK show that Facebook is mentioned in 33% of divorces.  

While Facebook was originally conceived as a way for lost friends to get in touch with one another, its use has grown to the point where it has a a direct impact on the lives of those friends if used inappropriately.  

While much of what is posted in social media relates to people’s travels, family photos, food and nights out, there is sometimes a darker element to its use which can sometimes get out of hand.  

For one thing, getting in touch with lost friends can include those of the opposite sex such is the ease of tracking people down on the site. Depending on how either partner views getting back in contact with old flames, this can result in deep mistrust between partners and even divorce if behaviour is seen as unreasonable.   

News can also travel fast when it broadcast among friends and sometimes people may even use the Facebook to air their grievances about their husband or wife. Criticising a partner in front of several hundred friends can be a whole lot more damaging than doing it face to face.

Divorce – Are Your Prepared for The Unexpected

Agreements are not always binding particularly if there hasn’t been full disclosure relating to certain aspects of agreements whether they are prenuptial or part of a divorce settlement. Having an agreement that is watertight is critical if you want to take steps to avoid unexpected issues cropping up.  

The job of a divorce solicitor is to a large extent concerned with negotiating the best outcome for their client. People generally don’t want to concern themselves with all the details of a divorce preferring to get proceeding over and done with as soon as possible but this can run the risk of overlooking those unexpected outcomes that can arise when things are overlooked.   

This is why preparing adequately for divorce in advance is so important because reaching a watertight agreement should always be the aim. That agreement should also be fair to both parties. Disputes can arise both during and after divorce proceedings that can result in court battles neither former partner is going to want.  

This is one of the reasons there is such a big push towards allowing no fault divorces. People don’t really want to have to go through an acrimonious divorce that requires proof of a partner’s infidelity to be revealed to strangers.