Category: Family Law

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.

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.

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.

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.  

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.  

Divorce – Do I Have To Go To Court?

Divorce can be stressful enough without the added worry of appearing in what can be the intimidating surroundings of a courtroom. So if you are currently considering divorcing your partner can you avoid that movie style court battle and just get it over and done with?  

The good news is, yes you can but only if the divorce is a straightforward one that remains undefended by your partner. The processes involved in ending a marriage are actually quite straightforward in most ordinary cases and are certainly nothing to be afraid of.  

You will simply need to issue a divorce petition which we work with you to complete and then it gets sent through to the court who will then send the document on to your spouse. It is then up to your spouse to either object or allow it to go through undefended. The latter is by far the most common scenario because nobody wants those legal costs to mount.   

The main issues that are likely to involve appearances in court are financial and related to custody of children. These cases can turn out to be complicated but even in these cases compromises can be reached to suit both parties.  

Divorce – Is Your Former Partner Being Secretive About Finances?

Not every couple involved in a divorce case will be faced with a spouse being secretive about their finances but there are plenty of cases where crucial information is withheld. This can be self -defeating for those who are attempting to conceal information to protect their assets and avoid having to share them with a former spouse.   

One thing is certain in the case of finances in divorce, there will need to be full and frank disclosure of finances otherwise there is the very real risk that any agreement can be challenged either during the divorce process or at a later on.  

You solicitor will provide all the necessary advice about what you need to disclose about your finances and you will be advised that it is in your interests to be fully transparent. A court will take a dim view if anything subsequently comes to light about finances that was deliberately withheld in an agreed settlement.  

Disclosure of finances is done via the completion of Form E which provides the opportunity to document all details relating to your finances. It is expected that the details contained in this document include everything that should be included with no omissions.  

Your solicitor can advise you on how to complete the form and also how to follow the correct procedures if you feel that your spouse is attempting to conceal the full details of their finances.