Category: Family Law

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.

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.