Category: Matrimonial Law

Who decides where a child lives after their parents separate?

Any separation can be difficult, but one that involves children can be particularly challenging and emotional.

The biggest decision that couples with children will need to make if they separate, is the children’s living arrangements.

Where possible, it is always easiest and less stressful for everyone involved if the family can come to an amiable agreement together.

However, this is not always possible. In instances where parents do not agree on where a child should live, they may need to seek help from one or more of the following:
•A solicitor specialising in family law.
•Mediation.
•The Family Court.

No matter which route you take to help decide the best living arrangements for your children, the welfare of the children is always considered first and foremost.

Family law solicitor
A family law solicitor will be able to advise you on all avenues open to you and provide you with sound legal advice and guidance.

Mediation
Mediation is a process guided by a trained, impartial, third-party that allows the two parties to have a constructive discussion and hopefully negotiate an outcome that all parties are happy with.

The Family Court
If an agreement still cannot be reached, then it may be necessary to apply to the Family Court for one or more orders to be made. A child arrangement order will decide who the child will live with, who they will spend time with, and when. In some cases, it may also be relevant for the court to issue a specific issue order or a prohibited steps order.

Lund Bennett are family law specialists based in Altrincham and Manchester. For legal help and guidance regarding disputes about child living arrangements, mediation services, or help applying for a court order, get in touch with our team of specialist solicitors by calling us 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Secretary David Gauke said: “While we will always uphold the institution of marriage, it cannot be right that our outdated law creates or increases conflict between divorcing couples.”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Existing divorce laws are over 50 years old and have been under fire for being outdated and causing unnecessary further conflict between divorcing couples.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.

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.

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.

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.  

Strict Penalties Now Being Imposed For Divorce Settlement Breaches

One 83-year-old man recently found out the hard way that breaching a divorce settlement can result in a jail sentence rather than a financial penalty which has often been applied to such cases in the past.  

The man from Bristol was a multimillionaire who had reached a divorce settlement totalling more the 3 million with his ex-wife. The sum was awarded following a disputed divorce case which had  continued for more than seven years and involved several court appearances in that time to reach settlements on a number of issues. 

The length of the case may well have been an aggravating factor which led to a prison sentence being imposed when it was found that the individual had breached the divorce settlement. Even so, the case should serve as a further warning that judges are prepared to impose more severe sentences following similar outcomes in other divorce cases involving breaches of settlements.  

Sentences imposed recently have totalled six months in prison which can far outweigh any financial gain from attempting to delay and avoid paying settlements.  

If you are concerned about financial settlements in divorce and your rights to fair treatment in a divorce case, contact us today.  

Latest ONS Marriage Figures Reveal Ticking Time Bomb

Marriages between opposite sex couples continue to decline according to the latest figures released by the ONS leading to calls for legal reform as more and more couples appear to be choosing to cohabit rather than tie the knot.  

The report covers marriages in England and Wales that took place in 2015 which also happened to be the first year marriages were also recorded for same sex couples. According to the ONS, the report is the latest in a steady decline in the number of opposite sex marriages which has been taking place since the 1970s. On current evidence the trend is unlikely to be reversing with the number of marriages down 3.4% on the year before.  

These figures have raised concerns among experts that co-habiting couples are mistakenly believing they will have the same rights as married couples if they break up. This belief has been cultivated by the myth of common law marriage where people believe that they have the same entitlements to a share of assets when this is not the case.  

The only way to protect rights in these cases is to have a formal cohabitation agreement in place which outlines entitlements in the event of the relationship breaking down. There are also calls to make changes to marriage so that it better meets the needs of today’s couples.  

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.   

Recent study reveals many ‘unhappy’ couples stay together in order to secure home ownership

A recent study produced by L&C Mortgages has revealed that some 1.8million adults in the UK have primarily stayed or would stay in a relationship in order to get on to the property ladder.

They found that 1.8million people had stayed with a partner in order to pay for the mortgage or a deposit. On average, 44% of the 1.8million remained in their relationship for at least a year longer than they would have if there were no financial consideration and a further 15% stayed for more than two years and 40% said they were still with their partner now.

David Hollingworth from L&C Mortgages said the results of the study were ‘indicative of the struggle people face when buying their first home’ and that it ‘isn’t right that people are sacrificing their emotional wellbeing in order to focus on financial stability’.

If you are considering purchasing a property with your partner it is important to think clearly when it comes to such an important financial decision. Once the deposit has been paid and a mortgage entered into, what happens to the family home upon separation may be more complicated if you have never married.

If you are buying a house with your current partner, make sure that you have a Cohabitation Agreement in place so that both of you are very clear about who walks away with what in terms of ownership. To speak with one of our specialist Family Law solicitors about a Cohabitation Agreement  please call 0161 927 3118.