Child Maintenance for University Fees?

More and more parents are seeking advice as to whether they can claim for child support to help get their children into higher education. Tuition fees have risen dramatically over the last few years, and single parents in particular are finding it difficult to access the funds required to send their children to university.

It is a common misconception that parents are not able to apply for child support payments beyond secondary education. But this is not always the case. As long as your child stays in full time education, you may be entitled to claim maintenance for an extended period.

You would have to apply to the courts to get the terms of a child maintenance agreement changed, and this may incur costs which may be off-putting, but it is possible to  at least ask for this extra support. The courts will listen to any case that has a strong argument for financial support beyond the original agreement, regardless of the availability of student loans.

Marriage and Children???

A recent report has shown that a rising number of your people are much less concerned about getting married before they have children than they used to be. A staggering 54% of those questioned said that they planned to start a family before getting married.

The research carried out by Santander Insurance also found that only 45% of them thought that they would own their own home before entering into parenthood, with even less expecting to have a secure career.

The reasons for such attitudes have been put down to the rise in the cost of living. Young people simply do not have the funds to get married, or to save a deposit for a house, but seem determined not to let that put their lives on hold. Contributing to a pension, or putting money into savings is also a rarity for young people in the current financial climate.

Richard Al-Dabbagh, of Santander Insurance, said: “Parents are increasingly prioritising having a child over other aspects of life such as home ownership and marriage.

“The financial commitments involved with all of these things are significant and against a backdrop of squeezed incomes it’s simply not possible for every family to tick every box. “However, having some form of financial contingency is vital.”

 

Happy Birthday to us!

We were delighted to have featured in the Manchester Evening News in July, highlighting our first birthday and our plans for the year ahead. We are looking to break the £1m barrier in 2014, so we have big plans coming!

Our two ambitious partners, Sharon Lund and Kirsten Bennet set up Lund Bennet in 2012, and specialise in Family Law. In particular, their team have expertise in divorce law, pre-nuptial agreements, child maintenance disputes and financial settlements.

Based in Altrincham, the practice wants to become the leading name in Family Law across Greater Manchester and Cheshire. Sharon Lund said;

There are huge changes to the funding of family law cases and because we’re nimble and agile enough to respond we’re in a good position. We’ve got some exciting initiatives planned and we’re looking to deliver family law services in a way that they haven’t been delivered before

So Happy Birthday to us, and here’s to a prosperous year ahead!

Extension of Civil Partnerships to Opposite Sex

The Government has announced that it will consider the extension of civil partnerships to opposite sex couples. A Parliamentary Committee that has published a report of the Same Sex Couples Marriage Bill has stated its concern that there will be potential discrimination for cohabiting opposite sex couples, in comparison to civil partnerships. Initial Government concerns were focused arround the costs related to extending the bill to same sex couples, but the report disputes these costs and is asking for clear and accurate details about such.

The Committee to keen to stress that the Government carry out a full review of pension provisions of same sex couples and civil partners to ensure that there is no discrimination arising in the pension scheme provisions.

The full report can be read here.

Legal aid cuts prompt rise in child custody cases

Throughout May a record number of child custody cases were brought before the courts in what may be directly linked to the cuts in legal aid which come into force shortly.

A record number of 9,398 cases were heard in May according to the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass). Nine out of ten of these were custody cases, an increase of 27% on the same month in 2012.

Child welfare experts who are trying to champion the use of mediation services, say that these latest reports are worrying. Cafcass Chie Executive Anthony Douglas said;

“All of us in the family justice system are working hard to steer families towards more constructive alternatives to court applications.

“Cafcass will also continue to discuss the reasons behind any changes to application levels with solicitors and other family-justice agencies over the coming months.”

Child Maintenance – How many parents are really paying?

According to the Department for Work and Pensions, 81% of non-resident parents are paying the child maintenance that they should. However a recent charity report states that this figure is in fact much lower.

A campaign group for single parents states that the DWP are grossly overestimating the number of parents who are up to date with their child maintenance payments. Gingerbread claim that thousands of children could be missing what is owed to them by their parent.

DWP official guidelines state  that, a CSA payment is regarded as ‘in-effect’ if any maintenance is paid, regardless of the amount;

“A case is classed as having a positive maintenance outcome if a payment has been received via the collections service in the quarter, or if a maintenance direct arrangement is in place.”

Gingerbread Chief Executive Fiona Weir says:

“The DWP itself predicts that as more families set up direct payments, once the new child maintenance service starts charging to collect, only one in four (28%) of these arrangements will be paid in full and on time. The department cannot therefore claim to believe that all existing direct pay arrangements are compliant, and it seems extraordinary that it would continue to over-claim in this way.”

The DWP have reacted to this statement from gingerbread by stating that the 28% figure from Gingerbread quoted above was “factually incorrect”, stating that the DWP estimate “30 per cent of parents with the care of children will continue to use the Direct Pay service, but there may be issues with the other parent being fully compliant”.

 

Divorcees need better understanding of Pension Issues

A recent study has found that 19% of women stop paying into pension funds after they divorce and 25% reduce their levels of savings. It also found that only one in six divorced women had rights to a pension through their ex-husband.

Further findings by the Phoenix Group were;

  • 66% of female divorcees over 40 rely on the state pension in retirement;
  • 38% of women have no idea what settlement they received following their divorce;
  • 20% of women have no idea about their pension provision since their divorce.

For advice on your rights on pension settlement in divorce proceedings call our specialist team now on 0845 548 1007.

Changes to Legal Aid

Recent changes to Legal Aid mean that less people will qualify for financial assistance through their divorce. However, this may not be a bad thing. Mediation services are fast becoming a standard when it comes to divorce proceedings, with more and more law firms offering mediation services to their clients.
 
In fact, only cases dealing with domestic violence or child-protection now go straight to court. Most other cases are passed through mediation services firstly.
 
This can be a lot quicker and a lot cheaper, with cases lasting on average just 110 days compared to 450 for non-mediated divorces. Ministry of Justice figures also suggest that the average cost of mediation is £535, compared to £7,000 for litigated cases.
 
Where mediation services can be seen as a scary prospect for many divorcing couples, in realist it is a fairly straightforward process. Initially there is an assessment to identify the key factors, mostly children or finances, then four or five 90 minute sessions spread over a few weeks. A ‘memorandum of understanding’ is then produced which can form the basis of a legal settlement.
 
To learn more about mediation in divorce please contact us on 0845 548 1007.

The Church of England – Civil Partnerships

The Church of England has given the first signs of a ‘blessing’ towards civil partnerships. Whilst the official stance is still unchanged, priests have been urged to be ‘flexible’ and devise ‘pastoral accommodation’ to gay couples.

A senior bishop said that same sex couples needed to be given recognition and ‘compassionate attention’ from the Church.

Some churches such as Southwark Cathedral and St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, are two churches that have openly shown support for civil partnerships by offering some ‘blessings’.

Churches have been encouraged to look at each case individually.

“In pastoral responses a degree of flexibility may be called for in finding ways to express the Church’s teaching practically,” it said.
“In affirming its belief in marriage as the form the creator has given us for intimate and permanent relationship of a man and a woman, the Church does not treat questions of what is possible in hard circumstances or exceptional conditions as simply closed. They require pastoral wisdom.”