Month: March 2015

How Below Zero Inflation May Affect Divorce Maintenance

The UK inflation rate (the official CPI measure) has officially dropped below zero for the first time since 1960. This might make things a bit easier on the pocket for most people but what about maintenance payments?

If you have recently received a court order on maintenance it may be time to take a much closer look at the small print. With negative inflation in the UK now a reality, albeit a temporary one, people who have gone through divorces may be receiving maintenance payments that are index linked.

This wouldn’t have been an issue prior to Britain’s fall into negative inflation as it would mean that the value of money paid would remain constant and in line with The Government’s main inflationary measure.

It is also unlikely to be an issue for existing payments but if there is something in the court order that relates to ‘variation by the rate of CPI’ then this needs to be looked at for two reasons. The payer will pay less and the person receiving maintenance will lose out on what they should be entitled to.

According to The Chancellor the dip into negative inflation is only likely to be temporary lasting perhaps a few months before it begins to rise into positive territory again.

Stress Of Divorce Raises Heart Health Risks For Women

Divorce is regarded as one of the most stressful times in life and a new study has revealed the extent to which divorce has adverse effects on womens’ health, particularly the heart.

Unfortunately there are times when divorce is unavoidable and often essential to being able to move on and get on with life. That freedom from a marriage that isn’t working does come at a price for some of the people.

The affects of divorce on men are well documented. Depression, suicide and early death are often seen as a consequence of divorce but for women there is a greater risk of suffering a heart attack.

A study by Duke University in North Carolina found that women have a 24% higher chance of suffering a heart attack than those women not going through a divorce. If a woman goes through a second divorce, then the risk of a heart attack increases the risk to 77%.

A new marital partner does little to decrease the risk with the same study finding that the risk is actually higher at 33% than the average for women going through divorce.

Study author Dr Matthew Dupre, associate professor of medicine at Duke University in North Carolina, US said “Divorce is a major stressor, and we have long known that people who are divorced suffer more health consequences.

Report by Trades Union Congress and Women’s aid reveals the devastating impact of financial abuse

The report, entitled ‘Women’s experience of financial abuse and potential implications for Universal Credit’ reveals the reality of the lives of many women who are trapped in financially abusive relationships. In many cases women are left with no money for basic essentials such as food and clothing for themselves and their children.

Finance abuse, according to the report, comprises the control of money, exploitation of survivor’s income and time, and sabotage of their efforts to get resources such as through paid work.

The report found that:

– 77% said their mental health had been affected by financial abuse
– 75% were prevented from seeing family and friends
– 76% said that their partner kept financial information from them
– More than 40% of those receiving benefits or tax credits said their partners took their benefits from them.

Many women also noted that the financial abuse increased and continued after separation, often relating to child maintenance or financial proceedings.

Financial abuse can have a devastating impact and can leave victims without access to their own bank accounts, with no access to independent income and debts that have been built up by abusive partners set against their names. The report calls for changes to be made such as banks dealing with abuse more effectively and changes to the delivery of Universal Credit to reduce the risk of further opportunities for financial abuse.

If you are experiencing financial abuse within your marriage or partnership, you can talk to us in complete confidence about the legal steps you can take to bring your abuser to justice and to legally end your relationship. Our Family Law specialists will handle your case with sensitivity and provide the proper advice and guidance you need. Please contact us for a free 20 minutes consultation on 0161 927 3118.

Supreme Court allows former wife’s appeal in Wyatt v Vince [2015] nearly 20 years after divorce

In May 2013, the Court of Appeal allowed Mr Vince’s appeal against the dismissal of his application to strike out his former wife Ms Wyatt’s claim for financial remedy, which she issued some 18 years after the parties were divorced. However, the Supreme Court has held today that Ms Wyatt’s claim should proceed to a short hearing.

The couple married in 1981 and lived a New Age traveller lifestyle, separated in the mid-1980s and divorced in 1992. The couple had a son together and Ms Wyatt had a daughter from a previous relationship whom Mr Vince had always treated as a child of the family. Upon separation Ms Wyatt brought up the children in difficult financial circumstances and Mr Vince was not in a position to make any substantial contribution for them. In contrast Mr Vince joined the traveller community and spent around a decade living in a converted Fire Engine, attending New Age festivals and anti-nuclear arms protests.

In the mid-1990s Mr Vince began a business career and built up his company Ecotricity Group Ltd, a green energy business which is now worth an estimated £57 million. For Ms Wyatt’s part, she and the children lived what the court described as ‘an unsettled lifestyle’ subsisting on earnings from low-wage jobs and state benefits. The Supreme Court judgment referred to the fact that Ms Wyatt had primary responsibility for the children which had made her life very difficult and questioned whether there was any reason why, now that he had come into a certain amount of money, she and the children should not have the opportunity of benefitting to some extent form it.

The Supreme Court ruling does not mean that Ms Wyatt’s application will be successful, merely that her application will proceed in the High Court. Lord Wilson explained that Ms Wyatt’s application would face difficulties but the fact that she gave a much greater contribution to the upbringing of the couple’s children over many years may justify a financial order for a modest sum in comparison with the £1.9 million which she is seeking.

This judgment could open the door for many to seek financial settlements years after the marriage has broken down and it is therefore becoming increasingly important for all financial matters to be finalised at the time of divorce and a court order obtained. This case highlights that it is crucial that separating partners who do not have financial orders in place review their situation as they may now face claims against them based on wealth acquired after the divorce.

Our specialist team can advise on applications for financial provision. Consulting our specialist lawyers in our Altrincham or Manchester offices is a great first step. Please contact us on 0161 927 3118 for a free 20 minute consultation.

Refusing to pay under a financial settlement should result in being banned from driving, travelling abroad and court-enforced curfews – says Law Commission

The Government legal advisers suggested that those who refuse to pay the financial settlements they owe their former partner should be banned from driving, travelling abroad and given court-enforced curfews. They also recommended that specially-appointed judges should also have the power to order HM Revenue and Customs and banks to tell the courts how much money the former partner earns.

Professor Elizabeth Cooke, Law Commissioner for property, family and trust law has said:

‘The law governing the enforcement of family financial orders is hard to understand and difficult to use. When the courts cannot enforce family financial orders, it can lead to real hardship for former partners and children and place a huge burden on the state.’

In its consultation, which is opening today, the Law Commission is seeking views on options for reform and the ways in which existing mechanisms for enforcing compliance can be made more effective and will also consider new mechanisms that might be used which would bring pressure on those who refuse to meet their obligations under a financial order and act as a greater deterrent. The Law Commission believe that the threat of sanctions such as driving bans and curfews may be enough in many cases to encourage compliance.

The consultation will close on 11th July 2015 and the consultation paper is available to view here:

Mother’s application to relocate the child to Hong Kong refused.

In the recent case of Re R (A Child – Relocation) [2015] the mother applied to relocate the child to Hong Kong and this application has been refused. The brief facts of this case were that the mother was born and grew up in Hong Kong and attended boarding school in England, returned to Hong Kong and then relocated to England in 1995 due to work. The parents of the child met in 2007 and separated in 2013.

The mother wished to remove the 2 and a half year old child permanently to Hong Kong and said that this was due to the fact she was made redundant in 2013 and the only job offer she had was in Hong Kong. The father opposed the application and applied for a child arrangement order for the child to spend 3 nights each week with him.

The mother’s application was refused and the father’s application was granted for a number of reasons, including:
– The father’s work commitments meant that his ability to visit Hong Kong was limited
– The judge did not accept that the plan to return to Hong Kong was due to the urgency to find work
– The judge was not persuaded that the mother would be unable to find work in England
– The mother’s proposals for contact between the child and the father following relocation were insufficient to make up to the loss in the relationship and the emotional damage it would cause the child.
– The judge did not think mirror orders which could be obtained in Hong Kong they would provide sufficient certainty for the father.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Wood made reference to the fact that the mother had failed to recognise in any real way the value to the child of having his father in his life. Mr Justice Wood was also critical of the fact that for a long time the mother had presented barriers for the father such as insisting for contact to be at her home and insisting that only she should be responsible for the child’s care needs, such as washing, changing and feeding.

There are measures which can be taken to minimise the risk of children being relocated without consent. If you have concerns that this could take place, it is essential to seek legal advice as soon as possible. Consulting our specialist lawyers is a great first step, we can talk you through options, and help you to decide what the right decision for your situation is. Please contact us on 0161 927 3118 for a free 20 minute consultation.

Notice period for marriages and civil partnerships extended in order to ‘prevent sham marriages’

The Proposed Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Waiting Period) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/159) came into effect on 2nd March 2015. These latest measures have been put in place in order to prevent sham marriages and form part of the government’s Immigration Act, represent the biggest change of marriage and civil partnership preliminaries in recent times. Many couples who are planning to marry in the UK will face tougher checks by the Home Office in an effort to ‘crack down’ on sham marriages.

The latest measures mean that the notice period for marriage and civil partnership has been extended from 15 days to 28 days. However, where a sham marriage is suspected, couples may be subject to an extended notice period of 70 days, to allow investigators more time to consider whether the proposed marriage is a sham.

This, together with closer joint working with registrars, has resulted in over 2,000 reports of suspected sham marriage cases between July and December 2014. This was up by over 80% compared to the same period the year before. Immigration and Security Minister James Brokenshire has said ‘Marriage can no longer be seen as a ‘fast track option’ for those seeking to abuse marriage to cheat their way into the UK’.

For more information the Proposed Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Waiting Period) Regulations 2015 are available to download here:

Senior judge has said excess bundles will be destroyed without notice if they fail to comply with the practice direction.

Practice Direction 27 of the Family Procedure Rules states that unless the court has directed otherwise, parties can submit a bundle of no more than 350 sides of text.

Sir James Munby, the president of the family division, in writing a recent judgment on a care proceedings matter, commented on the fact that this practice direction is often ignored and the legal profession must recognise that ‘enough is enough’.

Sir Munby said that he has taken practical steps to stop the direction being ignored and said ‘from now on, counter-staff at court offices will be instructed to refuse to accept witness bundles, unless a judge has specifically directed that they are to be lodged, and to require whoever is trying to lodge them to take them away.’ He also made reference to large bundles being the subject of financial penalties.

In the case Sir Munby was considering which involved children, the documents were 591 pages, and this included 131 pages of witness statements of the mother (which was considered excessive). The strict guidance he gave was that ‘proper compliance with PD27A and, in particular, strict adherence to the bundle page limit, is an essential tool in the struggle to control the costs of family litigation’.

Court of Appeal Judge tells ex-wife she should ‘get a job’ and ‘get on with it’ in maintenance dispute

The Court of Appeal has rejected an appeal from the ex-wife of a racehorse surgeon, as she sought to challenge a decision which would significantly reduce her future maintenance. Following the parties separation in 2008, the former matrimonial home was ordered to be sold and the proceeds divided. Mrs Wright was awarded a £450,000 mortgage free home with stabling for her horse and her daughters’ ponies and Mr Wright was also ordered to pay her and the children £75,000 a year in maintenance and school fees (£33,200 of this was spousal maintenance for Mrs Wright). Mrs Wright chose not to work after the end of the marriage, preferring to be a stay-at-home mum. Last year Mr Wright sought a reduction in the payments to Mrs Wright as he thought it was not fair that he was expected to support Mrs Wright for life, especially after his proposed retirement.
The Court of Appeal has upheld the decision of the High Court that Mrs Wright’s personal maintenance payments should cease, subject to a tailing-off over a five-year period leading up to Mr Wright’s retirement. Lord Justice Pitchford, hearing Mrs Wright’s appeal against that order, said that Mrs Wright should get a job and ‘just get on with it’ and seek a job like a number of other women with children. Lord Justice Pitchford also stated that divorcees with children aged over seven should work for a living and was critical of the fact that Mrs Wright ‘…had done nothing since 2008 to look for, retrain or to prepare herself for work’.
This case, amongst other recent judgments such as SS v NS [2014], shows that there seems to be a change in the way the Family Courts are now looking at spousal maintenance. Considering the recent line of authorities, it seems that divorcing spouses cannot realistically expect to have their income needs met by their former partner for many years after the divorce, especially in cases where they can reasonably be expected to go out to work. The courts are increasingly of the opinion that an unwillingness to work is not a good enough reason to expect maintenance payments to continue longer than is necessary.
For advice and guidance on spousal maintenance, financial arrangements on separation, or to discuss your current situation, please contact our specialist Family Law lawyers on 0161 927 3118 for a free 20 minute consultation.