Month: August 2015

Divorce The Importance Of Being Fully Transparent About Finances

It is only natural in some cases that divorcing couples will want to keep some aspects of their finances to themselves during a divorce but this can come back to bite unsuspecting ex husbands or ex wives at a later date.

The importance of declaring everything about finances is not only the right thing to do in most cases but also essential to avoid repercussions later. The process of dividing up money and assets during a divorce can be complicated enough and even more complicated if one or other ex-spouse is then taken back to court years later due to something that wasn’t disclosed to the court as part of the original divorce proceedings.

This actually occurred in a recent case where a husband had misled his former wife about who would be the beneficiary of a Trust. The wife understood that the children were the beneficiaries and this was approved by the court in 2010. It was later discovered, however, that the husband was actually the beneficiary.

The husband was subsequently hauled back to court in 2015 and would no doubt risk having to pay back or transfer any money which should have been for the couple’s children. The case not only highlights the need for full disclosure but also for both parties to be 100% clear on financial arrangements before they are approved by the court.

British Association for Adoption and Fostering Closed

The British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) has closed with immediate affect removing one of the key organisations involved in campaigning for children in care.

What is left of the BAAF will be merged with Children’s Adoption Charity Coram and continue to provide support in particular areas such as membership administration of the new CoramBAAF Adoption & Fostering Academy as well as research and development. The magazine Be My Parent won’t survive the closure.

While the closure is happening with immediate affect in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will continue to exist for a limited period which will allow time for services to be transferred to alternative organisations.

The Scottish government has decided to transfer activities from the Scotland adoption register to a new national adopter information helpline which will be operated by the St Andrew’s Children’s Society according to reports.

A spokesperson for the organisation blamed ‘significant changes’ and ‘economic conditions’ for the closure though the causes for the former were unclear. The closure is likely to result in some limitations to the support on offer for adopted children in the future and put more pressure on associated charities to continue to provide help to vulnerable children.

Father must return children to their mother in Australia after wrongful retention of the children in England.

In the recent case of F (Abduction: Acquiescence: Child’s Objections) the High Court ruled that four children at the centre of a dispute between their parents must leave the UK and return to their mother in Australia. This decision was made after the mother sought legal action for the return of her children after they did not return home after a visit to their father in England during the Australian summer holidays. The father had told their mother that the as the children wanted to stay in England he would not be returning them to Australia.

The parents relocated to Australia in July 2007 however they separated in October 2007 and the father returned to the UK but had regular contact with the children via skype. The mother stopped working when the children were born. At the time of the hearing neither of them had issued a petition for divorce. The mother was financially dependent on the father and was facing eviction from her home in Australia as she could not meet the mortgage payments. The mother sought to rely on text messages from the father assuring that he would help with financial difficulties however he did not help her with this yet took the children on skiing trips, a holiday in the middle east and the mother believed the father to be earning approximately £250,000 – £300,000 per year as a financial advisor.

CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) were asked to prepare a report on the children’s objections to moving back to Australia. All four children (aged between 9 and 13) stated that they wanted to stay with their father in England. The CAFCASS representative reported that the children had not said anything negative about their mother or their time in Australia but it was important to the children that they lived around their extended family in England and with their father but wanted their mother to live nearby and see her regularly.

His Honour Judge Bellamy met with the children (via a video link) before making his decision and discussed their feelings and views and he concluded that he was not satisfied that their wishes, feelings and preferences amounted to objections to returning to Australia. He also stated that the father should have applied to the Australian court to request a relocation of the children and it was wrongful for him to keep the children in England and abuse the financial imbalance between him and the mother. The Judge felt that the views of the children had been coloured by their ‘comfortable existence living with their father and, as I find, by the climate he has created which is a climate based on negativity towards the mother and the subtle use of his wealth’.

His Honour concluded that there should be an order for the summary return of the children to Australia. The father assured the court that should the children return to Australia he would make the sufficient financial provision. The court was also informed that the mother would be issuing divorce proceedings and an application for financial remedy as soon as possible.

To see the full judgment click here:
This is a highly emotional area of family law for the entire family. Summer holidays mark a time of heightened risk for relocation with parents arranging holidays or children visiting parents abroad. There are measures which can be taken to minimise the risk that children are unlawfully removed from the UK. If you have concerns that this could take place, it is essential that you seek legal advice as soon as possible. Consulting our specialist lawyers in our Altrincham or Manchester offices is a great first step. We can talk you through your options and help you to decide what is the best way to proceed. Please contact us on 0161 927 3118 for a free 20 minute consultation.

Successful appeal as lump sum of £17.3 million is reduced to £5million after ‘Barder’ event

When an event occurs shortly after a financial order on divorce that fundamentally undermines the whole basis upon which the order was made, this is classed as a ‘Barder’ event. When such events occur the parties to the order can apply to appeal the terms of the order, the name ‘Barder’ is used following the leading case of Barder v Barder.

In the recent case of WA v Executors of the Estate of HA & Others [2015] Mr Justice Moor reduced a lump sum award of £17.34 million which was awarded to the husband by a consent order, to £5 million following the ‘Barder’ event of the husband committing suicide just 22 days after the order. Mr Justice Moor described the case as having a ‘tragic history’; the couple were married in 1997. The husband was a lot older than the wife, and the wife was described as being ‘fabulously wealthy’. There were three children of the marriage and the marriage broke down in 2014. The husband took the breakdown of the marriage very badly.

A financial settlement was successfully negotiated following separation which provided for the wife to make a lump sum payment to the husband of £17.24 million in full and final satisfaction of his claims. The order provided for the lump sum to be paid in two separate tranches of £8.67 million with the first to be paid within 14 days of the order and the second to be paid within 14 days of the husband’s mother leaving the cottage she lived in on the family’s estate. The first payment was paid on time and the husband then transferred the money to his mother to enable her to rehouse herself. The second payment was never made and this was initially agreed between the parties however 22 days after the final order the husband committed suicide and his will left his entire estate to his three brothers.

The wife sought to appeal the order due to the fact the fundamental basis of the order was that the second lump sum was required by the husband to meet his needs and this was invalidated due to his death, the wife argued that the entirety of the order should be set aside and for repayment of the monies she had already paid.

Mr Justice Moor felt that the order was capable of being set aside pursuant to the existence of a ‘Barder’ event. However, he felt that if he had been sitting in court knowing that the husband was going to die the award would not have been nil, as the wife was seeking to argue as he would have to consider the parties’ needs and it could not be said that the husband had no needs. Due to the length of the marriage and the husband’s contributions the judge thought it would be reasonable for there to be an award to enable the husband to make payments out of his estate. The judge concluded that a lump sum payment of £5 million (representing a 1/3 share of the wife’s net share in the matrimonial home) would be appropriate.

Sharing and publishing images to embarrass a former partner and obtain revenge – the growing problem of the malicious use of intimate images in Family Law proceedings

The increased use of smartphones and social media has changed the way in which relationships are conducted and more recently the way in which people act upon relationship breakdown. Those who have smartphones can instantly take high quality pictures and videos and can instantly share these with a partner, friends or the public using websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp. The ease of such sharing has increased the scope for abusive and controlling behaviour upon separation.

The Queen Mary Legal Advice centre refers to the issue as SPITE – Sharing and Publishing Images To Embarrass which acknowledges that there can be circumstances where images are not shared for revenge and shaming an individual but perpetrators can also be motivated by the desire for control or financial motives.

In the recent case of RC (mother) v AB (father) [2015] which concerned a private law application for leave to remove the child from the jurisdiction it was found that the father had arranged for a friend to post an intimate photograph of the mother on Instagram together with a caption ‘bring back my child’. The mother also feared the father would publish an intimate video of them which had been taken years earlier. Cobb J in this case found that such incidents were harassing and done deliberately to hurt the mother and this behaviour had to be taken into account when considering the arrangements for the child.

The publishing of images without consent is becoming increasingly cited in Family Law cases, as threats to release intimate photos or videos are frequently being used in order to coerce an individual into taking or ceasing a particular course of action within proceedings. The sharing of such images can have a devastating impact on those involved. The victims of such behaviour are not only left feeling humiliated but also images and information posted on social media can have a detrimental effect on their current and future employment prospects.

Remedies and removing the images:

Most social media pages such as Twitter and Facebook have banned photographs being posted without the subject’s consent and there are policies in place for the removal of such images. It is important that screen shots are taken of the images prior to removal to support any further action that may need to be taken. Non-molestation orders can be applied for if those involved are ‘associated persons’. ‘Associated persons’ are those who are associated with each other in one of the following ways:

• You are or have been married to each other.
• You are or have been in a civil partnership with each other;
• You are cohabitants or former cohabitants (including same sex couples)
• You live or have lived in the same household.
• You are relatives.
• You have formally agreed to marry each other (even if that agreement has now ended).
• You have a child together (this can include those who are parents of the same child, and those who have parental responsibility for the same child).
• Although not living together, you are in an “intimate relationship of significant duration”.
• You are both involved in the same family proceedings (e.g. divorce or child contact).

If none of the above applies it may be possible to apply for a protection from harassment order.
If you are experiencing abuse following your separation or fear that your former partner is acting in a vengeful manner, 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 minute consultation on 0161 927 3118.

Vulnerable children at risk as study shows 25% of social workers’ assessments are ‘not timely enough’

Ofsted recently undertook a study of ten local authorities and 123 cases of children involved with social services in a survey commissioned by Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw. Overall the assessments showed that vulnerable children in England could be at risk due to delays in social workers’ assessments of the care they need. The study found that assessments in 25% of cases were not ‘timely enough’.

Ofsted have reported that accurate assessments are crucial to ensuring children get the help that they need and ensure that ‘decisive, effective action’ is taken to protect children. One theme of the report was that the views of the children and their families were rarely considered. Despite the facts improvements had been made since previous investigations including the fact that parents, particularly men, said that social workers were spending more time listening to them than before and other positive findings, the report still found that delays in assessments still leave children at risk.

The Ofsted report found that the process was too slow in a quarter of cases and too often social workers were not sharing routinely shared written assessments with families and social workers did not always update assessments to reflect changing circumstances. The report also found that in 21% of cases support plans did not clearly show what help children and their families would receive. In eight local authorities the report found there were significant delays in accessing Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

Sir Michael Wilshaw has commented that the improvement in the assessments is encouraging however he notes ‘there is still more to do before we can be assured that all children and families are receiving the high standards of care required’.