Month: June 2016

Taking children on summer holidays– how to ensure a stress-free summer following separation

The first summer holidays after separation can often be a source of anxiety and conflict. Due to financial constraints following separation, parents can often feel concerned as to whether or not a summer holiday is affordable before even considering where the children are going to be and which parent they will be spending time with.

Both parents need to give permission for a child to be taken abroad for a summer holiday. The exception to this is in circumstances where the Court has made a Child Arrangements Order. Where a parent is named in the Order as the person with whom the child lives, then that parent is able to take a child abroad for up to 28 days without the permission of any other person with parental responsibility.

What if my former partner refuses permission?
If you wish to take your children abroad and the other parent will not consent, you will need to make an application to the Court for a Specific Issue Order. This is an order dealing with a particular problem over caring for children between parents. You can make this application on an emergency basis if you have travel plans. If the Court then grants permission for you to take the children abroad, you do not need the other parent’s consent.

What if I refuse permission?
If you are worried about your former partner going on holiday with your children without your consent, you can make an application for a prohibited steps order. This is an order which stops a parent from doing something or taking particular steps in relation to the child. In an emergency situation, the Court can order the port alert to prevent the children leaving the country. This is only where the threat is real and likely to occur within 24-48 hours. The Court can also order that a UK passport is surrendered which can also prevent the Passport Service from issuing a passport or travel document.

In order to ensure a stress-free summer holiday, we would recommend the following:
1. Speak to the other parent as early as possible about your plans and prior to paying for the trip to avoid disappointment. It may be useful to compare diaries with the other parent and identify where there could be an issue with child care or the effect this has on the current contact arrangements.

2. Be child focused – make sure the children’s best interests are at the centre of your plans.

3. Give the other parent sufficient information about your trip such as the dates, flight details and contact details for any accommodation.

4. If you are taking the children abroad carry a letter of permission signed by the other parent, this may be needed at a later date. The government guidance recommends that this letter includes contact details for the parent giving permission and details about the trip they are permitting.

5. If your surname is different to that of your child’s, it is useful to carry evidence of your relationship with the child (such as a birth certificate, or copy of your Decree Absolute or new marriage certificate).

6. Come to an agreement – a shared parenting agreement is a good way to agree on how you are going to continue sharing the parenting role on separation and can also contain details of how the children will spend the holidays, which could save a lot of time and stress when planning summer holidays each year. Another alternative is to obtain a Child Arrangements Order from the Court which can also set out the arrangements for holidays each year.

At Lund Bennett Law LLP our specialist family law solicitors can advise you on the most appropriate arrangement for your situation. For further information, contact one of our specialist family law solicitors today on 0161 927 3118 for a free 20 minute consultation.

Judge says more children should have their voices heard and be allowed to give evidence in Family Court

Sir James Munby, Court of Appeal Judge, has said that more children should have their voices heard to explain their feelings in court. The judge outlined his thoughts in a ruling on a Court of Appeal case which involved a 14 year old girl who complained that a judge had not met with her and she was deprived of her right to participate.

Sir James Munby said that judges’ approach to the issue of children giving evidence in Family Court hearings must change ‘sooner rather than later’.

Six years ago, a Supreme Court Justice said there had been a presumption against children giving evidence. Lady Hale, during a Supreme Court ruling said that such a presumption raised significant human rights issues and judges should not presume that a child should not give evidence. Sir James Munby referred to the fact that Lady Hale’s analysis had led to discussions among senior judges and new guidelines being published however he also stated that sometimes judges had been slow to recognise the need for change.

Sir James Munby then went on to say ‘one thing is clear: that proper adherence to the principles laid down (by the Supreme Court) will see ever increasing numbers of children giving evidence in family proceedings.’.

The impact of a new relationship on financial settlements – Wife receives £3.5m despite Husband arguing payment should be reduced due to Wife living with new partner

The recently reported case of Hart v Hart concerned Karen Hart, 60, and John Hart, 77. The couple had been married for more than 20 years and Mrs Hart was awarded £3.5million from the £10million family pot.

Mr Hart tried to appeal this decision in the Court of Appeal on the basis that the initial award to Mrs Hart was unfair and ignored the fact she was living with another man for what Mr Hart thought could be 10 years. Solicitors for Mrs Hart however argued that, after more than 20 years of marriage, she was ‘anxious to remain financially independent’ and should not have to rely on her new partner to maintain her lifestyle and said that she has no current intention to marry.

The Husband’s application failed and, his application for permission to appeal was refused. Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division ruled that ‘the presence of [Mrs Hart’s] new partner in her life did not diminish her needs’.

This case reaffirms the principle that all financial needs must be met by parties to a marriage and this responsibility cannot be avoided. Sir James Munby did however point out in his judgment that upon these cases are fact-specific and all the evidence should be considered before a judge comes to a conclusion as to whether the prospects of remarriage or the future prospects of a relationship should or should not be taken into account in making a financial settlement.

If you are concerned about the impact of a new relationship on a financial settlement and other issues relating to divorce, please contact a member of our team for more advice.

Two Thirds of Domestic Abuse Victims Unaware Of Eligibility For Legal Aid

The well-publicised reports of domestic abuse concerning Amber Heard and Johnny Depp has once again brought the issues surrounding domestic abuse in marriage to the fore.

While the allegations remain unproven in the case of Heard and Depp, cases often go unreported when there is a genuine need for some form of legal support to prevent abuse continuing and, in some cases, endangering the lives of those affected.

While it is often easier for celebrities to simply call their lawyer, for people who lack the financial means, seeking legal advice can seem daunting and too costly for those concerned.

Yet there are many cases where those on low incomes can get hold of legal aid to help them with their situation. This means they will miss out on vital legal advice as well as information on where they can go for help.

The legal needs survey of 8,912 people in England and Wales by Ipsos MORI found that 20% of respondents didn’t believe they would get access to legal aid and 47% didn’t know they could be entitled to it. 86% percent of those surveyed were not aware that there are mediation services which can help them.

This shows that a lot of work still needs to be done to educate those affected by domestic abuse.

One in 10 Couples Consider Divorce According to Research

According to research from Relate, one in 10 couples consider divorce at some point as everyday stresses take their toll on relationships.

While not every couple who consider divorce actually end up going through with it, many end up drifting towards divorce when relationships could have been saved. The research includes both married and co-habiting couples. Overall the findings suggest that 1.4 million families are already at their breaking point.

The most common problems triggering thoughts of divorce include the stress of parenting and financial pressures. The latter has been a major issue in recent years as people have struggled following the recent recession and the knock-on effect this has had on family finances.

The ultimate decision on whether or not to divorce depends a lot on individual circumstances and the reasons given. Often marital difficulties can be sorted out with counselling. Couples have the opportunity to seek help before differences become entrenched and there is little hope of saving the marriage.

It is also important to consider the wellbeing of children who can suffer just as much from being caught in the middle of conflict in a relationship as they would if their parents were to divorce.