Month: December 2016

Ilott v Mitson – bitter inheritance dispute heard in the Supreme Court

On Monday, 12 December 2016, the Supreme Court heard evidence in an appeal brought by three charities in the long running case of Ilott v Mitson. The claim was initially brought by a daughter against her mother’s estate after most of it had been left to charity. The charities lost in the Court of Appeal and now seek to overturn that judgment.

Mrs Jackson, the mother in this case, died in 2004. Mrs Ilott became estranged from her mother, Mrs Jackson, from the age of 17 and remained so for the rest of her mother’s life despite several attempts at reconciliation. In Mrs Jackson’s will, she left the majority of her estate to three charities (including the Blue Cross, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA))and made no provision for her only child, Mrs Ilott.

Mrs Ilott made an application under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 for reasonable financial provision from her late mother’s estate and received an initial award of £50,000 in 2007 however she then appealed against the amount of this award. In July 2015, the Court of Appeal allowed Mrs Ilott’s appeal and set aside the original award of £50,000 and substituted it with its own award of:

a) £143,000 to enable Mrs Ilott to purchase her housing association home;
b) The reasonable costs of the purchase; and
c) Payments up to a maximum of £20,000 structured in a way that would allow Mrs Ilott to preserve her state benefits.

The charities are now to appeal this decision the Supreme Court. The case of Ilott v Mitson has significantly changed legal understanding as it was previously difficult for ‘adult children’ to bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. If the Supreme Court upholds the Court of Appeal decision, it is likely to encourage many more disgruntled ‘adult children’ may seek to bring claims of this kind in the future. The judgment from the Supreme Court is expected in the New Year.

Divorce rates continue to fall

The latest release of divorce figures by the Office for National Statistics, shows that there were 111,169 divorces in England and Wales in 2014, a decrease of 3.1% compared with 2013 and a decline of 27% from a peak in 2003.

Nicola Haines, on behalf of the Office for National Statistics has stated:

‘Compared with 2004, divorce rates in 2014 were lower for all age groups except women aged 55 and over. Likely factors include increased cohabiting and increasing age at first marriage. Previous research indicates a higher risk of divorce among those marrying at younger ages, whilst cohabitation may be reducing the number of weaker relationships progressing to marriage.’

The statistics also show that the average age of divorcees is continuing to rise. This may partly be due to attitudes of modern society towards the divorce becoming more relaxed in the past 20 years. People are realising that they do not have to stay in unhappy relationships and it is possible to build new relationships no matter what age you decide to get divorced. To see a full copy of the statistics report click here:

Child contact arrangements for Christmas – top tips

Christmas is traditionally a time for families to come together. However for parents who are separating, Christmas can be a very stressful time. Contact arrangements that work well over the year can become strained over the festive season whilst parents and children adapt to life after divorce. Avoid any unnecessary upset over the Christmas holidays this year by planning ahead and arranging child care agreements well in advance.

Here are a few ‘top tips’ to help separating couples to ensure that the holiday runs as smoothly as possible:

1. Plan ahead – Do not leave difficult decisions to the last minute. Although the conversation may be difficult and it is tempting to put discussions off this will make negotiations between you and your former partner more pressured which is likely to result in unnecessary animosity.

2. Communicate – Putting disagreements aside, co-operating and keeping your former partner informed of any unexpected changes during the Christmas period will make trying to arrange time spent with the children much easier.

3. Put children first – It is easy for parents to forget to ask the children what they want or consider what is best for them when trying to reach an arrangement which works for both you and the other parent. It is important to take a step back and think about what is best for your child when making contact arrangements. When you do spend time with the children over Christmas, try your best to relax, put your differences with your former partner and enjoy the time spent together. Couples often try and ‘recreate’ the Christmases they enjoyed prior to separation however it may be beneficial to embrace the change and try celebrating in a different way – as you can imagine, many children enjoy celebrating Christmas twice every year!

4. Look at the big picture – Think about the long term rather than just focusing on Christmas. It is likely that both parents will want the children to be with them on the first Christmas Day after separation; however there will be many others and other special occasions in the future. The most helpful approach is to alternate arrangements from one year to the next or even to share Christmas Day if you do not live too far apart.

5. Be flexible – Due to work commitments or extended family traditions it can be difficult to share time equally over busy holidays. Be willing to compromise and consider agreeing for the other parent to have the children on Christmas day this year, and swap the following year.

Don’t leave Christmas arrangements to the last minute. If Christmas contact is a problem, or if you need general advice in respect of child contact arrangements, please contact one of our family law specialists today on 0161 927 3118.

Divorce Rates fall in England and Wales

Divorce rates in England and Wales have fallen by 3.1% according to the latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The results of the survey cover the period between 2013-2014 where there was a 3.1% fall in divorces from the figure recorded in 2013.

With 2017 looming large on the horizon these figures may well change as new data comes in, however, there is still cause for optimism ahead of what is described as peak season for divorces following the Christmas holidays.

Reasons given for the falling divorce rates include more couples co-habiting before getting married and thus ensuring that relationships are on a more stable footing and also couples leaving it later to get married.

Younger couples are statistically more likely to divorce than those getting married later on in life, however, even in this age group divorce rates have fallen. Divorce rates in 2014 are lower than they were in 2004 for all age groups except women aged 55.

The divorce rate currently stands at 9.3 divorces per thousand men and women with 60% of all divorces in England and Wales due to adultery or unreasonable behaviour.

If you need help with divorce proceeding please don’t hesitate to give us a call.

Money Purchase Annual Allowance cuts to affect older divorcees

Since 6 April 2015, a reduced annual allowance of £10,000 in respect of money purchase pension contributions, known as the money purchase annual allowance (MPAA), applies to individuals who have flexibly accessed their pension benefits. The MPAA rules were intended to discourage individuals from diverting their salary into their pension with tax relief and then immediately withdrawing 25% from their pension tax-free. If an individual triggers the MPAA, their annual allowance reduces from £40,000 to £10,000.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Autumn Statement announced that the MPAA will now be cut from £10,000 per annum to £4,000 per annum. This reduction is due to come into force from April 2017. This means that over-55s who start accessing their pension pots will only be able to take £4,000 per year and still qualify for tax relief from next April, rather than £10,000 at present.

Ex-Pensions Minister Steve Webb has said that the new £4,000 limit is unfair on older people who want to carry on working and saving. Mr. Webb went on to state that this cut ‘flies in the face of efforts to make retirement more flexible’.

In the context of divorce, this means that anyone considering using a drawdown to fund a divorce settlement needs to think long and hard about the tax consequences and also the restricted ability to ‘rebuild’ their pension fund following the drawdown in the event that this takes place post April 2017. In the interim, anyone who is already affected by the MPAA should consider utilising the maximum contribution of £10,000 before April 2017.

The information outlined above is general guidance on pension changes and is not financial advice. If you need more details on your rights or about what action to take given your financial circumstances you will need specialist advice from an independent financial adviser. Whether you need advice relating to a personal pension or a business pension scheme, we can help. We have access to a network of other professionals with whom we work closely, including independent financial advisers and pension specialists

67-year-old millionaire ordered by the Court to leave his home due to accusations of physical and emotional abuse towards Wife

The Family Division at the High Court heard that the Wife in this case, who is in her late 70s, was frightened of her husband, a 67-year-old millionaire from Essex, and took legal action against him. Judge Catriona Murfitt concluded that the Wife was likely to suffer ‘significant harm’ if the Husband stayed in the property any longer and therefore he was ordered to vacate the property.

The Husband went on to appeal this decision, stating that the ruling was ‘unfair’. Mr Justice Baker dismissed this appeal and told the Husband that he had ‘no prospect’ of overturning Judge Murfitt’s initial ruling. Mr Justice Baker went on to say that the Wife claimed ‘that for the duration of the marriage, she had been the emotional punch bag for his insecurities and frustrations’.

Mr Justice Baker said that Judge Murfitt held that the Wife was likely to suffer significant harm if an order was not made and that harm was greater than any harm which the Husband was likely to suffer from having to leave the property and he upheld this decision.

Occupation orders

If you are experiencing abuse following your separation or your former partner is acting in a vengeful manner and causing you to fear for your safety in the family home, as outlined in the case above, the Court can issue an occupation order against your former spouse.

An occupation order is an order setting out who has the right to stay, return, or be excluded from a family home. An occupation order doesn’t change the financial ownership of a home, it is usually a short-term measure and the length of time an occupation order lasts will depend on your circumstances. In many cases an order will last for between 6-12 months and some can be renewed. An occupation order can only be made for a property where you both live, did live, or intended to live in as the ‘family home’.

Our Family Law specialists are here to help and can provide the proper advice and guidance you need. You can talk to us in complete confidence about the legal steps you can take to bring your abuser to justice, to feel safe in the former matrimonial home and to legally end your relationship. Please contact us for an initial consultation today on 0161 927 3118.

Why A ‘Clean Break’ Might Be Good For Both Sides

A common complaint amongst divorced or divorcing couples is the inability to move on from financial arrangements which continue to bind couples together long after a relationship has run its course. So what can be done to prevent financial claims continuing when both parties often want to move on with their lives?

One solution is a ‘clean break’ although this has come to have different meanings which often lead to misunderstandings of what it actually means. If you think that a clean break, means just that, then you might end up disappointed.

A clean break used to mean that a wife for example would give up her right to claim maintenance in return for an asset such as the family home. The meaning of the term is now more commonly associated with a divorce court making an order to dismiss all further claims one party can make on the other.

The benefit to couples in this case is not having any further financial ties to their previous partner. Often when either party moves on with their life and meets someone new, these ongoing commitments can put strain on new relationships.

One area where a clean break doesn’t apply is in cases of financial claims made on behalf of children.

Good Divorce Week – Lund Bennett’s commitment to Resolution and the Code of Practice

Members of the team at Lund Bennett are proud members of Resolution, a community of family justice professionals who work with families and individuals to resolve issues in a constructive way.

‘Good Divorce Week’ is an awareness raising campaign from Resolution which runs from 28th November 2016 until 2nd December 2016. The campaign will feature a lobby day in Parliament where Resolution members will be campaigning for improved rights for cohabiting couples and for ‘no fault’ divorces. The Resolution ‘manifesto’ calls for the removal of blame from the divorce process which creates conflict and makes reaching a mutually acceptable agreement much more difficult. Resolution strongly believe that ‘no fault’ divorces will increase the chances of success for dispute resolution out of Court thereby reducing the burden on the currently over-worked court system.

Resolution membership is about the approach we take to our work. This means that as Resolution members, we will always seek to reduce or manage any conflict and confrontation, support and encourage families to put the best interests of any children first and act with honesty, integrity and objectivity.

We know from our experience working as family law professionals, that clients reach the best outcomes when they are helped to understand and manage the potential long-term financial and emotional consequences of decisions. This is why we use experience and knowledge to guide our clients through the options available to them.

As Resolution members, our team have signed up to a Code of Practice that will demonstrate to clients the approach we will always take. The Code promotes a constructive approach to family issues and considers the needs of the whole family, in particular the best interests of children.

If you decide to work with members of the team at Lund Bennett, this means:
• Listening to you, being honest with you and treating you with respect.
• Explaining all the options and giving you confidence to make the right decisions.
• Helping you focus on what’s important in the long-term.
• Helping you balance financial and emotional costs with what you want to achieve.
• Working with others to find the right approach and the best solutions for you.
• Managing stress in what can be an already stressful situation.

Because members of the team at Lund Bennett signed up to the Resolution Code, they work with a network of other like-minded professionals, including mediators, financial planners and family consultants, to make sure we’re helping our clients find the right approach for them. To see a full copy of the Resolution Code of Practice click here: