Month: June 2017

Mother who faked a paternity test to fool an ex-partner into believing he was the baby’s father and paying child maintenance has been jailed

Danielle Morris initially told Jamie Somers in May 2014 that he was not the father of her baby, Darcy, but then later changed her story. Ms Morris forged a DNA test and arranged for Mr Somers’ name to be written on Darcy’s birth certificate.

Mr Somers soon became a ‘doting dad’ and had his daughter’s name tattooed on his arm, paid up to £7,000 in child maintenance, gifts, a christening and other costs in his role as father. Mr Somers had set a room aside in his house for Darcy and played as full a part as he could in the upbringing of his daughter, looking after her three days and nights every week. Many months later, after repeatedly asking Ms Morris to see the DNA result document, Mr Somers discovered the lie when he called the testing company for more details and was told they had not tested him. Mr Somers then undertook a test himself which confirmed he was not the father. Mr Somers said the results of this test ‘devastated’ him.

Ms Morris has been jailed for one year for fraud at Liverpool Crown Court.

After sentencing, Mr Somers said there was “no celebration on my behalf as a little girl, who was innocent and used as a pawn in Danielle Morris’ game, is inevitably the victim here”.

Paternity is assumed by law if the parents of the child married. The Court can order paternity tests and decide who is to pay for the testing as it is not available on the NHS. It may be that the mother is liable for the costs, or the costs are split between both parents.

If you require assistance with any paternity or child maintenance issue, whether you are a mother or father, contact a member of our specialist Family Law team today on 0161 927 3118.

Financial proceedings to be ‘de-linked’ from divorce proceedings

From 19th June 2017, family court divorce proceedings will run separately to financial applications. This decision follows a successful pilot which took place in the South West Region in April 2017.

Family Division President Sir James Munby and HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) deputy chief executive Kevin Sadler have stated that the pilot has been successful and achieved its aim of introducing a more streamlined process which reduces the delays currently experienced by court users as files are transferred between courts by up to two weeks.

The ‘de-linking’ process is intended to address delays caused by contested financial applications for maintenance or a financial settlement. Currently, when such financial applications are made, the entire case is referred from the regional divorce centre progressing the divorce back to the local family court for a hearing to resolve the disagreement. Now, the main proceedings will continue in the divorce centre while the parties try and reach an agreement in separate family court proceedings.

Should Divorce Be Separated From Money Issues?

According to one senior family judge it should. It was recently reported that family law judge Sir James Munby would prefer more streamlined divorce proceedings where fighting over money and assets would be considered separately.

Reform of existing divorce laws to accommodate this new approach is however unlikely anytime soon with a long history of reform moving at a snail’s pace. Many in the family law sector area feel that reducing the number of complex legal battles over money that often form part of divorce proceedings would make the process far more efficient.

Legal battles over assets can sometimes go on for quite some time before a decision is made on who gets what. The process of divorce itself by contrast can be comparatively straightforward.

Separating money and assets from divorce is not the only change to divorce laws being called for – there is also no-fault divorce to consider but as yet none of them have seen any real progress.

Although divorce rates have fallen to their lowest levels in 40 years, 44% of marriages still end up in separation with a significant rise in the number of middle aged and older couples getting divorced. This age group is probably the most likely to find themselves in complex battles over assets, money and pension arrangements.

Court of Appeal judgment determines 50/50 division of matrimonial assets is unfair in short marriage.

The recent case of Sharp v Sharp shows a departure from the longstanding principle that in financial proceedings the starting point is that capital built up during the course of a marriage should be split down the middle, regardless of the length of the marriage – also known as the ‘sharing principle’. Mrs Sharp has been successful in her appeal against a court order which awarded £2.725million (which represented exactly 50% of the total matrimonial assets) to her husband. The award to Mr Sharp has now been reduced to £2million.

The couple in this case were both in their 40s, married for four years and had no children. Mrs Sharp discovered that her husband was having an affair in September 2013 and petitioned for Divorce in December 2013. When they met, they were both earning around £100,000 per annum however Mrs Sharp’s career then took off due to a significant increase in the energy market and she received bonuses totalling £10.5million over 5 years. Throughout their time together the couple maintained largely separate finances and there was no ‘intermingling’ of their money during the marriage.

The Court of Appeal considered all the facts of the case and decided that the Mr Sharp should receive 50% of the value of the parties’ two properties (circa £1.3million) and an additional award of £700,000 to reflect the combination of the following three factors:

  1. The standard of living during the marriage;
  2. The need for a modest capital fund in order to live in the property that he is to retain;
  3. Some share in the assets held unilaterally by Mrs Sharp.

The Court of Appeal went on to state that:

‘if…the equal sharing principle of 50/50 allocation is now applied by the courts and practitioners, in cases which are not pre-determined by ‘needs’, to all relevant assets in every marriage, without exception, from the moment the couple leave the church or the Register Office, this would seem to be a very significant and wholly unjustified development’.

This judgment confirms that the Court will not automatically apply the equal sharing principle to every case. The decision opens up the Court’s discretion particularly if there are no children and both parties are in full time employment and kept their financial affairs separate throughout the marriage.

Despite this judgment there are still many questions which remain unanswered, such as: ‘how long does a marriage have to be to be defined as ‘short’?’ and ‘when does my partner become entitled to share in the wealth I have generated?’. In light of Mrs Sharp’s recent success it is likely that the Courts will see an increase in arguments about the length of a marriage and period of cohabitation. In order to avoid uncertainty, the best advice remains to have a pre-nuptial agreement in place which clearly sets out your intentions in the event of separation.

If you are concerned about the division of assets upon separation or other issues relating to divorce please contact a member of our team for more advice today on 0161 927 3118.

Mid Life Crisis Real For Divorcing Older Men

The typical image of the sports car driving middle-aged-man looks to be closer to the truth than ever with the number of older men seeking divorce rising fast. So what’s behind the current rise in older men divorcing?

According to the latest statistics, men over 45 are now more likely to be filing for divorce where once it was women. When it comes to figures for the under-45s women are still the more likely to seek divorce possibly while they are still young enough to recover from the impact.

Men meanwhile are seen as more likely to have the ability to move on with their lives financially in middle age where they will have reached the peak of their earning potential. Analysts also suggest that financially secure men are more attractive to some younger women and this increases the risk of men divorcing their partners for a younger model.

For men over 60 the gap between men and women is at its most pronounced with 9,443 men divorced compared to 5,783 women.

Individuals who decide to end their marriages in their 50s and 60s are sometimes referred to as “silver splitters” and the number of divorces in this age group as increase significantly in recent years. In fact the figure is put at an increase of 85% between 1990 and 2012.