Month: July 2017

Is the increase in ‘silver surfers’ behind the rising rate of marriage and divorce among over 65s?

The number of brides and grooms aged 65 and over has increased by 46% over the last decade. The most recent Office for National Statistics (ONS) marriage data shows:

  1. Marriages for those aged 65 and over have increased from 7,468 in 2004 to 10,937 in 2014.
  2. Between 2005 and 2015, the number of men divorcing aged 65 and over went up by 23% and the number of women increased by 38%.

The ONS have stated that the increase in older people ending and forming new relationships is likely to be due to a number of factors such as the fact that people are living longer and also the rise of the ‘silver surfer’ phenomenon (a colloquial term used for older people who access the internet on a regular basis) may be boosting these statistics.

Data from the ONS shows that internet use more than tripled for those aged 65 and over between 2006 and 2013. ONS statistics produced earlier this year show that older people are now catching up with the young in respect of internet use. It has been reported that over 65s are frequently using online dating sites and this may also be behind the rising rate of divorce among over-65s.

Divorce usually has a substantial impact on most couples’ retirement plans. Whether you’re currently going through a divorce or considering your options, it is important to have a complete understanding of how the transition could affect your retirement plans.

If you are concerned about dealing with financial matters upon separation or would like to discuss any of the issues outlined in this post please contact a member of our team for more advice today on 0161 927 3118.

John Walker wins legal battle and secures equal pension benefits for same-sex couples

In Walker v Innospec Limited and others [2017] UKSC 47, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that an exemption in the Equality Act 2010 – which allows employers to exclude same-sex partners from spousal benefits paid into pension funds before December 2005 – is discriminatory and breaches EU equality laws.

This ruling means the provision is immediately disapplied and companies taking advantage of the exemption will be breaking the law.

John Walker worked for Innospec for over 20 years and retired in 2003 – meaning that his employer was legally allowed to refuse his husband an equal right to his pension. Mr Walker and his husband have been together since 1993 and they entered into a civil partnership in January 2006, having registered it on the first day it was legally possible to do so. This was later converted into a marriage.

In accordance with the Equality Act exemption, should Mr Walker die, his husband would not receive the same survivor benefits he would if her were a woman. Those benefits would not include all the contributions Mr Walker made prior to 2005 and this left his husband with a pension of only a few hundred pounds a year. If Mr Walker were married to a woman, she would receive £45,000 a year for the rest of her life.

Innospec’s position was supported by the Department for Work and Pensions however the Supreme Court’s unanimous judgment was given and all five justices agreed that the exemption was discriminatory and breached EU law.

If you are unsure about your pension rights and entitlement upon separation, our specialist team can advise on pension settlement in divorce proceedings. Consulting our specialist lawyers in our Altrincham or Manchester offices is a great first step. Please contact us on 0161 927 3118 today.

School’s out for the summer: have you agreed where your child will attend school post separation?

Deciding which school your child will attend can be one of the trickier aspects of post-separation parenting. Whatever problems existed at the time of the relationship breakdown will inevitably arise if one parent moves out of the area and wants their children to change school as a result.

Parents will be naturally concerned about the legal rights and responsibilities in respect of their children’s schooling and divorce can have an impact on the role each parent has for their child/children at school. We have outlined below, parental rights, responsibilities and options available in respect of schooling.

If both parents have parental responsibility (i.e. children’s mother or father (married to mother when child is born or on the child’s birth certificate), both parents have to agree to a change of school. Neither parent has superior rights over the other nor can a parent assert that they have the right to decide what school the child should attend.

If parents cannot agree on the choice of school, then an application can be made to the court under the Children Act 1989 for the court to make the decision. The two types of orders applied for are:

  1. Prohibited Steps Order – this will prevent any change of school in advance;
  2. Specific Issue Order – this is where the court determines which school the children shall attend.

The orders listed above can be applied for on their own or as part of an application in respect of the overall arrangements for the children.

When considering an application the court will consider what is in the best interests of the child and will look at the ability of the parents to sustain the child’s attendance (e.g. school fees, travel to school). The court will also consider the child’s wishes and feelings (where they are old enough to have formed an opinion in light of their age and understanding) as well as any educational needs amongst other factors.

Separation may involve bad feelings between parents (and their families). Children can pick up on this which may make them confused or unhappy, or even blame themselves for a break-up. It is important that parents are sensitive to their children’s needs during this time and try to resolve their differences.

If you, or your former partner, are contemplating a change of school, obtaining legal advice early on in the process can help overcome any potential problems.

Our specialist Family team can provide advice to ensure that all appropriate steps are taken. Contact a member of our team today on 0161 927 3118.

How To Avoid A Costly Cohabitation Breakup

While we see plenty of celebrity couples opting to cohabit rather than commit to marriages, the chances are that at least some of these relationships will be bound by a co-habitation agreement. This allows couples to work out who is entitled to what if a relationship breaks down.

The number of co-habiting couples in the UK continues to rise fast. The number has almost tripled since 1996 from 1.5 million to 3.3 million and now represents 17.5% of all family arrangements in the UK.

Unfortunately, a significant proportion of co-habiting couples are unaware of their legal rights with 26% mistakenly believing that they have ‘common law marriage’ rights equal to those of married couples. This certainly isn’t the case and if a relationship breaks down the actual status of relationships will be brought into sharp focus.

If for example a co-habiting couple own their home as joint tenants, then regardless of who invested the most into the property, it would be split 50/50 following a breakup of the relationship. 50% of a property would also be automatically be passed on to the other partner upon death.

Awareness of legal rights when it comes to children in the family is also poor with 73% of respondents in one survey unaware of what support they would be entitled to when being left to bring up children.

The mother and father of the children are required to contribute to the cost of bringing up children until they leave school or go on to attend University.

All of these uncertainties can be avoided by putting together a co-habitation agreement which removes many of the uncertainties that exist for couples who choose not to marry.

Charity Says Loopholes Are Depriving Single Parents of Child Support

A new report from single parent Charity Gingerbread claims that single parents are losing out on vital support for their children.

The charity highlights in its report entitled Children Deserve More failings in the present system which allow absent parents to get away with failing to provide the correct level of support for their children.

According to reports, reform to the child maintenance system is helping absent parents avoid their responsibilities when it comes to paying child maintenance because the system prioritises convenience over other concerns.

Child support has proved to be a difficult area for successive governments and this latest report highlights that these problems continue.

Child support is currently calculated on gross earnings which are self-reported to HMRC. Individuals who are self-employed or business owners can get off lightly and pay less than they should as a result. Many wealthy individuals can get away with paying the bare minimum the report goes on to say.

The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) has proved to be of little help in these cases according to the report with single parents often being referred back to HMRC only to get the same result.

Fall in Divorce rate is consistent with decline in new marriages

The Office for National Statistics has published statistics for the number of divorces, dissolutions and annulments in 2015.

There were 101,055 divorces of opposite sex couples in 2015, a decrease of 9.1% compared with 111,169 in 2014 and a decline of 34% from the recent peak in 2003. Although divorce rates fell among all age groups, it is highest among both men and women aged 40 to 44.

The first divorces of same sex couples took place in 2015 with 12 divorces among female couples and 10 divorces among male couples. Marriages and divorces of same sex couples have only been possible in England and Wales since 29th March 2014.

The Office for National Statistics noted that the fall in divorces is consistent with a decline in the number of people getting married over the same period. The decrease in marriage may be due to the fact that more couples are choosing to live together rather than enter into marriage.

What happens to a financial settlement if my spouse/civil partner dies during divorce proceedings?

Going through a divorce can be emotionally distressing and challenging however, in the event one spouse/civil partner dies during or shortly after proceedings it can bring an added element of complication. Although the death of a spouse/civil partner during proceedings is a rare occurrence, parties must be aware of the issues to consider depending on the stage divorce proceedings have reached at the time of death. We have outlined potential stages and the relevant issues to consider below:

1. A Consent Order has been sealed (subject to Decree Absolute) and spouse dies before Decree Absolute has been pronounced.

The Court only has the power to make financial provision and property adjustment orders on granting a Decree Absolute. Therefore, it is standard practice to draft Consent Orders in proceedings for a financial remedy as either being ‘subject to Decree Absolute’ or ‘with effect from Decree Absolute’.

A Consent Order becomes null and void if a spouse/civil partner dies after the order is perfected and sealed, but before Decree Absolute.

This principle was considered in the case of McMinn v McMinn, whereby the executors of a wife who had been killed by her husband sought to enforce an order made against the husband in ancillary relief proceedings where there was no Decree Absolute. The executors application was unfortunately dismissed due to the fact section 25(3) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 clearly provides that only a Decree Absolute could make the order for ancillary relief effective. As it was the death that ended the marriage, it could not be dissolved through the courts.

2. A Financial Order has been made which is not subject to Decree Absolute or Decree Absolute has already been pronounced.

The Court may make certain other specified orders to take effect before Decree Absolute such as orders for costs, maintenance pending suit or pension sharing orders.

In the case of Christina Estrada (as reported in our earlier blog post: ) Ms Estrada was awarded £53million by way of financial settlement following the parties’ Saudi divorce which became absolute in December 2014. Unfortunately her husband, Dr Juffali, died nine days before the date he was due to transfer the money pursuant to the Order. As the Order had already become legally binding, this established a formal debt which could be sued upon. Dr Juffali had an unfulfilled financial obligation which, on his death became the responsibility of his executors.

1. No Financial Order has been made.

If a spouse/civil partner dies after divorce proceedings have been issued but before a financial order, the situation is more complex.
In the recent case of Mr & Mrs Vindis. Mr Vindis died two months after divorce proceedings had been issued but financial matters were unresolved. As the parties were still married, Mrs Vindis became a widow. Mr Vindis had assets of approximately £12million but had left his wife only £36,000 in his Will. As no financial order had been made in the divorce there was no ‘debt’ owing to Mrs Vindis and she therefore had to bring a claim against her husband’s estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
In the event your spouse/civil partner dies during divorce proceedings but prior to a financial order being granted you should first ascertain the contents of your spouse/civil partner’s Will. If you have been sufficiently provided for in the Will (and your spouse/civil partner has not remembered to update their Will upon separation), the executors of the estate are obliged to follow the terms of the Will even if divorce proceedings were ongoing.
If you have not been sufficiently provided for in the Will, you may need to follow in Mrs Vindis’ footsteps and bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. When dealing with such claims, the court consider a number of factors, including the length of the marriage, contributions made and the financial resources and needs of the applicant. The court will also look at what the applicant would have been likely to receive in the event that marriage had ended by Decree Absolute, rather than one spouse/civil partner’s death.
If you are concerned about dealing with financial matters upon separation or would like to discuss any of the issues outlined in this post please contact a member of our team for more advice today on 0161 927 3118.