Category: Court Law

Your Child Arrangements during Coronavirus

During this uncertain time as family lawyers we are receiving a significant number of enquiries from separated parents about how and whether they should continue with arrangements in light of the spread of coronavirus, school closures and further government advice.

It is very important that we continue to follow government guidelines. If you are not aware of the current Government Advice we have covered this below:

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, appeared on both Good Morning Britain and BBC Breakfast News on 24 March 2020. In his initial interview he indicated that all children should remain with the parent in whose care they currently are. In his second interview he both apologised for his lack of clarity in the earlier interview and helpfully clarified the government’s advice which is that all children of separated parents under the age of 18 should continue to see both of their parents.

The clear government advice is welcome news for separated parents and means in general that:

  • If there is a Court Order in place that defines the time children spend with each of their parents this should continue; and
  • If there is no Court Order in place then the normal arrangements should continue.

Everyone at Lund Bennet appreciate that each case will be very different and every family will have their own particular set of circumstance they have to contend with. We would encourage all separated parents/families to discuss matters openly and honestly and agree with a plan which works best for the children. If unfortunately, you’re a parent who is being refused time with their child and are unsure if this is reasonable, or if you’re a parent who doesn’t know whether to allow their child to visit their other parent’s home, you may need some legal advice at this time. We can offer telephone appointments with our experienced solicitors who can provide practical and sensible guidance at this difficult time. Contact us to book a telephone consultation today.

Emotions and Divorce

Separating/divorcing – and the legal process of doing so – is one thing, but the practicalities of divorce go hand-in-hand with an emotional transition.

If proper attention isn’t paid to the emotional and mental side of divorce it can lead to a significant impact personally and any family who might be impacted by the decision – particularly children. 

There is no doubt that a life changing decision like separation can be very traumatic. The process will require important decisions to be made at a time when stress and hurt-feelings can cloud judgement, resulting in choices that might later be regretted. A decision made in a moment of anger, in the spur of the moment can mean a significant long-term loss – financially, in relationships with others and in future life prospects. 

It is the job of family lawyers to provide sound advice and take you through the legal process, but to also understand and work with the inevitable emotional stress. Without this expertise, achieving a positive result is far less likely.

The early stages of a divorce will bring significant anxiety, leading to disbelief, confusion, a feeling of helplessness, a sense of insecurity and – ultimately – loss of control. This is not a good time to be making decisions about your future and a good lawyer will recognise this.  You are unlikely to have to make urgent decisions about your future at this stage. It’s our job to give you clear information, emotional support and for you to get an understanding of the situation you are in.

Feelings of guilt are also common. Many clients will assume that they have done something wrong and start to blame themselves. Again, for anybody experiencing these feelings, it is not a good time to be making important decisions. 

While these feelings can seem to be all-consuming, experience has shown that – in the vast majority of cases – they are only temporary and do pass as the divorce process unfolds. Reaching a feeling of calm will make planning for the future easier and allow you to think about life after the divorce. This will also lead acceptance that, while things will inevitably be different, it doesn’t necessarily mean a change for the worse.

An experienced family lawyer will be able to help you through the emotional journey divorce can bring as well as introducing you to professionals who can provide extra support, should you need it. From that point, the process of evaluating, planning and executing the best legal support for you is a much easier, more effective process.

Lund Bennett Family Law Specialists offer a wide range of family law related services. Call us today and we can help.

0161 927 3118

What is a quickie divorce?

Anyone that reads celebrity news will have come across the term “quickie divorce” at some point over the years.

If you’ve read about Ant McPartlin, Cheryl Cole, Rowan Atkinson, or Louise Redknapp’s divorces, then you may be under the impression that they received special celebrity treatment, a divorce in just a matter of seconds!

These media reports about so called “quickie divorces” are actually very misleading, as all divorces go through the same process, no matter what your celebrity status.

So, what are the media actually referring to when they say that Cheryl Cole received “Britain’s fastest ever quickie divorce”, and was divorced in just 14 seconds?

The part of the divorce process that is being referred to here is how long it took the judge to read out the pronouncement of the first decree.

Once a couple receive the first decree, this does not mean that their divorce is complete, it is simply confirmation from the court that they agree there are grounds for a divorce.

The divorce will not be finalised until the decree absolute has been granted, and unless there are exceptional circumstances the couple must then wait a minimum of six weeks and one day before applying for the decree absolute.

Exceptional circumstances are considered on a case by case basis. The most common reasons for a decree absolute to be expedited is if one person is dying and wishes to divorce before they pass away, or if one party has moved onto a new relationship, is pregnant, and wishes to remarry before the baby is born. Celebrity status certainly doesn’t play a part!
Generally, all divorces in the UK take between 6 and 12 months to complete. If financial matters take a long time to resolve, then the process can take even longer.

For help or advice with filing for a divorce quickly and efficiently, give our team of solicitors here at Lund Bennett a call on 0161 927 3118.

Why do divorce rates increase after Christmas?

January is the most popular time of year for starting divorce proceedings, so what is it about Christmas that pushes so many couples to breaking point?

January 7th is dubbed ‘divorce day’ in the UK, as many couples take the first step towards accepting that their relationship isn’t working by seeking advice about getting a divorce.

But what is it about Christmas and the new year that pushes so many couples over the edge?

Stress and pressure of the festive season
For many people, Christmas is the busiest and most stressful time of the year. With lots of events to attend, guests to entertain, meals to plan and gifts to buy, it’s easy to get stressed out by all the planning and preparation and forget to spend time together.

Failing to communicate or compromise effectively can also cause major clashes over Christmas plans and finances.

Time spent with in-laws
Christmas can mean spending more time with family and in-laws than usual which can cause tensions to run high. Existing tensions with in-laws can come to a head, causing arguments and testing loyalties between couples.

Alcohol
Any existing problems in the relationship can be amplified when under the influence of alcohol. With alcohol flowing more freely over the festive period, many couples find themselves having more frequent and explosive disagreements over Christmas.

Putting on a brave face for Christmas
Many struggling couples, particularly those with children, grin and bear it over the festive period so as not to upset anyone.

New year, new start

The new year marks new beginnings, and many people use it as a time to make big changes in their lives for the year ahead. For some couples this may mean admitting that their relationship isn’t working and it’s time to part ways.

For help or advice with divorce law this Christmas or new year, give our team of family law solicitors a call on 0161 927 3118.

Am I eligible to apply for an occupation order?

An occupation order can enforce safe living arrangement for victims of domestic abuse.

If you have suffered domestic abuse you may feel unsafe living in the same house as your perpetrator. An occupation order can be used to provide you with a safe place to live by regulating who can live in your family home.

How can an occupation order be used?

Occupation orders are flexible and can be used in a variety of ways to offer victims protection. Some of the commonest ways in which occupation orders are used in domestic abuse cases include:

  • To exclude someone from the family home.
  • To enforce the right to remain in or return to the family home.
  • To set out who pays for expenses relating to the family home.
  • To exclude someone from a defined area around the family home.

Eligibility to apply for an occupation order

In order to be eligible to apply for an occupation order you must be ‘associated’ with the other person in one of the following ways:

  • Married, in a civil partnership, or engaged.
  • Previously married or in a civil partnership.
  • Cohabiting in a family scenario.
  • In an intimate physical relationship for a significant length of time.
  • Have parental responsibility for the same child.

Occupation orders are only applicable in very serious cases as they can grant access to a property that a victim does not have a legal entitlement to and deny access to a perpetrator with legal entitlement.

The court will assess whether an occupation order is suitable for your individual case by applying two tests. The tests are called the balance of harm test and the core criteria test. These tests take into consideration the health, safety and well-being of the victim and any children involved and their related housing and resource needs.

If you require help, support, or legal advice relating to domestic abuseor occupation orders, please give our team of family law specialists here at Lund Bennett a call on 0161 927 3118.

Do I need consent from my ex to change our child’s name?

If a parent wishes to change their child’s surname, they should first seek the consent of any other person with parental responsibility.

There are several reasons why a parent may wish to change their child’s name after a separation or divorce. If the parents were married, then it is quite common for one party to revert to their maiden name. Similarly, if one person remarries, they may wish for the child to take their new family name.

Whatever the reason for the name change, everyone with parental responsibility should consent to the change in writing before it can be changed.

When there is consent

If all parties with parental responsibility are happy with the proposed name change then the change can be made via deed poll. If the child in question is aged between 16 and 18 then they too must sign the deed poll to consent to the change of name.

When there isn’t consent

If your ex disagrees with the name change and you cannot get their consent, then you will need to apply for a Specific Issue Order to change the child’s name.

The court will then decide whether the name change is in the best interests of the child. A few factors that will influence their decision includes the length of time the child has had their existing name, the reasons for the change, the effect changing or not changing their name could have on the child, and the child’s wishes.

Specific Issue Orders can also be requested by the opposing parent in order to prevent the name change.

Requesting a Specific Issue Order

If you require a Specific Issue Order to either apply to change your child’s name or prevent it being changed, get in touch with our team of specialist family law solicitors here at Lund Bennett by calling us on 0161 927 3118.

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.

Miss Estrada may have to sue her own step-daughter in order to recover her multi-million pound financial settlement after former husband’s death

The facts of the case of Christina Estrada and her former husband Sheikh Walid Juffali are set out in our blog post earlier last month: http://bit.ly/29BUYUz

In summary, in a judgment on 8th July 2016, Mrs Justice Roberts gave Dr Juffali three weeks to pay a settlement to Miss Estrada worth just over £75million which included a cash payment of £53 million. On 20th July 2016 Dr Juffali lost his battle with cancer, just nine days before the deadline set by the High Court to pay the settlement to Christina Estrada. The Telegraph has reported that the court deadline has come and gone and Miss Estrada is still yet to receive her multi-million pound settlement, made up of cash and assets.

Two years prior to his death, Dr Juffali entered into a contract by which he purported to ‘sell’ the bulk of his Saudi assets to his three daughters (one of them being the child of Miss Estrada) under Sharia or Islamic law for just under £512million. Miss Estrada is therefore now left with the prospect of suing her own 13 year-old daughter together with her two step-daughters in order to recover her court settlement.

The divorce of Dr Juffali and Miss Estrada was known as one of the most acrimonious in the High Court in London as Dr Juffali had unsuccessfully sought to avoid financial hearings by claiming diplomatic immunity. Even from beyond the grave Dr Juffali appears to continue to cause difficulties for Miss Estrada and although she has been awarded a financial settlement, Miss Estrada now faces another challenge before she can receive the same.

The case of Estrada and Juffali highlights the fact that enforcement issues can often be as complex, if not more so than getting the financial order in the first place. If you are concerned about reaching a financial settlement upon separation or other issues related to the enforcement of an existing order please contact a member of our team for more advice today on 0161 927 3118.

Does Divorce Still Have A Strong Impact On Child Psychological Wellbeing?

Various studies into the psychological effects of divorce on children over many years have often revealed negative impacts on wellbeing. A recent article in the independent highlights that despite many positive changes that consider the impact on children, long term effects are remain present leading to poor educational attainment and emotional difficulties.

While some of these effects may not be exclusively due to divorce, evidence from recent studies show that it is a factor. The article highlights that a study on children with exceptionally high IQs which began in the 1920s showed a negative effect on how long those subjects lived even if it didn’t have an effect on their IQs.

The effects in this study were shown to be long term and less obvious as those who took part showed no noticeable differences to the children who hadn’t seen their parents’ divorce.

A study which covers an even longer period starting in Sweden in the 19th century and covering more than a century showed that there has been little change in educational attainment and psychological wellbeing in children of divorced parents in that time.

The conclusion to draw from this is that while divorce is unavoidable for many couples, the welfare of children involved should always be considered a top priority.

What Impact Will Brexit Have on Family Law?

Now that the dust seems to have settled on Brexit, what we are left with is what Michael Heseltine recently referred to as a ‘dark cloud’. This dark cloud is filled with uncertainty not just concerning politics and economics but also our laws.

Family law is one area that could see significant changes in the coming years when EU laws will need to be replaced. While the cross border elements of family law will inevitably see changes, so too will cases involving exclusively UK nationals.

The risk in all of this is that there will be holes left if amendments and new domestic legislation is not made in time, once the UK government gives formal notice of its intention to leave the EU.
Things may get particularly complex for the many relationships and marriages between UK nationals and EU citizens. Then there will be the issue of settlements and how volatility in the financial markets might impact on the fairness of those settlements.

While Brexit presents challenges there might also be opportunities for the reform of existing laws imposed by the EU. Some EU laws currently impose regulations that have a major impact on UK laws when it comes to jurisdiction and enforcement of any decisions.