Thursday, 29 March 2012

CSA forced to pay up for mistake

The Herald recently reported that the Child Support Agency (CSA) has paid the legal fees of a father which were incurred by him in disputing repeated demands by the CSA, where those demands were subsequently found to be mistaken.

The CSA claimed that Henry Roy owed £8,000. They pursued Mr Roy twice through the courts before it was found that his liability was limited to just £1,000.

The CSA has admitted that the case was mishandled and will pay £1,700 towards Mr Roy’s costs.

Whilst the reimbursement of his legal fees undoubtedly goes some way towards redressing Mr Roy’s experience, it does not address the misery and stress suffered by Mr Roy during a time when he says that he was made to feel like a criminal.

This is a very unusual outcome and should not be taken as the norm. It does, however, highlight the difficulties experienced by individuals when the CSA gets it wrong.  

I am frequently contacted by individuals who claim that the CSA has made an error in its assessment but pursues the individual regardless. Mr Roy was fortunate to take good legal advice but often this can be disproportionate to the sums in question (public funding (“legal aid”) is not available and individuals must therefore pay privately).

Read more advice on our family law blog or follow us on Twitter @Divorce_experts.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Faultless divorce ?

A leading family law judge, Sir Nicholas Wall has said that he can "see no good arguments against no fault divorce".
Under current law the only ground for divorce is to demonstrate that the marriage has irretrievably broken down by relying upon one of five facts. Two of the facts are fault based being either unreasonable behaviour or adultery and the remaining three facts require a period of separation of at least two years. This means that unless the parties are prepared to wait for a period of two years following separation one spouse has to rely upon the behaviour or adultery of the other  to get a divorce .
Sir Nicholas has said that the current legislation had "its roots in history" when divorce was a "matter of social status". He has suggested that this is no longer the case.
It remains to be seen whether the law will be changed and whether "no fault divorce" will have any impact upon divorcing couples reaching financial settlements.
For more advice on divorce following our family law blog or follow us on Twitter @Divorce_experts.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Cohabitation Agreements: How Romantic!

Recently, we have experienced an influx of enquiries from female clients wanting advice about not only pre-nuptial agreements but also cohabitation agreements.
According to the Daily Mail, there is evidence that more women than ever are becoming independently wealthy. Women aged between 22 and 29 are earning more on average per hour than men of the same age. As a result there is a generation of women who are potentially going to have more to lose financially as a result of a relationship ending. Not surprisingly these women want to know exactly what could happen to their finances if their relationship ends.

There is a common misconception that after a couple have lived together for say 6 months they automatically acquire rights against each other. This is not the case. If you cohabit with someone and the relationship ends  the only legal claims you are able to make currently are against the family home or for child support.
Cohabitation agreements are therefore a way that an couples are able to decide what should happen if their relationship ends. The agreement can incorporate whatever the couple wishes to stipulate from how the equity in the house is to be divided to who gets the pet. We strongly recommend that legal advice is obtained in relation to any agreement to avoid difficulties in future.
For more divorce or separation advice read our family law blog or follow us on Twitter @Divorce_experts

Monday, 19 March 2012

Pre-nups cause confusion down-under

Family Law Solicitors in Australia are struggling to advise couples with confidence on the status of pre nuptial agreements. Indeed it is reported that some divorce solicitors are refusing to act in cases involving these agreements.

The problem has been highlighted by the case of the multi-millionaire businessman who is trying to challenge the payment to his wife, an ex-strip club dancer, under their divorce settlement.

In England pre-nuptial agreements will be upheld by the court when a couple divorce unless it would not be fair to hold them to the terms. The agreement must, however, be properly drawn up so it is crucial that a couple take divorce advice from specialist family law solicitors in good time before they marry to ensure the best prospect of it being worth the paper it is written on.

For more divorce advice read our family law blog or follow us on Twitter @Divorce_experts

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Love and Marriage

The government is to launch a 12 week consultation on allowing gay couples in England and Wales to marry.  They want to go further than the current law which allows civil partnerships and which was introduced in 2005.  This gives gay couples the same legal rights as married couples.

The new legislation would allow gay couples to engage in civil marriage ceremonies, the sort currently conducted in register offices, country houses and hotels.  It would see gay couples exchanging vows and declaring that they are married. 

The government is defending its position on the ground of equality, giving gay partners the same rights as those enjoyed by opposite sex couples.  They are very keen to stress that they do not propose to touch religious marriage in any way.  Civil marriages cannot currently take place inside a religious premises, and the new legislation would not impact on that.

Taking such a step would require a redefinition of the legal concept of ‘marriage’.  The State has defined who can be married legally for nearly 200 years, specifiying that marriage occurs between a man and a woman. 

The Government is keen to distance itself from the position of the church, stressing that it is for religious institutions to decide who should be allowed to marry in their buildings, following their ceremonies, in accordance with their beliefs and consistent with the law.  However, this proposal has still provoked uproar amongst religious leaders, who have complained that the Government should not be allowed to redefine marriage.

If this proposal by the Government does come into effect, it will be interesting to see what impact, if any, it might have on the law relating to the dissolution of civil partnerships.  Currently, the law in England and Wales distinguises between a divorce and the dissolution of a civil partnership
in that it does not allow the dissolution of a civil partnership on the ground of adultery. This is because adultery is a specific legal term relating to heterosexual sex. If, however, the Government sees it appropriate to revise the legal definition of ‘marriage’, surely it could open the gateway for other aspects of the law to be reviewed?  The procedure for ending a civil partnership is of itself straightforward. 

For more advice on divorce or the dissolution of a civil partnership follow our family law blog or follow us on Twitter@Divorce_experts.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Does It Matter What Country I Get Divorced In?

Many people now lead international lives, marrying someone from another country or living in more than one country. If these people decide to divorce they may be able to issue divorce proceedings in more than one country. Does it make any difference where they get divorced?

Yes is the simple answer. Firstly, the divorce process varies from country to country. In the US all states now allow no fault divorce. However, you can only have a no fault divorce in England if you have been separated for at least two years and your spouse agrees to the divorce proceeding on this basis.

More importantly, the financial settlement that you can achieve on divorce varies significantly from country to country. You should therefore take advice from specialist family lawyers in all the relevant countries to find out which country would provide you with the most advantageous settlement. This is known as "forum shopping".

If you live an international life and your marriage ends, it is important that you take legal advice quickly regarding the appropriate country to start divorce proceedings in as your spouse may be rushing to issue divorce proceedings in another country. This is known as "forum racing". Ususally the first to issue their divorce proceedings ensures that the divorce is dealt with in their country of choice.

For more advice on divorce follow our family law blog or follow us on Twitter@Divorce_experts.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Civil partners litigate over financial settlement

The Telegraph has today reported upon the on-going litigation between civil partners Mr Lawrence, a banker and Mr Gallagher, an actor. 
The couples wealth is allegedly in the region of £4million and the Telegraph report that the court has shared the assets almost equally between the parties. The press report that Mr Lawrence purchased a flat before the parties met for £650,000, now worth £2.4 million. Mr Lawrence's income is said to be £390,000 a year, significantly in excess of Mr Gallagher's income.
Mr Lawrence is appealing the decision arguing that the decision is flawed and that he made a significantly greater contribution to the assets. It is also reported that Mr Lawrence is arguing that his case should be treated differently because the parties do not have children and they will continue to pursue their careers going forward. 
The outcome of the case remains to be seen. It is the case however that the court has to take into account the same factors upon the breakdown of a civil partnership as they do upon divorce. Those factors do include things like contributions made. It is always important to seek advice upon relationship breakdown and Pannone can offer advice all aspects of relationship breakdown including financial settlements on divorce and arrangements for children. For more advice on divorce follow our family law blog or follow us on Twitter @Divorce_expert s  

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Stalking to become a criminal offence

Prime Minister, David Cameron, has today announced that stalking is to become a specific crime in England and Wales.

The announcement coincides with International Women's Day in recognition of the effects stalking has on victims - most of whom are women. Mr Cameron also made reference to the fact that stalking often leads to the break up of relationships.

Previously, victims of stalking were only able to invoke the protection afforded by the laws governing domestic violence and harassment, such as injunctions. Whilst adequate for couples facing divorce or involving other cohabitation disputes, these laws were never intended to cover stalking victims.

The news will be welcomed by victims of stalking and their families.

The government also announced that men in Britain accused of raping or assaulting women abroad could be prosecuted and tried in the UK courts. Mr Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, have pledged to sign up to the Council of Europe's Convention on Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence.

For more advice on family law issues, follow our family law blog or follow us on Twitter @Divorce_experts.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Clare's Law to be Introduced in Manchester

According to reports in the Telegraph, it is expected that the Government will today announce the launch of a pilot scheme of "Clare's Law" in several counties.  The scheme will allow individuals to find out from the police whether their partner has a history of domestic violence.
It is anticipated that the scheme will be trialled in 4 areas of the country, one of which is here in Greater Manchester and that a decision will then be made as to whether the scheme should be implemented nationally.  It is hoped that allowing access to the information will help people to avoid getting into abusive relationships or at the least, will allow them to make an informed decision as to whether they want to continue with a relationship which has started.
Some domestic violence charities, including  Refuge, are uncertain as to the use and effect of the scheme, and whether it helps will remain to be seen as the scheme gets underway.  Refuge, and other domestic violence and women's charities have also been at pains to point out that there are already a raft of measures in place which can help men or women who are suffering any form of abuse within a relationship, and it is important that people are aware of what options are available to help them, and that such remedies are used effectively.
The definition of 'domestic violence' is wide for family law purposes, and anyone who is an an abusive relationship is advised to seek legal advise from a family solicitor as to the various methods by which they can obtain protection and support.
To arrange a discussion with a family law solicitor click here or call us on 0800 840 4929. We are available to take your call twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Time for a relationship MoT?

Couples in their early forties are most likely to lead parallel lives, placing a strain on their relationships ultimately leading to divorce according to Baroness Tyler, the head of counselling service Relate.

Baroness Tyler lists factors including long working hours, young children and elderly parents as all contributing to this age group leading separate lives, making it harder for them to relate to one another. The most recent divorce statistics, published last December, show that divorces in England are on the rise and the biggest increase was in the 40-45 age range.  For couples who identify with the Baroness’s description, it may be time to consider a relationship MoT to ensure the marriage doesn’t suffer from the stresses of external pressure.

For those couples however who find that they are leading separate lives, and who feel they’ve either gone too far down that route to return or who are happy with their position, they may want to consider taking expert advice about how best to move forward.  Divorce is one option, but not the only one.  Some couples prefer to enter into a ‘separation agreement’ which can set out what is to happen with everything from the family home through to who will keep the dog.  For other couples, a court approved ‘judicial separation’ may be the right choice.  A good family law solicitor can help guide you through the process and to make the choices that are right for you.

For more advice on divorce and separation follow out family law blog or follow us on Twitter @divorce_experts.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Romantics undeterred by Divorce

Marriage statistics published yesterday show that more than a third of marriages in 2010 involved at least one spouse who had been married before.

Fiona Wood, a family law solicitor at Pannone comments on these figures in several newspapers. She reflects that although people might have been through a difficult divorce time is a great healer.

The statistics show an increase in the number of men in their late forties choosing to marry and Fiona suggests that role models such as Sir Paul McCartney and Gary Lineker could have inspired men to remarry after divorce.

If expert divorce advice is taken the divorce process need not be a negative one. Those remarrying may, however, want to consider seeing a family law solicitor to discuss a pre-nuptial agreement before going down the aisle again. This can help protect a previous divorce settlement.

For more divorce advice follow our family law blog or follow us on Twitter @Divorce_experts.