Monday, 30 April 2012

Government Cracks Down on Non-Paying Parents

Intensive action against parents who fail to financially support their children has been pledged by the government. According to figures from the Department of Work and Pensions, more than 5,000 past and current child maintenance cases have arrears of £50,000 or more. The government has however sought to reassure those parents who are owed arrears that the CSA (Child Support Agency) will take “all reasonable steps to recover this money for them”.

The crack down by the Department of Work and Pensions has been announced just as new figures show that the CSA’s enforcement powers are being exercised more than ever. For example, there has been a threefold increase in the use of ‘deduction orders’, where money is taken directly from the debtor’s bank account. The CSA’s broad range of enforcement powers also include taking deductions directly from wages, taking possession of and selling property, freezing money owed to the non-paying parent and confiscating driving licences.

There can be little doubt that the CSA’s enforcement powers can help reduce existing arrears, or even prevent them from building up in the first place. If however you are able to agree with the other parent how much child maintenance should be paid, there may be no need to go to the CSA. Child maintenance can be a complex and complicated area and you should seek expert family law advice if in doubt as to your rights and responsibilities.

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

Thursday, 26 April 2012

The Work Life Balance and How It Can Impact Your Marriage

The national press has recently reported on the Bergen Work Addiction Scale which is a test that has been devised by psychologists to measure people's addiction to work.  As a family lawyer, I often hear the term "workaholic" being used in a derogatory manner and it is regularly cited as a reason for the breakdown of a marriage and ultimately the grounds for divorce.

The researchers of the test claim that the increase in work addiction is as a result of "new technology and blurred boundaries between work and private life".  Certainly in this digital age, it is becoming increasingly difficult to leave work at the office which no doubt impacts upon the work life balance causing tension in the home.  Family holidays may be constantly interrupted with the vibration or beeping of the work smart phone much to the frustration of the rest of the family and adding to the stresses and strains of day to day life.

There are many specialist family consultants, such as counsellors, who can assist if you are experiencing matrimonial difficulties. My fellow family solicitors and I regularly come across specialists who are providing support to individuals or families as a whole which can often be invaluable and help them avoid divorce.

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

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

DIY Divorces

In these increasingly cost conscious times, it is no surprise that more and more couples are choosing to tackle their divorce themselves rather than consult solicitors. However, seeking some specialist Family Law advice early on can help to avoid some of the common pit falls in divorce and financial proceedings.

For example, did you know that even if you reach an agreement with your spouse regarding the division of your assets it will not be final and binding until it is embodied in an order of the court? Or that if you obtain a divorce and then re-marry without first having made an application for a financial order against you former spouse, you may lose your right to do so for all time?

Contrary to popular belief, not all divorces are expensive. In fact, in the majority of the cases we handle, agreements are reached without the need for costly and stressful court battles.

The court’s approach to the division of assets on divorce is discretionary and there is no fixed formula which sets out what each party should receive. It is important therefore to seek divorce advice from a specialist Family Law solicitor as the earliest opportunity, regardless of the value of your assets.

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

Friday, 20 April 2012

How to avoid debt on divorce

The stress of managing debt can often contribute to marriage breakdown. Figures now show increasing numbers of people running up significant debt while going through the divorce process.
Our Vicki McLynn was interviewed on BBC Breakast TV this morning on this issue.
Legal costs charged by divorce solicitors are reported to be one of the main causes of this debt. In order to prevent legal fees escalating during your divorce ensure your solicitor is a family law specialist and listen to their advice while you are negotiating your divorce settlement. 
Think carefully about those issues on which you want to fight and whether the cost involved is proportionate to the potential benefit. Try not to let emotion cloud your judgement.
There are alternative processes to reach a divorce settlement which can also help keep costs to a minimum.
Similarly although retail-therapy or a luxury holiday may seem like the answer to the stress of divorce proceedings it is likely to leave you paying off debt long after your divorce has finished.
For more divorce advice read our family law blog or follow us on Twitter @Divorce_experts.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

We're All Going On a Summer Holiday

It is reported that under new government rules, headteachers will be able to fine parents who take their children out of school for holidays during term-time.  The fine can then be deducted from the family's child benefit, and or doubled if not paid on time.
The issue of term-time holidays is often a cause of dispute between separated parents.  It is not uncommon for parents to disagree on whether it is appropriate for a child to be taken out of school in term time in order to go on holiday with the other parent and in some cases, last minute applications to the court are required.  As the summer holidays approach, whether the children go away with each parent, and if so, where and when will become an increasingly live issue for many separated families.
As has been discussed in this blog previously, in most cases, both parents must consent to a child being removed from the country, even if this is only to go on holiday.  The court can adjudicate and make Specific Issue Orders granting permission for a holiday, or Prohibited Steps Orders, stopping them.  The courts usually take the view that it is a child's best interests to be able to enjoy a holiday with either parent, but will rarely consider it is appropriate for a child to be removed from school for this, unless there is a very good reason, especially in important academic years, or in the run up to tests and assessments.
If permission is not granted, the cost of the holiday can be lost and so it is always worth making sure that a holiday is lawful and unlikely to be successfully challenged, before it is booked.  Anyone who is unsure whether or not they have the necessary permission to take a child of a specific holiday, be it in term-time or during holidays is well-advised to seek advice from a family solicitor, in order to avoid costly mistakes and disappointment all round.
For more advice on divorce and children matters follow our family law blog or follow us on Twitter @Divorce_experts.

Prenups in the Press

This week has seen a resurgence of media interest in pre-nuptial agreements. It has been reported that Oprah Winfrey is to marry her partner of 25 years, Stedman Graham. She is allegedly offering a pre-nuptial agreement which includes a $100,000,000 financial settlement in the event of divorce.

Elsewhere in the US, it is reported that the Nebraska Supreme Court has rendered unenforceable a pre-nuptial agreement thrust upon the bride five days before the wedding with the threat "sign this, or the wedding is off!" No disclosure of the groom's $2,000,000 fortune had been disclosed, as required by state law.

Unlike certain US states, the terms of pre-nuptial agreements which are considered as part of an English divorce settlement are not automatically upheld. The general principle in this country is that the courts will only give effect to a nuptial settlement provided that it is freely entered into by each person with a full appreciation of the implications, unless the outcome would be unfair - something with which the Nebraska Supreme Court appears to agree.

Provided certain safeguards can be met, an English pre-nuptial agreement will be compelling and carry decisive weight.

For more advice on pre-nuptial agreements or divorce settlements in England, follow our family law blog or follow us on Twitter @Divorce-experts.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Seal Seeks Shared Custody

After Heidi Klum filed for divorce last week, Seal has reportedly today filed his own court papers seeking joint physical custody of the couple’s four children.  It appears Heidi Klum agrees there should be joint legal custody but she is asking that she have primary physical custody.  Seal’s application would mean that the children would divide their time between their parent’s homes.  How common are shared custody agreements and what exactly does it mean?

The term “custody” is an American phrase.  English courts talk about the concepts of “residence” and “contact”.  Traditionally, if there is a dispute between parents, a residence order would be made to one party and the other would receive a contact order.  Although these orders continue to be made in a lot of cases, shared residence is becoming more and more common in England.

Shared residence means that a child will live with both of their parents but it does not necessarily mean that a child will split their time equally between them.  Shared residence reflects the reality of a lot of modern post-separation families where the children have a good relationship with both parents and spend time with each of them.  It is important to remember though that if there is an agreement about arrangements for the children, there may not be a need to involve the courts or for any orders to be made – if in doubt, seek advice from a family law solicitor.

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

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Arbitration Alternative

The Financial Times has reported on an arbitration scheme that is attracting interest from super-rich couples. The scheme allows the divorcing couple to argue over their financial settlement in private rather than in the full glare of the media.
Arbitration is another alternative to court proceedings. It is a process where an independent third party considers the arguments of the divorcing couple and makes a decision that resolves the dispute. The arbitrator is independent. In most cases the arbitrator's decision is legally binding on both sides. Any decision can be enforced in court if necessary.

As is the case with mediation and collaborative law, the divorcing couple must be willing to enter into the process. Arbitration takes place in private. Only the couple are present with the arbitrator. 

Arbitration has a number of advantages. It is intended to be less expensive, less formal, faster and more flexible than court, so the rules of evidence are not as strict. The divorcing couple can usually have a say in how they want the hearing to be conducted. 
However, arbitration is not suitable for everyone and specialist advice should be sought as to what is going to be the best method of reaching a resolution of financial matters.
For more advice on divorce follow our family law blog or follow us on Twitter@Divorce_experts.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

When Divorcing Couples Go To War!

It is not always the obvious items such as houses and pensions that couples argue over when they divorce. Sometimes seemingly trivial items can become the focus of their dispute. Fiona Wood, a partner specialising in family law at Pannone, is quoted today in an article in the Manchester Evening News about these disputes.

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

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

No Second Bites At The Cherry On Divorce

The New York Times has reported this week that New York's highest court has refused to allow a husband to make a second financial claim against his ex-wife because a large percentage  of the assets he kept as part of their divorce settlement dropped significantly in value, as they were invested in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi Scheme. The husband and wife agreed to divide their $13.5 million equally, when they divorced in 2006. The husband kept most of the $5.4 million invested in the Ponzi Scheme, which later became worthless. The court did not think it was appropriate to reopen the matter once a financial order had been made within the divorce proceedings.

The English courts have the same approach to this matter. Once a financial order has been made within divorce proceedings it is very diffiicult to convince a Judge to reopen the issue. The current recession has led to several cases where former spouses have tried to reopen their financial settlement because assets have suddenly dropped significantly in value. In 2009 the Court of Appeal rejected Mr Myerson's request to reopen his financial settlement on the basis that the majority of the assets he retained in the divorce settlement were shares in a company which fell in value from £2.99 to £0.27 per share.

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

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Rise in International child flee cases

A Report out this week by Lord Justice Thorpe, chief of the Office of the Head of International Family Justice (a body set up to try and ensure that courts in Britain and abroad work together where necessary), has confirmed the significant rise in child abduction cases in England and Wales.

This is where a parent flees with their child to a different country, without the other’s permission.

In 2007 there were 27 children caught up in such cases. This figure increased to 180 in 2011; and is set to rise even further to 240 this year.

Reasons for the increase in such international disputes are thought to be immigration; the increasing ease of travel; and the rising number of families where at least one parent has links to another country.  65 per cent of children born in London in 2010 have one foreign parent.  This creates ‘the potential for significant future growth’ in these cases as described by Lord Justice Thorpe.

The introduction of child passports by the previous Labour government was hoped to stop parents taking children abroad in defiance of court orders or the other parent.  However, these statistics suggest that this aim has not been realised.

It is understood that the rising number of these cases mostly involve eastern European countries. The report mentions that in Europe most cases involve children taken to or from Germany and Poland.

We understand the distress and anxiety of losing your child and will take immediate action to track them down through the appropriate legal channels.  For more information and advice from a child abduction specialist call us on 0800 840 4929. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Also, follow our family law blog or follow us on Twitter @Divorce_experts.