What does Brexit No Deal Mean for Family Law?

What does Brexit No Deal Mean for Family LawWhat does Brexit No Deal Mean for Family Law?

How will a ‘No deal’ Brexit affect my family law case?

This blog is for you if you are a UK/EU family, and it also applies to anyone from anywhere in the world who has a pension here. If you are in Northern Ireland your situation might be slightly different to England and Wales and you should speak to your lawyer. Similarly Scotland.

If you are a family lawyer seeking information, download guidance from the Law Society, “Joint Resolution and Law Society note to family lawyers in England and Wales of practical recommendations in the circumstances of no deal on EU exit”.

What should I do?

Take advice from an expert international family lawyer immediately. Why? It might be important for your case to be started and finished before Brexit because it might be difficult afterwards. And it could be your Court order might not be recognised or enforceable afterwards.

Obviously there are many countries involved and there isn’t a one size fits all answer. Your lawyer may need to speak to a lawyer in another EU country.

Should I start my divorce before Brexit?

EU rules contain a “first past the post” rule for starting divorces. After Brexit, divorces will be on the basis of “closest connection”. So if it’s important for you to divorce here and “closest connection” might not work, you better start before Brexit. But recognition of your divorce in EU member states may differ depending on the state involved. So you might need to finish before Brexit too.

What about recognition of UK divorces in EU member states?

Divorces are likely to be recognised in some but not all remaining EU countries. If recognition of your divorce is important for you, take advice immediately. For example, do you intend to live or work or buy property in a member state? Are you going through a same sex divorce?

What’s the solution? Make sure the divorce is finalised before Brexit.

How do I get divorced before Brexit? 

The petition is issued in the Court and served on your ex, your ex acknowledges it, you fill in the statement in support, the decree nisi is pronounced by the Court. Six weeks and one day later you make an application for the decree absolute. This brings your marriage to an end.

In a hurry? Apply to the Court to abridge time for the whole process or to obtain the decree absolute earlier.

After the decree absolute comes the certificate …

You will need to complete the certificate before Brexit too, and you will need to file the certificate in the Court of the member state. Speak to an expert international family lawyer about certificates and how to apply for them.

What about maintenance?

This applies to maintenance; eg in divorces or under Schedule 1 Children Act. The EU Maintenance Regulation will come to an end and will be replaced on 1 April by the 2007 Hague Maintenance Convention. Speak to your lawyer about the advantages of having a needs based maintenance order made before Brexit.

Make sure your UK maintenance order has been registered (‘exequatured’) before Brexit. How long will this take? Depends which member state is involved. Speak to an expert international family lawyer about registering orders.

This applies not only to maintenance cases involving other EU member states, but also within the UK; eg in English/Scottish divorces.

If there’s the slightest chance you want the order recognised or enforced in an EU member state after Brexit, it would be best to get it made beforehand.  If there isn’t agreement between you, time is short to get the final hearing listed before Brexit. Time should be allowed for registering the order too.

We don’t live in England or Wales, but one of us comes from there …

This is called “sole domicile”. Things might get better for you after Brexit if you have a needs based claim for maintenance. This applies to claims involving countries the world over, not just the EU. Talk to an expert international family lawyer about whether this applies to you, and the possibility of adjourning your case until afterwards.

The pension is in the UK but I’m not …

You want a pension sharing order of a pension in the UK but you don’t live here and you don’t come from here. Article 7 of the EU Maintenance Regulation looks after you by providing a “forum of necessity”. But this will go after Brexit. See your lawyer about an urgent application to be made before Brexit.

Children …

An EU provision called “Brussels II” allows contact orders and orders for the return of children to be enforced. But a certificate has to be obtained when the order is made. This is a similar certificate to that required in the recognition of divorces, as above.

In other children cases, such as residence, the process is different. As in the case of finances, the order must be registered (the “exequatur” process).

If it’s important to get the order before Brexit, factor in how long it will take to get the certificate, or to complete the registration, too.

What does Brexit No Deal Mean for Family Law?

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial free of charge consultation on the question What does Brexit No Deal Mean for Family Law? In this 20 minute session she will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family lawyers. We offer Pay as you go costs. We offer Collaborative law solutions tailored to your family’s needs. 

The topics covered in this blog post What does Brexit No Deal Mean for Family Law? are complex. They are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog apply to you, seek expert legal advice.

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How to Change a Will after Death

How to Change a Will after DeathHow to Change a Will after Death

This blog is about changing a will after death. It’s not about changing a will before death. And it’s not about trying to make good a glaring omission in a will after someone dies, for example if you discover the will wasn’t signed. This is potentially an “intestacy” (more of which below) unless an earlier will is discovered. But don’t worry, changes can also be made after death where there is an intestacy.

If you’re thinking of making a will make sure you get advice from an expert – this could save your family a lot of heartache and money in the long run.

See my recent blog Do I need a will? Here’s one very good reason to find out how to benefit your family.

Why would anyone want to change a will after death?

Reasons include:

  • Reduce inheritance tax or capital gains tax
  • Benefit someone who was overlooked in the will
  • Skip a generation

What’s an intestacy?

It’s when someone dies without making a will.  The intestacy rules apply to decide who gets what. Here’s a helpful guide Intestacy – who inherits if someone dies without a will

How is a will or intestacy changed after death?

It is changed with a document known as a deed of variation or a deed of family arrangement. There are various important rules if you want it to be effective. 

What is a deed of variation or deed of family arrangement?

A written agreement changing the will (or intestacy) after death. There are certain requirements. The beneficiary or beneficiaries who have inherited must be agreeable to the change and the change must take place within two years of the death to be effective for tax purposes.

But there are other very strict rules too. Here is a link to a helpful HMRC form Instrument of Variation ChecklistYou can use this form to see if you will meet the requirements of the Inheritance Tax Act and the Taxation of Chargeable Gains Act. HMRC recommends you go through the form before the variation is signed.

But if you have the slightest doubt please seek expert legal advice – this can be free, low cost or fixed cost.

I still don’t get it, can you give me an example?

Imagine a situation where there are three generations of a family: grandmother (Edna), daughter (Barbara), and granddaughter (Sophie). When Edna dies she leaves everything to Barbara. Shortly afterwards, Barbara discovers she herself is seriously ill.

Although both Edna and Barbara lived very modestly, added together their estates would be liable to inheritance tax. Barbara wants to leave everything to Sophie but doesn’t want her daughter to pay tax. She comes to us and asks us what she can do.

We advise a deed of variation. This sets out that the gift in Edna’s will to Barbara goes instead to Sophie. This meant that when Sophie inherits her mother’s estate shortly afterwards, there is no inheritance tax to pay. Edna’s estate has skipped a generation to Sophie.

What about joint ownership?

If you inherited as a joint owner but you would much rather someone else benefitted, this can be changed too.

How to Change a Will after Death

Contact expert Wills solicitor, Karen Layland, on 01202 798199 or by email karenlayland@just-family-law.com for an initial free of charge consultation on the question How to Change a Will after DeathIn this 20 minute session she will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family lawyers. We offer Pay as you go costs. We offer Collaborative law solutions tailored to your family’s needs.

The topics covered in this blog post How to Change a Will after Death are complex. They are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog apply to you, seek expert legal advice.

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Can I Get a Divorce Online?

Can I Get a Divorce Online

Can I Get a Divorce Online?

Yes, of course. The options are:

But did you know that a solicitor can do your divorce for you, often for less than you think?

I want a quick and cheap online divorce

Things to watch out for:

  • Are they properly qualified?  Don’t rely on untrained and unqualified people
  • Don’t go so quickly that you forget to protect your share of the matrimonial finances. There’s the family home, and you don’t want to miss out on pensions or the family business either. See my blog Quick divorce or safe divorce?
  • Have you agreed the arrangements for the children?
  • Neither arrangements for the children nor matrimonial finances are addressed in divorce proceedings. Check out your rights with a properly qualified family lawyer. Fixed fees or pay as you go costs are available.

How do I know the online service providers are properly qualified?

Good question. Expert legal help is important but the terminology is confusing: lawyer, solicitor, barrister, paralegal, chartered legal executive, collaborative lawyer, mediator. What does it all mean?

“Lawyer” can mean solicitor, barrister, or indeed any of the above.

A solicitor is highly qualified and experienced and can advise you and represent you in Court. You can find a good one online at Resolutionan organisation of family lawyers who believe in a constructive, non-confrontational approach.

A barrister can advise you and represent you, but usually your solicitor instructs them, rather than you.

A collaborative lawyer works with you, your partner and their lawyer in face to face negotiations to resolve your family disputes. Collaborative family law can help you shape your own future after divorce, and avoid the heartbreak of Court proceedings.

A mediator can help you and your partner work things out together. They can help you identify the issues between you and help you resolve them. Find a good one at Resolution

A chartered legal executive is similar to a solicitor but tends to have trained in only one area of the law, and must be supervised. Find a chartered legal executive on the CILEx website. Incidentally, the title “legal executive” can be misleading. Check whether they are actually chartered or not.

A paralegal has some legal training but is not a solicitor or chartered legal executive. Find a paralegal on the Professional Paralegal Register

You say go to a solicitor, but they cost too much

Not always! Family solicitors usually offer initially free advice, fixed fees, payment plans or pay as you go. See the How we charge page on our website. Compare these to the charges for online divorce – you might be pleasantly surprised. You will have the assistance of a properly qualified and experienced solicitor with personal knowledge of your case. And if your solicitor is local, you can actually meet her.

Why should I consult a solicitor?

  • A divorce doesn’t sort out the finances or the children. These are separate.
  • Things can get complicated – hidden assets, the risk of child abduction
  • A family solicitor will drop everything to protect you and your children
  • Decisions about property, pensions etc will affect the rest of your life

Can I talk to a proper solicitor please?

Yes, of course.  Joanne Houston at Just Family Law would be delighted to help you. And talking to a solicitor doesn’t mean you can’t have a DIY divorce.

I want a life beyond divorce

Then think about collaborative family law or mediation.

Family consultants who practise as counsellors or life coaches can help manage the separation and can be directly involved in the collaborative law process too.

Everyone is entitled to expert, professional advice

So certainly look online, but don’t forget to protect your future and the future of your children by organising a free or fixed cost interview with a family law solicitor.

It’s like when you’re organising a holiday. However independent you want to be in your travel plans, you don’t want to fly the plane yourself. There’s an experienced pilot for that.

Can I Get a Divorce Online?

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial free of charge consultation on the question Can I Get a Divorce Online? In this 20 minute session she will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family lawyers. We offer Pay as you go costs. We offer Collaborative law solutions tailored to your family’s needs. 

The topics covered in this blog post Can I Get a Divorce Online? are complex. They are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog apply to you, seek expert legal advice.

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How to File for Divorce in the UK

How to File for Divorce in the UK

How to File for Divorce in the UK …

The bad news is your marriage or civil partnership is over. But the good news is it’s now a lot simpler to get divorced thanks to the online system. I’m going to explain what you need to look out for and what it all means.

There’s rarely any need to attend Court and the whole process takes only four to six months but this doesn’t include the finances and and it’s often wise to delay finalising the divorce until they’re sorted out.

But if you would rather a lawyer do the divorce for you make sure you chose one who is committed to a non confrontational approach to family problems, such as Just Family Law’s Joanne Houston.

How a divorce starts …

One of you fills in a divorce petition (the petitioner) and the Court serves it on the other (the respondent).

What a divorce does …

It ends a marriage or a civil partnership but it doesn’t sort out the finances or the arrangements for the children.

Take the bull by the horns …

Did you know that divorce, finances and the arrangements for the children can all be addressed at the same time? See my blog What comes first, divorce or settlement?

If you can’t agree between yourselves you have the following options:

  • Help from a lawyer
  • Start Court proceedings yourself
  • Mediation
  • Collaborative law

Collaborative law is an opportunity to build a positive future for you and your family. See my recent blog What is collaborative law?

What’s needed to start a divorce …

  • Marriage certificate
  • Court fee of £550 unless you’re eligible to exemption from fees
  • The respondent’s address

Here’s a link to an application form to help with Court fees

How to fill in the divorce petition …

The online divorce service is on the GOV.UK site, here’s a link

It’s straightforward to fill in but there are some tricky questions. For example if you weren’t born in either England or Wales or if you live in another country. Or if you don’t know the respondent’s address. There are notes to help you but don’t forget to get expert help if you’re not sure. Lawyers often provide fixed cost advice for this kind of service.

The grounds for divorce …

The most popular is unreasonable behaviour. The least contentious is two year’s separation with consent. See my blog, Grounds for divorce – 5 things you need to know

Financial claims …

The form asks, “Do you want to apply for a financial order?” To be on the safe side tick Yes as the Court will take no action but it will leave it open for the future. Don’t risk missing out on pensions or the business or being left with debts that aren’t yours. And a Consent Order recording your financial settlement is essential to protect you.

Don’t forget to get expert help if you’re not sure. Lawyers often provide fixed cost advice for this kind of service.

Costs …

How to answer, “Costs – if you wish to claim costs from the respondent.” There are a number of things to bear in mind:

  • the expense of the Court fee to start a divorce which is currently £550
  • the availability of exemption from fees (see above “What’s needed to start a divorce”)
  • whether the respondent can afford to pay a costs order
  • the likelihood of the Court making a costs order

If you aren’t eligible to exemption from fees, and the respondent can afford to pay a costs order, see if the respondent will agree to pay or at least contribute.

Risks …

The respondent defends the petition. See my blog No fault divorce, your questions answered about the Owens case and the risk of the respondent defending an unreasonable behaviour petition.

What happens next …

The Court serves your divorce petition on the respondent and they acknowledge service of it, which means they fill in a form saying they’ve received the petition. Once you receive the acknowledgment of service from the Court you can fill in a statement in support.

Next the Court will set a date for the pronouncement of the decree nisi. You don’t have to attend Court for this.

The decree nisi …

Your marriage isn’t over yet but it’s an important stage if you are sorting out financial matters as a Consent Order recording your settlement can now be sealed by the Court.

Six weeks and one day after the pronouncement of the decree nisi the petitioner can apply for the decree absolute. But there are pros and cons. Should you wait until you have obtained a Court order confirming the financial arrangements between you? See my blog Quick divorce or safe divorce? How to protect your financial settlement

The decree absolute …

  • You are no longer married
  • You can remarry or enter a civil partnership
  • Your consent order about the finances comes into force

How to File for Divorce in the UK

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial free of charge consultation on the question How to File for Divorce in the UK. In this 20 minute session she will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family lawyers. We offer Pay as you go costs. We offer Collaborative law solutions tailored to your family’s needs. 

The topics covered in this blog post How to File for Divorce in the UK are complex. They are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog apply to you, seek expert legal advice.

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What is Collaborative Family Law?

What is Collaborative Family Law?What is Collaborative Family Law?

An opportunity to shape your future after divorce and avoid the expense and heartbreak of Court proceedings.

But how does Collaborative Law work? You have a series of positive meetings with your ex and both your solicitors. The process is holistic and aims towards a result tailored to your needs.

You agree not to go to Court …

Yes, that’s both you and your solicitors. This means all are one hundred percent invested in reaching an out of Court settlement. You sign a Collaborative Law Participation Agreement to:

  • be open and constructive
  • respect each other
  • provide financial disclosure

You set out your hopes and aspirations …

Your Anchor Statement will be your opportunity to create a new and positive future for yourself and your family. Your solicitor will focus on your vision and help you to achieve it.

There will be disclosure of all finances. This is a requirement in any form of negotiation or Court proceeding. See my blog Financial disclosure on divorce – 10 things you need to know

Set your own timetable and agenda for meetings …

Every family is different and you can decide what’s most important for yours. You may be very concerned about what’s going to happen to the family home. Or perhaps

  • your pension or
  • inheritance

See my posts Pensions on divorce – what can you expect  and How to protect inheritance on divorce

Or perhaps the children are finding it hard to adjust. Family consultants who practise as counsellors or life coaches can help manage the separation and can be directly involved in the Collaborative Law process too.

Lay your cards on the table …

What do you want to achieve? Inevitably some compromise is required. But hopefully by the third or fourth meeting an agreement is reached. This becomes a Consent Order. See my blog Quick divorce or safe divorce? to understand why an Order is always vital.

Your personally tailored agreement and Consent Order will be more relevant to your family than an Order made in Court proceedings. For example you can agree where the children will live and how to co-parent.

Your Collaborative lawyer will help you stand up for your needs and for your children. You will have a positive foundation for the future.

What is Collaborative Family Law?

Contact Collaborative Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial free of charge consultation. In this 20 minute session, she will answer your question, “What is Collaborative Family Law?” and show how it can be a beneficial process for you and your family.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors. We offer Pay as you go costs. We offer Collaborative law solutions tailored to your family’s needs. 

The topics covered in this blog post What is Collaborative Family Law? are complex. They are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog apply to you, seek expert legal advice.

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Can I go to Court without a Solicitor? You deserve a “little bit of help” …

Can I go to Court without a SolicitorBefore you rush off to Court please take a minute to understand the options open to you.

Can I go to Court without a Solicitor? 

Yes, you can deal with the Court papers and represent yourself in Court. But it will be a stressful and often bewildering experience and you might not end up with the result you expected. You might be left with the nagging feeling you could have done better if you’d had a little bit of help from a solicitor.

But I can’t afford a solicitor!

Employing a solicitor to do the whole thing is way out of reach of a lot of people’s pockets. So how can you get that vital little bit of help? I suggest you cherry pick the help you need and agree a price up front.

How can I cherry pick help from a solicitor?

Many offer pay as you go costs. This covers all aspects of family law including children cases. See my post Pay as you go costs

Decide what you would like a little bit of help with. For example:

  • Will you win your case?
  • How to show your case to its best advantage
  • Assistance –
    • filling in Court forms
    • issuing your case
    • Court procedure
    • Court orders

Free initial advice from a solicitor

Initial advice from a solicitor is usually free. So chat to a couple, find the one you like, and agree a fee. They can give you a little bit of help. You will know they are at the end of the phone if you get really stuck.

What are the other options?

Are you eligible to Legal Aid? Or to help with Court fees.

If you simply want someone to sit with you in Court for moral support and to take notes, ask a friend or family member to be your McKenzie Friend.

Otherwise there are charities and organisations who offer help for free:

What is a McKenzie Friend?

This is someone who gives you a hand with your case, sits with you in Court, takes notes etc. A Professional McKenzie Friend will charge you.

What are the pros and cons of using a solicitor, a charity, a McKenzie Friend?

Solicitors have years of legal training (which they have to keep up to date). They are:

  • knowledgeable and have daily, frontline experience in the law
  • fully regulated and insured
  • able to take steps in Court proceedings
  • able to be your advocate in Court
  • all too familiar with what you are going through because sadly they have seen it so many times before.

A charity or advice organisation?

They will help you as much as they legally can. They can give you moral support, take notes, coach you on what to say.

But unless they are qualified they cannot take steps for you in the proceedings or be your advocate in Court without the Court’s permission. And they may not want to get this involved. If they are not qualified they won’t necessarily have up to the minute knowledge of the law and how Court cases play out. They might not be insured in case they get it horribly wrong.

This goes for a non professional McKenzie friend, too, such as a friend or family member.

A professional McKenzie Friend?

As per charity and advice organisations above. Except they aren’t free. Some are insured and self regulated, but some are not.

What’s the answer?

You get what you pay for. If you are having a scrap with a debtor who owes you a couple of thousand, by all means do the whole case yourself.

But if your marriage or civil partnership has broken down and you can’t agree the arrangements for the children or the finances, please get a little bit of help from a solicitor. And the same goes for grandparents who are suffering the heartbreak of not being able to see their grandchildren.

If you can’t afford a solicitor to be your advocate in Court by all means ask a friend or family member to be your McKenzie Friend, or employ a professional McKenzie Friend. But please check them first. Are they part of a self regulated group? Are they insured? How experienced are they in the area of the law you are involved in?

And don’t forget about the voluntary and charitable organisations that can help you.

Can I go to Court without a Solicitor?

Yes, of course. But make sure you get a little bit of help from a solicitor.

Contact Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial free of charge consultation on your options, and an honest, straightforward answer to your question, Can I go to Court without a Solicitor? In this 20 minute session she will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors offering pay as you go costs. We offer collaborative law which provides solutions tailored to your family’s needs.

The topics covered in this blog post Can I go to Court without a Solicitor? are complex and are provided for general guidance only. Therefore if any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog have application to you, seek expert legal advice.

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What is the Court Procedure for Child Support?

What is the Court Procedure for Child Support?

Did you know you can go to Court for child support for school fees or vocational fees, disabled child’s expenses, support from parent abroad, or from parent who earns £3000+ a week? These special circumstances are not covered by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS).

What is the Court Procedure for Child Support? This blog will guide you how to make an application under Schedule 1 of the Children Act.

And if you want to know more about the Child Maintenance Service see my blog, Go to Court for Child Support – Time to Take Action?

What happens first?

A Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM)

What’s a MIAM?

You will meet with a mediator to see if mediation is possible. Anything that avoids Court, such as negotiationcollaborative law, or mediation is good because you will find it easier to cooperate about other issues affecting the children. Find a local mediator with the help of the Family Mediation Council

What if mediation doesn’t work?

The mediator will sign form FM1 confirming it’s not for you. You can now start Court proceedings.

How do I start Court proceedings?

Complete Form A1 and pay the Court fee which is currently £215 – although if you are on a low income please check whether you are entitled to Remission from Court Fees

What do I send to Court?

  • A1 (two copies)
  • Court fee OR your application for remission from Court fees
  • FM1 from the mediator

Where do I send my application?

Your local Court that deals with family matters. Click here to find the right one.

What happens first?

The Court fixes a hearing date in four to eight weeks time. It sends Form A1 to the absent parent together with the hearing date and Form E1. Or if you request it, you can serve all these yourself.

What is Form E1?

You must fill one in and send it to each other and the Court within 14 days.

Form E1 contains fifteen pages of detailed financial questions. Go through it carefully, question by question, and do your best to answer each one. Be truthful and provide the documents requested and you will be OK. And if you haven’t got all the documents to start with, get hold of them asap and send them to the other parent and the Court with an explanation for the delay.

What happens if the absent parent’s finances are significant/complicated?

It’s possible to ask the Court to consider a longer timetable. But the Court is likely to put a lid on requests for more information. This is because the case has a narrow focus: a claim for child support.

What happens at the hearing?

If you are not happy with the other parent’s Form E1, write down a list of the information and documents missing and take this to Court with you.

The Court will:

  • Reach a decision about child support, or
  • Order further evidence, eg finances or other important things you want to say,
  • Set a date for a “directions hearing” (an opportunity to check everything is ready for the Court to make a decision)
  • Set a date for a final hearing.

Is a Child Maintenance Service (CMS) “maximum assessment” required?

Yes. There is case law (Dickson v Rennie) that a “Top Up” order for child support should not be made until the CMS has made a “maximum assessment”. This is because it proves the absent parent’s income is £3000 or more a week which means the CMS can’t deal with it.

But what if it’s obvious the absent parent’s income is £3000 or above and the CMS appeals process is dragging out? In some circumstances it might be possible to start proceedings without a “maximum assessment” although you will not get a final order until the “maximum assessment” is indeed available.  This is quite a tricky area of the law so please ask an experienced family law solicitor.

The timing of the application can be important when it comes to backdating the child support (see below).

Are other orders available under Schedule 1 of the Children Act?

Yes they are, for example lump sums and property. This will be the subject of a future blog.

Can child support be backdated?

Yes, the Court can backdate the order, eg for school fees, to the date you made the application. But if it’s for a “Top Up” (because the absent parent earns £3000 or more a week) and your application was made within six months of the CMS calculation, there is a possibility the order can be backdated even further:

  • either six months before you made the application to the Court, or
  • the date of the CMS calculation that led to the “maximum assessment”

whichever is later.

What is the Court Procedure for Child Support?

Contact Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for free advice on all your options, including when and whether to go to Court for child support and how to go about it. In this 20 minute session we will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors offering pay as you go costs. We offer collaborative law which provides solutions tailored to your family’s needs.

The topics covered in this blog post are complex and are provided for general guidance only. Therefore if any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog have application to you, seek expert legal advice.

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Good Divorce Week – Is Divorce Bad for Children?

Good Divorce Week

What is Good Divorce Week?

Good Divorce Week 2018 (26 November onwards) is promoted by an organisation of family lawyers, Resolution, to help reduce conflict in divorce.

What does Resolution hope to achieve with Good Divorce Week?

Resolution wants to highlight the damage caused to children by conflict in divorce. Research has shown it’s not the separation or divorce itself but the conflict arising during the process.

But isn’t conflict inevitable?

No, not if parents remain amicable and communicate calmly and effectively with each other and the children. But sadly conflict does indeed often arise because parents have to rely on “fault” when they divorce for example unreasonable behaviour or adultery. Resolution has discovered that almost three quarters of the population agree that No Fault Divorce would protect the long-term interests of children.

How can parents avoid harm to children?

It is without doubt possible to minimise damage to children and statistics show that half of divorcing parents successfully put their children’s needs first. Furthermore eighty two percent of children in a Resolution survey said they would prefer their parents to part if they were unhappy. Children do not want to live in conflict and uncertainty any more than grown ups.

To bring the marriage to a positive but final end collaborative law and mediation are recommended.  Collaborative law is a particularly effective way to reduce conflict and promote the best interests of the family as a whole.

Read my blog 8 Tips on Arrangements for Children after Separation

There are even apps out there to help you co-parent.

Is divorce bad for Children?

Sadly it can be. In surveys children report:

  • they felt left out of the process
  • had no say where they lived
  • felt they had to choose between parents
  • had no understanding what was going on
  • felt it was all their fault
  • didn’t get good exam results as a result
  • got into trouble at school
  • drank alcohol and considered taking drugs

How about parental alienation?

Yes, there’s that too:

  • a third of children report one parent tried to turn them against the other parent
  • almost a fifth said they lost touch with their grandparents.

If you are a grandparent in this heartbreaking situation please see my blog Do Grandparents Have Rights? Practical Steps to Seeing Your Grandchildren Again

What’s the answer?

Parents must put their children’s needs first and try their best to avoid conflict. Collaborative law could be the way forward for you.

How can we have a good divorce?

The answer is No Fault Divorce. If blame were removed from the divorce process it would undoubtedly make it easier for parents to remain amicable.

What is no fault divorce?

The Government is currently considering whether divorce should simply be on the ground of irretrievable breakdown with no need to mention reasons. See my blog No Fault Divorce – Your Questions Answered 

I support no fault divorce, what can I do?

If you would like to join Resolution’s campaign follow this link to:

  • write to your MP
  • mug up on all the facts and figures
  • use your social media profile to help

Good divorce week – is divorce bad for children?

Contact  Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for free advice on any of the issues raised in this blog. In this 20 minute session we will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors offering personalised legal solutions. We offer collaborative law which is especially relevant in providing solutions tailored to your family’s needs. This includes same sex couples and their families. Visit our website just-family-law.com The topics covered in this blog post are complex and are provided for general guidance only. Therefore if any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog have application to you, seek expert legal advice.

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Go to Court for Child Support – Time to Take Action?

Go to Court for child supportIs it time to go to Court for child support? Read this simple guide –

  • Who can go to Court for child support
  • Family-based arrangements
  • Child Maintenance Service
  • Absent parents who hide their income
  • School fees, disabled children, absent parents abroad
  • Absent parents who earn more than £3,000 gross a week
  • How to go to Court for child support “top up”

I want to go to Court for child support 

Hang on! Very few parents can do that.

Why?

Because most people have to use the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). But first visit the Child Maintenance Options site and find out the best way to agree a family-based arrangement. This is good because it’s free.

What’s a family-based arrangement?

It’s where you and the absent parent agree between you how much child support to pay. Here’s a link to an online child maintenance calculator

And if we can’t agree?

Apply for child support through the Child Maintenance Service (and pay a fee). But read on, special circumstances might apply to your case …

The absent parent will never tell the CMS their income

Don’t worry, the CMS will ask the tax man (HMRC) for details of earned income. They can also make assumptions about income if information is not available.

Yes but they’ve hidden their income

Ask the CMS for a variation of the child maintenance calculation. They will approach HMRC for details of unearned income, such as rent and dividends and interest on taxable savings. They can also sniff out diverted income.

The CMS assessment is not enough

A small proportion of parents can go to Court for child support. I set out some of the relevant circumstances below. The first question is, are you in the middle of sorting out the divorce finances?

Yes, we’re sorting out the divorce finances

Make sure you negotiate child support and include it in the Consent Order. Otherwise you will have to apply to the Child Maintenance Service. But it might be that special circumstances apply to you which mean you can indeed go to Court for child support (see below).

In the meantime please read my recent blogs about divorce finances (these apply equally to civil partnerships) –

But we never married or were in a civil partnership

It is possible to go to Court under Schedule 1 of the Children Act for child support in special circumstances. And you can make an application whether you were –

  • married
  • in a civil partnership
  • living together
  • or you never lived together

But what are these special circumstances?

School fees, disabled child, absent parent abroad …

You can go to Court for child support under Schedule 1 of the Children Act in these special circumstances not covered by the CMS:

  • school fees or vocational fees
  • the child is disabled
  • the absent parent is abroad

Or if the absent parent is a very high earner indeed.

… the absent parent earns more than £3,000 a week

This is another reason to go to Court for child support under Schedule 1 of the Children Act.

The CMS only counts income up to £3,000 a week. So you can go to Court for a child support “top up” if the absent parent earns more. But this is only if the CMS has assessed the absent parent as actually earning more than £3,000 a week. There was a Court case, Dickson v Rennie [2015] 2 FLR 978 where the Judge said it was “crystal clear” that the CMS had to make the maximum assessment first.

How do I apply to Court?

Read my forthcoming blog for a simple guide to the steps you need to take to go to Court for child support.

Go to Court for child support

Contact Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for free advice on all your options, including when and whether to go to Court for child support and how to go about it. In this 20 minute session we will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors offering personalised legal solutions. We offer collaborative law which is especially relevant in providing solutions tailored to your family’s needs. This includes same sex couples and their families. The topics covered in this blog post are complex and are provided for general guidance only. Therefore if any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog have application to you, seek expert legal advice.

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Tax Advantages of Civil Partnership and Marriage – 10 FAQs

Tax Advantages of Civil Partnership and Marriage1. Tax advantages of civil partnership and marriage

Did you know there are tax advantages to being in a civil partnership or marriage? This blog looks at the savings you can make on income tax, capital gains tax and inheritance tax. 

2. “Common Law Marriage” does not exist

If you’re living together you don’t have the same rights or tax advantages as if you’re in a civil partnership or marriage. The law is changing in 2019 to extend civil partnerships to mixed sex couples and they will benefit from the same tax breaks as same sex civil partners and married couples.

3. Tax advantages of civil partnership and marriage

  • You can transfer some of your unused income tax personal allowance to your civil partner or spouse
  • Gifts to each other are free of capital gains tax (CGT)
  • Gifts to each other are free of inheritance tax (IHT)
  • You can carry over your civil partner’s or spouse’s unused IHT tax free allowance

4. Income tax

Transfer £1,190 of your personal allowance to your civil partner or spouse if they earn more than you and save £238 tax (tax year 2018/2019). See this guide to how to apply, including backdating.

5. CGT

Civil partners and married couples can gift their assets to each other free of CGT. A gift of assets to the civil partner/spouse who pays a lower rate of tax will mean they pay less tax on income from the asset, and less CGT if they dispose of the asset. Or transfer assets into joint names and you can both make use of your tax free exemption which in 2018/2019 is £11700.

6. IHT

The threshold is £325,000, the standard tax rate is 40 percent. Leave your estate to your civil partner/spouse tax free and they can carry over your unused IHT tax free allowance and save IHT on £650,000 of their estate.

7. IHT on home left to the children (inc adopted, foster or stepchildren) or grandchildren

The threshold rises to £450,000 and a further £25,000 will be added each year until 2020. This means the combined carry over is £900,000 and increases each year until it reaches £1m in 2020. But if your estate is worth more than £2m it’s less beneficial.

8. Are there any CGT downsides to civil partnership or marriage?

Yes there can be if you own a property each. In the case of cohabitees each property can be a principle residence and so exempt. But if you enter into a civil partnership or get married only one property counts as a main residence. There are strict time limits for avoiding CGT on the other property so make sure you don’t miss out.

9. Do I need a Will?

An expert solicitor can help you reduce IHT or avoid it altogether. See my recent blog Do I Need A Will? Here’s One Very Good Reason.

10. Tax advantages of civil partnership and marriage

Contact expert Wills solicitor, Karen Layland, on 01202 798199 or by email karenlayland@just-family-law.com  for free advice on the topics raised in “Tax Advantages of Civil Partnership and Marriage”. In this 20 minute session we will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors offering personalised legal solutions. We offer collaborative law which is especially relevant in providing solutions tailored to your family’s needs. This includes same sex couples and their families. Visit our website just-family-law.com The topics covered in this blog post are complex and are provided for general guidance only. Therefore if any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog have application to you, seek expert legal advice.

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