Coronavirus and Family Law: child contact, Court hearings etc

Coronavirus and Family Law- Child contact, Court hearings etc

Coronavirus poses a serious risk to the health of our loved ones. But there are additional worries:

  • Can you see your children
  • Will your Court case go ahead
  • Money worries – some action you can take
  • Domestic abuse and domestic violence

Time to consult an experienced family lawyer – we can assist you with remote advice by phone or Skype. In the meantime I will answer some of your most urgent questions in this blog. But first, a reminder of the coronavirus rules.

How to stay safe and reduce the spread of infection

The Government has issued social distancing rules to limit the spread of coronavirus:

  • Only go outside for food, health reasons or work (but only if you cannot work from home)
  • Stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people
  • Wash your hands as soon as you get home

You can spread the virus even if you don’t have symptoms. Those at increased risk of severe illness are advised to be particularly stringent. This group includes those who are:

  • aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
  • under 70 with an underlying health condition – a list of these conditions is here.

For those with possible coronavirus in their household

Here are the stay at home rules.

Should you send your children for contact? Can you see your children?

You have a Court order or an agreement setting out the child arrangements. This sets out the contact routine, or that the children live part of the time with you, part of the time with their other parent. The Government says: Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homesThis doesn’t mean children must move between parents’ homes, it just means they can. 

In normal times, no one should break a Court order, and if they do, the other parent can ask the Court to enforce it. The Court may agree there was a ‘reasonable excuse’ for breaching the order. But otherwise the penalties are unpaid work, compensation, fines etc. However if you both act in good faith and do your best to reach a sensible arrangement in the current crisis, the Court is unlikely to object.

But what if someone has coronavirus symptoms

If either household has a member with coronavirus symptoms, then the stay at home rules apply. Try to reach a common sense agreement between you. For example, during the fourteen day quarantine period have contact with the children by FaceTime, Skype, or phone instead.

What if someone is vulnerable

If someone in either household is in a vulnerable category, you need to protect them against infection. This could mean the children can’t move between households safely. Make alternative arrangements, for example contact by FaceTime, Skype, or phone. This is hard, I know, but taking this precaution could literally save someone’s life. This is a particularly tricky area. Consult an experienced family lawyer.

Remote contact with a young child – how to make it work

How about each household having a stock of age appropriate books, games, art materials, crafts. This will help make remote contact a constructive and creative play session for younger children.

Be flexible

One or both of you may now have full time child care responsibilities, and be struggling to work at home. You may be unable to travel on public transport because you fear infection. Try to rethink your arrangement for as long as the crisis lasts. For example, alter the arrangements for transporting the children to and from contact. If you can’t agree this between you, consider mediation (which can be offered remotely) or collaborative law.

What can I do during contact visits

Obey the social distancing rules: stay indoors with the children.

Try to adapt amicably

The top rule in dealing with child contact at the moment is to come to an amicable agreement: try to smooth things over, stay calm, find a middle ground – if only in the interests of the children.

Money worries

If you’re worried about debt, take a look at StepChangeIf you’re worried about your job and wages, take a look at the guidance for employees on gov.uk. If you’re self-employed or a member of a partnership and have lost income, take a look at guidance on gov.uk.

Child support

If the paying parent’s salary evaporates because of the current crisis, they will need to inform the Child Maintenance Service and be reassessed. If you have agreed payments between yourselves, perhaps you could agree a lesser amount, or a payment holiday, on a temporary basis. This is a difficult time for both households, you’re both facing unusual financial challenges. Try to agree something if you can. Otherwise consult an experienced family lawyer and/or consider mediation (by Skype) or collaborative law.

Maintenance

Similarly with maintenance paid by one former spouse to another. If there’s a Court order, you must keep to it, and make an application to the Court for a variation order. If you don’t keep the maintenance payments going, your ex can make an application to the Court for an enforcement order, which can include payment of the arrears. In these financially precarious times, consult an experienced family lawyer and/or consider mediation (by Skype) or collaborative law.

Court hearings about the children or the family finances or domestic violence

The Court wants all family hearings to go ahead and most will go ahead remotely with the use of technology.  The Court has issued guidance, COVID 19: National guidance for the Family Court 19th March 2020 with the aim to “keep business going safely“.  Hearings should be by email, telephone, video or Skype if at all possible. This will be a learning curve for the Courts and will take a week or two to settle down.

The guidance covers how to arrange telephone and video hearings. There is a list of the type of hearings that must now go ahead remotely. The guidance lists who is responsible for making the arrangements for the remote hearing. A Court bundle must be submitted – a PDF by email.

If it’s not clear whether your hearing can go ahead remotely, it will be necessary to have a remote directions hearing. This hearing will make the necessary plans.

Domestic abuse/violence

If you are the victim of domestic abuse or violence, the Courts and the police are there to protect you. Here are some things you can do right now:

  1. If you ever feel in immediate danger, contact 999 immediately
  2. Domestic abuse or violence is a crime and you should report it to the police. Various organisations offer help and support. The gov.uk site has a list with links
  3. Phone 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247, or visit their website
  4. Consult a family solicitor in strictest confidence. You may need the protection of a Court injunction:
    1. A non molestation injunction prohibits an abuser from using or threatening violence against you, or harassing, pestering or intimidating you. The police can arrest the abuser if they breach the order
    2. An occupation order will say who can live in the family home or enter the surrounding area

Coronavirus and Family Law: Child contact, Court hearings etc

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial consultation on Coronavirus and Family Law: Child contact, Court hearings etc. 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 Coronavirus and Family Law: Child contact, Court hearings etc 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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Divorce finances: what happens at the final hearing

Divorce finances what happens at the final hearing

This is the most challenging time – make sure you get advice from an expert family lawyer on the subject of divorce finances: what happens at the final hearing.

The FDR crumbled

You didn’t reach agreement at the FDR, but not all is lost. The Judge’s indication of the likely outcome of your case can be a wake up call. There’s plenty of opportunity in the weeks before the final hearing to negotiate and reach a settlement.

The earlier you settle, the better. Heading towards a final hearing is when the serious stuff kicks in – vital and detailed preparation – and if at this stage you decide to get legal help, it won’t come cheap: it’s the most expensive time in any Court case.

You need to follow the Court order setting out the timetable for the lead up to the final hearing. You’ll either have agreed it with your ex, or the Court will have imposed it.

What’s the plan

Follow the timetable. It’s not optional, and there are dates to keep to. It can include orders to provide:

  • updated financial disclosure
  • valuations of land and property
  • pensions report
  • tax report
  • Court bundle
  • costs estimate
  • open offers of settlement

What’s a Court bundle

It contains all relevant documents plus the “preliminary documents” (see below). It’s paginated and indexed, and is extremely useful in a final hearing. But who prepares it?

  • the applicant (as opposed to the respondent). If you’re not sure who’s who, look at your latest Court order. And it’s not necessarily the same as who started the divorce. But if the applicant is a litigant in person, the bundle is prepared by:
  • the respondent. But if the respondent is a litigant in person there’s no bundle, unless the Court directs otherwise.

What’s in the Court bundle

Not every single document, letter, email – just what’s set out in Practice Direction 27a

What are the preliminary documents

see Practice Direction 27a, but in brief:

  • case summary
  • statement of issues
  • position statement by each of you (what you want and why you think it’s fair – in line with your open offer)
  • chronology

If you haven’t done a s25 statement, your position statement will have to include it.

What’s a s25 statement

Provides all the details required by s25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.

  • income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources 
  • financial needs
  • standard of living before the marriage breakdown 
  • age
  • duration of the marriage
  • physical or mental disability 
  • contributions to the welfare of the family
  • conduct of your ex

Conduct 

S.25 mentions conduct “inequitable to disregard” – and it goes well beyond committing adultery. My next blog will cover this subject.

Conference with Counsel

Or, in plain English, a meeting with your barrister.

Now’s a good time to take expert legal advice and employ a barrister to represent you. It’s an expensive step, but you need to make sure your position and your needs are fairly and expertly represented.

The doors of the Court

Quite often an agreement is reached just before you’re due to walk into the final hearing.

What happens at the final hearing

In brief:

  • it won’t be the same Judge as at the FDR, and they won’t know what happened at the FDR
  • you and your ex will give evidence under oath and be cross examined
  • experts will be questioned about, for example, the value of the business or of the home
  • the Judge will make an order

What is cross examination

It’s when you or your barrister ask your ex questions. These focus on the areas in dispute, for example:

  • fitness to work
  • earning potential
  • new partner
  • household expenditure.

Don’t forget – you’ll be cross examined, too.

Orders the Judge can make

See the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 . Examples:

  • property adjustment
  • maintenance
  • pension sharing
  • orders for sale
  • duration of financial orders

Questions about financial disclosure

This is the sixth blog in a series, and includes blogs on how to complete Form E; prepare a statement of issues, chronology and questionnaire. You are also led through the First Appointment and the FDR.

Divorce finances: what happens at the final hearing

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial consultation on Divorce finances: what happens at the final hearing. 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 Divorce finances: what happens at the final hearing 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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Leaving the EU: What does this mean for family law

Leaving the EU What does this mean for family law

Leaving the EU: What does this mean for family law? Many international families are concerned they’ll lose access to justice.

Are you a cross border, UK/EU family? This blog is for you. But please remember to consult a lawyer who is an expert in international family law if you have any doubts.

When did the UK leave the EU

Friday 31st January 2020, at 11pm.

What about my child support, my divorce proceedings

Are you concerned:

  • your maintenance or child support will stop, or
  • divorce proceedings will go off the rails, or
  • children will be at a greater risk of abduction?

The answer is that all EU rules are staying firmly in place during the implementation period. So there’s really nothing to worry about – at least until the end of 2020.

How long is the implementation period

1st February 2020 to 31st December 2020. The Government will negotiate our future relationship – including whether useful EU family law rules will continue – during this period.

What are the useful EU family law rules

They cover:

  • ‘first past the post’ rule for starting divorces
  • recognition and enforcement of maintenance orders, and the recognition of divorces
  • enforcement of contact and residence orders, and orders for the return of children

‘First past the post’ rule for starting divorces

Why is this important? Because otherwise there could be proceedings going on at the same time in two different countries. 

Is family law near the top of the agenda

The Government is already working on an important piece of legislation: the Private International Law (Implementation of Agreements) Bill. This means international families will have access to justice under certain vital Hague Conventions. The Government is also aiming for us to sign up to the Lugano Convention.

What’s the Private International Law (Implementation of Agreements) Bill

The aim of this bill is to ensure three vital Hague Conventions will still apply even after the end of the implementation period.

Which Hague Conventions are covered 

The Private International Law (Implementation of Agreements) Bill covers:

  • 1996 Hague Convention – protection of children in cross-border disputes.
  • 2005 Hague Convention – ensures:
    • there’s no confusion about where a case should be heard, and
    • any resulting decision is recognised and enforced in other countries.
  • 2007 Hague Convention – the international recovery of child support. And makes it harder for parents who live abroad to avoid their maintenance obligations.

See page 28 of The Queen’s Speech of December 2019.

See my comments about these Hague Conventions in Brexit, Divorce and Family Law – what if there’s no dealIn this blog I make the point that we will still need to incorporate EU regulations into our family law system – we can’t just rely on Hague Conventions.

What’s the Lugano Convention

The Ministry of Justice reports that there is support for the UK to join the Lugano Convention. Why is this important? The Ministry of Justice says:

‘The agreement protects the rights of 17,000 UK nationals living in the EEA EFTA states and 15,000 EEA EFTA nationals living in the UK, ensuring that at the end of the transition period they will be able to enjoy broadly the same rights as they do now.’

But the Lugano Convention is by no means perfect. See my explanation of the Lugano Convention in Brexit White Paper – what you need to know.

What are the EEA EFTA states

Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, and the EU.

Leaving the EU: What does this mean for family law

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial consultation on Leaving the EU: What does this 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 Leaving the EU: What does this 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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What is Family Mediation? 10 FAQs

What is Family Mediation?

What is family mediation and why is it a good idea for you and your family? Family mediation offers a low cost, fast route to reaching an agreement with your ex. Finding the right mediator could mean your children are given a voice, too. Sadly children often feel lost and confused in the aftermath of a relationship breakdown.

But how do you find the right mediator? Consult an experienced family lawyer for a recommendation.

1. What is Family Mediation

A trained mediator will help you to identify the issues between you and to reach an agreement. And if you can’t sit in the same room as your ex there can be ‘shuttle’ mediation.

But please take expert legal advice alongside the mediation process. Why? The mediator can’t advise you of your rights.

2. What does mediation cover

Whether married, in a civil partnership, or cohabitees, when a relationship breaks down there’s a lot to think about:

  • what’s going to happen to the family home
  • what are the best arrangements for the children
  • how much child support should be paid
  • how should the savings and pensions be divided

3. What is hybrid mediation

You both take your solicitors along with you to mediation. Why? Their presence can help keep things objective – especially if there’s conflict between you and your ex. Your solicitor can advise you, and can even speak on your behalf. Hybrid mediation is also helpful where a legal issue is getting in the way of settling your dispute.

4. What are the advantages of mediation

  • narrows and resolves issues with the help of a third party
  • cheaper and faster than going to Court
  • you can tailor an agreement to fit your family
  • children can be heard
  • you and your ex can move forward amicably

5. What about international families

Reaching an agreement with your ex can be challenging if one of you lives away, or even abroad. Some family lawyers offer Skype mediation. Here at Just Family Law we offer this at our Winchester office.

6. Why do I need legal advice during mediation

Mediators don’t give legal advice. What can you expect from a family lawyer during the mediation process? – they can:

  • recommend a mediator
  • advise you what a fair outcome would be
  • support you through the process

7. What happens when we’ve reached an agreement

The mediator records your agreement in a Memorandum of Understanding – however it’s not legally binding. How can you safeguard your agreement and avoid misunderstandings in the future? The answer is that you need a consent order.

8. What’s a consent order and how do I get one

A consent order is absolutely essential. Your solicitor will be able to prepare it for you. See my blog How do I get a Consent Order.

9. How can the lawyers at Just Family Law help me

We can:

  • provide in-house civil mediation for cohabitees when they can’t agree about their family home
  • recommend a suitable family mediator
  • support you in hybrid mediation
  • host Skype mediations in our Winchester office when your ex lives away or abroad
  • give you advice and support in the background as your mediation proceeds
  • prepare a consent order for you

Mediators are often solicitors, but not necessarily – many fully trained mediators are not solicitors. But please note: your solicitor and mediator can’t be the same person, or even in the same firm.

10. What is Family Mediation? – next steps …

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial consultation on What is Family Mediation? 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 is Family Mediation? 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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Considering Divorce? Six Things You Need to Know

considering divorce

Considering divorce? Here are some quick pointers to set you off in the right direction.

1. Everyone will have an opinion

Yes, that’s your family and friends, your neighbours and your colleagues at work. Even your Facebook friends. This can be distracting if you’re trying to figure out what to do. Struggling to see the wood for the trees? Time to get advice from an experienced family lawyer.

2. Try not to make a drama out of the divorce petition

A divorce petition can simply be a means to an end. You want to get divorced? – filling out the paperwork is how to go about it. Only you, your ex and the Court are ever likely to see the divorce petition, so try if you can not to fall out about it. If possible, agree which one of you is going to issue it and agree what it’s going to say. See my blog, Grounds for Divorce, 5 Things you Need to Know.

There are so many other more important things to focus on right now.

However if there’s been domestic abuse, or you believe the children are at risk, please seek immediate advice from an experienced family lawyer.

3. Address the finances

You can’t just leave things hanging, not indefinitely, because you will both be moving on. Important decisions need to be made about the assets – who gets what – and about child maintenance. See my blogs How do you Split Assets in a Divorce and What are your Child Maintenance Options? 

The divorce and the finances can run in parallel, see my blog What Comes First, Divorce or SettlementIf you can agree it all between you, that’s great. But please get legal advice on your rights – a one off appointment won’t cost much. After all, this is the rest of your life.

You both need closure and certainty when it comes to the finances. This means a Court order. But this doesn’t mean you have to attend at the Court, or that it will cost you a fortune – it can be a simple process. See my blog How to get a Consent Order? A Simple Guide.

4. The lawyers don’t have to win

Try to talk to your ex even if it’s really hard. If you fall out you may have to put everything into the lawyers’ hands. Worst case scenario, it all ends up in Court. This could cost you a great deal. Try these alternative approaches:

5. Pension or family home?

If you’re thinking you want to stay in the family home, come what may, take a moment to think. A share of your ex’s pension might be more valuable to you, long term. In many years time when you retire, you might discover that your ex is sitting pretty with a huge pension. Whereas you’re scrabbling around with a tiny pension and a big house that needs lots of maintenance.

This might be an opportunity to plan for the future. Perhaps you can downsize, release some capital for your ex, and get a share of their pension in return? This may take a little extra effort but might be worth it in the long term. Speak to an experienced family lawyer.

6. Ring fencing assets, your inheritance, pension, business …

Can you ring fence your assets? It depends. See my blogs Ring Fence and Protect Assets on Divorce and How to Protect Inheritance on DivorceDo you have to throw your business into the melting pot? See my blog, How to Protect Business on Divorce.

Considering Divorce? Six Things You Need to Know

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial consultation on Considering Divorce? Six Things You Need to Know. 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 Considering Divorce? Six Things You Need to Know 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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Ten Top Tips for Divorce: What Should You Do First?

Ten Top Tips for Divorce

The holidays can sound the death knell for a relationship. But what should you do first? Here are Ten Top Tips for Divorce.

1. Consult

Arrange an initial consultation with an experienced family law solicitor. This can be low cost or even no cost, and can set you off in the right direction.

2. Talk

Try to talk to each other about arrangements for the children and finances. Talking, however painful it might be, could help you reach a less stressful, quicker, less expensive solution.

3. Avoid Court

Try to avoid Court proceedings about the children and finances. See my blog How to avoid Court – Family Mediation, Collaborative Law and Arbitration.

4. Ground rules

If you’re still under the same roof and able to communicate, try to agree some ground rules:

  • sleeping and eating arrangements
  • payment of bills, the mortgage
  • care of children
  • how soon can one of you move out? This will lessen the strain for each of you and for the children

5. Can’t talk?

Under the same roof but you can’t communicate? Probably a good time to consult a family solicitor.

6. Domestic abuse

Has there been violence or any other form of domestic abuse? Take legal advice ASAP.

7. What comes first, divorce or finances

I’ve written a blog answering this question: What Comes First, Divorce or Settlement.

8. Start divorce proceedings

This makes a mark in the sand for those who are finding it difficult to accept the relationship is over. It can also kick off discussions about finances. But in order to keep matters as amicable as possible try to agree who is going to start the divorce. Even better, agree what the reasons for divorce are. See my blog Grounds for Divorce – 5 things you need to know. 

9. Financial disclosure

Disclose your financial information, there’s really no way around this. See my blog, Financial Disclosure on Divorce – 10 Things you need to know.

10. Alternatives

Can’t agree about the children or the finances? Sometimes Court Proceedings are the only answer. But please make sure you’ve tried one of these alternative approaches first:

Ten Top Tips for Divorce

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial consultation on Ten Top Tips for Divorce. 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 Ten Top Tips for Divorce 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 Happens after Financial Disclosure in Divorce – part 3

after Financial Disclosure in Divorce

This week I’m explaining the difference between a First Appointment and a FDR Appointment after Financial Disclosure in Divorce. Why is this important? Because if you understand the difference you can “speed up” the Court timetable and reach an early conclusion. I’ll explain it as clearly as possible but if you’re at all unsure what to do, please get advice from an expert family lawyer.

The Court timetable

Here’s a reminder of the Court timetable. In last week’s blog – What happens after financial disclosure in divorce – part 2 – I dealt with the first three documents but not the fourth.

“Not less than 14 days before the First Appointment you must file with the Court and serve on each other:

  1. concise statement of the issues
  2. chronology
  3. questionnaire setting out any further information and documents requested
  4. notice stating whether you will be in a position at the First Appointment to proceed to a FDR Appointment”

So what is document number 4 all about?

Notice stating whether you will be in a position at the First Appointment to proceed on that occasion to a FDR Appointment

Once you understand what this Notice is getting at, it’s really easy to complete. But first you need to know what’s likely to happen at the First Appointment. And you need to understand the importance of the FDR Appointment (“FDR” stands for Financial Dispute Resolution).

First Appointment

What’s the First Appointment all about? I’ll give you some pointers. But it’s important to remember that if your case involves valuable property, a business or pensions, and/or your ex is uncooperative, it’s a good idea to get advice from an expert family lawyer.

Before the hearing

  1. You’ll have exchanged your documents with your ex and both of you will have filed them in the Court.
  2. Don’t forget to fill in Form H with details of your costs.

At the hearing

  1. Hand you Form H to your ex and to the Court.
  2. Ask the Court to order expert evidence, often vital for pensions and businesses. Also helpful if eg
    • you can’t agree the valuation of the family home
    • your ex is saying they can’t earn an income because of poor health and you don’t agree
  3. You will also ask the Court to order your ex to answer the questions you have raised in your questionnaire.

Matrimonial finances in the “fast lane”

But it’s possible to ask the Court for a FDR Appointment instead of a First Appointment. How? You fill in the “Notice stating whether you will be in a position at the First Appointment to proceed to a FDR Appointment” sent to you by the Court. This means you will “leapfrog” to the next hearing and so speed up the Court process.

What’s the FDR Appointment

At the FDR the Court will:

  • encourage you to come to an agreement and
  • the Court will give you an indication of what it thinks a fair outcome would be.

This can be a real wake up call for some.

When to bypass the First Appointment and aim straight for the FDR

  1. You’re happy with your ex’s financial disclosure, and you
  2. Don’t need expert evidence, but
  3. Can’t agree a financial settlement.

What happens if you can’t agree a settlement at the FDR

This is the subject of my next blog.

What Happens after Financial Disclosure in Divorce – Part 3

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial consultation on What Happens after Financial Disclosure in Divorce – part 3. 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 Happens after Financial Disclosure in Divorce – Part 3 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.

image for What Happens after Financial Disclosure in Divorce – Part 3 Mavericks by Shalom Jacobovitz Wikimedia Commons This image has been digitally manipulated

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What Happens after Financial Disclosure in Divorce – part 2

Happens after Financial Disclosure in Divorce

In last week’s blog What happens after financial disclosure in divorce – part 1 I looked at what you should do when you receive your ex’s From E. This week’s blog is all about the Court timetable. I’ll explain it as clearly as possible but if you’re at all unsure what to do, please make sure you get advice from an expert family lawyer.

And if you’re involved in a voluntary process such as:

please see my blog How to Avoid Court – Family Mediation, Collaborative Law and Arbitration. 

The Court timetable

Not less than 14 days before the First Appointment you must file with the Court and serve on each other:

  • concise statement of the issues
  • chronology
  • questionnaire setting out any further information and documents requested
  • notice stating whether you will be in a position at the First Appointment to proceed to a FDR appointment

What Court documents look like

The heading is vital:

  • Top right hand corner: “In the Family Court at [name of your Court]”
  • Against the right hand margin” “No of matter [look at the last document you received from the Court]”
  • “Between” followed by “[name] Applicant”
  • “And” followed by “[name] Respondent”
  • Centred heading, “Concise Statement of Issues”, “Chronology” etc

Concise statement of issues

Putting this document together is a two step process:

  1. Identify what the issues are
  2. Concisely state them in a document

What are the issues

Anything that’s not yet agreed between you:

  • value of property and/or the future ownership of the family home or any other property
  • extent of savings and investments and/or the distribution of pensions or assets
  • level of income and/or maintenance
  • responsibility for debts

These are of course examples of issues. Every case is different.

How to set out your issues

Order your issues under headings, for example “Property”, and try to follow the sequence of the Form E when setting out your issues:

  • property
  • savings, investments
  • debts
  • businesses
  • pensions
  • income
  • income needs
  • capital needs

How much detail

The minimum. Simply state the issue; eg the value of the family home is not agreed or the Respondent has failed to disclose their income. Think of a Concise Statement of Issues as a heads-up to your ex and to the Court.

Chronology

What’s happened in date order. It’s usually going to go something like this:

[date] Civil partner’s/wife’s/husband’s date of birth

[date] Civil partner’s/wife’s/husband’s date of birth

[date] Marriage/civil partnership

[date] birth of [child name]

[date] separation

[date] divorce petition

[date] First Appointment

Questionnaire

Last week I said it was vital to go through your ex’s Form E carefully and note anything unexpected, incomplete or missing. List these items in your Questionnaire by reference to the paragraph numbers on the Form E. For example your ex has:

2.2 missed off the villa in Monaco you’re pretty sure they own jointly with their new partner

2.11 not attached copies of business accounts for the last two financial years

3.1.1 stated they need £300 a month to maintain their swimming pool. What swimming pool?

Notice stating whether you will be in a position at the First Appointment to proceed on that occasion to a FDR appointment

Once you understand what this Notice is getting at, it’s really easy to answer. But first you need to know what’s likely to happen at the First Appointment, and what a FDR appointment is all about. I’ll cover these in next week’s blog.

What Happens after Financial Disclosure in Divorce – Part 2

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial consultation on What Happens after Financial Disclosure in Divorce – part 2. 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 Happens after Financial Disclosure in Divorce – Part 2 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.

image for What Happens after Financial Disclosure in Divorce – Part 2 Cat by Kat Goretti on Wikimedia

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What Happens after Financial Disclosure in Divorce

What Happens after Financial Disclosure in Divorce

It’s easy to lose sight of what happens after financial disclosure in divorce. This is because getting your Form E together can be more than a bit complicated and longwinded.

Stuck on your Form E

If you’re stuck, please see my recent blogs: How to Fill in a Form E Financial Statement on Divorce – Part 1 which tells you what documents you need, and How to Fill in a Form E Financial Statement on Divorce – Part 2 which helps you answer some of the trickier questions. Still puzzled? Get in touch with an expert family lawyer.

But when it’s finished, what happens next? It depends whether you’re disclosing your finances voluntarily or as part of the Court timetable.

What is voluntary disclosure

Voluntary disclosure happens in:

What are these voluntary processes all about? See my blog How to Avoid Court – Family Mediation, Collaborative Law and Mediation

Exchange of Forms E

Whether it’s voluntary, or as part of the Court timetable, Forms E are exchanged simultaneously. This means your ex doesn’t get yours first and tailor theirs accordingly.

The first thing you need to do when you receive your ex’s Form E is to check it carefully. Does it contain any surprises? What’s this, a spare yacht moored in Capri which they’re happy to let you have? And all that money you thought they were spending in the bookies they were saving up for the children? Mm, we can all dream …

Check whether there’s anything they’ve left out – their business bank account, their shares, their pension. And have they included all the documents required by Form E?

Questions, questions …

If something doesn’t make sense – where did they get the money to pay for yet another yacht – any chance they’re earning a lot more than they’re letting on? And where are the statements backing up their bank accounts? This is your opportunity to raise questions. If it’s a voluntary process, this can be by letter. If you’re involved in Court proceedings, you need to keep to the Court timetable.

The Court timetable

The Court issued the timetable when proceedings started. You now have a date for the first hearing which is called, perhaps a little predictably, the “First Appointment”. You’ve already complied with item 1 of the timetable – well done!

  1. Not less than 35 days before the first appointment you must simultaneously exchange your Forms E. Don’t forget to file your Form E in the Court, too
  2. Not less than 14 days before the first appointment, you must file with the Court and serve on each other:
    • a concise statement of the issues
    • a chronology
    • a questionnaire setting out any further information and documents requested
    • a notice stating whether you will be in a position at the first appointment to proceed on that occasion to a FDR appointment

Concise statement of issues? Chronology? Questionnaire? Notice?

This is all a lot simpler than it sounds but it does take some care, so please read my next blog which will guide you through in easy steps, What happens after financial disclosure on divorce – part 2.

What Happens after Financial Disclosure in Divorce

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial consultation on What Happens after Financial Disclosure in Divorce. 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 Happens after Financial Disclosure in Divorce 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.

image for What Happens after Financial Disclosure in Divorce Yacht Charter by YachtChart on Wikimedia

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Can I Refuse Financial Disclosure

Can I Refuse Financial DisclosureI understand why sometimes clients ask, “Can I refuse financial disclosure.” Your relationship has broken down and now your ex, or your ex’s solicitors, are asking intrusive questions. You object because:

  • you’ve already reached a perfectly sensible agreement between you, or
  • you want your business, inheritance or pension left out of the settlement.

There’s a lot at stake so make sure you get expert legal advice

Why is financial disclosure requested

You’ll only know you’re getting a fair share of the matrimonial income and assets if you understand their extent. Your ex’s solicitor will be advising your ex the same. However this doesn’t mean your ex automatically gets a share of everything. When you disclose you can argue an asset is non matrimonial, for example:

  • an inheritance postdating the relationship breakdown, or
  • a pension you built up before the marriage.

See my blog Ring fence and protect assets on divorce

Further, if your business is small and represents your income, it’s unlikely it’ll be thrown into the mix. See my blog How to protect business on divorce.

What if you’ve already agreed a financial settlement

Did you know that the Court won’t make an order without seeing a Statement of Information for Consent Order. This is a Court form containing basic financial information about both of you.

What is a “Statement of Information for Consent Order” and why is it necessary

This document contains the following information from both of you:

  • details of marriage/civil partnership
  • dates of birth
  • financial agreement
  • summary of means
  • capital
  • income

The Court checks this document to make sure your financial agreement is fair and reasonable.

What if you provide inaccurate disclosure or hide assets?

See my blog Financial Disclosure on Divorce – 10 Things You Need to Know. This tells you about:

  • costs consequences, and
  • adverse inferences, and
  • the worst case scenario, being found to be “in contempt of Court”, and
  • the ultimate sanction, imprisonment.

Why do you need a consent order?

For more about consent orders and how to get one see my blog How do I get a consent order

Can I refuse financial disclosure

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial consultation on Can I Refuse Financial Disclosure. 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 Refuse Financial Disclosure 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.

image for Can I Refuse Financial Disclosure Runner in Chicago by Kyle Cassidy on WikimediaThis image has been changed.

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