Do I Need A Will? Here’s One Very Good Reason …

Do I Need A WillDo I need a Will? Yes. To make sure you benefit the right people: your family, your best mate, your dog. Because if you forget to make a Will all your property and savings could end up going to a distant relation you don’t like or have never even met.

People leave everything to their pets?

Yes they do. In 2004 Leona Helmsley famously left billions to her dog, Trouble, an appropriate name as this unusual Will ended up being disputed in Court. And that’s what we all want to avoid isn’t it, the money going to the lawyers. This can happen if you mess up when it comes to making, or not making, a Will.

But seriously, what could a Will mean for you? Read on for answers to the following questions:

  • Writing your own Will, what could possibly go wrong?
  • Do I need a Will? “Intestacy” and why it’s a bad thing
  • Good things a Will could do for you
  • Wills for the young and the young at heart – online accounts and social media
  • Owning a property or planning to buy – Inheritance Tax!
  • Special rules for Wills if you are getting divorced

Writing your own Will, what could possibly go wrong? 

Without expert legal advice you risk paying Inheritance Tax at 40 percent on anything over £325,000. And you will need legal advice if you have complicated family arrangements or are financially supporting someone, or if you estate includes:

  • foreign property, bank accounts, investments
  • a business
  • finances which are anything other than straightforward 

And did you know if you leave your home to your children your tax-free threshold can increase to £450,000? Make sure you check out the rules with an expert.

Writing your own Will? The resulting legal dispute could end up in Court and cost a fortune.

Do I need a Will? “Intestacy” and why it’s a bad thing 

Intestacy is when someone dies and there’s no Will. The intestacy rules set out a list of family members who benefit in strict order. But if you haven’t got any close relations your estate could end up going to someone you’ve never met.

And if you don’t have any relations, worse case scenario, everything could go to the Crown – no, not the TV series but the state, Parliament, our nation. Do you want your few pennies worth to drop into the bottomless pit of the UK balance of payments deficit? 

Good things a Will could do for you 

Put your mind at rest. Make sure your family and friends know you thought about them. Save them the agony (and huge expense) of going to Court if there’s a dispute about who should get what. Save inheritance tax.

Or perhaps you want to benefit charity? Doing something good in the world after you die might be a top priority (it’ll also save inheritance tax). Or donate your body to science.

Or give a couple of thousand to a group of friends to celebrate your life with a weekend away in Amsterdam.

A woodland burial might be just right for you – mention it in your Will.

But the most important thing is the right people (or pets!) will benefit from your estate.

Wills for the young and the young at heart – online accounts and social media 

Wills aren’t just for rich old people, they’re for everyone. You’re never too young to make a Will. Everyone has something to pass on even if it’s just social media and other online accounts. Otherwise bank accounts could be overlooked and your social media memories and photographs lost forever.

Own a property or planning to buy? – Inheritance Tax!

You can easily become liable to Inheritance Tax (40 percent on anything over £325,000) but with a solicitor’s help you can reduce it or avoid it altogether. With house prices in the UK shooting up more and more of us will be caught. Look at these stats about average property values (from Zoopla):

  • Hampshire £360,532
  • Winchester £553,508
  • Dorset £332,138
  • UK £235,021 

Special rules for Wills if you are getting divorced 

Did you know? Getting divorced will revoke your Will. So this could mean your new partner losing not only you but your home.

Can it get any worse? Not having a Will, or a Will written by an expert, can leave your loved ones with a mess to sort out and solicitors’ bills to pay

Did you know you can protect joint property whilst you are divorcing? If you die before you have a financial Order your ex could inherit your jointly owned property. This is a complicated subject and you should speak to an expert family law solicitor about taking a simple step called “Severing the Joint Tenancy” and making a Will.

See my blog about how to protect your financial settlement with an Order Quick Divorce or Safe Divorce? How To Protect Your Financial Settlement 

Do I need a Will?

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 “Do I Need A Will”. 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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No Fault Divorce – Your Questions Answered

No Fault DivorceWhy is no fault divorce in the news?

The Government is considering no fault divorce because our current system isn’t working well. If you want to divorce you have to rely on a reason:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Two years separation with consent
  • Desertion
  • Five years separation without consent

Unsure which reason to rely on? See my blog Grounds for divorce – 5 things you need to know

Why has the Government decided to look at no fault divorce?

Resolution (an organisation committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes) has been lobbying for no fault divorce for years. And the case of Owens v Owens has been in the news.

What is Owens v Owens about?

Mrs Owens wants to divorce her husband. She gave twenty seven examples of his unreasonable behaviour: he is moody, argumentative and disparaging. But he defended the divorce saying the marriage wasn’t over, and he disputed the behaviour his wife had mentioned.

The Judge disagreed with Mr Owens – the marriage was clearly over – but he said the examples of behaviour were flimsy and exaggerated and Mrs Owens could not have her divorce. This meant she would have to stay married to Mr Owens. She appealed.

What happened when Mrs Owens appealed?

On 25 July 2018 the Supreme Court said the Judge was right when he said her reasons weren’t good enough. But the Supreme Court also said it felt “uneasy” and that “Parliament may wish to consider whether to replace a law which denies to Mrs Owens … a divorce”.

What’s the solution for Mrs Owens?

She will have to stay married to Mr Owens until they have lived apart for five years.

What is the Government doing? 

The Ministry of Justice has published a consultation paper, Reform of the legal requirements for divorce. They are asking whether divorce should simply be on the ground of irretrievable breakdown with no need to mention reasons. And whether the ability to ‘defend’ a divorce should end. The consultation closes 10 December.

Why is no fault divorce a good idea?

  • Angry spouses won’t be able to block divorces
  • People won’t have to stay married when they don’t want to
  • There will be less conflict
  • Couples will be able to concentrate on what is best for the children
  • They will be more likely to reach an amicable agreement about the finances, by negotiation, mediation or collaborative law
  • Our current divorce system dates to 1969. We live in a very different society and women are seen as equal partners in a marriage
  • Legal bills will be lower
  • There will be fewer contested divorces. Our Courts are stretched and so this might make everything a bit better for all of us

Is no fault divorce going to make more people divorce?

The breakdown of a relationship is hard enough as it is without the Court procedure adding to the difficulties. And in reality couples often agree how to word their divorces. “I’ll admit to adultery,” or “You can mention that unreasonable behaviour.”

Why is divorce an important stage in agreeing the finances? 

A Court order finalising the finances is only available once the first divorce decree has been granted (the “decree nisi”). Hence it’s a good idea to sort out the divorce and the finances at the same time. See my blog What Comes First Divorce Or Settlement

Can I do the divorce myself? 

Yes. But if you are struggling read my blog 10 reasons why you need a family law solicitor to check your DIY divorce petition

No Fault Divorce

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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New Family Solicitor in Dorset and the West Midlands

Family Solicitor in Dorset and the West MidlandsExpert family solicitor in Dorset and the West Midlands

Just Family law introduces Karen Layland, our experienced and highly recommended family solicitor in Dorset and the West Midlands.

Karen has over 25 years experience in:

  • divorce
  • family law
  • assisting people who live together

and she can help both at the start and the end of relationships.

As an Advanced member of the Law Society Family Law Accredited Panel Karen is a recognised expert covering specialist family law work.

Personally recommended family solicitor in Dorset and the West Midlands

Almost all of Karen’s work comes from personal recommendations. This is because of her pragmatic and proactive approach. As a result she has an enviable reputation built on commitment to her clients.

All of your family law needs in the Bournemouth and Birmingham areas can now be met by Karen at our competitive rates.

She offers our clients a first class service and we are proud and delighted she is on our team.

Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney

In addition we can now assist with the preparation of wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney. Everyone should have a will but it is even more important if you have children, or you own property or business, or have savings, investments, insurance policies …

This is certainly a valuable addition to the services Just Family Law already offers you and your family.

To book a 20 minute telephone consultation, or a Skype review with Karen, or an initial face to face meeting, please telephone 01202 798199 or email karenlayland@just-family-law.com

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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Brexit, Divorce and Family Law – What if there’s “No Deal”?

Brexit Divorce and Family LawWhat’s the latest on Brexit, divorce and family law?

Brexit, divorce and family law is a vital topic for international families and lawyers in the UK, and UK families in the EU, although you wouldn’t know it from the amount of media coverage it receives. Depending on the EU deal we get family law could be turned upside down. But what happens if there is no deal?

On 13 September 2018 the Government published its plans for family law in the event of a no deal Brexit, Handling Civil Cases that involve EU Countries if there’s No Brexit Deal

This follows the Brexit white paper on 12 July which I considered in my blog Brexit White Paper and Family Law – What You Need to Know. 

Who should read this blog about Brexit, divorce and family law?

International families with EU connection – were you or your ex or your children:

  • born in another EU country but live in the UK
  • born in the UK but live in another EU country?

Law practitioners and students might find it helpful, too.

What would happen if there was a no deal Brexit?

Our Government would repeal a host of EU regulations. Why? Because even if we kept these EU regulations the remaining EU countries would not consider we were covered by them.

What do these EU regulations do?

They provide rules for:

  • Jurisdiction, in other words, where to start Court cases
  • Procedures for child abduction cases under the Hague Convention
  • Recognition and enforcement of Court orders  

Should we panic?

We currently use domestic laws in international family disputes for non EU countries. And of course the UK is a member of the Hague Convention. Together these would cover some of the holes left by the EU regulations.

The Government would take steps to patch up the remaining holes left by the repealed EU regulations. This includes joining the 2007 Hague Maintenance Convention as soon as possible after 29 March 2019. See below for more on maintenance in the event of a no deal Brexit.

But there would be controversial changes to child abduction procedures and divorce jurisdiction. See below for more on children and child abduction and divorce jurisdiction.

Enforcement of maintenance orders and child support

We would join the 2007 Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance (‘the Hague Maintenance Convention’) as soon as possible. This provides broadly the same rules as the EU regulations.

This would make maintenance orders enforceable, although maintenance orders made between 29 March and 1 April 2019 could pose problems.

However the Hague Maintenance Convention is not so strong on jurisdiction which means it will not be clear where claims may be started and what happens if there are Court cases going on in different countries.

Make sure you seek expert legal advice if you have any concerns.

Court cases about children and child abduction

The 1996 Hague Convention on parental responsibility and protection of children (‘the 1996 Hague Convention’) covers jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement in children cases. This means families know where to start cases, and Court orders are recognised and enforceable in other countries.

But we would lose helpful EU regulations on child abduction procedures. These impose the following rules:

  • A stricter timetable
  • The children’s home country must make the final decision
  • The Court will hear evidence from the child.

These rules are significant in child abduction cases so it would be regrettable if they were lost.

See my blog about child abduction 10 Points about Child Abduction.

Also the 1996 Hague Convention lacks automatic enforcement of contact orders. This means parents will have to get their Court orders certified which of course creates delay.

Make sure you seek expert legal advice if you have any concerns.

Jurisdiction – where to start your divorce case

Jurisdiction in all our divorces, even non international families, is based on EU regulations. The Government would adopt these regulations so it is clear in England, Wales and Northern Ireland where a divorce can start.

But we would be losing the ‘first past the post’ rule for divorces.

What is the ‘first past the post’ rule and is it a good thing?

If you are in an international family there can be a choice of countries in which to start divorce proceedings. Under EU regulations a race can start if one country’s legal system benefits the wife, and the other, the husband (or the equivalent in same sex marriages or civil partnerships). This is because EU regulations say the first to start proceedings wins the race.

Some commentators say starting proceedings in a rush means the couple don’t have the opportunity to consider reconciliation or mediation or collaborative law. And Court proceedings are expensive and stressful – no one should rush into them.

But if there is a no deal Brexit there could be divorce proceedings about the same marriage going on at the same time in different countries. And there could be Court cases solely on the question of which country should hear the case. This would certainly be frustrating and expensive for international families. And it would make our busy Court system even busier, which means slower for everyone.

This rule is also known in legal circles as forum racing or ‘lis pendens’.

If it is important to you to start your divorce in a particular country, please do not delay seeking legal advice from an expert family law solicitor on Brexit, divorce and family law.

What about my ongoing international family law case?

What happens if you have a case ongoing on 29 March 2019? How would it continue? Would the eventual order be enforceable elsewhere?

The Government guidance says, “We will seek to provide legal certainty … Broadly speaking, cases ongoing on exit day will continue to proceed under the current rules. However, we cannot guarantee that EU Courts will follow the same principle, nor that EU Courts will accept or recognise any judgments stemming from these cases.”

So the answer is, no one knows, which is difficult if you are in this position. Please seek legal advice from an expert family law solicitor on Brexit, divorce and family law.

Same sex marriages and civil partnerships

The UK would remain the ‘forum of last resort’ for couples who enter marriages or partnerships in the UK. In other words these couples can start Court proceedings here. This is important. If another country doesn’t recognise their marriages or civil partnerships this is a bar to Court proceedings in that country.

What about the recognition of divorces?

The 1970 Hague Convention would still allow mutual recognition of divorces in the UK and the remaining EU countries.

Are we better off without the EU regulations?

In 2017 3.8 million people in the UK were citizens of another EU country. That’s about 6% of the UK population. Similarly, 6% of the UK population were born in another EU country (Full Fact). And in 2017 1.3 million people born in the UK lived in other EU countries (Full Fact)

Some commentators would welcome the repeal of EU regulations. They say family law would then be the same for all international families – EU and non EU.

But I say no, we would not be better off. Keeping the EU regulations, and keeping them synchronised across the EU, would be helpful for UK based international families with EU connections. And this of course applies to UK families living in the remaining EU countries too. But we are heading to leave the Court Of Justice Of The European Union (CJEU) so keeping EU regulations synchronised doesn’t seem likely.

There’s the option of signing the Lugano Convention as proposed in the Government’s white paper of July. But as I mention in my blog Brexit White Paper and Family Law – What You Need to Knowthe Lugano Convention would need knocking into shape before it was of much use.

Hopefully the Government will reach some sort of deal which will take into account these international families. And as the Government guidance states, “A scenario in which the UK leaves the EU without agreement … remains unlikely.”

Brexit, Divorce and Family Law – What if there’s “No Deal”?

Contact  Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for free advice on Brexit, Divorce and Family Law – What if there’s “No Deal”? 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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Grey Divorce? Making the Best of Life

Retirement is on the horizon or has already arrived. The children are, or will shortly be, independent. Now is the time to make the best of life but couples can find they have grown apart, or that they cannot progress together beyond their roles as parents. Is it time for a ‘Grey Divorce’?

Nowadays there is no stigma attached to divorce, whatever your age. And with dating apps and a burgeoning population of single, older people, there’s less chance of being lonely.

Divorce always involves lots of decisions and emotions, some of which are hard. You can get all the advice in the world but there will still be surprises. So make sure you give a bit of thought to these points.

Punch & Judy or keep it amicable? …

The answer is, of course, to try to keep it amicable. If possible agree the financial aspects by negotiation, collaborative law or mediation

And as for the divorce proceedings, with the Government consulting on ‘no fault’ divorce, things are set to become easier. But for now you need to think whether you want to start proceedings yourself or whether you need a fixed fee quote from an expert family law solicitor.

What are the grounds for your divorce? See my blog, Grounds for Divorce, 5 Things You Need To Know.

Family home or pension …

You might have lived there for decades, perhaps you brought up your children there. But don’t fall into the trap of keeping the family home rather than receiving a realistic share of the pension pot. You could face an old age of financial insecurity whilst your ex is sitting pretty.

Pensions especially final salary policies can be worth a great deal more than the family home. You might plan to realise cash from the family home when you need it in the future but this is likely to represent only a tiny fraction of the capital required to provide you with a pension.

Pensions may be shared, or offset against other assets, or maintenance may be paid to equalise income. See my blog, Pensions on Divorce, What Can You Expect? for answers to the following:

  • How are pensions valued?
  • Do you need an actuary?
  • What is your entitlement to state pension?
  • How to keep your pension out of the divorce
  • What is a pension sharing order?
  • What is offsetting?
  • Can you claim your ex’s state pension?

Investments, savings and inheritances …

Through the course of your life you may have accumulated significant assets. How can you protect them in your divorce? See my blog, Ring Fence and Protect Assets on Divorce.

Grey divorce: is maintenance the answer? …

Special considerations apply in older divorces. Earning capacity might be limited because of age or illness, and this might suggest long term maintenance is required. Or one or both of you may have reached retirement age and pensions may be in payment.

See my blog, Maintenance and Clean Break On Divorce. This explains entitlement to maintenance, and the many different forms it can take.

Your new relationship …

Protect your assets and peace of mind by entering into a cohabitation agreement or a prenuptial agreement. This doesn’t mean you don’t love and trust each other. It simply demonstrates you’re not together for the money.

See my earlier blog, How to Protect Your Assets with a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement

How about the children? …

If you are remarrying or buying a property with a new partner you need to give careful consideration to how your estate is to be distributed in the event of your death. To what extent do you want your new partner to benefit as opposed to your children? Avoiding the issue could leave your loved ones with a dispute or possibly even a court case under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act.

Get advice from an expert solicitor and make a will. This is also a good opportunity to safeguard your future with a Lasting Power of Attorney.

Grey divorce? Making the best of life …

Contact  Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for free advice on Grey Divorce. In this 20 minute session we will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

See my blog about how to get the best financial settlement on divorce.

Did you know there are different rules for Short Marriages?


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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Brexit White Paper and Family Law – What You Need To Know

Brexit White Paper and Family LawWhat is the Significance of the Brexit White Paper for Family Law?

Few will have missed that the Brexit white paper published 12 July 2018. But what does it mean for family law?

The European Union (Withdrawal) Act became law on 26 June. This means that although the EU will no longer legislate for the UK, we retain all the helpful EU regulations which apply to family law. But there’s a problem.

On 29 March 2019 we leave the Court of Justice of the European Union (the ECJ) and we will no longer be bound by ECJ decisions. So even though we have all the EU rules for family law, these will gradually move out of sync as the ECJ will make law we do not recognise.

This could affect key areas such as the recognition and enforcement of family law judgments. See my earlier post Brexit, Family Law & Divorce – March 2018 Update

What Does Family Law Need From Brexit?

We need our rules to stay in line with the remaining EU countries in vital areas of family law. These rules relate to:

  • The country in which divorces, matrimonial financial cases, and children cases must start. Otherwise cases can be started in two different countries at the same time. At the moment, for example, cases about children start in the country where they live.
  • The recognition and enforcement of UK orders in remaining EU countries and vice versa.
  • The Hague Convention in relation to child abduction cases. EU rules impose the following rules:
    • A stricter timetable
    • The children’s home country must make the final decision
    • The Court will hear evidence from the child.

The Brexit White Paper And Family Law

The white paper proposes we sign up to the Lugano Convention. But because the Convention is old and out of date, the white paper also proposes we reach a deal with the EU to bring it up to date.

What Is The Lugano Convention?

The Lugano Convention originated in 1988 as an agreement between the EU and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). Its current incarnation dates to 2007 and its signatories are:

  • The EU
  • Iceland
  • Switzerland
  • Norway
  • Denmark

All the members must agree to new states joining.

What Does The Lugano Convention Do?

It ensures members apply the same rules and pay regard to how each other’s Courts interpret these rules. But even the white paper acknowledges some of the Lugano Convention’s provisions have been “overtaken” and are “limited in scope”.

This is because under the Convention there is no guarantee case law on regulation will be aligned between the signatories. All it requires is for the signatories to “pay due account” to each other’s case law (including the EU’s ECJ). So we could still fall out of sync.

It’s possible of course for the EU to revise the Lugano Convention to make sure it does its best for international families but of course all the signatories will need to agree.

Brexit White Paper And Family Law – What Is Needed

Specific proposals for making the Lugano Convention fit for purpose are required. But with the Government dealing with trouble in the ranks, negotiations with Brussels, and balancing all of this with trying to make new trade deals, it’s anybody’s guess if and when this might happen.

What Is The Brexit Timetable?

The EU target date for agreeing Brexit terms is 30 September. It’s probably quite important the Government sticks to this timetable as it will need to start post-Brexit trade talks in the autumn prior to making new trade deals before we leave the EU on 29 March 2019. Unless of course there is an agreement between the UK and the EU to extend the period for negotiations.

Does The White Paper Recognise The Difficulties International Families Face?

Yes, to a certain extent.

“Cross-border families benefit from clear rules to resolve disputes in sensitive matters quickly and efficiently.”

(Paragraph 1.7.7 sub paragraph 145).

But Please Remember …

If you are keen to divorce in a particular country for financial reasons you should seek legal advice without delay

Brexit, Family Law And Divorce

Contact  Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for free advice on Brexit, Family Law and Divorce. 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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Civil Partnerships for Heterosexual Couples : FAQs

Civil Partnerships for Heterosexual Couples WP
Is The Recent Court Case About Civil Partnerships For Heterosexual Couples Important?

Yes, it’s important for you if you:

  • Live together and are worried about your legal rights
  • Want to make a commitment, but marriage feels like an outdated institution

Do Couples Who Live Together Have Rights?

Sadly there’s no such thing as Common Law Marriage. Consequently the rights of cohabitees are limited.

As a result, pensions and property and inheritance are major problems. See my earlier post “6 Things You Need To Know About ‘Common Law’ Marriage”

Why Was A Court Case About Civil Partnerships for Heterosexual Couples Necessary?

Same sex couples can enter into Civil Partnerships but opposite sex couples can’t. This is thanks to the Civil Partnership Act 2004.

A cohabiting couple, Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidanchallenged the law because their local register office refused them a civil partnership. Hence they started a long and expensive Court battle which they won on the 27 June. Here is the Supreme Court Judgment.

Why Did They Fight For Civil Partnerships for Heterosexual Couples?

Rebecca and Charles have lived together for many years and have two children. Consequently they want to make a commitment in the eyes of the law – but they don’t want to marry. Why don’t they want to marry? Because they believe a civil partnership better reflects the equality of their relationship.

Furthermore they consider marriage has historically:

  • Promoted a world view where heterosexuality is the preferred sexual orientation
  • Supported a system of society controlled by a single gender, namely male.

What Did The Supreme Court Have To Say?

The Supreme Court held the Civil Partnership Act 2004 was incompatible with human rights law.

The relevant Articles under the Human Rights Act 1988 are:

Article 8 - Right to respect for family and private life

Article 14 - Prohibition from discrimination

Time To Book Your Civil Partnership?

Not quite yet because the Government needs to change the law. But Rebecca and Charles have delivered a letter to Equalities Minister, Penny Mordaunt MP – so watch this space.

What Can You Do In The Meantime?

Sign this Petition to Penny Mordaunt MP.

Email your MP and ask them to support Tim Loughton’s private members’ bill, entitled Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Bill 2017-19. Find your MP’s email address by inputting your postcode on the UK Parliament website

Depending on the urgency of your circumstances, you may need to ask a lawyer for advice on:

Civil Partnerships for Heterosexual Couples

Contact Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for free advice on Civil Partnerships for Heterosexual Couples. 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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What Are Your Child Maintenance Options?

When a relationship breaks down I’m often asked:

  • How do I get Child Maintenance?
  • How much will I get?
  • What if we can’t agree?
  • What if the paying parent won’t pay, or is abroad, or is very rich?
  • How about the school fees?
  • Does it make a difference if the parents aren’t married?

You’ll find answers to all these questions below.

It’s no cheap matter to bring up children and to provide them with all their needs. And it costs even more if you’re a lone parent. A recent report states:

“The basic cost of a child from birth to age 18, excluding housing, childcare and council tax, is £75,436 for a couple family, and £102,627 for a lone-parent family.”

The Cost of a Child in 2017 by CPAG

Feelings may be running high between you and the children’s other parent but if you can for a moment put your differences aside and reach an agreement, this will be good not only for the children but for your ability to work together for the children’s welfare in the future.

How Do I Get Maintenance For The Children?

The best approach is to reach an agreement between you. This is often referred to as a Family Based Agreement. But what do you need to agree?

There are many Child Maintenance options. Monthly payments, regular lump sums, or payments for clothes, toys, sporting activities, music lessons, school uniforms or even school fees. Another alternative is to share the care of the children.

Parents sometimes agree a combination of all the above.

What If We Can’t Agree? What If Payments Aren’t Made?

If you can’t agree Child Maintenance between you there’s always Negotiation Collaborative Law or Mediation.

Otherwise you will need to apply to the Child Maintenance Service for help. A fee is charged. If the paying parent fails to make the payments, the CMS can collect them for you.

How Much Child Maintenance Will I Get?

This online calculator is a useful guide.

What About Children Who Are Over 16 But Not In Full Time Education? 

The age stipulation for Child Maintenance through the Child Maintenance Service can be a worry especially if your child is disabled. If you can’t agree payments, an application may be made to the Court under Schedule 1 of the Children Act.

What About School Fees?

There is no provision for the payment of school fees under the Child Maintenance Service. If you can’t agree, you can make an application to the Court under Schedule 1 of the Children Act.

How About Unmarried Parents? 

Here again, an agreement reached privately between parents is the ideal. Failing which, there is Negotiation, Collaborative Law or MediationOtherwise make an application to the Child Maintenance Service.

But the Child Maintenance Service can only help so far – it cannot provide lump sums or housing. And in the case of unmarried families there is no opportunity to obtain Court orders during the divorce process. But there’s always Schedule 1 of the Children Act. An Application may be made for a lump sum, or for the transfer of property.

What If The Paying Parent Lives Abroad?

If you’re part of an international family, and the paying parent lives abroad and isn’t paying Child Maintenance, the answer is to make an application under Schedule 1 of the Children Act. But check with the Child Maintenance Service first because there are exceptions to the rule that it doesn’t deal with paying parents abroad.

What If the Paying Parent is Very Rich?

The Child Maintenance Service can only assess income of the paying parent up to £3000 gross per week. So if you need a top up, the answer is to make an application under Schedule 1 of the Children Act. The question of school fees can also be addressed.

If you’re unmarried, this could be your opportunity to apply for a transfer of property or for a lump sum in order to provide the children with a home and other needs.

Child Maintenance Options

Contact  Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for free advice on Child Maintenance Options. In this 20 minute session we will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

See my linked blog Maintenance and Clean Break on Divorce 

  • Who’s entitled to Spousal Maintenance? How’s it calculated?
  • What’s a Clean Break, and is it the answer?

Also see my blog What Comes First Divorce or Settlement about how to get the best divorce for you. 


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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 Click to visit our website.Click to visit our website.

Maintenance and Clean Break on Divorce

Maintenance and Clean Break on DivorceThis week I’m talking about Spousal Maintenance and Clean Break on divorce.

  • Who’s entitled to Spousal Maintenance? How’s it calculated?
  • What’s a Clean Break, and is it the answer?
  • And what about Nominal, Capitalised, or Secured Maintenance?
And what on earth is a Duxbury Calculation?

Here’s a quick answer to all these questions and more, and I hope you’ll find it helpful. If anything’s not clear, please leave a comment, or get in touch. And right at the end I mention some of the topics I’ll be covering in my next blog which is about Child Maintenance.

Can I Claim Maintenance (aka Periodical Payments)?

It depends on your financial circumstances. The Court used to make lifelong Maintenance orders as a matter of course. But now a “Clean Break” is much more likely.

What’s a “Clean Break”?

It’s when the Matrimonial assets are shared out and you call it a day, you have no continuing right to Maintenance. But people do still sometimes avoid a Clean Break and get a Maintenance order, so read on.

What are the Options for Maintenance?

Maintenance can be:

  • Open ended
  • For a fixed period of time
  • Capitalised (see below)
  • Secured (see below)
  • Dismissed (see below)
  • Not dismissed but not in payment – a “Nominal Periodical Payments” order (see below)

How is Maintenance Worked Out?

It’s usually a question of need. What does the lesser earner, usually the parent with whom the children live, need in order to pay all the outgoings?

It’s only in exceptional cases that entitlement goes beyond needs, and this is where there’s an excess of income. There’s no set formula but the Courts say the concepts of “sharing” and “compensation” should be applied.

How Do “Sharing” and “Compensation” Differ from “Needs”

“Sharing” is, briefly, the idea of sharing in the “fruits of the marriage”. So it’s an attempt at fairness rather than just covering needs. “Compensation” refers to big money divorces where Maintenance is likely to go far beyond needs. These complex areas are discussed in the cases of Miller and McFarlane.

If there’s high income in your divorce, you’d be wise to seek advice from an expert Family Solicitor to make sure you don’t miss out. Most offer initial free advice. We certainly do.

What is Capitalised Maintenance?

The payer pays a lump sum upfront representing a certain amount of Maintenance over a certain period of time. Family lawyers use a Duxbury Calculation to work out the appropriate figure. This can result in a “Clean Break” (see above).

What’s a Duxbury Calculation?

Tables to work out a lump sum which represents the appropriate level and duration of Maintenance. They are contained in At A Glance, Essential Tables for Financial Remedies published by the Family Law Bar Association. The 2018-2019 edition comes out in April and can be preordered here for £70.

What is Secured Maintenance?

Are you worried your Maintenance won’t be paid? If so you can either agree, or the Court can make, a Secured Maintenance order. But this is only appropriate if the payer has sufficient assets to cover the payments.

What Happens When Entitlement to Maintenance is Dismissed?

You lose your entitlement to Maintenance. If you have the slightest doubt, seek advice from a Family Law solicitor.

What are Nominal Periodical Payments?

It’s when you’re not receiving Maintenance, but your entitlement is not dismissed. You might be able to go back for a second bite of the cherry if your circumstances change. These Maintenance orders are often worded as “five pence a year”.

Why are Nominal Periodical Payment Orders Important?

They protect the lesser earner, typically the parent who has the children living with them. So for example if the parent suffers a catastrophic injury and is unable to work, the order could be a safety net.

Can Maintenance Be Agreed?

Yes, of course. If you need a little guidance, “Pay As You Go” divorce costs can be helpful.  Otherwise you can try negotiation, collaborative law, or mediation. The last resort is an application to the Court which of course is expensive and stressful, but sometimes necessary.

Is a Court Order Necessary?

Even if there’s full agreement it’s wise to have a Consent Order. This prevents misunderstandings. A good Family Solicitor can draw up a Consent Order for a fixed fee.

Can Maintenance be Varied?

An application to the Court can be made by either of you if there’s been a change in circumstances. This could be for example illness or redundancy. Or perhaps one of you has landed a well paid job, or there’s been an inheritance.

What Happens If I Remarry?

Your Spousal Maintenance will end.

Next Week’s Blog – “Maintenance for Children”

Following on from this blog about “Maintenance and Clean Break on Divorce” I will be posting a blog to cover the following questions:

  • Can I get Maintenance for the Children?
  • How much will it be?
  • Is there Maintenance for Children over 16 but not in full time education?
  • What about school fees?
  • Is it different if the absent parent is a very high earner?

Maintenance and Clean Break on Divorce

Contact  Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for free advice on Maintenance and Clean Break on divorce. In this 20 minute session we will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

See my blog about how to get the best financial settlement on divorce.

Did you know there are different rules for Short Marriages?


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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Pensions on Divorce – What Can You Expect?

Pensions On Divorce

Worried about pensions on divorce? Make sure you know how to get your fair share, and how to protect a pension which shouldn’t be included.

Valuing Pensions on Divorce

Ask your pension provider for the Cash Equivalent Transfer Value of your pension. This will give you an idea of the value of the pension but it can be inaccurate.

If you’re making a claim over a valuable pension you should consider obtaining a valuation from an actuary.

Pension Actuarial Reports

This will help you get a fair share of a valuable pension. An actuary will work out the realistic value. He or she will advise how best to divide the pension to provide equality of income in retirement. This will for example take into consideration your different life expectancies. If you’re a woman, you will need more than half as you’re likely to live longer.

State Pension after Divorce

Find out your entitlement to a State Pension when working out your financial settlement. Here’s a link to a form you can complete to obtain a forecast. Or you can phone, or emailYou can obtain an online forecast if you have an HMRC account

Family Home or a Share of Ex’s Pension?

It’s a hard decision. But in the long run you could face a difficult retirement with a limited income whilst your ex is reaping the benefit of a valuable pension pot. Make sure you get expert legal adviceMost Divorce Solicitors offer free initial advice – we certainly do.

What is Offsetting?

This is where one of you keeps their pension and the other gets more property or savings etc instead. But there’s always the risk the pension will ultimately provide more security in retirement than the alternative assets.

Can I Keep My Pension out of the Divorce?

Try arguing it’s a non matrimonial asset. Can you say some or all of it accrued before the marriage? Or can you offer a greater share of other assets to compensate? But the only fool proof method is to enter into a Prenuptial Agreement before the marriage, or a Postnuptial Agreement during the marriage.

See my blog Ring Fence & Protect Assets On Divorce.

Pension Sharing on Divorce after Retirement

One approach is to equalise your incomes with a pension sharing order or a maintenance order. This is a complex area and you should seek expert advice from a family law solicitor.

Getting Married?

If you don’t want to risk your pension (or other assets), consider a Prenuptial Agreement. Here’s a helpful factsheet on the subject.

What is a Pension Sharing Order?

It gives away a share of a pension by transferring a percentage of it into another scheme. The Order can be made by consent so you don’t have to go to Court. It’s served on the pension provider. Bear in mind pension providers charge fees for sharing pensions. Here’s a link to the form that needs to be filled in. It’s annexed to a Consent Order. (Read here how a Consent Order will protect you).

Can I get my Ex’s State Pension?

You may be able to use your ex’s National Insurance Contributions to boost your State Pension. The Additional State Pension can also be shared on divorce. Here’s a helpful link to the Pensions Advisory Service

Pensions on Divorce

Contact  Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for free advice on Pensions on Divorce. In this 20 minute session we will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

See my blog about how to get the best financial settlement on divorce.

Did you know there are different rules for Short Marriages?


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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