What is the Court Procedure for Child Support?

What is the Court Procedure for Child Support?

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

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

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

What happens first?

A Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM)

What’s a MIAM?

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

What if mediation doesn’t work?

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

How do I start Court proceedings?

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

What do I send to Court?

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

Where do I send my application?

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

What happens first?

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

What is Form E1?

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

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

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

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

What happens at the hearing?

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

The Court will:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can child support be backdated?

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

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

whichever is later.

What is the Court Procedure for Child Support?

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

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

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

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Good Divorce Week – Is Divorce Bad for Children?

Good Divorce Week

What is Good Divorce Week?

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

What does Resolution hope to achieve with Good Divorce Week?

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

But isn’t conflict inevitable?

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

How can parents avoid harm to children?

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

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

Read my blog 8 Tips on Arrangements for Children after Separation

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

Is divorce bad for Children?

Sadly it can be. In surveys children report:

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

How about parental alienation?

Yes, there’s that too:

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

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

What’s the answer?

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

How can we have a good divorce?

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

What is no fault divorce?

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

I support no fault divorce, what can I do?

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

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

Good divorce week – is divorce bad for children?

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

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

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

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

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

I want to go to Court for child support 

Hang on! Very few parents can do that.

Why?

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

What’s a family-based arrangement?

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

And if we can’t agree?

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

The absent parent will never tell the CMS their income

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

Yes but they’ve hidden their income

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

The CMS assessment is not enough

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

Yes, we’re sorting out the divorce finances

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

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

But we never married or were in a civil partnership

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

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

But what are these special circumstances?

School fees, disabled child, absent parent abroad …

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do I apply to Court?

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

Go to Court for child support

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

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

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Tax Advantages of Civil Partnership and Marriage – 10 FAQs

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

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

2. “Common Law Marriage” does not exist

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

3. Tax advantages of civil partnership and marriage

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

4. Income tax

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

5. CGT

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

6. IHT

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

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

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

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

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

9. Do I need a Will?

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

10. Tax advantages of civil partnership and marriage

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

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

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Do Grandparents Have Rights? Practical Steps to Seeing Your Grandchildren Again

DoGrandparentsHaveRightsHeartbreak …

What can be more heartbreaking than the prospect of not seeing your grandchildren? I have met many distressed grandparents whose main concern is for the grandchildren they cannot see: theirs is a uniquely painful situation. But don’t give up hope – there’s lots you can do.

Do grandparents have rights?

Do grandparents have rights? Sadly, no. Parliament has debated a change in the law but that’s not imminent. But there are many practical steps you can take.

Why does this happen to grandparents?

An acrimonious divorce, the desperately sad breakdown of a relationship with your child, the influence of a controlling or jealous new partner… There is much talk of parental alienation and how the breakdown of relationships leads to links being cut with the extended family. But whatever it’s called, and whatever causes it, the upshot is that a previously healthy and supportive relationship with the grandchildren is abruptly ended. This is a guide to what you can do.

What can grandparents do?

This won’t work for everyone but maybe you could be the bigger person and try to start a positive conversation with the parent/s? But, whatever you do, don’t take sides if it’s a divorce case. And please try to make allowances for the raw feelings that will be flying around. Instead concentrate on how you can help out with the grandchildren.

There’s so much at stake, wouldn’t you try anything, even eating humble pie? After all, you could soon be eating apple pie with your grandchildren. And remember, in the early days of a split or disagreement everything is up in the air. Give it a little time and communications will become easier.

It’s important to remember …

… to put the grandchildren first. It’s not about your feelings, or the parent/s feelings, it’s all about the grandchildren.

Put forward a proposal …

For example, to see or look after the grandchildren once a week, or to phone them, or to Skype with them, or to send them presents or cards. But make sure it’s a realistic proposal you can stick to. This avoids disappointment for the grandchildren and misunderstandings between the grown ups.

Mediation

If you can’t sort it out between you, suggest mediation. Mediators are trained to help resolve family disputes.

Going to Court – the facts

Going to Court is always the final option because it’s expensive, stressful, uncertain and it can drive families further apart. Please make sure you take advice from an expert Family Law Solicitor first. The guiding principle in all cases about children is their welfare. So the question is, would it be in their best interests to see you?

Child Arrangements Order

You will be making an application for an Order for example that the grandchildren spend time with you. This is known as a Child Arrangements Order.

But first …

You must attend a “MIAM” and you must apply to the Court for “leave”

Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM)

Before you start Court proceedings you must attend a MIAM. The parent/s will also receive an invitation and will attend separately. The aim is to give both of you information about how mediation might help.

Applying to the Court for ‘leave’

Complete Form C2 for permission (‘leave’) to start proceedings. (You need leave because you are not the parent). In brief:

  • The Court fee is £215 unless you are eligible to help with Court fees
  • Attach your application for a Child Arrangements Order on Form C100.
  • Send the application to your nearest divorce Court .
  • The Court recognises the value of grandparents but does not automatically grant leave – there is likely to be an enquiry into the circumstances and this may involve a hearing where evidence is considered.

Application for a Child Arrangements Order

If you’re granted leave your application for a Child Arrangements Order will proceed. The initial hearing will provide another opportunity for an agreement to be reached at the “Dispute Resolution Appointment”. You will meet the “Cafcass Officer” (from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) whose job it is to safeguard the interests of children.

A variety of Orders can be made at the first hearing but most likely are:

  • Cafcass to prepare a Report (they will meet you, the parent/s and the grandchildren)
  • You and the parent/s to prepare statements

Fingers crossed the Cafcass report recommends something along the lines of your proposal, and fingers crossed the parent/s accept it. Otherwise there will be a hearing where all are required to give evidence.

Don’t feel alone …

Take advice from an experienced Family Law Solicitor. And there are some great charities and organisations offering support to grandparents such as the Grandparents Association (Grandparents Plusand Family Lives and Citizens Advice. Do grandparents have rights? No, but there are many steps they can take.

Do grandparents have rights?

Contact Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for free advice on “Do Grandparents have Rights”. In this 20 minute session we will discuss positive steps you can take to seeing your grandchildren again.

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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Change in US Tax Rules for Alimony


Change in US Tax Rules for AlimonyA big change in US tax rules for alimony is coming up in December 2018.

Do you live in the UK and your ex in the US? Or do you live in the US and your ex in the UK?

This change might apply to you and you may need to take urgent action.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act 2017 applies after 31 December 2018. Currently, payment of alimony (as maintenance is known in the US) is tax deductible. And those who receive alimony (the lower earner, so generally the wife) pay tax on it.

The change will mean husbands (generally the higher earner) will get no tax advantage and wives will no longer pay tax.

Two Ways of Looking at Change in US Tax Rules for Alimony

International families are rushing to finalise their financial arrangements to preserve the tax position. But there are two ways of looking at it.

Some say it’s a bad thing. Husbands will lose the tax advantage and may want to pay less alimony. And as wives won’t have to pay tax why should husbands pay them so much anyway? If you look at it this way you can understand why some international couples are panicking.

The UK went through similar tax changes in 1989. Lawyers were initially nervous. Would husbands be less willing to pay? Would wives miss out?

But in the long run the change in UK tax law didn’t make too much difference. Maintenance is calculated in the UK on the basis of need. How much does the wife require to support herself and the children? And what is the shortfall between her requirement and her income? This figure generally indicates the sort of maintenance that is required. See my recent blog Maintenance and Clean Break on Divorce.

Since 1989 there hasn’t been the head scratching and the complicated calculations – if he pays this much, how much tax relief will he get? So shouldn’t he pay more and pass over some of the benefit? And what about the wife, will it push her into a tax paying bracket? How much tax exactly will she have to pay? None of this applies anymore. In the UK it’s now a simple case of “What You See Is What You Get“.

Change in US Tax Rules for Alimony – Long Term & Short Term

Short term, couples will want to take advantage of the existing tax system. But hopefully the impending change won’t tip wavering couples into divorce.

Long term, it’s possible the change won’t make a fundamental difference. And it might save on professional fees as it will be simpler to work out what is actually paid and received – because they will be one and the same.

Change in US Tax Rules for Alimony and International Tax Rules

If one of you is US or UK based, and the other in a country where tax remains relevant, such as Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands or Portugal, make sure you take advice from an expert international family lawyer.

Prenuptial Agreements

If you are in an international family and you have an existing prenuptial agreement you should seek advice on the impact of the change in US tax rules for alimony.

Don’t Delay!

Anyone wanting to take advantage of the existing system should make sure they take advice now. There may still be time to secure a maintenance or alimony order – whether by consent or in Court – prior to 31 December 2018. And please note that the detail of the changes coming up in the US tax rules are complex and far reaching, and go well beyond the scope of this article. So please don’t delay taking expert advice.

Contact  Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for free advice on the forthcoming change in US tax rules for alimony. 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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Do I Need A Will? Here’s One Very Good Reason …

Do I Need A Will“Do I need a Will?” Yes, you do, you need 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.

image Karen Layland by Just Family Law

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

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