When will no-fault divorce begin in the UK?

When will no-fault divorce begin in the UKThe Government has announced it will legislate for no-fault divorce as soon as parliamentary time allows. If you are keen to start your divorce and not sure whether to wait until the law changes, speak to an expert family lawyer.

What is no-fault divorce?

This is a way of getting divorced without raising conflict. Currently you have to rely on a reason:

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

Allegations of adultery and unreasonable behaviour raise tensions, and if the divorce is contested, the only option can be to wait five years. The most amicable solution at the moment is two years separation with consent. No-fault divorce means the marriage has broken down but no one is in the wrong, and you don’t have to wait for years.

Why has the Government decided to act?

Resolution and other organisations have been lobbying. And the case of Owens v Owens has been in the news. Mrs Owens said her marriage was over because of her husband’s unreasonable behaviour. But he contested the divorce and she is now in the process of waiting five years to reach the end of her unhappy marriage.

Why is no-fault divorce a good idea?

Joanne Houston of Just Family Law says no-fault divorce will reduce conflict in divorce and protect children. She adds, “This presents an opportunity for parting couples to engage in a constructive rather than a destructive process.” Joanne is a specialist in collaborative family law which allows couples to reach amicable agreements, avoid Court proceedings, and move forward with dignity and positivity. See my post, What is collaborative family law. Other options are –

How will no-fault divorce work?

The details have yet to be fully formulated but there will be a minimum time from start to finish of six months. There will still be a decree nisi and decree absolute stage. See my recent post How to file for divorce for a basic guide to divorce under the current law.

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.

When will no-fault divorce begin in the UK?

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial free of charge consultation on the question When will no-fault divorce begin in the UK?

 In this 20 minute session she will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

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

The topics covered in this blog post When will no-fault divorce begin in the UK? are complex. They are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog apply to you, seek expert legal advice.

image for When will no-fault divorce begin in the UK? Family Portrait by Eric Ward on Wikimedia

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Do I need permission to take my children on holiday?

Do I need permission to take my children on holiday?

Can you take the children on holiday without permission from the other parent or the Court? It depends. In this blog I will set out what you need to consider. But as getting it wrong can have very serious consequences please get advice from a family law expert if you have any doubts.

The important factors you will need to consider are –

  • Is the holiday in England or Wales.
  • Or is it elsewhere – Scotland, Ireland or abroad.
  • Is it for less than 28 days.
  • Has the Court made a child arrangements order saying with whom the children will live.
  • Do you both have parental responsibility.

The holiday is in England or Wales

If the children live with you, you can take them on holiday without permission. If they don’t live with you, you can take them on holiday during a contact visit. But it’s best if parents discuss holiday plans well in advance in order to keep things amicable and to avoid misunderstandings.

The holiday is elsewhere – Scotland, Ireland or abroad

You can take the children on holiday without the other parent’s permission or the permission of the Court if –

  • there is a child arrangements order saying the children live with you, even if it’s not all of the time (as long as the time is defined), and
  • the holiday is less than a month (usually defined as 28 days)

For the lawyers and law students among you, this is set out in s.13 Children Actthe geographical extent of which is England and Wales. For everyone else, please read your child arrangements order carefully and all the way through.

But if the other parent doesn’t have parental responsibility (see below) you don’t have to consult them at all. However taking a child abroad where there is no child arrangements order and without the consent of the other parent when they do have parental responsibility is child abduction – a criminal offence. So if you have the slightest doubt, please get advice from a family law expert.

Here again, don’t forget to discuss your plans with the other parent in order to keep things amicable and avoid misunderstandings.

Who has parental responsibility?

  • all mothers
  • fathers who
    • were married to the mother at the time of the birth or subsequently
    • are named on the birth certificate (from 1 December 2003)
    • have entered into a parental responsibility agreement
    • have a parental responsibility order

Discuss your plans with the other parent 

This applies whether the children live with you or the other parent. Start discussing your plans as early as possible. Share your holiday itinerary. Take turns with significant holidays such as Passover, Easter or Ramadan.

If the children don’t live with you, you might be surprised how keen the other parent is for them to go on holiday with you. This doesn’t mean they aren’t a good parent, it’s just that they need a break. And if the children live with you, remember to respect their right to enjoy quality time with their other parent.

If you can’t agree,

may be the answer. In mediation or collaborative law, a family consultant can be involved to help with communication or non-legal issues.

Discuss your plans with the children 

Bracing walks on the coast might sound great to you but the children might prefer to laze around on a sunny beach. And don’t forget the children have their own commitments. Is there something coming up they really don’t want to miss? Or are exams on the horizon, should they be at home revising?

Make sure they stay in touch with the other parent 

When they’re away on holiday, even if they’re having a great time with you, they are likely to miss their other parent so work out in advance how and when they will stay in contact.

Seeing other family members

Don’t forget holidays are a valuable opportunity for children to see their wider family.

Grandparents

It can be difficult for grandparents to see their grandchildren, let alone come to an agreement to take them on holiday. See my blog Do grandparents have rights?

Do I need permission to take my children on holiday?

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial free of charge consultation on the question Do I need permission to take my children on holiday? In this 20 minute session she will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

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

The topics covered in this blog post Do I need permission to take my children on holiday? are complex. They are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog apply to you, seek expert legal advice.

image for Do I need permission to take my children on holiday? Caretta Beach Holiday Village on WikimediaThis image has been adjusted.

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How do you Split Assets in a Divorce in the UK?

How do you Split Assets in a Divorce in the UK

How do you Split Assets in a Divorce in the UK?

Family home, pensions, inheritances, business assets, there’s a lot to think about. And is it matrimonial or non matrimonial property?

The starting place is a fifty/fifty split but there are considerations under s.25 Matrimonial Causes Act –

  • the welfare of any children
  • income, earning capacity, property
  • financial needs
  • standard of living
  • ages and length of marriage
  • disabilities
  • contributions
  • conduct if inequitable to disregard it

How do we reach an agreement about assets?

If you can reach an agreement, well done, but run it past an experienced family lawyer to make sure it’s fair. If you can’t agree try –

Whichever method you will need to give full and frank disclosure of your finances. See my blog Financial Disclosure on Divorce, 10 things you need to know. And you need a Court order to protect you. See my blog How do I get a Consent Order? A Simple Guide

What about my home?

The options are –

  • one of you buys the other out, or
  • you sell and divide the proceeds, or
  • one of you keeps the house and the other has an interest in it which they realise in the future. This is called a charge.

What is a charge on the home?

This works well if there are children. You can’t afford to buy each other out and a sale won’t realise enough to house you both. Perhaps there’s only a tiny equity. But how is this fair for the parent who won’t live there and won’t be receiving any cash? The answer is an interest in the property, a charge representing a certain percentage of its value. This means in the future you will get capital from the property.

When do I get the money from the charge?

There are various ways it can be worded. For example, when the children turn eighteen years of age or when the parent living there remarries or cohabits for a certain period.

What about pensions?

Pensions can be significant especially if one of you works in the public sector. In the heat of the moment one of you might say, Keep the pension, I want the house! But this isn’t always wise. It might be better to sell the house, split the proceeds and downsize so you can have a pension sharing order to provide you with income in retirement. See my blog Pensions on Divorce, what can you expect.

How will the assets be split in my case?

It really is impossible to generalise but I can give you a couple of examples.

Sue and John – older couple, no mortgage, no kids

So you’re both in good health and you have a range of assets – nice house, couple of cars, pensions, savings. You are likely to come away with half each, a fifty/fifty split. How this is achieved is up to you. One of you buys the other’s interest in the house. Or you sell it and split the proceeds. You could say, I’ll have the yacht, you have the timeshare. Tot it up so you make sure you’re getting equal value. Don’t forget to get a Consent Order – see my blog How do I get a Consent Order? A Simple Guide

Emma and Mike – two kids, big mortgage, little equity

This is more tricky. The top priority is a home for the children and the only option is the family house. A transfer of the house to Emma with a charge to Mike might be the answer.

Olivia and David – short marriage, no kids

The rules are different for short marriages, see my blog Short marriages, 10 things you need to know.

What about my inheritance?

It depends on –

  • when you received it
  • whether you mixed it with the matrimonial assets or kept it separate
  • whether there are enough non-inheritance assets to provide a fair settlement

See my blog How to protect inheritance on divorce.

I have a business, what will happen to that?

See my blog How to protect business on divorce

But I contributed everything to this marriage!

Sometimes you can keep non matrimonial assets out of the pot for division. These include –

  • Assets built up before the marriage
  • Inheritances
  • Businesses

But non matrimonial assets will go into the pot if this is the only way for example to answer the children’s need for housing. See my blog Ring fence and protect assets on divorce.

What is a clean break, can I still get maintenance?

See my blog Maintenance and clean break on divorce.

How do you Split Assets in a Divorce in the UK?

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

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

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

image for How do you Split Assets in a Divorce in the UK? Moving a House on Wikimedia

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How do I get a Consent Order? A simple guide

How do I get a Consent Order?
Rosalind Russell in the 1949 movie ‘Tell it to the Judge’ – and that, in essence, is what a Consent Order is all about

  What’s a Consent Order?

You’ve agreed the matrimonial finances. The next step is to get a Consent Order so you know it’s done and dusted. Once it’s made, neither of you can:

  • go back on the agreement
  • come back for a second bite of the cherry.

  How do I get a Consent Order?

Contact an experienced family lawyer because your Consent Order needs to be technically accurate.

  When’s the best time to get a Consent Order?

As soon as you are in agreement. But did you know that a Consent Order cannot be made by the Court until your decree nisi has been pronounced?

  What do I send to the Court?

  What’s a ‘statement of information for Consent Order’?

This sets out your finances. It’s vital to complete it accurately. See my blog Financial Disclosure on Divorce – 10 Things You Need To Know for the dire consequences of being less than frank in financial disclosure.

  What will the Court do?

The Court’s duty is to make sure the Consent Order is fair, makes proper financial provision, and is technically correct. The Court will firstly consider the welfare of any children. It will then consider your –

  • income, earning capacity, property
  • financial needs
  • standard of living during marriage
  • ages and length of marriage 
  • disabilities
  • contributions made 
  • conduct if it would be inequitable to disregard it

If the Court isn’t convinced it’s fair, or if the order is technically incorrect, they will raise queries. These can mostly be dealt with by letter. Occasionally there can be a short Court hearing.

If you want to make sure you come to a fair agreement, read my blog Financial Settlement on Divorce, How To Get The Best One For You – 5 FAQs.

  How can a Consent Order be wrong?

If it’s unfair. For example if one of you ends up with valuable assets but the other doesn’t. But this can sometimes be fair if there are unusual circumstances such as a short marriage. See my blog Short Marriages – 10 Things You Need To Know

  How else can a Consent Order be wrong?

If there are technical errors. The Court can only make certain orders. These include:

  How to get a Consent Order right

The simplest answer is to ask an experienced family lawyer to draft it for you.

  What’s a recital/preamble?

The paragraphs above the words “By Consent it is Ordered“. What’s included?

  • Agreements that can’t be orders
  • Undertakings to the Court (an undertaking is a solemn promise to the Court)

For example to return the oil painting of your mother in law. Or to take turns looking after Rover, the beloved family pet. Or to pay the mortgage on the family home. This is relevant if the house will be yours but the mortgage is still in joint names because of financial constraints.

  But what happens if my ex ignores what’s in the recital/preamble?

You can make an application to the Court for enforcement.

  When does a Consent Order come into effect?

When it’s sealed by the Court, or when your decree absolute is obtained, whichever is later.

  How do I get a Consent Order?

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

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

The topics covered in this blog post How do I get a Consent Order? are complex. They are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog apply to you, seek expert legal advice.

image credit for How do I get a Consent Order? Columbia’s ‘Tell it to the Judge’

 

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Coercive control – what is it and are you a victim of it?

Coercive Control
Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight, the film that gave us the term “gaslighting” because her character is controlled and humiliated by her husband

Coercive control – what is it and are you a victim of it?

In 2010 Sally Challen hammered her husband, Richard Challen, to death, and she was found guilty of murder and sentenced to eighteen years. But on 28 February 2019 the Court of Appeal ordered a retrial. Why? Mrs Challen, 65, says her husband controlled and humiliated her for forty years.

Are you being coercively controlled?

The person doing it wants you to think you are in the wrong and they are in the right. So it can take victims a lot of courage and resolution to do anything about it. If you think you may be a victim please contact the police. Also make sure to ask an experienced family lawyer for advice.

What is coercive control?

If you’ve experienced coercive control you are likely to be fearful, and you may even feel as if you’re going mad. Here are some examples:

  • Use and threats of violence to get you to do things you don’t want to
  • Sexual coercion
  • Belittling you to make you feel worthless
  • Criticising your appearance and telling you what to wear
  • Threats to tell the authorities or friends and families about you
  • Threats of harm to your child, friends, family or pets
  • Controlling your communications and social media, and distancing you from your friends, family and co-workers
  • Financial control
  • “Gaslighting” – accusing you of doing things you haven’t done, or not doing things you have
  • Damaging your property – smashing your phone or laptop
  • Denying you food or other essential requirements
  • Forcing you to take part in criminal activity or child abuse

Victims can feel confused and trapped and as if they are hostages. They can form an unhealthy dependency on the perpetrator. Anyone can be a victim – young or old.

Are you “personally connected”?

The next question is, does your relation to this person fall within the following list?

  • Romantic or sexual relationship
  • Engaged or married or in a civil partnership
  • Divorced or previously engaged
  • Family member, if only by marriage, and living together
  • Previously in an intimate relationship, and living together
  • Sharing a child/parental responsibility

This of course includes same sex relationships.

If you do not have any of these connections you are still protected under the Protection from Harassment Act. Contact the police and take advice from an experienced family lawyer.

What can victims of coercive control do?

The police and/or the civil Courts can protect you. Coercive control became a criminal offence in December 2015 and can lead to imprisonment. Contact the police or an experienced family lawyer, or report domestic abuse and coercive control to:

What can the police do to help?

It’s up to the police to obtain evidence but if you can keep a diary and any texts or emails that’s a help. But please don’t endanger yourself by collecting evidence yourself.

What can family law and the Courts do to help?

Make a non molestation order to protect you. Contact an experienced family lawyer.

Coercive Control – what is it and are you a victim of it?

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial free of charge consultation on the question Coercive Control – what is it and are you a victim of it? In this 20 minute session she will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

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

The topics covered in this blog post Coercive control – what is it and are you a victim of it? are complex. They are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog apply to you, seek expert legal advice.

image for Coercive Control – what is it and are you a victim of it? Ingrid Bergman in the 1944 filmGaslight” on Wikimedia 

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Shall I buy a house with my partner?



Shall I buy a house with my partner?

Shall I buy a house with my partner?

You face a big decision. There are many factors to consider but don’t forget to think about how the two of you will own it because this can have very serious implications for couples who aren’t married or in civil partnerships. Did you know there’s a choice between:

  • Joint tenants and
  • Tenants in common?

 Joint tenants/tenants in common – what’s the difference?

I will explain in simple terms but if you are at all puzzled please get in touch. And when it comes to the paperwork for buying the house, make sure your conveyancer goes over the difference between joint tenants and tenants in common and gives you lots of time to think about it before you sign. Wrong decisions have consequences.

 “Joint tenants” explained …

When I tell clients about being joint tenants I usually draw a picture of a house, let’s say in blue, and then draw exactly the same picture of the house over the top of it, let’s say in red.

Then I say to one of them, you own the blue house, and I say to the other, you own the red house. The point being, you both own the whole thing.

 Joint tenants – so what if one of us dies, or we split up?

If one of you dies, the other automatically inherits. And if you split up, it’s equal shares.

 But I’m putting more in, I want a bigger share!

Owning as joint tenants might not be right for you if you put in more money at the start, or will be paying all the mortgage. Tenants in common may be the answer.

 “Tenants in common” explained …

Remember the little house I drew to explain joint tenants? Well in the case of tenants in common imagine a house, one side drawn in blue, the other side in red. One of you owns the blue side, the other owns the red side. A declaration of trust can set out the shares you own it in and what happens if you split up. See more about declarations of trust below.

 Tenants in common – what happens if one of us dies?

If one of you dies, their share goes under the terms of their will. This doesn’t suit everyone because you can’t guarantee who your partner is going to leave their share to. A cohabitation agreement might help (see more below). But owning as tenants in common, and having a declaration of trust, protects the money you invested in the property if you split up.

 Tenants in common – what happens if we split up?

You can own the property in equal or unequal shares, depending on how you contributed to the purchase. Your declaration of trust will set this out. So if you split up you will know what you are entitled to.

Is there anything else you need to do? Well, yes, there is. You need to make a will.

 Make a will …

Why do you need to make a will? Because if you own the property as tenants in common and one of you dies, the survivor doesn’t automatically inherit the house. See my recent blog Do I need a will, here’s one very good reason.

Anything else? Well, yes, a cohabitation agreement might be a good idea.

 Get a cohabitation agreement …

See my blogs 6 reasons why you need a cohabitation agreement  and 6 things you must include in a cohabitation agreement

 “Declaration of trust” explained …

This is a document which sets out your respective interests in the property and what happens if you split up.

 Shall I buy a house with my partner?

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial free of charge consultation on the question Shall I buy a house with my partner? In this 20 minute session she will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

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

The topics covered in this blog post Shall I buy a house with my partner? are complex. They are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog apply to you, seek expert legal advice.

image for Shall I buy a house with my partner? Norsk bokmål: yellow house child drawing by Oyvind Holmstad on Wikimedia 

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What does Brexit No Deal Mean for Family Law?


What does Brexit No Deal Mean for Family Law

What does Brexit No Deal Mean for Family Law?

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

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

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

What should I do?

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

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

Should I start my divorce before Brexit?

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

What about recognition of UK divorces in EU member states?

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

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

How do I get divorced before Brexit? 

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

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

After the decree absolute comes the certificate …

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

What about maintenance?

If you want to be sure a maintenance order is recognised or enforced in another EU member state after Brexit, get it made by the Court beforehand. If there isn’t agreement between you, time is getting short to list the final hearing before Brexit, and time should also be allowed to register (‘exequatur’) the order before Brexit. How long will this take? Depends which member state is involved. Speak to an expert international family lawyer as soon as possible.

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

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

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

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

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

Children …

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

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

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

What does Brexit No Deal Mean for Family Law?

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

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

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

image for What does Brexit No Deal Mean for Family Law? Worried People by Magdalena on Wikimedia

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How to Change a Will after Death



How to Change a Will after Death

How to Change a Will after Death

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

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

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

Why would anyone want to change a will after death?

Reasons include:

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

What’s an intestacy?

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

How is a will or intestacy changed after death?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about joint ownership?

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

How to Change a Will after Death

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

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

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

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Can I Get a Divorce Online?


Can I Get a Divorce Online

Can I Get a Divorce Online?

Yes, of course. The options are:

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

I want a quick and cheap online divorce

Things to watch out for:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why should I consult a solicitor?

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

Can I talk to a proper solicitor please?

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

I want a life beyond divorce

Then think about collaborative family law or mediation.

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

Everyone is entitled to expert, professional advice

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

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

Can I Get a Divorce Online?

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

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

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

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How to File for Divorce in the UK

How to File for Divorce in the UK

How to File for Divorce in the UK …

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

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

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

How a divorce starts …

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

What a divorce does …

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

Take the bull by the horns …

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

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

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

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

What’s needed to start a divorce …

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

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

How to fill in the divorce petition …

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

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

The grounds for divorce …

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

Financial claims …

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

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

Costs …

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

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

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

Risks …

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

What happens next …

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

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

The decree nisi …

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

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

The decree absolute …

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

How to File for Divorce in the UK

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

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

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

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