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.

image Felicidade A Very Happy Boy by Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez on Wikimedia

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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.

image Family by Anna Logvinova on Wikimedia

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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.

image Baby trifft auf Möwe by R Bajela on Wikimedia

 

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