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.

image Young Old by Heptagon on Wikimedia

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