What is Family Mediation? 10 FAQs

What is Family Mediation?

What is family mediation and why is it a good idea for you and your family? Family mediation offers a low cost, fast route to reaching an agreement with your ex. Finding the right mediator could mean your children are given a voice, too. Sadly children often feel lost and confused in the aftermath of a relationship breakdown.

But how do you find the right mediator? Consult an experienced family lawyer for a recommendation.

1. What is Family Mediation

A trained mediator will help you to identify the issues between you and to reach an agreement. And if you can’t sit in the same room as your ex there can be ‘shuttle’ mediation.

But please take expert legal advice alongside the mediation process. Why? The mediator can’t advise you of your rights.

2. What does mediation cover

Whether married, in a civil partnership, or cohabitees, when a relationship breaks down there’s a lot to think about:

  • what’s going to happen to the family home
  • what are the best arrangements for the children
  • how much child support should be paid
  • how should the savings and pensions be divided

3. What is hybrid mediation

You both take your solicitors along with you to mediation. Why? Their presence can help keep things objective – especially if there’s conflict between you and your ex. Your solicitor can advise you, and can even speak on your behalf. Hybrid mediation is also helpful where a legal issue is getting in the way of settling your dispute.

4. What are the advantages of mediation

  • narrows and resolves issues with the help of a third party
  • cheaper and faster than going to Court
  • you can tailor an agreement to fit your family
  • children can be heard
  • you and your ex can move forward amicably

5. What about international families

Reaching an agreement with your ex can be challenging if one of you lives away, or even abroad. Some family lawyers offer Skype mediation. Here at Just Family Law we offer this at our Winchester office.

6. Why do I need legal advice during mediation

Mediators don’t give legal advice. What can you expect from a family lawyer during the mediation process? – they can:

  • recommend a mediator
  • advise you what a fair outcome would be
  • support you through the process

7. What happens when we’ve reached an agreement

The mediator records your agreement in a Memorandum of Understanding – however it’s not legally binding. How can you safeguard your agreement and avoid misunderstandings in the future? The answer is that you need a consent order.

8. What’s a consent order and how do I get one

A consent order is absolutely essential. Your solicitor will be able to prepare it for you. See my blog How do I get a Consent Order.

9. How can the lawyers at Just Family Law help me

We can:

  • provide in-house civil mediation for cohabitees when they can’t agree about their family home
  • recommend a suitable family mediator
  • support you in hybrid mediation
  • host Skype mediations in our Winchester office when your ex lives away or abroad
  • give you advice and support in the background as your mediation proceeds
  • prepare a consent order for you

Mediators are often solicitors, but not necessarily – many fully trained mediators are not solicitors. But please note: your solicitor and mediator can’t be the same person, or even in the same firm.

10. What is Family Mediation? – next steps …

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial consultation on What is Family Mediation? 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 is Family Mediation? 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 is Family Mediation? Family playing a board by Bill Branson 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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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.

image “Anita iniciándose en el pensamiento numérico” (translation “Anita begins to think about numbers”) by Amoreno on Wikimedia

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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.

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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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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What Are Your Child Maintenance Options?

When a relationship breaks down I’m often asked:

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

You’ll find answers to all these questions below.

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

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

The Cost of a Child in 2017 by CPAG

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

How Do I Get Maintenance For The Children?

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

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

Parents sometimes agree a combination of all the above.

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

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

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

How Much Child Maintenance Will I Get?

This online calculator is a useful guide.

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

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

What About School Fees?

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

How About Unmarried Parents? 

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

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

What If The Paying Parent Lives Abroad?

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

What If the Paying Parent is Very Rich?

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

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

Child Maintenance Options

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

See my linked blog Maintenance and Clean Break on Divorce 

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

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


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

Image Toy Rabbit by Nevit Dilmen on Wikimedia

 

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Make A Fresh Start In 2018?

The New Year is the opportunity to sweep your life clean, throw out bad habits and make a fresh start with the promise of a more fulfilling future. But if your marriage is in trouble, the Christmas holidays might have been the final straw. Is there anything to be done? There can be tremendous benefits from coaching and counselling if the festive season has put your relationship under pressure.

But if you’ve decided to draw a line under your marriage and to start your divorce, we can help.

Have you decided what you want for yourself, and your children?

We Can Help With Your Divorce …

… and guide you through the procedures and advise you how to stay out of Court.

We can advise you what is likely to happen.

You may be worrying about the family home and savings. And how pensions, or debts, or inheritances are dealt with. Perhaps you are keen to ring fence assets. Or maybe there’s a family business. So make sure you pick the right solicitor, a properly qualified professional who specialises in family law. A good indication is if they are a Resolution member.

What You Can Expect From Your Solicitor

In the long run a good family solicitor will save you time and money, and will obtain a better settlement for you than you can get on your own.

Contact Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for free advice on divorce. In this 20 minute session we will:

* Scroll down to sign up for Emails from our expert Solicitors to keep up to date with these important issues *

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: Jumping Woman by Exey Panteleev on Wikimedia Commons

 

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Separated Families At Xmas – How Did Your Child Arrangements Go?

  • Did your children see their other parent over the Christmas holidays?
  • How about their other parent’s extended family – grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins?

Last week I talked about the difficulties separated families face making arrangements for children at Christmas.

How Did It Go For You?

With Christmas behind us, we would love to hear how it went for your family. Did your arrangements for the children work out? Or did they fall flat on their face? Or perhaps it wasn’t possible to make any arrangements at all.

Let Us Know Your Story

Scroll down to the Comment Section below and tell us how it went for you.

 

Contact Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for free advice about making arrangements for your children with their other parent. In this 20 minute session we will:

  • Review the current arrangements and how they’re working
  • Consider with you what arrangements would be in the children’s best interests
  • Recommend how you can reach an agreement with their other parent, for example by mediationnegotiation or collaborative law

 

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: Children Reading The Grinch by Sandstein on Wikimedia Commons 

 

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Separated Families At Christmas – How to Arrange The Perfect Christmas For Your Children

Imagine one of those Christmas ads. Children flying through snowy clouds, skating across ice, sharing bedtime secrets with a benevolent monster. I think you know the sort of thing I mean.

And the final scene - the delighted children opening their presents around the Christmas tree ...

The Perfect Christmas

What I would like to do is ask these children, let’s call them Emma and Ethan, if they’re having a great Christmas. That’s if I can attract their attention away from the presents.

First of all, Ethan.

Ethan, are you having a great Christmas?”

He doesn’t look up. He’s tearing Christmas paper from a large present.

Where are the batteries?” he says.

Don’t Forget The Batteries!

Yes, fair question. Where are the batteries? There’s a chance the shops are still open. Buy some batteries so this doesn’t happen to you.

Now let’s try Emma. She’s a bit older, and is carefully examining her smart phone. Maybe she’s checking to see if her favourite game app has downloaded.

Emma, are you having a great Christmas?”

I haven’t seen my Daddy,” she says.

She looks up briefly. Her eyes are sad ...

Turn your focus away from the Christmas tree (an enormous Norway spruce covered with flickering lights) and notice the children’s mother, Ashleigh. She’s sitting on the sofa by herself and doesn’t look too happy either. This is because her ex, Matt, has sent her an angry text.

Matt immediately regretted sending it. But right now he’s justifying himself to his parents who are sitting around an artificial Christmas tree that’s been mended with tape. It’s the same old tree that gets dragged out every Christmas. They couldn’t be bothered to get a new one, what with not seeing the grandchildren, yet again.

But why does it have to be like this? Can we have a happy ending, please? The sort of happy ending where the children see both their parents at Christmas, and both their sets of grandparents? Yes, of course.

Let’s time travel back a few weeks

Here again is the sitting room, the children playing on the floor, and Ashleigh sitting on the sofa. It’s just an ordinary day.

But Ashleigh is looking intently at her phone. She’s been texting with Matt.

They have agreed that come what may they will put their personal feelings aside and do what’s right for Emma and Ethan.

They have acknowledged they must work together. That they must put their children first.

Separated Families At Christmas – What Arrangements Can Be Made For The Perfect Christmas?

Ashleigh and Matt have agreed they will take it in turns each Christmas. This year Emma and Ethan will be with Matt on Christmas Eve and with Ashleigh on Christmas Day. Her parents will be coming over, too. There will be a happy house full.

Let’s reimagine the perfect Christmas ad …

It starts on Christmas Eve. The children’s faces glow with happiness as they tear open their presents around a brand new and splendid tree. Matt and his parents sit on the sofa, smiling and laughing.

Now the ad moves to Christmas Day. The children’s faces glow with happiness as they tear open their presents around an enormous Norway spruce. Ashleigh and her parents sit on the sofa, smiling and laughing.

… and  let’s ask the children if they are having a great Christmas …

Ethan doesn’t look up, he’s too busy fitting the batteries into a strange, eye rolling monster. Now ask Emma. “Yes,” she says, excitedly, “We went to Daddy’s and he gave me a new smart phone.” She checks to make sure her favourite game app has downloaded.

… and please don’t forget to agree the presents

Ashleigh and Matt agreed a Christmas present list for the children, and who was going to give them which present. This means the children didn’t receive duplications, and neither parent felt the need to compete with the other. Presents can be another bone of contention for separated families at Christmas.

The children give Ashleigh the present Matt helped them buy for her. Fluffy reindeer slippers with huge antlers. She loves them!

Heart warming - the long awaited and eagerly anticipated perfect family Christmas. Merry Christmas to all!

 

Contact Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for free advice about making arrangements for your children with their other parent. In this 20 minute session we will:

  • Review the current arrangements and how they’re working
  • Consider with you what arrangements would be in the children’s best interests
  • Recommend how you can reach an agreement with their other parent, for example by mediation, negotiation or collaborative law

 

* Scroll down to sign up for Emails from our expert Solicitors to keep up to date with these important issues *

 

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: Bittersweet – The Ups And Downs Of Military Life by Airman 1st Class Jessica Evans on Wikimedia Commons

 

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