We understand that dealing with family matters can be incredibly difficult. We are therefore focussed and committed to working with you to make this journey as less stressful as possible. You will be provided with tailored advice in an empathetic and supportive manner, helping you to navigate what is considered one of the most difficult periods in your life.
We are committed to working efficiently and in a cost-effective manner for you.
Our specialist Family Law Solicitors advise and represent clients on a range of comprehensive matters including:
* Financial disputes
* Arrangements for children
* Cohabitation agreements
* Separation agreements
* Pre-Nuptial agreements
* Civil partnerships
* Judicial separations
* Protection from domestic abuse
We have outlined below what each of these mean and how we can work with you to reach the best outcome for you.
The divorce process can be a challenging time for you and your family, we understand this and have the expertise to guide you through the legal process in simple and efficient way. There are often children, shared assets, pensions and the family home to think about, this can be become overbearing.
We can help you decide on who should commence the divorce process and under which of the 5 facts, we will then handle all the stress and pressure for you as we guide you through the process.
Procedure for divorce
Usually the solicitor representing the Petitioner will write to the Respondent first to inform them that the divorce petition will be sent to the Court. The completed divorce petition will then be sent to the court who will provide a copy to the respondent spouse together with the Acknowledgment of Service form for them to complete and return to the court. It is on the Acknowledgement of service form that the Respondent will confirm whether or not they intend to defend the petition for divorce and whether or not they agree to pay the petitioner’s costs for the divorce. Costs will usually be awarded if the divorce petition is based on adultery or unreasonable behaviour on part of the Respondent. The court will then send a sealed copy of the acknowledgment of service to the petitioner’s solicitors who will then prepare the next stage of the divorce, the application for Decree Nisi. The Judge will at this stage consider granting the Decree Nisi without the attendance of either party at court. Attendance will only be necessary where there is a dispute as to costs of the proceeding or if the divorce is defended by the Respondent. This is very unusual, only in exceptional circumstances would the court refuse to divorce a couple.
Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute
Following consideration of the documentation by a District Judge, the petitioner’s solicitors will receive a Certificate of Entitlement to a Decree Nisi together with a date confirming when the Decree Nisi will be pronounced. The Decree Nisi is the first decree in the proceedings and does not dissolve the marriage. The petitioner will need to wait six weeks plus one day before they are able to apply for the Decree Absolute, which is the document that will formally dissolve the marriage.
It is common for the Petitioner not to apply for the Decree Absolute until the financial aspect of the divorce have been resolved, particularly in cases involving entitlement to a pension or a right to occupy the matrimonial home because these entitlements might otherwise automatically end upon the Decree Absolute. In some circumstances, if the petitioner does not apply for the Decree Absolute, the Respondent may apply after a specified period. If a year lapses between the Decree Nisi being pronounced and the application for the Decree Absolute, permission to apply for the Decree Absolute must be sought from the court. At any time up to the application for the Decree Absolute, a petitioner may withdraw from the proceedings. The Decree Absolute is the final stage of the Divorce and is the document which proves you are divorced. You will need this document should you wish to remarry.
The divorce process will require both parties to the marriage to reach an agreement about how they will divide the assets, which will include joint assets and assets in their respective sole names. All of these assets are ‘matrimonial assets’, with the exception of inheritance received by either party – this may be excluded is the same are in excess of what is required in order to meet the housing needs and have not been mingled with other matrimonial assets.
In order to work out the best way of dividing the matrimonial assets, it is necessary to ascertain the extend and nature of the same. This is often done by the parties voluntarily competing a Form E financial statement. This is a comprehensive document and requires each party to state (with evidence) their capital, income, liabilities, outgoings, values of properties, business and requirement for housing going forward. Once both parties are happy that full and frank disclosure has been made, negotiations for a final settlement can begin. Where a final agreement is reached, this will be recorded in a ‘consent order’ and will be sealed as an order of the court (no attendance necessary).
The nature and extent of the financial settlement will be determined by reference to following legal principles;
* The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each of the parties to the marriage has, or is likely to have in the foreseeable future, including in the case of earning capacity any increase in that capacity. The court would expect that party to take steps to acquire this level of earning capacity.
* The financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each party to the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future.
* The standard of living enjoyed by the family prior to the breakdown of the marriage.
* The age of each party to the marriage and the duration of the marriage.
* Any physical or mental disability of either of the parties or the marriage.
* The contributions which each of the parties has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future to make for the welfare of the family, including any contributions by looking after the home or caring for the family.
* The conduct of each of the parties, if that conduct is such that it would in the opinion of the court be wrong to disregard.
* The value to each of the parties of the marriage of any benefit which, by reason of the dissolution of the marriage that party will lose the chance of acquiring. This is particularly relevant in respect of pension entitlements
Financial Remedy Proceedings
In some cases, it may not be suitable for the parties to provide financial disclosure on a voluntary basis, which we will discuss with you in detail before issuing court proceedings. Court proceedings will only be issued when absolutely necessary in order to provide our clients with a cost-effective service.
The court will set a timetable and framework for completing financial disclosure and will list the matter for a series of hearings in order to settle the case. This does not prevent the matter from being settled at any time via negotiations. If the matter remains unsettled after the second hearing known as the financial dispute resolution hearing, there will usually be a final hearing where the court will determine how the matrimonial assets will be divided. The court will make a series of orders which the parties must comply otherwise costs sanctions may apply.
These are agreements which are drafted to protect the rights of unmarried couples who are cohabiting together. Property disputes between cohabitees are resolved by using existing property and trusts law. This is a very complex, uncertain and expensive area to litigate upon. Its therefore critical to enter into a detailed cohabitation agreement to avoid litigation at a later stage.
These are agreements which are drafted to help parties reach an agreement concerning money and property upon the breakdown of the relationship. The parties can include the terms they wish as in this agreement to cover all aspects of their financial situation. The agreement should be comprehensive as well as realistic. Again, it is advisable to seek advice if you are considering entering into a separation agreement or if you have received a copy of a separation from your partner.
These are pre-marital agreements made between the parties of the marriage before they get married. The contract will involve details of how money and property will be divided following any divorce.
Same sex couples are free to enter into a Civil Partnership. This provides same sex couples with broadly the same rights as married couples. The court has the power to make orders in relation to finances and children. Couples considering entering into a Civil Partnership should consider setting out their financial and other arrangements in a pre-civil partnership agreement. This will set out the arrangements if your civil partnership breaks down.
Alternatively, same sex couples can get married as provided for under The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.
This is an alternative to divorce and means that you remain married but no longer live together as a couple. This option can be preferable due to religious reasons. Parties may still apply for financial orders (except a pension sharing order).
Issues around children matters often arise following the breakdown of marriage or a relationship.
The law around children is covered under the Children Act 1989 and there are key principles which the court take into consideration; the welfare of the children (this involves the court using the Welfare Checklist). The wishes and feelings of the child in addition to the capabilities of the parents is also taken into consideration.
The court can make various orders when dealing with child arrangements;
Child Arrangement Orders including who a child should live with on a permanent basis (live with order) and when and with whom the child should spend time with (spend time with order)
Specific Issue Orders – this allows the court to make an order concerning an issue which has arisen in connection with a parent exercising their parental responsibility i.e. changing the surname of the child, issue involving which religion the child should follow, which school the child should attend etc.
Prohibited Steps Orders – this order allows the court to prevent a specific action from occurring in connection with a child i.e. where one parent wishes to remove the child from the jurisdiction of England and Wales
Parental Responsibility Order – this grants the (unmarried) biological father parental responsibility for the child.
Domestic abuse can cover physical, psychological, sexual, financial and emotional abuse.
The law provides protection from harassment, protection under the Family Law Act 1996 by way of non-molestation orders i.e. injunction or occupation orders.
Non – Molestation Orders are injunctions which can protect ‘associated’ persons from being pestered, receiving abuse via messages and phone calls, verbal abuse, threats, damage to property in the home or violence.
Occupation Orders are designed to protect the applicant who has a legal or contractual right to occupy the property. The court will use the ‘balance of harm’ test to balance any harm which the applicant or relevant child will suffer if no order is made against the harm that the respondent will suffer if the order is made. This order will restrict the respondent from entering the property but is often for a short and limited period of six months.
Our approach is simple, if we can resolve your matter though mediation and by work collaboratively through negotiations, then we will do just that. The court process is always the last resort, as it should be. Having said that, if we feel your matter has reached the point where it is best resolved by issuing court proceedings then we will advise you accordingly.
We strive to deliver clear, honest and professional advice to help you achieve the best possible solution for you and your family.
We are members of Resolution and we therefore understand the importance of providing compassionate, professional advice in a constructive, non-confrontational way in respect of family law matters.
Divorce & Business
Divorce and separation can also affect a family business, partnership or trust. We have a dedicated team of Commercial Lawyers who can advise you and will collaborate with us to ensure you are receiving the best possible service.
Quite a number of our clients run their own businesses, whether as single shareholders or with a group of business partners who might be family or friends. Because we treat our clients as individuals whose business and personal lives are inextricably linked, we have always worked hard to ‘future proof’ the companies we help to look after with robust shareholders agreements. However, life can take unpredictable twists and turns and we have also found ourselves supporting clients through family proceedings where orders have been made around share sales – we have even advised family judges on company law to ensure the best outcome for our client and the long term health of the business.
How we work
We offer fixed fee packages which provide you with access to your solicitor without the worry of being charged for each interaction, helping you to build long lasting relationships with your legal advisors.