Family Law Articles & Advice

Read the latest articles on Family Law from our expert Family Law solicitors here at Evolve Family Law in Manchester & Cheshire.

We put a lot of family law legal information on our website and if you have a single question about your situation, you should find an answer in this blog.

If you need a greater level of help, please contact us and one of our team will call you to make an appointment.

selective focus of couple sitting at table with divorce documents

Should I Sign a Separation Agreement?

As North West divorce and family finance solicitors, we are often asked the question ‘’should I sign a separation agreement?’’ The stock answer is ‘’that it all depends’’. However, our answer hinges on your plans and the specifics of your separation agreement. For expert family law advice call our team or complete our online enquiry form. Should I Sign a Separation Agreement or Get Divorced? In many family situations, a husband or wife will suggest the signing of a separation agreement as they want to split up and divide their property and assets but they do not think that they have the grounds to start divorce proceedings. There is still a common misconception that to start divorce proceedings you or your husband or wife need to be at fault in some way or you need to have been separated for at least 2 years. The introduction of no-fault divorce proceedings in England means you no longer need to explain why you want to get divorced and you do not have to have been separated for a minimum period before you can apply for a divorce. Under the new no-fault divorce proceedings process an application may be made jointly by a couple or individually by a husband or wife. The process to obtain your final order of divorce is similar whether you apply as a couple or as an individual. Although you may now be able to apply for a no-fault divorce there may be reasons why you do not want to get divorced. For example, you may not want to do so for religious reasons. If your spouse wants to apply for a divorce then you have very limited grounds to object because of the rules surrounding no-fault divorce. Talk to a Family Law Solicitor.   Talk to a family law solicitor before you sign a separation agreement or decide to start divorce proceedings as it is best to take advice on whether a separation agreement or divorce proceedings and a financial court order are in your best interests. In most family situations you do not need a separation agreement and a divorce and financial court order because the financial court order will deal with everything that goes into the separation agreement. However, there are some situations where you may need both. For example, if you have separated from your spouse and agreed to a sale of the family home but you have found a buyer before you can obtain a conditional order of divorce and a financial court order by consent. [related_posts] Why is a Financial Court Order Preferable to a Separation Agreement? Divorce solicitors often think a financial court order is preferable to a separation agreement because: A financial court order is legally binding. It cannot be changed (save for maintenance orders) unless there was fraud, misrepresentation or non-disclosure A separation agreement is not legally binding but it will carry a lot of weight if either spouse subsequently decides to start divorce proceedings and make a financial claim that is not consistent with what was put into the separation agreement Although you can agree to share pensions in a separation agreement the pension share cannot be implemented by the pension administrator until a pension sharing order has been made by a court in divorce proceedings and the final order of divorce has been obtained If you intend to get divorced but you want to sign a separation agreement first then you will incur separation agreement legal fees and later spend more on legal costs in sorting out your divorce and getting a financial court order. The separation agreement costs can be avoided altogether if you know you want a divorce as you can start no-fault divorce proceedings It is not all just about the legal fees; instructing a North West divorce solicitor to prepare a separation agreement and to later start divorce and financial court order proceedings is potentially more stressful than instructing your divorce lawyer to sort out the divorce and financial court order When Should You Sign a Separation Agreement?  A separation agreement may be a good option for you if you have no plans to get divorced for religious or other reasons. You should only sign a separation agreement after there has been financial disclosure so you can make informed choices about what goes into the agreement. You should also only sign a separation agreement after you have taken advice from a family law solicitor on the contents. Although separation agreements are not legally binding on the court, they do carry a great deal of weight if either a husband or wife brings a financial claim in later divorce proceedings. You should therefore only sign a separation agreement if you intend to be bound by it. How Can Evolve Family Law Help You. Our family law and divorce solicitors can help you with: Advice on whether you need a separation agreement and the contents No-fault divorce proceedings Financial court orders by agreement after direct discussions or after family mediation Financial court order applications if you are not able to reach a financial agreement Children law orders if you cannot reach an agreement on residence or contact arrangements for your children Converting your existing separation agreement into a financial court order Amicable divorce – one lawyer divorce service Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney if you have separated or you are starting divorce proceedings Our divorce solicitors will provide expert advice tailored to your personal and financial circumstances. For expert family law advice call our team or complete our online enquiry form.
Robin Charrot
Feb 16, 2024   ·   5 minute read
Will I get Half in a Divorce Settlement UK?

Will I get Half in a Divorce Settlement UK?

When you are going through a separation or divorce you need to know what you are likely to end up with as your divorce financial settlement. Without that information, or at least a broad idea of what you might reasonably expect to get, you may find the whole process of separating and getting divorced that much more traumatic. In this blog, our family law solicitors answer your questions on whether you will get half in a divorce financial settlement and explain why some people may end up with more or less than half. For expert family law advice call our team or complete our online enquiry form. Does everyone get half the assets when they divorce? There is no guarantee that you will get half the assets when you divorce. You may get less than half or you may get more than half. Every family is different and although the court starts from the premise that assets should be shared equally there are many reasons why a financial court order might be made that does not equally divide the assets and money equally between husband and wife. Who decides if you get half the assets? In an ideal world, you will reach a financial agreement with your separated husband or wife after having spoken to a family law solicitor or you will ask the solicitor to negotiate an agreement for you. Another alternative is to go to family mediation and reach an agreement in mediation. If you reach an agreement your financial settlement then needs to be converted into an agreed financial court order as part of the no-fault divorce proceedings. If it is impossible to reach an agreement with your ex-spouse then either you or they can apply to the family court for a financial settlement. After financial disclosure and a series of court directions hearings, a final hearing will take place where the judge will hear evidence from each of you. The court will then make a binding financial court order. The court will decide what percentage of the assets you will get based on statutory criteria and case law. As well as deciding whether you will get half the value of the family assets the court can decide if the family home should be sold or if you should get to keep the house but not get to receive a share of your spouse’s pension or the value of their investments or shares in the family business. There are normally many different ways in which a judge can split assets equally between husband and wife. Who works out what half is in a divorce financial settlement? Your husband or wife may tell you that they want to keep things amicable and split the money and property equally but to do that fairly you may need assets to be independently valued.  For example, if your spouse says that you can keep the family home you need to know how much equity there is in the property if your spouse’s financial proposals are based on them keeping their pension or their shares in the family business. You will also need to know the true value of your spouse’s pension fund or the value of the family business. To get an accurate valuation of assets you may need to instruct a surveyor, pension actuary or forensic accountant to carry out valuations. If assets are not accurately valued then you may not end up with half unless your agreement says every single asset will be sold and the money divided equally rather than some assets being retained by one of you as part of the negotiated deal or financial court order. [related_posts] Could I get more than half the property and assets? There are some scenarios where you could receive more than half the money and property as your divorce financial settlement. For example: If you signed a prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement that said you would get to keep more of the assets and the court thought it was fair to uphold the prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement in its entirety or partially You owned a house or pension or family business before your marriage, the marriage is relatively short and your spouse can have their reasonable needs met without having to share all or some of your pre-marriage owned assets You agree to receive more than half the assets but the deal is that you do not get ongoing spousal maintenance as your spouse is getting less than their half share of the property or other assets You are the main carer of the children and you need more than 50% of the total asset pot to buy a new home for the children taking into account your reasonable housing needs and your mortgage capacity Your spouse received an inheritance during the marriage and their housing or other needs can be met by using this inheritance whilst you need more than half of the family assets to meet your needs Should I argue that I want half the assets as my divorce financial settlement? A family law solicitor will tell you if you have a good case to get half or more than half the family assets as your divorce financial settlement. You can then decide whether it is worth the time and the potential legal fees of going to court and asking a judge to make a financial court order in your favour if your spouse will not agree to your requested financial settlement. You may decide that it is best to compromise and reach a negotiated financial settlement or come to the view that as your estranged spouse is being so unreasonable about financial disclosure and the financial settlement that you have no alternative to ask the court to order that you get half the assets as your divorce financial settlement. Your best option is to talk to a family law solicitor so you understand your rights and options to help you reach a fair divorce financial settlement. For expert family law advice call our team for an appointment or complete our online enquiry form.
Robin Charrot
  ·   6 minute read
How to Deal With Parental Alienation

How to Deal With Parental Alienation

Parental alienation is one of those topics that parents feel embarrassed to talk about. If you are being prevented from seeing your child after a separation or divorce you may be worried that family, friends and colleagues will judge you assuming you must be the one at fault if you cannot get to see your child. At Evolve Family Law our solicitors are experts in child arrangement order applications involving allegations of alienating behaviour. If you are being stopped from seeing your child our family law solicitors can help you sort out post-separation parenting arrangements for your child or enforce a child arrangement order if your ex-partner still will not let you see your child. For expert family law advice call our team or complete our online enquiry form. Are you to blame for parental alienation? Lots of people assume that if parental alienation has taken place the parent who is not having contact with their child must have done something ‘’bad’’. However, the definition of parental alienation is one parent turning the mind of a child against the other parent and the child’s negative view of the parent is not justified by any parental behaviour. Instead, the child is being alienated from one parent by the other parent’s deliberate or unintentional psychological manipulation of the child. How to deal with parental alienation Sometimes it is obvious to everyone involved with a child, from family to schoolteachers and health professionals, that parental alienation is taking place. In other families, the process is more subtle but just as insidious. For parents who fear parental alienation is taking place there are some tips on how to deal with parental alienation and maintain a relationship with your child. We recommend that you:  Take legal advice quickly If you think, your ex-partner or former husband or wife is talking inappropriately about you in front of your child it is important to act quickly.  If you wait then the situation may get to the stage that the child is so alienated that they say that they do not want to have contact with you. If you are not able to speak to your former partner directly then you could try speaking to a family member or you could suggest a referral to family mediation or family counselling. If those options do not solve the difficulties, do not delay in taking legal advice and looking at the option of applying for a child arrangements order. If you delay in acting then if the parental alienation behaviour continues it will become harder to resolve the situation and repair the psychological damage experienced by your child. Do not blame the child It is normal to think ‘’my daughter is behaving just like her mother’’ or to say ‘’the apple does not fall far from the tree’’. When a child is playing up or refusing to speak to or see you, it is easy to transfer your frustration with the situation onto the child. After all, why can’t your child stand up for themselves and demand more contact with you or why can’t they at least look cheerful when they do see you? As frustrating as it is, blaming a child or showing your exasperation with the situation is likely to make the situation worse. Do not blame the parent When you get frustrated about parental alienation, it is easy to think that the solution is to tell your side of the story. In the process, you are likely to denigrate the other parent. Taking that approach is likely to make your child more insecure and anxious, and less inclined to have contact. Do not walk away The statistics of how many parents lose contact with their children after a separation or divorce are appalling. Many of those cases do not involve parental alienation but it is sometimes easy to think that your child would be ‘’better off’’ without you. Most children law professionals believe that a child needs and deserves a loving relationship with both parents, even if that has to be achieved through the making of a child arrangements order. Find time for other things in your life If you experience parental alienation, it is easy to obsess over your ex-partner and their behaviour. By doing that you can play into their hands. It is important that you find time to enjoy other aspects of your life during any children court proceedings. [related_posts] What will the court do if it thinks that alienating behaviour is taking place? If you make an application for a child arrangement order the court will carefully consider whether contact is in your child’s best interests. If a child is saying that they do not want contact because of parental alienation, the court can take some proactive steps to try to help you rebuild a relationship with your child. In extreme situations, where a judge finds that the alienating behaviour has caused emotional harm and that the primary carer does not understand the damage created by their actions, the judge can make an order to change the primary carer of the child. How can Evolve Family Law help you? Evolve Family Law is a specialist family law firm with offices in Cheshire and Whitefield, Manchester. Whatever your children or family law concern, Louise Halford and the children law team at Evolve Family Law solicitors will work with you to help you reach a solution. For expert family law advice call our team or complete our online enquiry form.
Louise Halford
  ·   5 minute read
Home for sale. Sign in front of new home

Divorce and Selling the Family Home

As Manchester divorce and family finance solicitors advising separated couples we get a lot of calls from husbands or wives concerned about divorce and selling the family home. In this blog, our family law solicitors look at the issues and your best options when it comes to divorce and selling the family home. For expert family law advice call our team or complete our online enquiry form. Should I sell the family home? Sadly, some divorcing couples don’t have a choice: the family home has to be sold. For others, you can make the financial or personal choice to either sell up, transfer the property to your husband or wife or keep the property yourself. Often people have a strong knee-jerk reaction that they must keep the family home at all costs whilst others are equally adamant that they don’t want to stay in the family home because of the memories associated with it. Undoubtedly selling a family home involves hassle so it is best to consider all your options and the practicalities of a move, such as: How much is the family home worth and how much will I need to spend to buy a new property? If I stay at the family home would the mortgage company agree to transfer the mortgage into my name? If I sell and buy another property what is the maximum mortgage that I could get? Can I afford the monthly mortgage payments and the upkeep on the family home if I get spousal maintenance or child support or if I have to make those payments out of my salary? Is it better to make a fresh start or to downsize so I can have some cash to spend on holidays or little luxuries? Will my husband or wife agree to the sale of the family home? The effect of market conditions on your decision to sell the family home. Experienced family law solicitors encourage separating couples to look at whether they should sell the family home or not from a short and long-term perspective so you make the right decision for you and your family. However, the current housing market conditions may inevitably have some influence on your decision-making process because: You are worried about the time to achieve a sale and getting your sale price You are concerned about getting the mortgage on the family home transferred to you or taking out a mortgage on a new property and mortgage rates You don’t feel that your job is secure or you are worried that your husband or wife could be at risk of being made redundant and redundancy will affect their ability to pay you child support and spousal maintenance With or without the pressures of a cost-of-living crisis the decision to sell the family home, or resolving which one of you should stay at the family home, is always stressful. That is why it is best to take time over your decision and not be too influenced by the views of teenage children who may be leaving home to go to university soon leaving you with a house that is too large for you and without sufficient money to pay for life’s little luxuries or to pay for car repairs. If you end up with the family home the trade-off may be that you don’t get a share of your husband or wife’s pension. That may mean you eventually have to sell the family home to fund your retirement. However, the released equity on the sale of the family home won’t necessarily give you the same income return that a pension sharing order would have done. That’s why it is best to carefully consider if the short-term hassle of selling the family home and moving is in your long-term best interests if it means you get a pension sharing order. [related_posts] The best way to divorce and sell the family home. If you are getting divorced and thinking about selling the family home here are our tips on selling the family home whilst separating from a partner or getting divorced: Is it realistic for you both to live at the family home until it is sold bearing in mind that once the property is sold it will take time for the conveyancing process to reach completion? It is advisable to always take legal advice before leaving the family home as doing so may make your husband or wife less keen to achieve a sale. However, if the atmosphere at home is affecting you, then one option would be for one of you to rent a property or stay with family until the family home is sold Consult with your husband or wife about the sale price and choice of estate agent and make sure that the estate agent keeps you both informed about viewings and feedback from prospective buyers. That way if the estate agent recommends a reduction in the sale price your spouse is more likely to be willing to consider this Get your paperwork in order as requests for documents from your buyer’s solicitor can delay the sale of the family home. If you have had work carried out at the property you need to locate your planning and building regulation documents, electrical, gas and FENSA certificates or organise duplicate paperwork Agree on how you will divide the household contents as the last thing that you are likely to want to do is try and sort out household contents at the date of the sale. It is best to list the household contents and both sign the agreed schedule and the division of contents between the two of you and highlight what items, if any, will be sold with the house Think about whether you want to sell the family home if you haven’t reached a financial settlement with your husband or wife. It is common for a sale of the family home to be achieved before you reach a full financial settlement including how pensions, business assets and investments are split as well as whether spousal maintenance should be paid and for how long. If you are happy with the sale price of the family home and fear that you will risk losing your buyer if you delay you could agree with your husband or wife that the net proceeds of the sale (after discharging the mortgage, conveyancing solicitor and estate agent fees) are kept in a joint account or by a solicitor until an agreement is reached or a financial court order is made. In some situations, you can agree to the release of some extra money to allow you to buy your planned new property or to discharge family debts If your spouse won’t agree to a sale of the family home get a court order. If you are certain that the family home has to be sold as it isn’t financially possible for either of you to take it on because the mortgage company won’t transfer the existing mortgage into one of your names or you won’t be able to afford the mortgage on one salary then speak to Evolve Family Law about starting financial proceedings for an order for sale of the family home. If your husband or wife won’t cooperate with the sale of the property then a family judge has the power to make orders about the sale price, and the choice of estate agent. The judge can even sign the paperwork to sell the property if your ex-partner refuses to sign the contract to sell the house or the deed of transfer How can Evolve Family Law solicitors help? At Evolve Family Law we recognise that deciding to separate and sell the family home is hard. Often, the decision is finely balanced so you need specialist help to look at all your financial settlement options and work out whether the option of selling the family home is the best one for you. We will support you in negotiating a financial settlement with your ex-partner so you can move on with your life. For expert family law advice call our team or complete our online enquiry form.  
Robin Charrot
  ·   7 minute read
Planning Together for Children

Planning Together for Children

Planning Together for Children is the name of a course run by the organisation CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support) for separated or divorced parents.    In this blog, our children law solicitors look at the Planning Together for Children course and explain your options if you are a separated parent struggling to reach an agreement with your ex-partner on post-separation parenting arrangements for your children.  For expert family law advice call our team or complete our online enquiry form.   Planning Together for Children has replaced the Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP) If your friends have told you that after they separated from their spouse, they went on a SPIP (or Separated Parents Information Programme) then you need to be aware that the Planning Together for Children has replaced the SPIP.  Can you use the Planning Together for Children resource? Access to the Planning Together for Children resource is limited to those parents and carers who are ordered by a family court judge to attend the course or who are referred to the course by a Family Court Advisor in children law court proceedings.  You therefore cannot access the online E-learning resources or attend the Parenting Together for Children workshop if you are a separated parent who is looking for information to help you reach an agreement about the parenting arrangements for your children. Nor can you use the resource if you are struggling with sharing parenting responsibilities with your ex-partner but neither of you has applied to the court for a child arrangement order, prohibited steps order, specific issue order or relocation order.  Options if you cannot use the Planning Together for Children resource If you want help in parenting together after separation there are a lot of useful books and online resources. If you need help with family dynamics speaking to a family therapist or counsellor may help as they may be able to assist you both in understanding the priorities of the other parent and help you focus on the best interests of your child when reaching a compromise about shared care, contact arrangements or parenting styles.  If you are struggling to reach an agreement about parenting after a separation or divorce you may not need to apply to court for a child arrangement order as you may be able to reach an agreement through:  Solicitor round table meeting  Solicitor negotiations  Family mediation   Once you have reached an agreement it is a good idea to record what you have agreed in a parenting plan. These types of plans need to be reviewed as your child grows up or circumstances change. For example, if your child wants to go to football sessions on a Saturday or ballet on a Wednesday after school or if one parent has to move house out of the area because of a job move.  You might also be interested in:   [related_posts] A Planning Together for Children referral If you are ordered by a judge to attend the Planning Together for Children course or a Family Court Advisor makes a request to the court for a referral there is no charge for accessing the online resources or going to the workshop.  Whilst you may not be a fan of e-learning or workshops it is important to try and get as much as possible from the course to give you the best shot possible of reaching an agreement with your ex-partner or being able to tell the family judge that you did so.  If you do not go to a Planning Together for Children course when ordered to do so by a judge the court may reorder your attendance on the course. This may delay your court application. Any delay or refusal to attend may make it less likely that the court will make the type of child arrangement order you are seeking.  What does the Planning Together for Children course cover? The e-learning section of the course will look at matters such as:   What happens if you go ahead with the child arrangement order or specific issue order court application?   How a separation and how you handle the separation can affect your child   Conflict and its impact on your child     Looking at the family situation from your child’s perspective   Supportive co-parenting – what it is and how it works   Communication skills to help you listen to your child and co-parent    Once the e-learning section is completed you move on to a workshop. This will normally take place online. Although the workshop is normally held online there are never more than 6 parents in a workshop group. Your ex-partner will not be in the same workshop as you.  The workshop focuses on the negative impact of parental conflict on children, how best to manage conflict and how to improve communication with your child and ex-partner so you can effectively co-parent.  The course will encourage you to discuss and agree on a parenting plan for your child to set out the residence, contact and other important care details for your child to avoid the need for you or your ex-partner to go ahead with your child arrangement order application.  How can Evolve Family Law help you? At Evolve Family Law all our family law solicitors are committed to resolving parenting disputes outside of court wherever possible. For example, through providing legal support during family mediation or helping you negotiate a parenting plan. Reaching an agreement is not always possible. For example, if you fear child abduction as your ex-partner has threatened to take your child overseas or if your ex-spouse is displaying alienating behaviour and refusing to let you see your child, or if you are concerned about contact arrangement because of a history of domestic violence.  Our family law solicitors will listen carefully to your needs and priorities and help you secure the agreement or court order you need for your children.   For expert family law advice call our team or complete our online enquiry form.    
Louise Halford
Jan 29, 2024   ·   5 minute read
Divorce Agreement Decree Document Break up

Can I Get a Divorce Online?

Evolve divorce solicitors can confirm that you can get divorced online with us. However, many of our North West family law clients like to pop into one of our offices in Holmes Chapel, Cheshire or North Manchester to meet their divorce solicitor face-to-face.  The decision is yours to make – whether you are divorcing online or meeting with us at our offices you get a named divorce solicitor to handle your no-fault divorce and to answer any queries. Of course, you get the same level of excellent client service whether you decide to meet with us or not.  If you need help with applying for a no-fault divorce call our team or complete our online enquiry form.   The no-fault divorce   With the introduction of no-fault divorce proceedings, the divorce process in England became a bit more streamlined. Sadly, the divorce timescales have not speeded up as you are still looking at around 7 months from the start of your divorce application until you get your final order of divorce.  The process and timeframe are the same whether you are applying purely online or after meeting with your divorce solicitor. It takes around 7 months to get divorced because the law imposes time delays on how quickly you can finalise your divorce. Our divorce solicitors understand that these delays are frustrating when you know your own mind and you do not want to back track on your decision to divorce your husband or wife.  The good thing about the no-fault divorce process is that you can choose to apply jointly for a divorce with your husband or wife. There is no requirement to do so. Whether you apply as a sole divorce applicant or jointly with your husband or wife the divorce process is very similar. In addition, even if your spouse does not agree to the divorce there are very limited ways to oppose the divorce.  [related_posts] Why see a divorce solicitor if you can divorce online?   ‘Why see a divorce solicitor if you can divorce online?’ is a good question. There are many different reasons why you may want to meet us in person. For example, your divorce is an immensely distressing personal experience for you and you do not want to feel like a ‘number’. Alternatively, you may feel confident about Evolve Family Law handling your no-fault divorce online but you want to meet with a specialist family law solicitor to discuss the parenting, custody and contact arrangements for your children or the potential financial settlement.  Sometimes nothing beats sitting down with your family law solicitor to understand your legal options and to work out the solution that works best for you and your family. It may be that you are comfortable having discussions online after a first meeting or that you need the reassurance of a face-to-face meeting to help you make some of the most important decisions that will affect your life and that of your children. For example, will the care of the children be shared by co-parenting or will the children reside with you? Will you keep the family home or should you agree to the sale of the property and to the making of a pension sharing order? Should you agree to a clean break financial court order and what would that type of court order mean for your family if you lost your job and could not return to work?    A personal online divorce   Whether you instruct us online or in person we provide a personal and professional divorce service.  At Evolve Family Law we recognise that every client and family is different. That is why we discuss with you how you want us to work for you. It could be online, email, phone, in person or even using old-fashioned post. We aim to find the divorce process that is the least stressful for you.   How much does a divorce cost?  If you apply for a no-fault divorce as a sole applicant or jointly with your spouse, we can provide a fixed-fee divorce service.  We offer a range of other fixed-fee services. For more information on our fees Download Our Price Guide.  If you need help with applying for a no-fault divorce call our team or complete our online enquiry form. 
Robin Charrot
Jan 23, 2024   ·   4 minute read
A Family Lawyers Guide on How to Get The Most Out of Family Mediation

A Family Lawyers Guide on How to Get The Most Out of Family Mediation

In this blog, our family law solicitors offer tips on how to get the best out of family mediation to help you resolve your family law issue.  For expert family law advice call our team or complete our online enquiry form.   Here are some tips on getting the best out of family mediation:            1.Do you know where you are going?  That may sound like a stupid question but often mediation sessions take place at a mediator’s office and the location may be unfamiliar to you. Your mediation session will not get off to a good start if you arrive late or flustered.           2. Do you have time?  Most mediation sessions last for about an hour to an hour and a half. Sometimes they can run over a bit. It is best to avoid booking the mediation meeting on a day or at a time when you need to rush off to an important business meeting or to do the school run.           3. Is it the right time to mediate?  If a couple has been separated for a while, then it may be the right time to go to mediation. For others, the timing can be more complicated as one of you may feel too raw about the relationship breakdown to be able to engage in mediation.  It is always a balancing exercise because you do not want to leave starting mediation for too long but starting it before one of you is ready can be counterproductive. A spouse who is finding it hard to come to terms with the marriage breakdown might find it helpful to have a period of counselling before or during the mediation sessions.           4. The choice of mediator  Make sure that the mediator is right for you and your spouse or ex-partner.  Your solicitors should ideally agree on the choice of mediator.  It can be hard to choose a mediator but do not be swayed by their location and convenience or your friend’s views. These can be important considerations but other factors may influence your decision. It may be the case that you know your spouse would feel more comfortable with a male or female mediator. You may be keen to accommodate their wishes to give mediation the best chance of working.  Your family finances may also be a consideration when looking at the choice of mediator.  If you own a family business or have complex finances a mediator with a legal or financial background might best meet your needs.            5. The mediation agenda  At the outset of the mediation sessions, the mediator will normally discuss and agree on an agenda.  You may only have one item on your agenda, for example, to keep the family home or your pension. Although it is important that your spouse, your solicitor and the mediator know what your priority is, it is also important that other things and options are put on the agenda for discussion.            6. Listen  Mediation is a two-way process. That is why it is hard, as you need to listen to your ex-partner’s views to try to reach a compromise. Listening to them should ensure that they treat you with the same courtesy and listen to what you have to say. Mediation sessions can be emotionally hard and can sometimes bring up painful topics or memories. If it is too much for you ask for a break. It is better to have a break rather than continue when you are very emotional or upset.            7. Ask for explanations  Solicitors, mediators and spouses can all assume that you know what they are talking about when they use legal terminology or talk about financial matters, such as pension-sharing options or mortgage finance.  If you are uncertain, about what has been said or what is proposed then ask for clarification. A mediator cannot give legal advice but they can explain legal or financial terminology. You should also ask for a detailed explanation from your family law solicitor and not make any decisions about your options and any proposed agreement until you have done so.            8. The past is in the past  When you are in mediation, it can be tempting to go back over old history. Sometimes it can be relevant. For example, if one of you paid the deposit on the family home or received an inheritance. Sometimes going over old history just makes it harder to reach a compromise. For example, if you want to look at the reasons for the marriage breakdown.  Mediation is normally about looking at the future and helping you reach an agreement that will work for the family. If too much time is spent on reviewing what went wrong it can be hard to focus on reaching an agreement.           9. There is more than one option  It is very rare for there to be only one solution in mediation. There are normally many options and it is best to go to mediation without having a fixed view that your preferred resolution is the only acceptable option.         10. Do your homework  A mediator will often ask you to bring some paperwork or carry out some investigations before the next mediation session. For example, you may be asked to get an estate agent’s appraisal of your family home or to speak to a mortgage advisor to look at your mortgage options.  Even if you do not want to sell the family home or get a new mortgage, it is important that you do the homework. If you do not your ex-partner may get frustrated by the mediation process and start court proceedings. You will then lose the chance to try to reach a mediation agreement.  [related_posts] Talk to your family law solicitor  Mediation should not be carried out in isolation from legal advice. It is a common misconception that the mediator will give legal advice. They cannot do that. Their job is to act as an impartial mediator to facilitate an agreement. They therefore will not take sides or advise you.  Mediation works best if you have mediation support. That involves:  Talking about what mediation entails, looking at the alternatives and deciding if mediation is right for you. If there has been domestic violence or a power imbalance then an alternative to mediation may be better for you. If you have reached a broad agreement a one-lawyer amicable divorce service may meet your needs  Getting legal information and advice about your separation and divorce and the timing of the no-fault divorce   Getting advice about your financial claims, for example, you need to know if you have a pension claim and the legal answer will depend on whether you are or were married to your ex-partner or not   Explain why you need financial paperwork to help you reach decisions in mediation and, if necessary, review your spouse’s paperwork with you  Getting advice on the types of orders that a court might make if you or your ex-partner were to start court proceedings so you can make an informed decision about any financial or parenting agreement discussed in mediation  If an agreement is reached, prepare a draft financial court order or child arrangement order for a judge to then approve  All our family lawyers can support you on your mediation journey to help you reach an agreement on childcare arrangements or a financial settlement after a separation or divorce.  For expert family law advice call our team or complete our online enquiry form.
Robin Charrot
Jan 18, 2024   ·   7 minute read
Do You Need a Will if You Are Married?

Do You Need a Will if You Are Married?

Will solicitor, Chris Strogen, is emphatic that you do need a Will if you are married.  In this blog, we explain why you need a Will if you are married and how our Will solicitors at Evolve Family Law can write your Will or advice on whether an existing Will needs changing.  For expert Will and estate planning advice call our team or complete our online enquiry form.   Why do you need a Will if you are married?  Whether you are married or not, if you die without a Will then your assets (called your estate) pass under statutory intestacy rules. Who gets your money and estate depends on whether you are married or in a civil partnership and whether you have children or other extended family.  The intestacy rules are inflexible and they may not reflect your wishes or be tax-efficient. Without a Will, it can be more difficult to administer your estate, especially if you own complicated assets. For example, you are a shareholder in a family business or you are self-employed as a sole trader or own a buy to let property portfolio.  In addition, if the intestacy rules do not meet your family circumstances a qualifying relative may want to challenge the estate distribution and make a claim against the estate. They can do this by alleging that the intestacy rules do not make reasonable financial provision for them.  The intestacy rules if you die without a Will and you are married  The intestacy rules if you die without a Will and you are married depend on whether you have children.   Step-children do not count as your children for this purpose as they are not biologically related to you. That’s the case even if you have always been very close to your step children. Your children from any previous relationships do count even if they are estranged from you or if at the date you pass away, they are financially independent with their own homes and families. Children includes adopted children and the descendants of your biological or adopted children.  If you do not have children your husband, wife or civil partner will inherit your entire estate.   If you do have children your husband, wife or civil partner will inherit:  The first £322,000 of your estate  All your personal possessions  Half the rest of the estate. The remaining half is divided equally between your children   The intestacy rules say that if a child has died before their parent, then the grandchild or the great grandchild of the deceased inherits in their parent’s place.  As the intestacy rules are inflexible an estate claim could be brought. For example, your husband or wife may say that they need more than £322,000 and half the rest of the estate to meet their needs. Alternatively, if you jointly own a family home with your spouse as joint tenants, your surviving husband or wife will end up owning the family home as well as getting the first £322,000 of your estate and half the remainder of the estate. Depending on the size of your estate, that may not leave much for your children to inherit.  [related_posts] Why writing a Will is a good idea whether you are married or not  Having a Will in place is always a good idea, whatever your personal circumstances.  With a Will you can:  Decide who should administer your estate and distribute the monies. The named people are called your executors. They can be family members, friends, a Will solicitor or a combination. You need at least 2 people to act as your executors  Appoint a testamentary guardian for your children. This is important if you have children under the age of 18  Make gifts of specific assets to people, such as items of jewellery or sentimental family heirlooms  Ensure that your estate is distributed tax efficiently so the estate pays less in inheritance tax. This should mean there is more money left for your beneficiaries  Leave money to a charity of your choice  Say what your preferences are about funeral arrangements  Place money in a trust. This can be helpful where, for example, you have been married previously and have children from different relationships. You may want your current spouse to be able to stay at the family home and have enough to live very comfortably but you may want your estate left in trust so that on your spouse’s death your remaining estate passes to your other trust beneficiaries, such as your children. If money is left outright to your spouse in your Will or under intestacy rules, then on the death of your spouse your monies will form part of their estate and be distributed in accordance with their Will or under intestacy rules. If your spouse remarries then the monies inherited from you may pass to their new husband or wife rather than to your children or grandchildren or to your preferred charity  There are many other reasons why talking to a Will solicitor is a good idea. For example:  To understand what assets form part of your estate. If the family home is owned as joint tenants, it passes straight to the surviving owner and not by your Will. If the house is owned as tenants in common your share of the property passes by your Will or under the intestacy rules. Other assets, such as a pension or life insurance, may not pass by your Will but by nominations. It all depends on how the policy is written  It may be tax efficient to make lifetime gifts as part of your estate planning and IHT strategy  You may want to put in place a Lasting Power of Attorney for yourself and your spouse  You may want to check if your former spouse has a potential claim against your estate and discuss what you can do to protect your current husband or wife or your children from such an estate claim   For expert Will and estate planning advice call our team or complete our online enquiry form.
Chris Strogen
Jan 10, 2024   ·   6 minute read
What Does Intestacy Mean

What Does Intestacy Mean

Intestacy or dying intestate means a person has passed away without a valid Will. The person’s estate is therefore distributed under the intestacy rules.  In this article, Will and probate solicitor, Chris Strogen, looks at what intestacy might mean for you or your family.  If you need help with making a Will or with probate and estate administration call our team or complete our online enquiry form.   Passing away without a Will   If you die without a Will your family will not have the guidance you could have given in a Will. A Will does not just say who should inherit your estate. A Will can also:  1. Appoint executors to administer your estate In a Will, you can choose the best person for the job of executor. That might be your husband or wife, a friend, an adult child, your Will solicitor or a combination of these people. You may know that asking your spouse and your children to work together as executors will not work in your family circumstances and in your Will you can appoint your executors with care  2.Set out when your chosen beneficiaries will inherit You may not want your children to come into their inheritance until they are 21, 25 or 30 so they are a bit more mature when they receive a life changing amount of money  3.Protect your minor children by appointing a testamentary guardian in your Will   4.Ringfence assets in a trust so your trustees can distribute the income or capital in your estate to the discretionary trust beneficiaries after considering their circumstances and making distributions in a tax-efficient manner. A trust can be very helpful in a blended family or where there are concerns that if a gift is left outright to a family member it will be wasted or end up being used to fund the beneficiary’s divorce settlement   5.Make small bequests so friends or grandchildren are not forgotten as they are left an item of sentimental value or a gift of money  A Will is a very powerful document as it sets out the testator’s wishes. All of us should have a Will to protect our loved ones. That is particularly important if your estate would not pass following your preferences under the intestacy rules. For example, a much-loved unmarried partner of 20 years inherits nothing under the intestacy rules. For example, depending on the size of your estate, a spouse you married 6 months before your death may inherit everything leaving nothing to your 4 children from your first marriage.  The rules of intestacy explained  If there is no Will your estate passes under the rules of intestacy. There is no discretion – the rules apply whether or not they are what you would have wanted to happen to your estate.  As the intestacy rules are rigid, they can create family upset. For example, if your cohabitee will not receive anything or if the family heirloom you verbally promised to your grandson is inherited by your new spouse.  The intestacy rules say:   If the person who died was married or in a civil partnership and had no children, all their estate goes to their husband, wife or civil partner  If the person who died was married or in a civil relationship and has children, the first £322,000 of their estate goes to their spouse or civil partner, together with all the deceased’s personal possessions. If the estate is worth more than  £322,000 then the spouse or civil partner gets half the balance and the deceased’s children split the remaining half between them  If the person who died was not married or in a civil partnership, but has children, the estate goes to the children. If there are no biological or adopted children, the estate goes to the parents and the intestacy rules continue with a list of more distant relatives in order of preference. [related_posts] If the intestacy rules create unfairness  If the intestacy rules create unfairness, then there is the potential to sort things out by the beneficiaries under the intestacy rules agreeing to forgo their inheritance or share their inheritance. That does not always happen as an unmarried partner of 20 years may not get on with the deceased’s adult child from a previous relationship or with the deceased’s parents so the family is unable to negotiate a compromise on how to share the estate.    If the family cannot sort out the difficulties created by the lack of Will and the intestacy rules then a disappointed unmarried partner or other relative could make a court application to claim a share of the estate because the intestacy rules did not make reasonable financial provision for them. The court must look at each case on its facts. For example, if the unmarried partner is a successful business owner with a good income and a property owner, the court may decide that they do not need a share of the estate. The ruling might be different if the unmarried partner was living on a state pension and the deceased’s adult children were all homeowners and doing well for themselves.  The problem with challenging the intestacy rules is that it can create ill will within a family and it costs both time and money. It is a lot simpler and cheaper to make a Will.    Avoiding intestacy  Avoiding intestacy is easy. All you must do is make sure that you and your loved ones have a Will. It is also important to review your Will and make sure it is up to date. If your Will is not up to date you may end up with a partial intestacy. For example, if you leave half your estate to your brother but your brother passes away before you do so. A partial intestacy can be avoided by updating your Will to name a new beneficiary. In any new Will, it is a good idea to include a ‘what if’ clause. For example, you leave half your estate to your nephew but if he passes away before you then the legacy is shared between his children.  Our solicitors can help you with all your Will and estate administration needs, including if you are unsure about what to do if a relative has passed away without leaving a Will.    If you need help with making a Will or with probate and estate administration call our team or complete our online enquiry form.  
Chris Strogen
Jan 03, 2024   ·   6 minute read