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.
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.
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
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:
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.
At Evolve Family Law our family law specialists are members of Resolution, an organization of family justice professionals in the UK.
This week is Resolution’s Awareness Week.
For expert advice on family law call our team of specialist lawyers or complete our online enquiry form.
Resolution Awareness Week
In recent years, the Resolution dialogue surrounding divorce has shifted from a conventional narrative of separation to a more nuanced exploration of relationships and their legal underpinnings.
Once known as Good Divorce Week, an initiative spearheaded by Resolution, the annual event traditionally aimed to promote amicable separations. However, this year the Resolution Awareness Week marks a significant pivot, redirecting attention toward cohabitation and its intersection with UK family law.
A focus on all relationships
Resolution has long been at the forefront of advocating for constructive approaches to divorce. However, recognizing the evolving landscape of relationships in the UK, the focus has expanded beyond divorce to encompass the dynamics of cohabitation.
The renaming of the awareness raising event from Good Divorce Week to a more encompassing theme signifies a broader perspective that goes beyond divorce itself. This shift acknowledges that relationships come in various forms and that understanding the legal implications of cohabitation or the nuances of LGBTQI+ relationships is just as crucial as navigating the complexities of divorce.
Cohabitation, while increasingly prevalent, lacks the legal structure and statutory protections that marriage or civil partnership offers. This change in focus by Resolution during what was once Good Divorce Week represents a pivotal moment in acknowledging the need for clarity and legal recognition for individuals in cohabiting and non-traditional relationships.
The Resolution awareness campaign aims to dispel misconceptions surrounding cohabitation and educate individuals about their legal rights and responsibilities.
Central to this initiative is the spotlight on the absence of automatic legal protection for cohabiting couples in the event of separation. Resolution wants to highlight the importance of seeking legal advice and making sure cohabiting couples enter into cohabitation agreements.
The call for cohabitation reform
Resolution's initiative aligns with ongoing discussions within legal circles advocating for reforms that bridge the gap between marriage and cohabitation in terms of legal rights. The goal is to ensure that individuals in cohabiting relationships have access to legal protections and equitable resolutions, akin to those in marital unions. That is becoming increasingly important with the rise in cohabitation. In 2021 there were reportedly 3.6 million cohabiting couples.
By extending its focus beyond divorce, Resolution's initiative reflects a holistic approach to relationships and family law. It serves as a platform to address the evolving nature of partnerships and strives to create a more informed, fair, and supportive legal landscape for all individuals, irrespective of their relationship status.
Evolving family law
In essence, the evolution of Good Divorce Week into a broader exploration of cohabitation within UK family law signifies a progressive step toward acknowledging the diverse forms of relationships. Through education, advocacy, and potential legal reforms, this initiative aims to ensure that individuals in cohabiting relationships are empowered and protected within the legal framework, fostering a culture of understanding and fairness in modern relationships.
How Evolve Family Law can help you
At Evolve Family Law our specialist family lawyers can assist you with all your family law needs if you are in a cohabiting relationship, including:
Declarations of trust
Children law and parental responsibility advice
Cohabiting relationships and claims on separation
Financial and property claims
Children financial claims for child support, school fees or assistance with housing dependent children
Wills for cohabiting couples
Lasting Powers of Attorney
Estate claims and inheritance disputes advice if you are a cohabitee who was not included in your partner’s Will or need to make a claim because you are not classed as a relative of your loved one under intestacy rules
It is best to talk to one of our solicitors about your cohabitation rights before you find yourself really needing an expert lawyer. For example, understanding property ownership and your rights under a cohabitation agreement could avoid expensive court proceedings if you split up from your cohabitee. For example, understanding that if your partner does not make a Will, you will not inherit anything under intestacy rules may encourage both you and your cohabitee to sign Wills and do some estate planning to protect your family.
We can help you resolve property-related or children focussed cohabitation disputes through:
The Evolve Family Law One Lawyer service
For expert advice on family law complete our online enquiry form.
As family law solicitors we are often asked whether it is OK to change the locks to the family home. Sometimes we are asked this question before a husband, wife, civil partner or unmarried partner has decided to separate. On other occasions, the locks have already been changed and an ex-partner has already been excluded from what was their family home.
For expert advice on family law call our team of specialist divorce lawyers or complete our online enquiry form.
Separation and changing the locks
Locks are a hot topic as emotions, trust, and control issues can all be engaged when the subject of locks and access to the family home is mentioned.
A lot of people assume that if the locks to the family home are changed that means the excluded spouse, civil partner, or cohabitee loses their legal rights or financial claims over the property. That assumption isn’t correct.
A change of locks does not confer ownership of a property on the spouse or partner who now controls access to the property. Your property rights will depend on your legal status – whether you are a spouse or civil partner or whether you were in an unmarried relationship. For spouses and civil partners, property rights stem from family law. For unmarried couples, their family home rights stem from an interpretation of property and trust law.
If you cannot agree with your partner on whether a house should be sold, or transferred to you or your ex-partner, then the court can decide on the appropriate order. In urgent cases involving domestic violence or abuse, the court can make a temporary injunction order to exclude a partner from the property. The court can then decide on long-term property ownership at a later date.
Changing the locks if you own the property
Some people assume that if they own the family home in their sole name, they can change the locks and exclude a spouse. That is not right. A spouse has a right of occupation in a family home, whether the property is owned in joint names or not. Whether or not the locks have been changed any financial claims to the house continue until there is an agreement or a family court order.
Another common assumption is that it is OK to change locks once a spouse has left the family home as once the decision to leave has been made by them then they cannot change their mind and come back. That is not correct either.
In some situations, a homeowner may ask their family law solicitor about changing locks as they want to feel in control of a property. In other cases, there are genuine worries either over privacy or personal security. If it is accepted that one spouse should leave the property then it is usual to agree that, whether they retain the key or not, they will only return at an agreed time and for a reason. For example, to collect remaining items.
If there are concerns about personal safety and domestic violence the court can make an injunction order setting out who can occupy a family home until a long-term decision is made on whether or not the house should be sold or transferred to one spouse or partner.
Changing the locks when you have children
Where there are children there is often an argument that a spouse or partner should retain a key so that they can come and go to see the children. Whether that works all depends on how a couple has managed their separation. In some scenarios, both adults and children are comfortable with mum or dad returning to put children to bed with a book or to babysit but, in other families, continued key access can give very mixed messages to both adults and children and cause anxiety.
It is important to talk to a family law solicitor about property ownership and locks and to reach an agreement on whether locks are changed or not. You may need to discuss whether you or your ex-partner can get access to the property until the financial settlement is reached.
Locks and reaching an agreement over the family home
The hot topic of locks should not distract from what is often the equally emotional but trickier issue of sorting out what will happen long-term with the family home.
The obtaining of estate agent appraisals and exploration of mortgage options enables a separated couple to make well-informed decisions about what they want to happen to the family home on a long-term basis. Those decisions can be made by the couple with the help of their family law solicitor or during family mediation.
If an agreement cannot be reached then whether you are a spouse, civil partner, or former cohabitee, the family court can be asked to sort out who is entitled to enter the property and live in it on a short and long-term basis. What is important to realise is that changing the locks to a family home does not confer property ownership as that is all down to agreement or the court order.
For expert advice on family law call our team of specialist divorce lawyers or complete our online enquiry form.
Tax is not normally something that is on your mind when you are thinking about a separation or divorce but divorce solicitors say that capital gains tax has to be considered when negotiating a divorce financial settlement.
The government has announced changes to the way capital gains tax is calculated on separation or divorce. In this article, divorce financial settlement solicitor, Robin Charrot, looks at the planned changes and explains the importance of checking out tax on divorce before you agree to your divorce financial settlement.
For expert Divorce and Financial Settlement advice call our team of specialist divorce lawyers or complete our online enquiry form.
Tax on divorce
Many people who decide to separate do not realise that the timing of their separation, or their decision to transfer assets to the other spouse or to sell assets, can create tax implications. That is why it is important that a divorce financial settlement solicitor checks any proposed financial agreement to both reality test the financial settlement and to check the net effect of the financial deal. Without legal input, what you think is an equal split may not be a 50:50 division of assets if one spouse is going to end up paying a large tax bill in the future, whilst the other spouse escapes from tax liability. The financial agreement may still be a fair financial settlement but both husband and wife must understand the net effect so they are both comfortable with the deal or can negotiate a financial settlement that does achieve equality if that is their objective.
The current tax rules on separation and divorce
Under the current tax rules, a husband and wife can transfer assets between one another without the transfer is taxable. That’s because the transfer of an asset takes place on a no gain and a no loss basis so the spouse acquiring the asset gets the item at the base cost of the spouse who is transferring the asset to them. In other words, a spouse transfer does not crystalise a gain or loss. The issue with the current tax rules for separating couples is that these capital gains tax rules only give these concessions in the tax year of separation.
That may not sound like a big problem but it is. Take the example of a couple with an investment portfolio or a buy-to-rent property. They may conclude that if the wife is to stay in the family home, then the fair financial settlement is for the wife to transfer her share of the investments or buy to let property to the husband. If the couple decides to split in late March they only have until the end of the tax year in early April to sort out the transfers. If they don’t then one of them could face an unexpected and large capital gains tax bill that they would be solely responsible for.
Even if a couple decides to separate in May (so they have almost a full tax year) they can get caught out if they do not take early legal or accountancy advice. For example, the couple could start no-fault divorce proceedings in June but not start thinking about their divorce financial settlement until many months later giving them insufficient time to give notice to transfer investments or to sort out a new mortgage on the buy-to-rent property before the end of the tax year of separation.
The government has acknowledged that tight timeframes on various tax aspects arising from separation or divorce can create difficulties and complexities so the proposed new tax regime is more generous and less restrictive.
The changes to tax on divorce or separation
With effect from the 6 April 2023, there will be a new tax regime for separating or divorcing couples. If you transfer assets between spouses on or after the 6 April 2023 the no loss and no gain principle will apply to transfers that take place up to 3 years after the end of the tax year of separation. Furthermore, if the transfer takes place as part of a financial court order there is no time limit for the no loss and no gain principle.
The changes to tax on divorce or separation and the family home
If you sell or transfer a family home as a married couple there is no capital gains tax payable because of principal private residence relief. However, principal private residence can be lost resulting in unexpected tax bills.
The complexities of capital gains tax mean you both need to think carefully through the ramifications of agreeing to a mesher order on the family home. For example, a husband and wife may agree that the family home should stay in joint names until their youngest child is 18 as the spouse staying in the family home can't afford to take out a mortgage in their sole name so cannot get the house transferred to them. In reaching this type of mesher agreement the spouse who leaves the family home can, in some circumstances, lose their principal private residence relief.
The government is planning to make it simpler for couples to agree to mesher orders because the non-occupying husband or wife's share of the property will not be subject to CGT when the family home is eventually sold under the terms of the mesher order. The proposed changes may make mesher-type orders more attractive to some families, especially where there isn’t enough equity to rehouse two families or there is a particular need to delay selling the family home until the children have completed their exams.
Capital gains tax and divorce in the future
Even after the new rules come into force capital gains tax will still be payable in some scenarios when a couple separates or divorces. If you are concerned about reaching a divorce financial settlement and the tax implications it is best to get early specialist advice on your family law options.
For expert Divorce and Financial Settlement advice call our team of specialist divorce lawyers or complete our online enquiry form
You may have read in the news that if you are getting divorced you may be eligible to receive a £500 mediation voucher to help pay for family mediation. In this article, our divorce expert, Robin Charrot, answers your questions on the new mediation voucher scheme and looks at the importance of legal mediation support.
The family mediation voucher scheme
The Ministry of Justice has announced that it has allocated one million pounds to enable up to 2,000 separating or divorcing couples to receive a £500 mediation voucher to help towards the costs of family mediation.
Divorce solicitors say that competition for the £500 vouchers may be fierce as the Ministry of Justice says that the vouchers will be allocated on a ‘ first-come first-serve’ basis, rather than on a points or any other type of allocation system.
What does the family mediation voucher scheme cover?
The mediation voucher scheme covers family mediation on a range of family law issues, such as:
Financial settlement after a separation or divorce where there is also a dispute over children and either ongoing or potential children law proceedings.
Why has the family mediation scheme been introduced?
The family mediation voucher scheme has been introduced at this stage to help reduce court applications and to encourage the use of family mediation. That’s because the government believes that family mediation is a better, quicker and cheaper option than separating and divorcing couples starting family court proceedings to resolve child custody and contact issues or to secure a financial settlement.
When will the family mediation voucher scheme operate from?
The scheme was introduced on the 26 March 2021 under Practice Direction 36V (Family Mediation Voucher Scheme). The practice direction will expire after a year and the mediation vouchers will only be available whilst funding lasts.
Does the voucher scheme cover the cost of attending a MIAM?
The family mediation voucher scheme doesn’t cover the cost of attending the mediation information and assessment meeting (referred to as a MIAM). This initial meeting with a mediator is designed to check that mediation is suitable before family mediation is commenced. To be eligible for the voucher, both parties to the family mediation must have attended a MIAM on or after the 26 March 2021. One can't have attended the MIAM before the 26 March 2021 and the other after the 26th.
Can both parties to the family mediation receive a voucher?
The £500 mediation voucher is per family and may not cover the total cost of the mediation sessions as your mediation costs will depend on your choice of family mediator and the number of mediation sessions that you require. The voucher is paid direct to the mediator, rather than given to either party to the mediation to use to pay the mediator’s bill. The £500 mediation voucher is inclusive of vat.
Is there a financial eligibility cap for the mediation voucher?
There are no financial eligibility criteria for the family mediation voucher. Anyone who meets the MIAM date and mediation subject criteria may be able to secure a £500 mediation voucher to cover or contribute towards their mediation costs.
Who pays for family mediation if a mediation voucher isn’t available?
If you can't secure a family mediation voucher because:
One of you attended a MIAM before the 26 March 2021 or
You are mediating on a financial settlement only and there are no childcare issues to mediate or
The mediation voucher scheme runs out of funds or
For any other reason.
Then the usually the mediator will check if either one of you is eligible for legal aid to cover the cost of mediation. If neither of you are eligible for mediation legal aid then you will need to agree on how the mediation sessions will be funded. You can either agree to share the mediation costs equally or come to another agreement, such as that one of you will pay for the mediation sessions or that the mediation sessions will be paid for out of your joint savings account.
Even if you do secure a £500 mediation voucher, if you go to a number of mediation sessions the voucher may not the total mediation cost. That’s why it is best to agree on how you will share any mediation cost in excess of the £500 voucher.
Does the mediation voucher cover the cost of mediation support?
The mediation voucher doesn’t cover the cost of mediation support from a divorce solicitor. However, mediation support can be very cost effective. Taking legal advice before and/or after mediation sessions can help you understand:
Your legal options, such as the type of court application that you could commence or your former partner could start.
The likely range of orders that a court could make if you or your former partner started court proceedings.
The potential costs of applying for a court order or responding to a court application and the timescale for completion of the court proceedings.
The impact of any issues raised in mediation. For example, financial disclosure issues raised during the mediation process where you are trying to reach a financial settlement.
Whether proposals put forward in mediation are within the range of orders that a family court would be likely to make if either you or your ex-partner were to start family law court proceedings.
Legal advice on any aspects that are making it hard to reach a compromise in mediation. For example, if one of you believes that you have a legal right to equal parenting or one of you believes that an inheritance or a pension isn’t relevant to any financial settlement discussions.
The legal process to sort out your divorce or to draft a separation agreement or to secure a financial court order or draw up a parenting plan and the legal status of a financial court order or parenting plan.
By receiving mediation support and getting the legal advice you need during the mediation process you may be more likely to have the confidence to reach a mediated agreement. Evolve Family Law can help you with independent specialist family law advice before and after mediation to support and guide you, including advice on any of the post-mediation documentation that may be necessary.
We are Divorce and Family Law Solicitors
For legal help with your divorce and mediation support for your financial settlement or childcare arrangements call us or complete our online enquiry form.
Evolve Family Law offices are in Holmes Chapel, Cheshire and Whitefield, North Manchester but we also offer remote meetings by telephone appointment or video call.
For those who have decided to separate or divorce, either because of COVID-19 related pressures or the global pandemic has reinforced the decision to go your separate ways, the next step is for one of you to move out of the family home. You should not permanently leave the family home without first taking legal advice. However, as Manchester and Cheshire divorce solicitors we are receiving an increasing number of enquiries where neither the husband nor wife can easily move out of the family home. Enquirers want to know if they can be legally separated and live in the same house as their estranged spouse.
What is a legal separation?
A legal separation is where a husband and wife obtain a decree of judicial separation from the family court. If you haven’t heard of judicial separation it isn’t surprising as applications for judicial separation are rare because:
If you obtain a judicial separation you will still need to get divorced at a later stage, for example, if you want to remarry or if you want a clean break financial court order preventing any further financial claims between husband and wife.
You don’t need a legal separation for official purposes. You can just tell agencies, such as the Inland Revenue or the Local Authority, that you are separated.
Do I need a legal separation?
People often assume that they need a legal separation or judicial separation decree, but they don’t unless they have a religious or cultural objection to a divorce and want to formalise their separation. If you plan to get divorced later, you don’t need a judicial separation first as you can sort out your financial affairs by signing a separation agreement.
Can you separate and live in the same house?
You can separate or even divorce and still live in the same house. Some couples think that if they continue to live together, they can't get divorced but that isn’t correct. Under current English divorce law, you can get divorced if you have lived ‘separate and apart’ for two years provided your husband or wife consents to the divorce. It is best to take some legal advice about the grounds for divorce proceedings as you may not need to wait two years before being able to start divorce proceedings.
Living separate and apart in the same household, for the purposes of divorce proceedings, means that there must be a degree of separation between husband and wife. For example, you can't cook for one another or do the other person’s laundry or ironing or shopping.
Separating and your spouse won't leave the family home.
If you have taken the decision to separate and your husband or wife won't leave the family home then if things become impossible in the one house there are options, such as:
An application for an injunction order – an occupation order can give you the right to occupy the family home to the exclusion of your partner until long term ownership or sale of the property is determined by agreement between you or by the court in divorce and financial settlement proceedings.
An application for spousal maintenance so that you can afford to leave the family home and rent somewhere until long term ownership or sale of the family home is decided. It is best to take specialist legal advice from a divorce solicitor before leaving the family home and moving into rented accommodation.
Separating and can't sell the family home.
Most people would agree that it is a tricky housing market so whilst you may have decided to separate or divorce you may not be able to sell the family home. You can be separated or divorced and still be living at the family home though for some it won't be a very comfortable experience. Even in the best situations where you are splitting up amicably it can still feel as if you are in limbo with your life suspended until you can achieve the sale of the family home.
One thing that can reduce the stress of waiting for the sale of the family home is to have a financial agreement in place so you know who will get what when the property does sell. Although you may have concerns about having to drop the sale price on the family home, a fair financial settlement can still be reached if you don’t agree to accept a fixed amount from the sale proceeds but instead you each agree to receive a percentage of the net proceeds of sale. That way you are both protected, whether house values move up or down.
In divorce proceedings a financial settlement can be reached by agreement or after financial settlement proceedings but in either scenario you should obtain a financial court order that records how all your assets will be divided, including the equity in the family home, savings, and pension provision.
If you are separated but don’t want to start divorce proceedings yet it is still best to record the financial settlement that you have agreed to avoid one of you changing your mind about how much you should get from the sale proceeds when you have found a buyer for the house. A document, called a separation agreement, should be prepared to formalise the agreement reached.
We are Manchester and Cheshire divorce solicitors
The team of specialist divorce solicitors at Evolve Family Law can help you with your separation and divorce proceedings, as well as child custody and contact and your financial settlement. For advice on your family and private client law needs call us or complete our online enquiry form.
The Evolve Family Law offices are in Whitefield, North Manchester and Holmes Chapel, Cheshire but we also offer remote meetings by appointment by video call or telephone.
Is family arbitration the best option to reach a financial agreement?
If you are going through a separation or divorce during the latest COVID-19 lockdown you will undoubtedly be worried about how you will reach a financial agreement with your ex-husband, ex-wife or former partner. You may also be concerned about rising infection rates and your safety in physically attending a financial court hearing. Alternatively, you may be worried about delays in achieving a court date because of the impact of COVID-19 on the family court system. In this blog we look at whether family arbitration is the best option to reach a financial agreement if you are splitting up in lockdown.
What is family arbitration?
Many couples who are in the process of splitting up have not heard about family arbitration. That's because couples tend to reach a financial agreement through solicitor negotiations, financial court proceedings or family mediation or a combination of the three options.
In family arbitration you and your partner jointly appoint a family arbitrator. The job of the arbitrator is to make a financial settlement decision. That decision will be final and binding on both of you.
A family arbitrator is therefore like a private judge of the family court as both have the authority to decide on what is a fair financial settlement and make a binding decision.
What decisions can a family arbitrator make?
A family arbitrator can be asked to decide a financial settlement or a property disputes or some children issues arising from either a married or an un-married family relationship.
What are the advantages of family arbitration during the COVID-19 lockdown?
The advantages of family arbitration apply generally, whether the UK is in lockdown or not. However, the global pandemic emphasises some of the real benefits of family arbitration such as:
You can arrange an arbitration hearing in a place that is convenient to both of you and even online if you prefer. You may feel more comfortable in attending the venue for an arbitration meeting instead of going to a family court for a financial settlement hearing
When choosing a family arbitrator, you can check their availability and timescale to hold a family arbitration hearing. If you start financial settlement court proceedings, you don’t get that luxury as you just have to accept court and judge availability and that can be impacted by COVID-19
The use of family arbitration can be more discreet and confidential than traditional court proceedings
One family arbitrator will make all decisions, so you won’t experience having as series of court hearings with different family judges
You and your partner can adapt the family arbitration process to suit your circumstances so, for example, you could agree that you don’t need a directions hearing or that you want the family arbitrator to have a specific type of family bundle of papers and documents to help make their decision, whereas family court rules on paperwork in financial settlement proceedings are far more prescriptive.
Is family arbitration suitable for everyone splitting up in lockdown?
In some situations, family arbitration isn’t suitable. For example, if you need an injunction order to stop your husband or wife from selling off or transferring assets to try and defeat and thwart your financial settlement claims.
Alternatively, family arbitration may not be suitable if you need third party disclosure, for example, from a trust fund or a relative, and they won’t provide disclosure or cooperate in the family arbitration process.
Will a financial settlement be different if family arbitration is used rather than financial court proceedings?
Whether you use financial court proceedings or family arbitration to reach a financial settlement the family court judge or family arbitrator will exercise their discretion when determining what financial court order or arbitration award to make.
When a family law judge or family arbitrator exercises their discretion, they do so using the factors set out in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. This means that the financial court order or family arbitration award should be within the same range or band of reasonable orders whether court proceedings or family arbitration is used by you to reach a financial resolution.
What is the arbitration process?
If you decide that you want to use family arbitration to reach a financial settlement it is important that both you and your spouse or partner understand the arbitration process.
The arbitration process is as follows:
An application form is completed. The form is referred to as an ARB-1
The family arbitrator’s fees are agreed. Whilst you will need to pay a family arbitrator the family arbitration process may nonetheless be cheaper than traditional court proceedings because you may be able to conclude the arbitration process more efficiently and without the need for as many hearings
There is a family arbitration directions hearing. This type of hearing looks at preliminary matters. If a husband and wife agree that this type of hearing is not necessary, then this can be avoided. Alternatively, the preliminary issues could be dealt with by solicitors and the family arbitrator by email. Family arbitration gives more flexibility than a financial court order application over the financial settlement process
There is an arbitration hearing. The hearing could take place online because of concerns about rising infection rates and COVID-19 or could be facilitated at a solicitor’s office or at a neutral venue, such as the offices of the family arbitrator. In some cases, a husband and wife may agree that the family arbitrator should make their decision solely based upon reading the paperwork supplied. After either reading the documentation or listening to the husband, wife or partner the family arbitrator will make a decision, called an award. This is a binding decision
The court will be asked to make a financial court order in accordance with the terms of the family arbitration award. A formal order is normally needed in a financial family arbitration to implement the family arbitration award. There is a fast track court procedure available to quickly convert an award into a court order.
If you want more information about family arbitration and how it may help you and your partner reach a financial settlement during the COVID-19 imposed lockdown then it's best to speak to specialist divorce and financial settlement solicitors about arbitration and your options.
Our Manchester and Cheshire divorce solicitors
The friendly team of specialist divorce solicitors at Evolve Family Law can provide legal help with your separation and divorce proceedings, as well as your financial settlement. For all your family and private client law needs call Evolve Family Law or complete our online enquiry form.
The Evolve Family Law offices are located in Whitefield, North Manchester and Holmes Chapel, Cheshire but we also offer remote meetings by appointment by video call or telephone.
It can be very difficult to know where to start if you are thinking about ending a marriage or separating from your partner. In this article we answer some of your frequently asked questions on how to start a separation.
How do I separate?
You may think the answer to the question ‘’how do I separate?’’ is self-evident - you leave or you pack your partner’s bags and make them leave the family home. However, family solicitors will tell you that both life and family law are more complicated than that. One of the difficulties with answering the question ‘’how do I separate?’’ is that every person’s personal and financial circumstances are different. It is therefore essential that you get family law legal advice that is tailored to you. Here are just a few examples of why that is best to get legal advice on your circumstances:
You may be in an unmarried relationship and renting a property - if you leave the property because your partner refuses to go then you may remain liable for the rent if the tenancy agreement was taken out in your name
If you are from overseas and in the UK on a family visa (such as a spouse visa or a fiance visa) your separation may affect your immigration status so it is important to clarify that before you separate
If you plan to return home overseas with your children then you may need your spouse or partner’s written agreement or a children court order before you can take your children out of the UK. Without that agreement or court order you could be accused of child abduction under UK children law and international family law. You could be forced to return the children back to the UK so it is best to take legal advice on child relocation law if you plan to take your children abroad after your separation
If you leave the family home then your husband or wife may have no incentive to reach a financial settlement with you because they are in the house and won't want to either sell it or pay you your share of the equity in the family home. If your partner refuses to leave and you are in an abusive relationship then you may have the grounds to apply for an injunction order to make your partner leave the property until you or the court makes long term decisions about whether the property should be sold or whether one of you should live in it
If you are in an unmarried relationship and the property is owned in the sole name of your partner you may think that you have no legal rights and have no option but to leave. However you may have an equitable interest in the property. In addition, if you have young children you may be able to bring a housing claim (called a schedule 1 Children Act application by family lawyers) for the provision of a house for the children
If you leave the family home and the mortgage is in your joint names you remain jointly and severally liable to pay the mortgage. If the mortgage isn’t paid then this will affect the credit rating of you and your partner and it may impact on your ability to get another mortgage. It is best to reach an agreement on the mortgage payments if you are leaving the family home and will have the added expense of renting a property
You want to stay at the family home with the children but your partner says they won't help out financially so you are the one who thinks that they have to leave. In your circumstances, you may be able to ask the Child Maintenance Service to award you child support and, if you are married, you may also be able to apply to court for spousal maintenance.
Starting a separation
Whatever your personal or financial circumstances starting a separation is never an easy decision. Alternatively a separation may have been foisted on you by the decision or behaviour of your partner. If you are the one who is taking the decision to separate it is best to talk to a friend or family member or therapist to help you make the right decision for you. Family law legal advice will make sure that you know your legal options and the best choices for you and your family when it comes to the decision of whether you should be the one to leave the family home and the timing of your separation.
Manchester and Cheshire Family Law Solicitors
Evolve Family Law advises on separation, divorce proceedings, financial arrangements on separation, long term financial settlements, child custody and contact and private client matters (Wills and powers of attorney).
For legal assistance with your family and private client law needs call Evolve Family Law or complete our online enquiry form. The Evolve Family Law offices are located in Whitefield, North Manchester and Holmes Chapel, Cheshire but the family law solicitors and Will lawyers also offer remote meetings by telephone or video call appointment.