The Department for Work and Pensions has recently reported its response to the consultation on Supporting Separated Families and Securing Children’s Futures in relation to the draft Child Support (Fees) Regulations 2013 and the draft Child Support (Ending Liability in Existing cases and Transistion to New Calculation Rules) Regulations 2013 . Under the new Child Maintenance Service both the parent with care of the children and the parent paying maintenance for children are charged a fee for using the Child Maintenance Service. This has been controversial. For example, some organisations consider that it is punishing parents with care, where the non-resident parent decides not to pay or fails to pay voluntarily.
The Department for Work and Pensions has proposed the amount to be charged to the parent with care is to be reduced from 7% to 4%.
The introduction of fees for using the service has been considered necessary to ensure that funding was in place to allow the system to support itself to function and by continuing to operate it thereby ensured parents with care received maintenance payments for dependent children for their benefit.
However, some organisations are concerned that because of the proposed fees, some parents with care will decide that they are better off not pursuing maintenance altogether. Charging is likely to be introduced from the middle of next year.
However, from the 25th November 2013 the new Child Maintenance Service is now available to all new applicants. The Child Support Agency has been replaced together with the formula for calculating child maintenance.
To determine your child maitnenance entitlements or obligations and what charges will apply to you contact one of our specialists for advice as to your child maintenance options.
Across England and Wales the week of the 25 to 29 November 2013 is Resolution First for Family Law, Family Dispute Resolution week.
During this week there will be a variety of events taking place to raise awareness of the alternatives to court and the benefits of why people facing a separation or divorce should seek advice from a Resolution member.
What are some of the benefits of using a Resolution member? Resolution members agree to adhere to a Code of Practice which commits to endeavouring to resolve disputes between couples separating or divorcing constructively and amicably and as quickly and effectively as possible. Resolution members will also be able to explain the alternative methods of resolving what will happen to the children and the finances upon a separation or divorce and will assist with advising you as to which method of dispute resolution will best suit your needs. Resolution members also have contacts with other service providers that will be able to help you through your separation and divorce. For example, this could be an independent financial adviser to assist with your identifying your mortgage capacity through to various counsellors, coaches and family consultants that will be able to assist you with dealing with the emotional impact of a separation or divorce. If talking things through is not for you Resolution members also have a range of resources and materials they can provide to clients that can be read at a time convenient to you. During Family Dispute Resolution week Resolution will also be launching an updated Dispute Resolution Handbook – Separating Together. This is aimed at a range of audiences who may be a port of call for separating couples.
At Thomas Chaytor, all of our solicitors are Resolution Members and we offer a free no obligation introductory meeting. If you are experiencing difficulties in your home life and you want to find out about your options if you were to separate or divorce please arrange an appointment to see us or contact Karen Newman by email at Karen@thomaschaytor.co.uk for a free information leaflet on alternatives to the Court process or for a copy of the Code of Practice for Resolution members.
In Vince and Wyatt  EWCA Civ 495 a wife applied for financial support from her former husband, with whom she had divorced nineteen years previously. At the time of their divorce they had no assets and no income and had chosen to live a New Age or Traveller lifestyle. They had one child together and the wife had a child from an earlier relationship. The only document that survived the original divorce proceedings was the decree absolute dated in 1992. It could not be established whether the wife’s claims had been applied for in her divorce petition or whether her claims had been dismissed by the Court by consent or whether there was no order. The former husband cohabited in 1986 and had a further son and remarried in 2006. In 1993 the wife cohabited with a partner with whom she had two more children. However, by the time of the application to the court that relationship had ended. The wife remained of modest means. In 1995 the former husband had started Ecotricity, which has turned into a successful business in the wind industry and worth many millions. The court held that there is no limitation period in family cases. However, the court held they would not allow either party to a former marriage to be harassed by claims for financial relief which are issued many years after the divorce and have no real prospect of success. It was decided it would be an abuse of the courts process.
To avoid such pitfalls contact one of our specialist family lawyers to advise you of your options to resolve the financial claims in parallel to your divorce.
In SvS EWHC 991 (Fam) the wife made an application for the financial settlement to be reviewed because of the husband’s alleged material non-disclosure of his financial circumstances. The court held that “any information that is relevant to the outcome must be disclosed”. The court confirmed that “the duty to disclose extends beyond what is certain on the date that the order is made to any fact relevant to the court’s review of the foreseeable future”. On the facts of this case the husband failed to disclose that his company had appointed bankers to prepare for an initial public offering or outright purchase. This amounted to a material non-disclosure. However, on the facts of this case the financial settlement remained the same. The judge determined that had the court known of the material non-disclosure at the time of the financial settlement, the matter would have been adjourned to await developments. However, as no purchase or initial public offering had taken place the court decided that the order would have been made even if proper disclosure had taken place.
To ensure you provide true and accurate financial disclosure as part of divorce proceedings contact us to discuss your legal requirements.
The Centre for Social Justice has reported on the 10 June 2013 that “one million children grow up with no contact with their father”. If you are a parent facing contact issues contact us to assist with advising you of your legal options. Source: Fractured Families:why stability matters from the Centre for Social Justice.
Where a spouse is the only shareholder of a company, which holds assets and does not have third party creditors, those assets can be transferred directly to the other spouse in settlement of his or her claims. In Petrodel the companies held properties on trust for Mr Prest. The court held he was therefore “entitled” to them, and there was no difficulty with them being transferred to his wife.
The judgment has been welcomed as a fair and just outcome. It evidences the courts will look at the reality of the situation. As such if an asset is held in the name of a company that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is owned by the companies.
If you or your spouse has an interest in a company and you are looking to separate or divorce, contact us for a free no obligation initial consultation for advice.
This is one of the most difficult aspects of any relationship breakdown. What is appropriate will depend on the age and understanding of your children. You may also choose to seek advice from any other professionals who may or may not already be involved with your family for example a social worker or school nurse or school counsellor or GP or Relate. Local charities may also have trained child support workers that can assist with preventing short term issues becoming long term problems.
Generally clients try if at all possible to sit down to tell the children together, having agreed beforehand what you will say. It will not be easy and it is often best to keep what you say clear and if possible avoid contradicting each other or passing blame. If it is not possible to sit down together it may be worth considering if there is someone else that is trusted and can provide reassurance and who may also be able to help answer any questions. It will help thechildren to know that they still have two parents who love them very much, and who will continue to care for them and be there for them. Routine and stability often help children adapt and agreeing if possible the residence and contact arrangements will assist. If you cannot agree on the arrangements contact a member of our specialist team and they will be able to help guide you through the various options. Clients often find it useful to let teachers and child minders know about what is happening, so that they can provide support if required. Try not to talk about the other parent in front of the children. If you are finding it difficult to cope help is on hand. You could speak to someone you trust or if you would like details of people that may be able to help you such as a coach or counsellor or therapist please get in touch and we can introduce you to professionals we know. Finding coping strategies that work for you and for your children is key.
We can provide you with information leaflets and work books which the children and you complete. Alternatively, some clients have found story books as a useful way of explaining the changing family circumstances. Here are a few examples. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list and there are other resource books available. If you have found any other books of use or have any suggestions that we can pass on to our clients please let us know.
Jack by Helen Victoria Bishop and Simon Murray
Jack is really quite sad and alone is his bedroom considering the situation between his mummy and daddy. He like many children in a break up situation feels that it might be his fault. Jack speaks of his worries to his loyal friend, Black Cat who is able in his magical way to talk Jack through his concerns and worries and provide him with some practical advice on how to make life a little easier, all of which make Jack feel more confident and reassured. Jack is a book designed to support children through the difficulty of parent separation and divorce.
Mum and Dad Glue by Kes Gray and Emma Layfield
A little boy tries to find a pot of parent glue to stick his mum and dad back together. His parents have come undone and he wants to mend their marriage, stick their smiles back on and make them better. This story is told with the message that even though his parents may be broken, their love for him is not.
Two Homes by Claire Masurel and Kady MacDonald Denton
Alex has two homes – a home where Daddy lives and a home where Mummy lives. Alex has two front doors, two bedrooms and two very different favourite chairs. He has a toothbrush at Mummy’s and a toothbrush at Daddy’s. But whether Alex is with Mummy or Daddy, one thing stays the same: Alex is loved by them both – always. This portrayal of the life of a child whose parents are divorced is full of warmth, comfort and affection.
It’s Not Your Fault, Koko Bear by Vicki Lansky and Jane Prince
KoKo is a realistically sad unisex bear who learns the divorce is not KoKo’s fault, that those sad feelings will pass, that a child can love and be loved by both parents even when living in a family apart.
If you would like more information please do not hesitate to contact us.
Financial disclosure is essential for separating spouses, their legal advisers and ultimately the court to know as far as can be known what the assets are. When financial disclosure has not been provided or is provided incomplete it causes delay, increases costs not to mention that it frustrates relations between the separating spouses and can impact on the negotiations towards a settlement.
The courts have a range of options to deal with a failure to provide financial disclosure including a verbal warning, fine, a costs order and in a recent case Mr Justice Moor jailed for six months the husband Scot Young for what he described as a ‘flagrant’ contempt of court in long-running financial remedy proceedings with his former wife, Michelle Young where maintenance had not been paid. The judgment can be found at Young v Young  EWHC 138 (Fam). Mr Young represented himself and argued that he had no money and this is why he could not pay the maintenance ordered. The Judge stated that Mr Young should provide “full and frank disclosure” of evidence to support claims that he had no money. The case also re-affirmed the principle that it is for each spouse to show that they have fully complied with their disclosure obligations and not for the other spouse to prove otherwise. To say “I believe that I have complied” does not amount to a clear demonstration of compliance. To make sure you have complied with the legal requirements of “full and frank financial disclosure” contact a member of our experienced team.
January can be a difficult time of year. Families have spent time together over the festive season and it does not always go quite as planned. However, there are a range of options when a relationship starts to breakdown.
The first thing to consider is whether the relationship can be saved and if so to identify organisations that can help couples reconcile or assist with dealing with any issues that are preventing the relationship from moving forward. If the relationship has become irretrievable the next step is to consider what process will work best for you and your spouse.
Separating couples can choose to deal with the arrangements directly by discussion and agreement. A solicitor can then be instructed to help formalise the agreement into a legally binding agreement. Sometimes this is not possible and there are a range of supportive alternatives such as mediation or collaboration or solicitors facilitated negotiation. Ultimately, if an agreement cannot be reached between separating couples the courts are available for a Judge to decide who gets what and where the children will live.
However, each individual and each couple are different and interpret and respond to events differently so what is useful to one individual or couple may not work for the next. Contact a member of our team for a free initial consultation of what process will work best for you.
Are you looking forward to Christmas? Friends and family visiting? Food to prepare; drinks to be served and presents to wrap? There is so much to think about in the preparations for Christmas. Sometimes we all put so much pressure on ourselves for it to be the perfect day for everyone. This can put strain on the happiest of relationships. This is often reinforced by the media with pictures of a happy smiling family enjoying a Christmas feast, when in reality it is not uncommon to find children squabbling and parents shouting at each other or not talking to each other! When the expectations are set so high this can lead to disappointment and upset and what you want for your relationship and children is put under the spot light and compared to other relationships and families.
So if you are starting to feel the stress levels rising or are feeling lonely or sad why don’t you talk about it with someone you trust. Try and get everyone involved in the Christmas preparations with a task to do. Try going for a walk in the fresh air and reflect. Laugh out loud. Studies have shown that laughing and even pretending to laugh can send signals to the brain to release the feel good chemicals. Give yourself time out doing something that you enjoy together.
As the Marriage Foundation reports “it is hard work to keep a marriage together”. The Marriage Foundation warns against couples using celebrities as marriage role models. In a recent study they found that celebrity couples are twice as likely to divorce as the rest of the UK married population.
You may have heard of “D-Day” or Divorce Day which is widely reported in the press as the 7th January being the day statistically people contact a solicitor for advice on separation and divorce. If you decide to consult a Solicitor; separation and divorce are just one of a range of options. Solicitors are actively encouraged to consider alternatives including suggesting attempting reconciliation and providing information and contact details to organisations that would be able to assist. Sometimes however, a marriage cannot be saved and if you do have to make that very difficult decision, there are a range of processes that can be used to try and resolve the practical and legal arrangements following a relationship breakdown. These include mediation, arbitration and conducting cases collaboratively as well as in some situations resorting to the Courts to litigate disputes. As Resolution specialists we endeavour to deal with cases amicably, constructively and as quickly and cost effectively as possible.
If you are experiencing difficulties in your relationship or have decided want to find out a bit more about your options please do not hesitate to contact us for a FREE initial consultation.