divorce

How to protect my assets in a relationship?

How to protect my assets in a relationship?

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It’s 2021, a new start for some, new beginnings and the same old pandemic.

Covid-19 will NOT weigh us down. January is the time to consider that fitness regime, to set some goals, and unsurprisingly for me, it’s when I am frequently asked ‘how do I protect my assets in a relationship?’

1. How do I protect my financial assets?

My advice regarding asset protection is tailored and will depend on your family and financial situation. Whatever your relationship status, do ensure that you know what your financial assets are.

2. Knowing my financial assets

Knowing your assets and your financial resources is so important when considering how to protect them. I understand that talking about money and property with your partner can be difficult, embarrassing and uncomfortable, especially when it is a topic that has been avoided in the past. Not making the effort to know what your financial assets are can have devastating consequences for you (and any children) following a separation. This applies to married and unmarried couples.

3. Not talking about my financial assets

You may be in a relationship where certain conversations, particularly about finances, cause arguments and stress, putting a strain on your relationship. There are certain practical and legal steps you can take to overcome this.

4. Practical steps to safeguard my financial assets

  1. Talk openly about your finances with your partner.
  2. Normalise frequent conversations about your joint assets, finances, income, investments, insurance and protection.
  3. Become involved in the financial discussions that your partner may be having with other experts.
  4. Consider keeping a record of assets are being sold, transferred or registered in another name.
  5. Be wary of signing a document unless you have taken legal and financial advice and understand how this may impact you and your family.

5. Legal steps to safeguard my financial assets

  1. Take legal advice from a family lawyer.
  2. Speak to a financial advisor.
  3. Record your living and financial arrangements in an agreement to protect and safeguard your assets.
  4. Register your interest in any property with the Land Registry by way of a notice of home rights or unilateral notice. The forms can be accessed here.

6. The types of financial agreements to enter into when in a relationship

  1. Prenuptial agreements – enter into these to protect your assets before a marriage.
  2. Postnuptial agreements – enter into these during your marriage – read my post on the advantages and disadvantages of nuptial agreements here.
  3. Cohabitation agreements – agree your financial and living arrangements as an unmarried couple before you settle down together.
  4. Separation agreement – unmarried couples may enter into these agreements following a separation.

7. How do financial agreements help me in a relationship?

  1. Agreements define and protect your assets.
  2. They provide a good financial framework for living together.
  3. Help to avoid awkward conversations about money and property which could put a strain on your relationship.
  4. Can help to alleviate financial issues and pressures during a relationship.
  5. Can be used to show what was intended if there is a dispute down the line.
  6. Avoid litigation and the cost of court proceedings

For more information watch a video I presented with the Investors Chronicle and Financial Times about safeguarding assets. The link to the video can be found below:

https://www.investorschronicle.co.uk/education/2020/11/05/upcoming-women-s-investment-club-12-november-2020/?fbclid=IwAR1sOUZQUUYfHXHpK6QH6flGIKIw38l6Y6cv95EW4jM1qZlZ4QAz_D3vAuo

If you would like to know more about how to protect your assets and entering into financial agreements, please do not hesitate to call or

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Posted by admin in Agreements, Divorce, Finances
No Fault Divorce

No Fault Divorce

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No Fault Divorce has finally been introduced to the UK after years of campaigning by Resolution, the community of family justice professionals, and family lawyers, who welcome the change.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act was passed by Parliament in 2020. The purpose of the Act is to remove fault from divorce, helping couples to separate and divorce without blaming each other.

I am particularly happy with the change. Removing fault from the divorce petition, the first stage of the divorce process, should reduce the animosity and help divorcing couples have a good divorce.

Family Lawyer Consultation with client

This is certainly how I prefer to act for my clients during a divorce. However, I do acknowledge, and regularly come across situations, when it is necessary to take a firmer approach. In any event, I am confident that the Act, once implemented, will reduce conflict allowing couples to agree child-focused arrangements and fair financial settlements.

In my view, the change will also help if you are unsure about starting divorce proceedings. You may consider speaking to a family lawyer and/or initiating the process sooner. This is because you no longer need to worry about what you have said about your spouse in your divorce petition and how they might react. For more information about starting divorce proceedings, read my article here.

The Current Law

Currently there is one ground for divorce, the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. You must rely on one of the five following facts:

  • Adultery
  • Behaviour
  • Desertion – 2 years
  • 2 years’ separation with consent
  • 5 years’ separation

If you have not been separated for more than 2 years then you are left with two options. If adultery is not applicable then you must rely on behaviour. This is the fact that requires you to blame your spouse. Whilst the types of behaviour can be mild, this can sometimes not be enough to satisfy the court. The recent case of Owens v Owens 2018, where Mrs Owens was not permitted to divorce her husband because her behaviour examples were considered too flimsy, highlighted how out of date the law relating to divorce is.

What does No Fault mean for Divorce?

The Act will make the following changes to the current law:

  • The five facts above will be replaced with a statement to show the irretrievable breakdown
  • The other party will not be able to contest the divorce
  • It will provide an option for a joint application
  • They will remove old fashioned legal terms with plain English
  • Decree Nisi will be called a conditional order and Decree Absolute will be called a final order

When does No Fault Divorce start?

The government is still working on the implementation. It is hoped that you will be able to start your no fault divorce in Autumn 2021 or the beginning of 2022.

Can I have a good divorce before No Fault Divorce starts?

Absolutely! I actively encourage it. Having a good divorce is largely reliant on how you and your spouse approach the divorce. It is also important to engage a divorce lawyer who shares your approach. The current divorce procedure should be used to have a good divorce if you cannot wait until the end of 2021 or the beginning of 2022 to start divorce proceedings.

If you need help with your divorce or if would like to make an initial consultation to speak to me about your divorce.

Do call me on 0203 916 5585 or

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Posted by admin in Divorce
Domestic Violence and Domestic Abuse

Domestic Violence and Domestic Abuse

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What is Domestic Violence and Domestic Abuse?

Domestic violence or abuse includes all kinds of physical, psychological, sexual, financial and emotional abuse between people who are, or were, in a relationship with each other or are family members over the age of 16. There is no statutory definition of domestic abuse, however the domestic abuse bill will create one.

Domestic violence or abuse may include:

  • Assault
  • Rape
  • Damaging property
  • Threats
  • Criticism
  • Harassment
  • Controlling behaviour, such as:
      • Isolating someone from sources of support;
      • Reducing their independence;
      • Trying to control their behaviour; or
      • Exploiting them
  • Coercive behaviour, such as trying to harm, punish or frighten someone by use of:
      • Violence;
      • Threats;
      • Humiliation; or
      • Intimidation

What is coercive control?

Domestic abuse

Coercive control is an act or pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or abuse. It is used to harm punish or frighten the victim. 

 

The statistics of Domestic Violence and Domestic Abuse in the UK?

According to the office of national statistics, in the year ending March 2019, an estimated 2.4 million adults aged 16 to 74 years experienced domestic violence in the last year (1.6 million women and 786,000 men). The police recorded 746,219 domestic abuse-related crimes in the year ending March 2019, an increase of 24% from the previous year.

We should note that the above figures are reported figures. Many victims suffer in silence, in fear of what may happen if they report the crime. It is not just the criminal repercussions of their abuser that they fear but the emotional turmoil they endure. During lockdown, when victims are being faced with constantly living with their abuser, raising the alarm must be so much harder to do.

It is important for victims of domestic abuse and coercive control to be provided with the information they need to take steps to free themselves from violence and abuse.

 

Help for Domestic Violence victims

The following national helplines are available to all:

 

How can I protect myself and my child from Domestic Violence?

Daughter hand in hand with mother

Victims can also take practical steps to protect themselves and their children by doing the following: 

  1. Ensuring a fully charged mobile phone is at hand in case of emergencies
  2. Taking note of both the emergency and local police station telephone numbers (the local police can now be contacted by dialling 101) and the numbers of any relevant organisation, such as social services
  3. Memorising telephone numbers for trusted friends and relatives
  4. Agreeing a code word to use when calling others to identify that the police should be alerted
  5. Asking trusted friends or relatives to check on you
  6. Keeping your car fuelled and ready to go with a spare key at hand
  7. Having a bag of essential items at a place of safety containing cash, clothing, important documents and telephone numbers read

 

How does Family Law protect me and my child from Domestic Violence?

Emergency Protection Orders

The courts have wide powers to protect you from violence committed by, or threatened by, a person associated with you.

1. Non molestation order

A non-molestation order is used to stop someone from:

  • Using or threatening violence against you
  • Using or threatening violence to a child
  • Molesting you in any way

Molesting can include:

Behaviour that harms, troubles, vexes, annoys or inconveniences you or any relevant children. Molesting can also include pushing, punching, slapping, hair pulling, throwing objects and spitting.

Molestation can be direct or committed indirectly and includes behaviour, such as:

  • Physical harm
  • Verbal abuse or threats
  • Pestering another person
    • In writing or through social media
    • Through a third party
  • Intimidation
  • Persistent abusive text message, phone calls or messages on social media
  • Threats
  • Harassment

A non-molestation order can also be used to keep a person away from a particular place such as the area around your home or your workplace.

For an application to be successful there must be evidence:

  • Of the behaviour complained of
  • That the applicant or a child are in need of protection
  • That an order is needed to control the behaviour of the abuser

An order only becomes effective when it has been served on the abuser. Typically, a non-molestation order is made for six to twelve months but it is possible to apply for further orders. Breaching a non-molestation order is a criminal offence punishable with up to five years imprisonment or as a contempt of court.

2. Occupation order

An occupation order determines who will live at the family home. An occupation order can be used to exclude someone completely from a property or can set out rules to enable a property to be shared.

Granting an order depends on the relationship of the parties and their rights to occupy the property in question. For an application to be successful the “balance of harm” test must be applied. Essentially the judge will consider whether you or any child is likely to suffer significant harm due to the conduct of the other party if the occupation order is not made. The test includes the need to consider whether making an occupation order will cause greater harm to the other party and any child.

If the judge does not find sufficient reason under the balance of harm test, an application might still be brought.

The court will consider all the circumstances of the case, including the:

  • Housing needs of the parties
  • Financial resources of the parties
  • Likely effect of any decision by the court not to exercise its powers on the health, safety or wellbeing of you and any child
  • Conduct of the parties to each other

Occupation orders are intended to determine temporary living arrangements to give the applicant and respondent time to organise where they will live and how they will divide their property.

An occupation order can be made for a period of up to six months, but it is possible to apply for further orders when this expires.

If you are suffering from domestic violence, abuse or coercive control and need help and advice please do not hesitate to 

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Posted by admin in Domestic violence
Same-sex divorce

Same-sex divorce

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The court has the power and jurisdiction to deal with same-sex divorce under The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) (Jurisdiction and Recognition of Judgments) Regulations 2014.

Same-sex divorce statistics

There was more than three times the number of same-sex divorces in 2017 than in 2016, according to the Office for National Statistics. There were 428 divorces of same-sex couples in 2018, increasing from 338 in 2017; of these, three-quarters were among female couples.

Unreasonable behaviour was the most common fact relied upon for same-sex couples.

Why doesn’t adultery apply in same-sex divorce?

The current law does not allow same-sex couples to rely on adultery as a fact in their divorce petition. Same-sex couples must rely on the following facts:

  1. Behaviour – the other party has acted in such a way that you cannot be expected to live with them. This fact cannot be used if you have lived with the other party for a total of six months after the date of the last incident you are relying on.
  2. Desertion – the other party has left, without reason, for a continuous period of at least two years prior to your petition.
  3. Separation – two years – the parties have lived separately for at least two years, and you have the consent of the other party to divorce on this basis. You can still live in the same home during the separation, but you must not ‘live as a couple’ for six months during or after the separation period.
  4. Separation – five years – the parties have lived separately for a continuous period of five years (no consent required). You can still live in the same home during the separation, but you must not ‘live as a couple’ for six months during or after the separation period.

If you are considering commencing divorce proceedings, you should consult a family law specialist to provide you with initial advice and help you to understand your next steps.

If you would like to book an initial consultation to discuss same-sex divorce please do not hesitate to 

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Posted by admin in Divorce
When should I start divorce proceedings?

When should I start divorce proceedings?

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When you first start considering divorce proceedings it can be a daunting and sometimes isolating experience. You may be concerned about the hostility and upset it will cause you, your spouse and the children. Being sensitive to the timings can help to keep the divorce as amicable as possible. The key is finding the right divorce solicitor for you. This will help to ensure that the divorce is dealt with constructively, with a child-focussed approach, whilst also feeling like you have someone by your side.

You may feel that you are not ready to start divorce proceedings immediately. If this is the case you should still take legal advice to learn about your rights and the divorce process itself. Having this knowledge and information should offer you some peace of mind.

Family Solicitor

My role as a family and divorce solicitor is to ensure that you understand the law and to support you through the divorce process. I will draft your divorce papers and help you navigate through the divorce settlement with empathy and compassion. Having a family solicitor does help to lessen the burden, as even an amicable divorce can be stressful.

It is important to consider the welfare of your children when taking this decision, however, my advice to all my clients is that your welfare is just as important.  The sooner you start divorce proceedings, the sooner you can take steps to move forward and think positively about your future. A simple, amicable and straightforward divorce could take eight to twelve months to complete. This can extend to two, and in some circumstances three years, when financial matters are being dealt with at court.

I understand that this is an upsetting time for you and that you may be dealing with a range of emotions. You will need time to work through these emotions before you are ready to commence divorce proceedings.  At my initial consultation I will provide you with family law advice for you to consider. This includes understanding the divorce process, discussing the arrangements for the children and advising you with regards to a financial settlement. It can be a lot of information to take in one session. I will leave you to digest this information and get back to me when you are ready to get started.

How much does it cost to start divorce proceedings?

There is a court fee of £550 which is paid to the Family Court when the divorce petition is sent to them for issue. Your legal fees will depend on the complexity of your case but most solicitors offer a fixed fee for dealing with the divorce process (not the financial agreement) or will be able to provide you with a clear estimate after speaking with you.

When can I start divorce proceedings?

Provided you have been married for one year and a day you can start divorce proceedings whenever you consider it appropriate. 

How long will it take to complete my divorce?

It can take between eight to twelve months, sometimes longer. It will depend on the court processing time and whether your spouse co-operates with the divorce process and is also committed to resolving matters amicably. The financial agreement can be resolved within this timeframe if it is agreed by consent. If it is not agreed, the court process can take two and sometimes three years. 

When did no fault divorce start?

It has not started yet and it is estimated to come into force in Autumn 2021. In the meantime you must rely on the current facts adultery, behaviour, desertion, 2 years’ separation with consent and 5 years’ separation.

What happens if the Respondent refuses to sign the divorce papers?

If the Respondent refuses to complete and return the acknowledgement of service to the court, you may instruct a bailiff or personal server to serve the papers on the Respondent. This confirmation of service can then be used to apply for your Decree Nisi.

What is Decree Nisi?

Decree Nisi is the second stage in the divorce process. After considering your divorce petition and the Respondent’s acknowledgement of service, the court will pronounce that they see no reason why you shouldn’t divorce and will issue a conditional order called Decree Nisi. Six weeks after the pronouncement of your Decree Nisi you can apply for Decree Absolute, which is the third and final stage in the divorce process. You should not apply for Decree Absolute until your financial settlement is agreed and sent to the court.

I have received divorce papers, what should I do?

If you are the Respondent in receipt of divorce papers you should consult a family solicitor who will explain the divorce process and the terms of the divorce petition to you. Standard clauses used in the divorce petition may appear hostile and aggressive (when they are not intended to be) to someone not familiar with the legal terms.  Speaking to a family solicitor will put you at ease.

If you have received divorce papers or are unsure about starting divorce proceedings, please do contact me. I will advise and set out the options available to you. You will then have the information you need to make an informed decision. This will help when deciding whether to start divorce proceedings. If you are the one responding to divorce papers, it will reassure you to understand the terms and the options available to you. 

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Posted by admin in Divorce