Category Archives: Family

No-fault divorce

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill recently progressed through the House of Commons, offering hope to those seeking amore amicable separation.

In early June 2020, the proposal to offer a more conciliatory route toward divorce passed through commons with little contest, offering greater hope to those wishing to move on from a fractured marriage without lengthy periods of waiting, or bitter disputes over blame.  Rather than insisting on lengthy separations or for faults to be attributed on one party, this new revision represents a more understanding approach toward divorce. Read more below.

What are the current requirements for divorce?

Under current legislation, a couple wishing to divorce will need to live separately for at least two years before divorce proceedings can take place; if one person refuses to agree to the divorce, however, then this period of separation must last for five years.

If both parties are in agreement, however, and want to divorce before the two years have been completed, then at least one of the following reasons must be given:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour, including violence, drug use, drunkenness, verbal abuse or refusing to pay toward the costs of living.
  • Desertion

Of course, whatever route both parties choose to take, lengthy periods of separation and drawn-out disputes can be extremely mentally taxing for all involved, and can cause those suffering to feel ‘trapped’ within a stage of their life from which they feel ready to move on. For many couples looking to circumvent a lengthy separation, the only option is for one to allocate blame to the other, which can turn an otherwise amicable split into something far more bitter, and cause a great deal more emotional upheaval than necessary.

For couples with children, maintaining stability amid significant upheaval is often made much more difficult by these lengthy procedures. A solution that facilitates family life and seeks to “reduce parental conflict”, say Cheltenham divorce lawyers Willans, is long overdue.

What is the no-fault divorce?

The proposition for a no-fault divorce under the new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill will make the process of ending a marriage much simpler for both parties. Most notably, it will allow for a joint application for divorce to be made by both parties, and for the ascription of blame to be replaced by the formal assertion that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. Furthermore, the opportunity for the divorce to be contested will be removed

Under these proposed changes, the process of seeking a divorce will have the potential to be far more manageable for both parties. The emotional upheaval of a long separation or the allocation of blame for unacceptable behaviour can be avoided, and couples can aim to end their union without resorting to hostilities.

Despite a few obligations owing to the importance of reconciliation over disunion — and the pressures the outbreak of Covid-19 has placed on marriages — the bill has been agreed by the house of commons. This marks a clear, long-awaited breakthrough for those seeking greater flexibility and understanding when a lifelong commitment is no longer possible.

The decline of divorces in the UK

Divorce is ultimately the last step in the breakdown of a marriage. While it’s a stage no couple hopes to reach, unfortunately it can be the only remaining step to repairing the relationship, especially if children are involved. The process of a divorce can be a saddening and difficult for all parties, but it’s an important process of formal separation and ensures that everyone can move on with their lives.

Brown Turner Ross, an experienced firm of Liverpool solicitors, have provided a summary of how divorces in the UK have declined in recent years.

How divorce rates changed in 2018

The UK Office for National Statistics last released the annual divorce figures in November 2019. These figures show the rates of divorce for 2018 and allow us to analyse how this legal sector has changed over the years.

Perhaps the most interesting highlight from the statistics is that the amount of divorces between heterosexual couple’s has reached its lower figure since 1971. With 90,871 in 2018, the rate of divorces decreased by 10.6% compared to the previous year. However, the Ministry of Justice has explained that the processing of a backlog in 2018 can somewhat explain the decrease. As for same-sex marriages, 428 divorces were recorded in 2018. This is an increase of 26.6% over the previous year.

So why do couples decide to seek a divorce? According to the Office for National Statistics, unreasonable behaviour is recorded as the most common ground for divorces followed by two years separation with content. To successfully claim for a divorce based on unreasonable behaviour, the petitioner must show that their partner has acted in a way that means they cannot reasonably be expected to live with them.

When are divorces more likely?

January is typically considered to be the time of the year when most couples seek a divorce. In fact, solicitors often identify the first Monday of the year as ‘Divorce Day’. On this day there has consistently been an increase in reported enquiries relating to divorces. The first Monday is also typically when businesses resume normal working hours after the Christmas break, which can perhaps partly explain the surge in enquiries.

The most obvious connection between January and divorce is the stress of the Christmas holidays. Christmas can be a fun and exciting time, but this is not always the case. December can be a tense time in relationships. Couples may argue over finances for buying gifts or feel that their partner is not making enough of an effort. The stress of family visits can also raise tensions, especially if there’s any ill will between in-laws. Sometimes the long break and extended time together can be enough to drain the feelings between the two people. It’s a time of the year when a person may begin to doubt whether they are completely satisfied in their relationship.

Get advice from divorce solicitors

The breakdown of a relationship can be a troubling development for all concerned. Not just for the couple, but also for family members and especially children. When navigating the tricky waters of separation, it’s important to seek advice from specialist solicitors. This is an important step in the process of receiving clarification on your position. Brown Turner Ross provides clients with an expert solicitor in the area who will aim to achieve a constructive and non-confrontational agreement. They will provide advice on legal aid, cost estimates, mediation, going to court, time estimates and explain the possible outcomes.

Image: Public Domain, from pxfuel.

Legal father v. biological father: what are your rights?

Family structures can be seriously complex, and there aren’t always biological parents in the picture. In fact, some children may be closer to their non-biological parents than their biological, and may never have even met their biological fathers.

Family law gets a little complicated when it comes to defining the different rights of biological fathers and legal fathers, and it is important for each party to know exactly where they stand.

The basics

A legal father is someone that has parental responsibility of a child, either by adoption or if they are on the birth certificate.

A biological father however, is the blood-related father of a child, the person who impregnated the mother. They will be the person whose genes get inherited by the child. However, this doesn’t mean that they instantly gain parental responsibility.

How does a biological father get parental responsibility?

A child’s biological father is not automatically considered to be their legal father, and they may not automatically gain parental responsibility.

Biological fathers will gain responsibility only if:

  • They are married to the mother either at the time of the birth, or after.
  • If they are on the child’s birth certificate, if the registration took place post December 2003.
  • Both the mother and father have signed an agreement that gives the father parental responsibility

OR

However, more than two people may be able to get parental responsibility of a child at one time, which could be where it gets complicated.

What rights do fathers have?

Unless any of the above reasons apply, the biological father has no legal right towards the child. However, whether they have parental responsibility or not, they still have a duty to support the child financially, even if they have no access to their child.

Everyone with parental responsibility of a child will need to agree on things before they go ahead. The mother can make a decision of little importance, but for bigger changes, everyone that has parental responsibility will need to be consulted.

If they cannot agree on a decision or outcome, then a ‘specific issue order’ can be applied for in court.

Child custody – a father’s rights

Just because someone has parental responsibility of a child does not mean that they can contact the child whenever they want. Child access rights are a whole other issue altogether, but if an agreement can not be made by both parents, then they will need to apply for a ‘child arrangement order’ and it will go to court.

Gaining parental responsibility

If a biological father doesn’t have parental responsibility, then they will need to sign a responsibly agreement with the mother or take it one step further and apply for a court order to discuss it further.

If paternity is an issue, a lawyer can use DNA tests to establish who the biological father is. If you think you need to use a court to decide on your issue of paternity, then it would be best to speak to a professional family lawyer.

 

Does the divorce system need updating?

On 17 May, the Supreme Court heard its first case on divorce itself (Owens v Owens [UKSC 2017/0077]). The case has reignited the debate over the current divorce system in England and Wales which has been in place since 1973. In this case, the husband successfully defended his wife’s divorce petition on the grounds that the marriage had not, in actual fact, broken down irretrievably and that the allegations made were not true.

The Judges found that the wife’s allegations were not sufficient enough to justify the claim that it was unreasonable for her to remain being married to her husband. As a result, the wife was unable to procure a divorce and under the current law, she must remain married to her husband until they have been separated long enough for her to issue unilateral proceedings on the grounds of five years’ separation. This is a particularly rare outcome that has attracted a significant amount of media attention. The judgment shows that the law, as it stands, does not adequately allow an individual the means to promptly leave the marriage in the event that their spouse is not at material fault.

A recent study into defended divorce cases shows that less than 1% of divorces are defended and of those cases, less than 18% were defended on the basis that the marriage had not irrevocably broken down, with the majority being disputed on the basis that the accused party was not at fault. This suggests that the current fault based system is responsible for over 80% of divorce disputes.

This has spurred the debate of whether we should rethink the current law and introduce a “no-fault” divorce. Advocates of this change claim that it would lessen the financial and emotional impact of the already fraught divorce process. In 2015, 60% of English and Welsh divorces were granted on grounds of adultery or behaviour. In Scotland, figures where a divorce can be obtained by neither party admitting fault after one year (with consent) was 6%. In cases where neither party has committed any act or acts that can be considered unreasonable, the law forces the parties to either fabricate misdeeds or wait a minimum period of two years to formally divorce. It is rare that these cases proceed as far as Owens v Owens did, as the majority are settled out of Court; however eliminating the need to point blame or find reason, could lead to a more expeditious, less costly process.

The Owens case has certainly flagged up the importance of modernising the somewhat outdated and potentially prejudicial system and it will be interesting to see the long-term effects of this case and whether, following the controversy and media attention, a no-fault divorce system will be introduced.

To speak to the Family team at Meadows Ryan about a divorce or family matter, contact Christian Abletshauser.

The rise of “grey divorce” in 2018 – why it’s happening and how to cope

Over the past 20 years, there has been a marked and steady rise in the number of older people who seek to get divorced – “grey divorce”. The trend continues in 2018 and here we examine the reasons for this and what those concerned can do to help them cope with the prospect effectively.

Why grey divorce is on the rise

There are several reasons why grey divorce is on the rise. In the first instance, grey divorce is now deemed acceptable by society and has little or no stigma attached to it. In days gone by, it was the case that many married couples who were experiencing difficulties would enter into an “Irish” divorce and this meant separating but not going through with the legal proceeding.

Life expectancy is also playing a role in the rise of the grey divorce. People are living longer, which means couples can be together longer and thus statistically more likely to end up parting company.

The third main reason why grey divorce is on the rise is that subsequent marriages, that is to say a second or third marriage tends not to last as long and to end up in divorce.

Here is a look at the statistics:

“In England and Wales, divorce is in decline – our most recent 10 years of data show a 28% fall in the number of divorces between 2005 and 2015. But older people are bucking the trend. In the same period, the number of men divorcing aged 65 and over went up by 23% and the number of women of the same age divorcing increased by 38%.” Office of National Statistics

How to cope

What may act as some kind of comfort for those who are experiencing grey divorce is that there is now more support and advice around than ever before to help them cope with the procedure. For instance, legal experts like Withers Worldwide offer a range of services such as legal mediation or help navigating complex cases that may involve post-nuptial agreements or factors such as overseas trusts.

Other forms of support come in the form of forums or services like the ones offered by divorce support groups. Talking through the experience and the surrounding factors is one of the best ways of coping with the related stresses, strains and processes. This coupled with a healthy lifestyle and plenty of rest will help those going through a grey divorce to understand what is happening and how to deal with it.

Pre-nuptial agreements: how to protect your assets

prenup

Recent data from the Office of National Statistics highlights that the marriage rate for women over the age of 65 has increased by 56 per cent in recent years, suggesting that, for some, marriage is as much about financial security as it is about love.

One of the biggest financial concerns facing couples who decide to marry or remarry in later life is the extent to which their existing assets may become part of the new marriage’s matrimonial assets in the event that one party dies or files for divorce.

The decision, therefore, about whether assets should be kept separate or shared with a new partner, should be considered very carefully at the outset. One way of increasing the likelihood of keeping that pre-marital assets separate is through a pre-nuptial agreement.

Despite their somewhat transactional and unromantic reputation, pre-nuptial agreements are becoming increasingly popular in the UK and are often found to provide clarity.

The Supreme Court decision in Radmacher v Granatino [2010] UKSC 42 in October 2010 decided that the court will uphold the terms of a pre-nuptial agreement that is freely entered into by both parties with a full appreciation of its implications unless it is found to be unfair.

There is no doubt that getting married can bring with it a number of financial benefits. However, it is vital to obtain the correct advice from the start so that you are able to identify the key financial issues and avoid any difficulties that can arise from the marriage’s early demise.

To find out more, please contact Christian Abletshauser, Partner, Meadows Ryan, family solicitors (email christian@meadowsryan.com).

3 things clients consider when choosing their divorce lawyer

Family lawyers are always in need of not only more instructions, but also instructions of a higher value. In order to know how to attract and convert more customers, you need to know more about them. Possibly the most important thing lawyers can know about their customers is the factors affecting their choice when it comes to choosing their solicitor. This post looks at 5 things customers consider when choosing a divorce lawyer, and how you can easily take advantage of these insights to drive greater profitability.

Specialism

Consumers are more sophisticated than ever before. Where once they may have just used the one high street lawyer for all their legal needs, the internet allows customers to do a bit of research. For high-value or contentious divorces, the customer is likely not just to be looking for “a lawyer” but a lawyer with a divorce specialism, and even a specialism in their particular circumstances. Demonstrating your expertise, skill and past work on your website through strategic content can be an excellent way of demonstrating your specialism in that area. Furthermore, if you are a member of a professional organisation, or have won any awards or recognitions, you should put these trust icons on your website. These are called trust icons for a reason and can be very persuasive when it comes to customer conversion.

Reputation

Testimonials and reviews hold a lot of power when it comes to consumer decision making. After all, when was the last time you bought something online without checking out the reviews? You should aim to implement a process for gathering reviews and testimonials. For example, create a template email asking past clients to review your service on Google. Legal reviews can be difficult, because often clients will focus on the outcome – which may have been out of your control. Try to guide the client by asking them to focus on service. Were you easy to contact? Were you upfront about costs? These are things within your control and can help persuade potential customers that you are good to work with.

Branding

Your website is now your shopfront, and if that shopfront is looking tired, this can be dissuading to customers, particularly those that are facing a difficult divorce and want to feel secure. Having a well-designed, easy to use website that provides clear information about your services puts potential clients minds at ease. You should aim to not only describe your services, but your customer service too. This may be the first time the client has ever dealt with a lawyer, so they want to know what to expect. Similarly, keeping your blog and social channels regularly updated shows that you are active online, and are likely to respond promptly if the call or email you.

What comes after “divorce month”?

Family lawyers will be getting some much needed respite now that February has arrived. January is typically known as ‘divorce month’ where following the festive season, many couples decide to call it quits. Perhaps it is the ‘after Christmas’ mentality, getting a new start in the new year, or the financial strain of Christmas pushing couples apart. Regardless of the cause, divorce lawyers find themselves exceptionally busy at this time. But, what comes next? How can family lawyers continue to attract a large volume of work after the divorce dust has settled? We take some advice from expert lawyers.

Case studies

One of the best digital marketing strategies for family layers is to use anonymous case studies of cases they have previously worked on. Often potential clients will be looking for answers to very specific questions when it comes to family law, and having a case study that closely mirrors their situation on your website can help boost enquiries. Think about the different types of customers you want to attract, and common problems that they might face.

Testimonials and Reviews

Similar to case studies, when looking to instruct a family lawyer, many consumers will read testimonials and reviews of past clients. Where you have successfully resolved a case for a client, or helped them secure the results they we’re looking for. Now might be the time to focus on boosting those reviews. Send out a template email to your recent clients asking them to complete a Google review for your business. This will not only help with client trust, but can also help your organic search results too. If your firm has a decent sized  Facebook presence, you can also ask them to review you on Facebook, to reach a different audience.

If you are a firm that offers more than family law services, you might want to consider some follow up marketing campaigns. For example, those who have recently made enquiries about divorce services may now need to update their Will to reflect their change in circumstances.  Similarly, now that January is over, many people might start thinking about selling or buying a property, or even starting a business. Cross-selling your services is an excellent way to turn one-off transactions into relationships, and you should begin to think about the lifecycle of your customers and their legal needs if you do not already.

January and February see spikes in online divorce legal searches

According to Google search statistics, January 2016 and January 2012 were the two most popular months for divorce searches in the last ten years, and it is consistently proven to be the busiest time of the year for solicitors who handle divorce and the financial and conveyancing issues surrounding separation. According to The Independent, January 8th is being dubbed as “Divorce Day” by lawyers because of the number of enquiries they receive from couples wishing to end their marriages after the festive period.

Experts say the stress of trying to have a perfect family Christmas when you’re no longer happy with your spouse can get too much, as well as the financial pressures and unfulfilled expectations this time of year brings.

Relate, one of the UK’s biggest relationship charities, has also revealed it received a peak in calls in January.

Google’s data also shows that there are some peaks in other months, such as May and August, and that December is also consistently higher for divorce searches.

For solicitor firms, it may be prudent to absorb such figures and plan effectively for both marketing plans and coordinate processes to handle the upsurge in clients around the peak times.

MSHB: expert divorce law advice

Collectively, the lawyers at Miller Samuel Hill Brown Solicitors have over 300 years of experience, making them one of the most well-established firms in Scotland. Their family lawyers based in Glasgow, help all kinds of clients, including business owners, entrepreneurs and other individuals with complex aspects of family law and divorce – as well as those that are more straightforward. Their lengthy and extensive experience means that they are able to provide the highest quality legal advice, tailored to your specific circumstances.

Strong client relationships

Miller Samuel Hill Brown’s divorce lawyers understand that family issues are personal and sensitive matters, and that’s why they work to build strong relationships with their clients to help them feel at ease. They provide support for their clients throughout the legal process. They believe their commitment to customer satisfaction sets them apart from other law firms and is the cornerstone of their successful practice.

Contact Miller Samuel’s Family Lawyers in Glasgow, Scotland

For more information on Miller Samuel Hill Brown’s legal services, click here: https://www.mshblegal.com/