Whether you are married, a same sex couple or cohabitees we will help you consider the right options for you; including guiding you through the emotional time of "divorcing" and considering mediation where possible.
If you have decided that you wish to immediately end your relationship permanently then a "divorce" may be appropriate.
If you are married and wish to bring your relationship to a permanent end, this is known as a divorce. If you are in a same sex civil partnership and wish to bring your relattionship to a permanent end, this is known and a dissolution.
The Rules are nearly the same for same sex couples and heterosexual couples. However, the Rules are very different for couples who never entered into a Civil Partnership or who never got formally married.
There is a great deal of confusion amongst the general public about common law spouses especially cohabitees who have lived together for several years, often having children together.
This confusion can lead to unfortunate and unfair outcomes and it is imperative that cohabitees get specialist advice from us as swiftly as possible.
By contacting our specialist family and children team we can ensure that you receive the best legal advice in a considerate way to ensure best and sensible possible outcomes with the least amount of stress and acrimony possible.
Determining what "rights" and responsibilities you have for your children is not determined by your status as a father or a mother but whether you have parental responsibility:
If your child's birth was registered before the 1st December 2003 then only the child's mother will automatically have parental responsibility. The child's father (even if his name is on the birth certificate) will not automatically have parental responsibility. In such circumstances the father will acquire responsibility if:
a) The parents are married or the parties subsequently marry each other
b) The mother and father enter into a parental responsibility agreement
c) The Court makes a parental responsibility order
d) The father applies successfully for 'residence' (now known as a child arrangements order) for the child or children in question.
Where a child's birth is registered on or after the 1st December 2003 and both parents have registered the birth of their baby together, the father will automatically gain parental responsibility.
Step parents (including same sex couples) may also acquire parental responsibility by:
a) Executing a parental responsibility agreement or
b) Applying to the Court for a Parental Responsibility Order.
Section 8 Orders
It is only in circumstances where parents or step parents (including Civil Partners) cannot agree arrangements for their children that the Court will intervene. The four main types of Order which the Court can make are:-
a) A Residence Order (custody) - now known as a Child arrangement Order
b) A Contact Order (access) - now also known as a Child Arrangement Order
c) A Specific Issue Order
d) A Prohibited Steps Order
We will carefully and sympathetically advise you about 'custody' (Residence) and 'access' (Contact) (now collectively known as child arrangement orders (CAO's) issues whether you are married or not and ensure that suitable arrangements are made in a sensitive and constructive manner through what can be a difficult and emotional time.
We can guide you through the maze of dealing with financial matters on separation, whether you are a same sex couple, cohabitees or married and help you achieve the settlement you deserve. With years of specialist experience in this area, we are able to advise you on the divisions of pensions, investments, businesses and other assets including the family home.
The rules regarding couples who were not married to each other or who did not enter into a Civil Partnership even if they consider themselves common law spouses are very different.
When looking at the financial implications of the breakdown of a relationship apportioning assets is never easy. Generally speaking the starting point will be 'equality' in the division of assets or property between the spouse or civil partner.
This does NOT necessarily mean a 50% each.
The Courts are, however, directed to take into account a whole list of things which after consideration may suggest that to be fair one party should have rather more than half.
In order to make an Order the Courts will give regard to the following: -
The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each spouse or civil partner has, or is likely to have in the foreseeable future
The financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each spouse or civil partner has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
The standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage or civil partnership;
The age of each spouse or civil partner and the duration of the marriage or civil partnership;
Any physical or mental disability of either of the spouse or civil partners;
The contributions which each spouse or civil partner has made or is likely in the foreseeable future to make to the welfare of the family, including any contributions by looking after the home or caring for the family;
The conduct of each spouse or civil partner, if that conduct is such that it would in the opinion of the court be inequitable to disregard it;
The value to each spouse or civil partner of any benefit which, because of the dissolution or annulment of the marriage or civil partnership, that spouse or civil partner will lose the chance of acquiring.
This area of law is complicated and requires significant enquiry and we would at all times recommend you contact us before you agree to any financial settlement.
Regrettably there are times within a relationship when one party is subjected to domestic violence by the other party. Domestic violence is the emotional, physical and sexual abuse between people who have at some time had an intimate or family relationship. At such times it may be necessary to seek the assistance of the Court for protection.
If you are at risk of domestic violence or have suffered threats of harm, emotional abuse or financial abuse then you may be entitled to obtain an injunction against the perpetrator which gives you protection against continuing violence and/or harassment. Our specialist family team have vast experience in dealing with such matters and can ensure that you get swift and adequate protection for you and your family.
The remedies available in summary are:
A non-molestation Injunction (i.e. Court Order) preventing one party from molesting or interfering with the other party to the relationship or perhaps a child of the parties.
A non-occupation Injunction removing one party from a jointly shared residence or preventing a party from returning or visiting a jointly shared residence.
The legislation under which the proceedings may be brought will depend upon the parties' circumstances immediately preceding the issue of proceedings and will also depend upon whether the parties are living together as man and wife or are actually married or have a civil partnership.
Asset or Property Injunctions
There may be occasions when you need to prevent a partner from removing or squandering assets or property so as to defeat your entitlement to them.
In such cases you often need to instruct a Solicitor to move quickly - to go to court - and protect those assets before they disappear.
Our specialist Family Team can ensure that you take swift and decisive action in the right circumstances to ensure that assets are not put beyond your reach.
In such cases the courts can "freeze" the assets such as bank accounts or prevent a home from being sold.
In other cases the court can force the other party to "produce" the assets in court such as important documents and protect them from being transferred or sold.