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If I got married abroad, do I have to get divorced in the same country?

No. English family courts can deal with marriages which took place anywhere in the world as long as there is sufficient connection with England or Wales. Factors that will be considered include which countries you and your spouse have been resident, your nationalities and your legal domicile.

If I got married in England, but I no longer live there, does my divorce have to be in England?

No. The English family courts can deal with your divorce if there is still sufficient connection to this country, but the courts of other countries may also be able to deal with the divorce and related financial matters.

How do I decide where to issue family court proceedings?

First, you will need to establish in which countries proceedings could be issued. You should then consider the likely outcomes if proceedings took place in that country, including the timetable and procedure as well as the likely financial settlement, any arrangements for children, legal costs and whether the divorce and related agreements will be recognised in the various countries with which you have connections.

Each jurisdiction has its own approach to the division of property and other assets including pensions and trusts, as well as different attitudes towards maintenance and children.

You should consider the whole picture before deciding which jurisdiction is right for you.

Can divorce proceedings started in one country be transferred to another?

Yes, the English court can and will transfer the entire, or part of, proceedings to another country if that country is better placed to deal with the issues of the case. However, it is not possible to transfer divorce proceedings within the European Union, so it is important to take fast legal action to ensure your divorce begins in the jurisdiction most favourable to you.

Speed is of the essence when forum shopping, but it is equally important to ensure you have strong jurisdictional grounds as the consequences of not doing so can be very expensive.

Legal Advice

For further advice, arrange a confidential meeting with one of our international child custody lawyers. Call us on +44 (0)20 7993 2936 or click here to complete a contact form.

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I am a British national and I was married abroad, will my marriage be recognised in England and Wales?

Your marriage or civil partnership will be recognised as long as you followed the law of the country in which you were married and your legal union would have been allowed in the UK.

I am a foreign national and was married abroad, will my marriage be recognised in England Wales?

If the marriage complied with the law of the country in which it took place and both spouses had the legal capacity to marry it is very likely. English policy is to recognise genuine foreign marriages wherever possible, regardless of whether the marriage would be allowed here, such as polygamous marriage which is not legal in this country.

If I got married abroad, do I have to get divorced in the same country?

No. English family courts can deal with marriages which took place anywhere in the world as long as there is sufficient connection with England or Wales. Factors that will be considered include which countries you and your spouse have been resident, your nationalities and your legal domicile.

I was divorced abroad, will my divorce be recognised in England and Wales?

If the divorce took place in the EU it will be recognised in England and Wales. The recognition of foreign divorces outside of the EU is more complex and will depend on factors such as how the divorce was obtained and your connection with that country at the time.

Can I bring an application for a financial order to the English court following a foreign divorce?

This will depend on the circumstances of your individual case. In some cases, the court can act as if the divorce itself took place in England and make full financial orders, in other cases the court will only deal with specific English assets, such as a pension or property.

Legal Advice

For further advice, arrange a confidential meeting with one of our international family lawyers. Call us on +44 (0)20 7993 2936 or click here to complete a contact form.

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Can I enforce my English Financial Order for maintenance abroad?

This is very likely. England and Wales has reciprocal arrangements with countries around the world to enforce financial orders which are required to meet a person’s needs, such as child and spousal maintenance.

Can I enforce my English Financial Order for assets abroad?

The situation regarding assets which have been divided in the interests of fairness, such as property and pensions, is more complex. Enforcement depends on the order and where it is going to be enforced. If you are divorcing in this country, but have property abroad, it is advisable to gain legal advice before any agreements are made.

Can I enforce my foreign Financial Order in England?

This is usually possible if the divorce is recognised in this country, but it will depend on the arrangements that are in place between the English government and the country in which the order was made.

Legal Advice

For further advice, arrange a confidential meeting by calling +44 (0)20 7993 2936 or click here to complete a contact form.

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In a time when both our business models and personal relationships are being tested to their limits, it is important to understand how the breakdown of a relationship can affect your business.

This webinar is essential viewing for all entrepreneurs who are:

  • Married or considering marriage in the future
  • With a business partner who is married or might get married in the future
  • In business with their romantic partner
  • Employing their romantic partner
  • With business loans secured against a jointly owned residence

Because…

Your spouse could “own” 50% of your business, even if they have never been involved with it.

What does this mean?

If you separate you might need to “buy them out” or give them shares in the business.  There are also tax implications.

In this webinar we will consider:

  • Real-life separation case studies from business owners who started their businesses before and during marriage, including horror stories that you will want to avoid.
  • Cost-effective legal steps to help you protect your business whilst ensuring you can provide fairly for your spouse, including pre-nups, post-nups, cohabitation agreements and trusts.
  • Practical tips for anyone considering divorce who does not have protections in place.
  • Legal strategies to negotiate a fair outcome for everyone.

Why can we talk to you about this?  As law firm specialising in Family and Private Wealth firm, we help entrepreneurs, directors and investors to protect their professional interests from personal life events, so they can achieve their lifetime ambitions and leave the legacy they intend.  We also deal with the legal fall-out for those who do not take these steps.

Other Allard Bailey webinars for Fresh Business Thinking:

  1. How to use the law to align your personal and professional goals so that you can maximise growth in all areas: View here.
  2. How to protect your business from events in your personal life that can have a significant impact, such as your unexpected incapacity, death or personal debt: View here.
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What are the grounds for Dissolving a Civil Partnership?

If you have taken the difficult decision to end your civil partnership, you will will need to show that your relationship has broken down irretrievably by proving one of four facts:

  1. Unreasonable behaviour, which includes but is not limited to domestic abuse
  2. Desertion
  3. Two years separation plus consent
  4. Five years separation.

Unlike marriage, it is not possible to use adultery as a fact in a civil partnership dissolution.

What is the Process?

You must have been in your civil partnership for at least a year before you can apply for a dissolution.

It is advisable to obtain legal advice to ensure that you meet the legal requirements and your documents are lodged correctly.

Legal advice can also prove invaluable when it comes to dividing your assets and resolving disputes about child arrangements.

Legal Advice

For further advice on dissolving a civil partnership, please contact Louise Allard or Sabrina Bailey on 020 7993 2936.

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What is the procedure of divorce?

In the UK you must have been married for a year and meet certain criteria to petition the Court for divorce. The party seeking the divorce is known as the Petitioner and the other party is known as the Respondent. The only ground for divorce in England and Wales is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. You must rely on one of the following 5 facts:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • Two years separation plus consent
  • Five years separation

We will take your full instructions and advise on the most appropriate fact in your case.

How long will it take?

There is no such thing as a “quickie divorce”, despite what the papers say! An undefended divorce, where there is no delay from either party in filing paperwork could take from between 4-6 months. 

However, should financial issues need to be resolved, matters can take longer to finalise. We can provide advice and assistance throughout this process, specifically tailored regarding the needs of your case. This includes dealing with any issues or disputes regarding prenuptial or postnuptial agreements.

How much will it cost?

Every divorce is different, but will provide you with cost estimates at each stage.  We have a transparent approach to fees and will review your costs regularly, providing you with updates to ensure that you are always aware of your position.

Can I divorce in the UK if I don’t live there?

In many circumstances it is possible to divorce in the UK even if you do not currently live here, and we can advise according to your circumstances. We have represented clients in the Middle East, Far East, France, Australia and the USA. It is important to receive advice at the outset about likely outcomes if you were to divorce in a different country.

Legal Advice

 For an initial discussion about your situation, please call us on 020 7993 2936 or visit here.  

 

 

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What is Matrimonial Finance?

Matrimonial finance is the financial settlement (divorce settlement) of matrimonial assets between divorcing couples. It used to be referred to as ancillary relief.

What does the Court consider when making a decision?

The Court will take a number of factors into account when considering how to divide the assets. At the top of that list are the needs of any children of the marriage and second to those needs are the needs of the parties themselves, but there are other relevant factors, for example the age of the parties, the length of marriage and any contribution made by the parties before marriage.

How can we help?

We understand that the breakdown of a relationship is a traumatic experience and it can be almost impossible to see a way through to agree a fair division of assets. We know that no matter what the circumstances there is always a solution.

Negotiating a settlement is a skilled and often complex task. In all cases we will draw on our own experience and that of other trusted professionals we have built a relationship with to reach the right settlement for you, that could involve forensic accountants, barristers, life coaches, valuers, mediators and other professionals. We will try and avoid lengthy and costly Court proceedings but we are not afraid to litigate if necessary and will help you make that judgement call should we feel that Court may be in your best interests.

Legal Advice

Allard Bailey specialises in matrimonial finance and divorce settlements. Speak confidentially to our team of London-based lawyers today on 020 7993 2936 or visit here.

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Relationship breakdowns are one of the most stressful experiences in life so it is easy to become overwhelmed.

Whatever has led you to separate from your partner, our divorce lawyers in London and Hertfordshire can guide you through the stress and complexities of divorce, separation and dissolution law.  We can advise you on the most appropriate form of resolution for your situation including mediation, collaboration, direct negotiation and Court.

We are also experienced in assisting unmarried couples where a relationship has broken down and there is a disagreement about how the assets should be divided. 

Where there are children of the relationship, we encourage both parents to put the needs of the child first and can help you to put realistic and robust care arrangments in place.

In all circumstances we will act with empathy and discretion, providing realistic and practical solutions to any issues that you are finding difficult to resolve.  

What is the procedure of divorce and dissolution?

Although the rights of married and civil partnered couples In England and Wales are largely the same, the grounds for ending your legal union are a little different. 

In all cases, you must have been married or in a civil partnership for a year and meet certain criteria to petition the Court for divorce or dissolution. 

You must show that the marriage or civil partnership has broken down irretrievably. 

 

You do this by proving certain facts:

  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • Two years separation plus consent
  • Five years separation without consent
  • Adultery is grounds for divorce, but cannot be used as grounds for a dissolution.

We will take your full instructions and advise you on the most appropriate fact in your case.

How long will it take?

Despite what the papers say, it is difficult to get a “quickie divorce” or dissolution!  If both people are in agreement and there are no delays filing paperwork, the process could take from  4-6 months.  If there are disagreements about finances, the process will often take longer.

How much will it cost?

Every person and every separation is different so you can choose the level of assistance you need, from a one-off consultation to review your arrangements or full representation in more complicated matters.  

Therefore costs will vary, but please be assured that we have a transparent approach to fees and will provide you with cost estimates at each stage. 

Can I divorce in the UK if I don’t live there?

In many circumstances it is possible to divorce in the UK even if you do not currently live here, and we can advise according to your circumstances. We have represented clients in the Middle East, Far East, France, Australia and the USA. 

Read more about choosing the right jurisdiction for you divorce.

Where are you based?

Allard Bailey Family Law is based in Holborn, London. We also have an office in Hertfordshire. Our team of divorce and family solicitors can guide you through the divorce process with empathy, keeping you fully informed at every stage. You can meet our divorce lawyers in our offices in London or Hertford for a face-to-face consultation, or wherever is most convenient for you. We can be reached anytime via:

Info@allardbailey.com

(+44) 020 7993 2936

skype@allardbailey.com

Head office

 

Hertfordshire office


For an initial discussion about your situation, please call us on 020 7993 2936 or visit here

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Where does that leave people who want to reach a swift conclusion?

It is not surprising that our clients are increasingly looking for alternative methods to resolve issues that are already before the court or about to commence.  Whether the dispute relates to financial matters, property or arrangements concerning children, arbitration is an option that we are increasingly suggesting.

What is family arbitration all about?

Arbitration is a formal process that involves an impartial adjudicator who resolves the dispute in a private tribunal.  It is a process that can be used to resolve single issues as well as fully contested matters.

How does it work?

Arbitration is a voluntary process and both parties must agree to use arbitration to settle the issue(s) between them.

You can choose which arbitrator you wish to use based on their areas of expertise.  If you are unable to agree, there is a process available which will enable an arbitrator to be appointed for you.

During arbitration you present your case to the arbitrator who will make a decision that is final and legally binding.  A solicitor can advise about the process of arbitration and whether your dispute is suitable.

Is Arbitration suitable for child related issues?

Yes, providing there are no safeguarding issues. Since July 2016, arbitration has been available for children issues such as:

  • where a child should live;
  • contact arrangements;
  • educational or religious issues;
  • disagreements over a child’s routine or non life threatening treatment;
  • disagreement over a holiday abroad;
  • relocation within England and Wales and some international relocation (depending on the destination country in question)

There are some issues that cannot be determined by an arbitrator such as:

  • child abduction;
  • where the disagreement relates to an application to return a child to England and Wales from another country;
  • where there is a dispute over the administration of or management of life changing or life threatening treatment;
  • where a party lacks mental capacity or is a minor.

What about financial disputes?

Yes, these too can be resolved through arbitration with the added benefit of being completely confidential.  The process can be used whether you are/were married or living together.

What are the benefits of arbitration?

Arbitration is well suited to the ‘new norm’ of remote hearings via Zoom or Skype.  Many arbitrators will be experienced solicitors or barristers who are all currently using remote platforms to attend hearings and represent their clients.  Arbitration offers a wealth of benefits including:

  1. You choose the arbitrator
  2. Your arbitrator will hear the case from start to finish, ensuring consistency, which is often not possible in the court system
  3. You will not have to attend a congested court, where time is at a premium, and you will not be competing with other cases on your arbitration day. You can be assured that you will have the arbitrator’s whole attention
  4. It is private and the award (for financial issues) or determination (children issues) is never published, therefore confidentiality is guaranteed
  5. The decision of the arbitrator is binding (just like a court order) which gives both parties certainty
  6. The process is flexible and the parties can effectively decide upon the speed at which their case progresses
  7. You can choose where the arbitration will be heard. This can be at the arbitrator’s office or at a solicitor’s office. It offers a more relaxed experience for all parties
  8. In the long term, an early decision to arbitrate will enable both parties to avoid protracted and expensive court-based litigation
  9. If you both decide that an issue can be decided purely on paper, an arbitrator can consider the issue in hand and provide the award or determination in writing without seeing either of you in person
  10. You will receive the written award or determination from the arbitrator within 28 days, but often sooner. It is not uncommon to wait several weeks or sometimes months for a court to hand down judgment if it is not given on the day of the hearing itself.

It is also worth noting that you can apply to the court for an order to be made in the same or similar terms to the adjudicator’s award or determination, although this is not necessary.

What are the disadvantages?

As with all processes, what is considered an advantage by one person, may be a disadvantage to another.  A key point to note is that because the decision is binding, there are limited grounds to appeal an award or determination if you are unhappy.

What about the costs of the process?

Arbitration is usually less costly than court litigation, but this does depend on certain variables such as the fees of the arbitrator, or arbitrators, and whether you represent yourself or attend with legal counsel.

It is normal to share the fees of the arbitrator equally, although the arbitrator does have some discretion to order one party to pay more if their conduct during the process has been extremely unreasonable.

Is it for you?

In uncertain times, it is well worth exploring the benefits that arbitration has to offer, particularly when a court-based approach can be littered with delay.  Delay can increase legal costs and personal anxiety, which is unhealthy for anyone coping with family breakdown or trauma.

Legal Advice

We have highlighted arbitration as an effective alternative for those who would otherwise go to Court, but there are other Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) options available.  If you wish to explore whether arbitration, or another method of ADR, may be helpful in your case please get in touch with us at Allard Bailey Family Law.

To book a virtual consultation or telephone appointment with one of our team, please call 020 7993 2936 or complete the Contact Form on this page.

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Despite initial reports of a rebound in potential purchasers since lockdown measures were eased, the property market remains uncertain. Many people are still concerned about their job security which could affect their desire and ability to move. Lenders may also become more stringent in their requirements for lending which could affect mortgage capacities. These factors could bring volatility to the property market and prices.

Even those with substantial assets, who do not need to sell any property to reach a fair settlement, may struggle to agree how property should be distributed if estimated values fluctuate.

For many divorcing couples, the family home will be their main asset.  Where sale of the family home is required for you both to be able to rehouse appropriately, a stall in sales could result in you being left in limbo.  During this time, try to take a realistic and pragmatic approach to address the situation. One of you may be able to rent alternative accommodation for a period of time.  If you do not have the income to do this, it may be possible to release equity from the family home.  Whatever arrangements are made, it will be helpful if you are understanding and work together to try to find an interim solution that is fair to everyone.

Where an order for sale is required, you may wish to consider including provision for each of you to receive a percentage of the net proceeds of sale rather than a fixed amount.  This would help to ensure that any risks or benefits of housing market fluctuations are shared.

LEGAL ADVICE

At Allard Bailey Family Law we can help you to lead negotiations with your former partner and reach a temporary or permanent financial settlement out of Court, if possible.

To book a virtual consultation or telephone appointment with one of our team, please call 020 7993 2936 or complete the Contact Form on this page.

 

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Parents with care are bearing the hidden costs of children being home all day. Such as additional utilities, food, entertainment activities and supplies for home schooling. Some have needed to reduce work hours or stop work completely during this period to provide round the clock care for the children. The financial impact means many parents with care are more reliant on child maintenance payments than before.

What if the paying parent’s income has reduced?
While the legal obligation for child maintenance is solely income based, it is advisable to consider the needs of the children as well as the situation of the resident parent before making changes. This is a difficult time for many children who are adjusting to staying at home. An unnecessary change in finance can prove detrimental to their wellbeing, so it is important to remain as child focused as possible. Because of this, some parents will choose to keep up payments.

If you pay child maintenance but cannot keep up payments whilst meeting your own basic needs, we recommend that you have an initial conversation with your former partner.  If you understand each other’s situation you may find a compromise such as reducing payments for a short period, or deferring payments while waiting for any applicable government finance schemes to come through.

It is important to note that if you are paying child maintenance through the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) they will only consider a formal adjustment if your salary has changed by at least 25%.

How long should any adjustments continue?
Whilst lockdown feels long, please remember that it is only a temporary measure and many income reductions will also be temporary. Any changes to child maintenance should reflect this.

Where safe to do so, we encourage parents to communicate and resolve financial issues together so that animosity is not created and does not continue when lockdown lifts. In all cases, changes should be recorded in writing so that evidence can be provided if either of you raises issues with the variation at a later date.

What if the paying parent has lost their job?
In this situation child maintenance payments could stop. Parents with capital may choose to continue supporting their children, others will be unable to do so.  In some circumstances, the non-resident parent may be able to provide valuable practical help instead. This could mean increasing their time with the children so the resident parent can continue working, or assisting with home schooling older children. Other practical assistance like providing a food shop, home school supplies or entertainment activities may contribute towards meeting the children’s overall needs during this difficult time.

What if our arrangement is more complicated?
Child maintenance is not always straight forward. In addition to family-based arrangements, there are more complicated arrangements through the Court or CMS.

Below we answer two specific questions about child maintenance payments.  The answers will provide some guidance on steps that you can take to remedy your own situation or when to seek help from a legal professional.

Question 1: My ex-partner has been furloughed and says child maintenance will stop

My ex-partner pays child maintenance through the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). His company has furloughed him and he sent me a message saying that child maintenance will stop immediately. I didn’t receive the payment for this month. When he has missed payments before I spoke to the CMS and they chased him, but I can’t get through to speak to them about this on the phone.

Answer: Many employees have been furloughed using the government Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Under the scheme the government pays 80% of the employee’s wages and the company can optionally chose to pay the remaining 20%.

If the paying parent has been placed on a furlough then it should not trigger any change in their weekly child maintenance liability. This is because the CMS only consider changes of income when they have increased or decreased by 25%.

The CMS is open, but experiencing a shortage in staff as many have been redeployed to work on speeding up Universal Credit claims. A reduced phone service is operating between 9am – 3:30pm Monday to Friday only. To ensure that the service is not overloaded they have notified all users that the service will only take calls in certain circumstances and will not deal with missed payments over the phone. If a payment has been missed or is less than expected, this must be reported through CMS online portal.

The advantage of notifying CMS through the portal is that evidence of non-payment can also be uploaded. This can include any messages from the paying parent stating that maintenance will be unilaterally decreased to nil, and bank statements to show incorrect funds have been received.

Unfortunately, due to delays caused by the global pandemic, CMS estimates it will take 6 – 12 weeks to process enquiries. However, rest assured that when CMS can deal with your case, they will be applying those arrears.

Question 2: I cannot afford to pay my court ordered child maintenance

I pay child maintenance for my two children which was agreed as part of a court order. I’m in a real financial bind with the pressures of the pandemic and I’m worried I could fall into debt. I just can’t afford to make ends meet and keep up payments on the place that I live if I also need to make these really high payments for the children. Can I vary the payments?

Answer: The options to vary child maintenance payments recorded in a Court Order very much depend on when the Order was sealed by the Court and the clauses contained in the drafting. Factors like the date, special clauses and the possibility of enforcement need to be considered.  We will look at each of these in turn.

Date – Any Court Order made in England and Wales between 5th April 1993 and 6th April 2002 (where the receiving parent is not in receipt of income support) must be varied through the Court as they retain jurisdiction.

If an Order was made after 6th April 2002 and has passed its first anniversary, the child maintenance element can be brought to the Child Maintenance Service for an assessment. The matter will only be considered formally transferred once the CMS have received the appropriate fee and full details of all parties. Once this happens the child maintenance clause in your Order becomes null and void.

It is also important to note, that CMS calculates on the previous tax year (2019-20) meaning that child maintenance liability could be increased or decreased when compared to your original Order. A recalculation is possible if the paying parent’s income has changed by 25% since the last tax year or if you are now in receipt of benefits.

If an Order is less than one year old, the child maintenance clause is binding and cannot be transferred to CMS.  Payments must continue until the first anniversary of the Order unless there is agreement of both parties or an application to vary is granted by the Court.

If you need to make a change, we recommend that you first contact the receiving parent to explain the situation. If that is not possible, or the desired progress is not made, a mediator or family solicitor could aid the negotiation process. We strongly recommend that any negotiation achieved should be recorded in writing, ideally in the form of a Consent Order and lodged with the Court.

In matters where negotiation is unsuccessful, it would be appropriate to ask the Court to review the Order, to decide if child maintenance should be varied.

Special Clauses – Some Orders contain special clauses such as contractual agreements and ‘Christmas Orders’.

Contractual arrangements can be stand alone or in addition to a Court Order. Where a parent has signed a contract to make maintenance payments, then varying payments would be breaching the contract. As changes to payments can result in serious repercussions, including being ordered to pay damages, judgement summons and potentially even bankruptcy, it is essential to seek legal advice.

Some orders contain what is known as a ‘Christmas Order’. This means that the child maintenance element of the Order renews annually and is therefore never over 12 months old. This means you cannot transfer the matter to the CMS. Any change to this Order would need to be by agreement of both parties and recorded in a further Consent Order or by application to the Court.

Risk of Enforcement – We strongly recommend taking take legal advice before making unilateral changes to Court Ordered child maintenance payments. This is because Court Orders made in the jurisdiction of England and Wales (while the paying party resides there) could be subject to an Enforcement Order.

A judge hearing such matters has a wide range of enforcement actions available to them including: ordering that any maintenance owed can be taken directly from earnings; placing a change on property or other assets; sending bailiffs to seize belongings; freezing funds in bank accounts.

As the repercussions are so serious and can have long term effects on your financial situation, it is important to take advice from a specialist at the earliest opportunity.

In summary, where there is a Court Order in place for child maintenance it is essential that you obtain the benefit of early advice.

Legal Advice

At Allard Bailey Family Law we can assist in leading any negotiations with your former partner, our extensive experience with both variations and enforcements allows us to provide guidance on what may be acceptable to Court.

To book a virtual consultation or telephone appointment with one of our team, please call 020 7993 2936.

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The increase in domestic abuse during the pandemic has been alarming. In London alone, more than 4,000 people were arrested for domestic abuse in the first six weeks of lockdown. Charges and cautions for domestic abuse have increased by 24% compared with last year.  The charity, Refuge, reports an increase in calls to their helpline of 49%. Across the board, domestic abuse services report a 22% increase in their services. Disturbingly, the number of people murdered due to domestic abuse doubled in the first 21 days of lockdown.

In this blog, we look at what domestic violence is, what practical steps can be taken, wider support and legal remedies that are available to people facing domestic abuse.

***If you or someone else is in immediate danger please call 999 and ask for the police. If you are unable to talk you can use the Silent Solution of calling 999 and pressing 55 when prompted.***

What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse can be physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, financial control, harassment and stalking, online digital abuse, coercive control. It can be one isolated incident or a pattern of incidents.

The most common form of domestic abuse is between people in a romantic relationship, but it can also cover abuse between family members and adolescent to parent violence and abuse.

The SafeLives campaign reports that people often do not recognise that they are being abused and found that people usually endure 35-50 counts of domestic abuse for 2-3 years before seeking help and support.

What Practical Steps can a Victim take during Lockdown?

Leave the Home: The Government renewed lockdown advice on 16th April 2020, permitting people who had an argument at home to leave and seek support, including staying in a refuge, with a friend or relative for a short period. This can often prevent things from escalating and provide necessary perspective on a situation.

Discuss: If it is safe to do so, the person suffering abuse can discuss this with the person perpetrating the abuse. They may not have recognised their behaviour is abusive and may be willing to access specialist support to make immediate changes.

Learn More: There are lots of websites where you can learn more about the abuse that is being endured and find steps to keep safe, such as having an emergency exit plan. If using these websites, please consider if the abuser can view your search history as this could place someone in more danger.

Update your Emergency Plan: If an emergency plan is already in place, please make sure it is Covid-19 suitable, it may need to be altered as pubs, cafes, restaurants and hotels are closed and public transport is not running at full capacity.

Download Hollie Guard: The Hollie Guard App was created by the family of Hollie Gizzard who believe it could have saved her life. It works by turning a smart phone into a personal safety device, alerting nominated contacts or the police that a person is in danger. It can also record video and audio until the police arrive and if necessary, the evidence is admissible in court. It can be downloaded to any smart phone.

Contact a Helpline: There are many helplines available if it is safe for you to talk and the abuser does not have access to your phone call history. There are help lines tailored for men, women, parents, elderly and LGBTQ communities. The National Centre for Domestic Violence deals with abuse from every background, it is a 24-hour confidential service for those affected by domestic abuse. They can help callers understand if abuse is occurring and talk them through steps going forward. This can include finding a refuge or shelter, notifying the police or obtaining an injunction. They can also be contacted online. Further information on support and resources is available here.

Find a Safe Space: There are also schemes being piloted to provide a ‘Safe Space’ in public places, such as supermarkets and pharmacies, which will allow people to ask for help in confidence. Look out for notices about Safe Spaces in your community.  Safe Space Update November 2020:  Safe spaces are now available at Boots UK, Superdrug Pharmacy, Morrisons Pharmacy and many independent pharmacies.  Go to the healthcare counter and ask to use their Safe Space.  There will be specialist domestic abuse support information for you to access, so you can make a call safely.

What Legal Steps can a Victim take?

There are many legal remedies that can benefit those affected by domestic abuse. Mediation could be helpful if you want to explore the possibility of dividing a home to make it safer to continue living in, or to find agreement that a party move out of the property.

Solicitors can provide support with negotiations and assist with agreements to make things safer, such as agreements about behaviour and division of a property.

It may be that the situation could benefit from an injunction order from the Court. There are two main injunctions to protect from domestic abuse a Non-Molestation Order and an Occupation Order.

Who can apply for an injunction?  A person can apply for an Order if they are a victim of domestic violence and the person they wish to seek protection from is someone that they are having/had a relationship with, a family member or someone that they live or have lived with.

This is known as ‘associated persons’ and extends to married couples, cohabiting partners, girlfriends/boyfriends where the parties have been together for over 6 months, immediate family members that cohabitate and certain relatives in particular circumstances.

If the applicant is not an associated person, they may be able to seek protection under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

What is a Non-Molestation Order?  A Non-Molestation Order is often referred to as an injunction order or on TV as a restraining order. The best way to view a non-molestation order is as a legal way of saying ‘STOP!’.

A Non-Molestation Order is intended to prevent the Respondent from perpetuating further abuse to the Applicant, their children and their property. The Order can prohibit the Respondent from being within a set distance of the applicant’s home.

If found in breach of a Non-Molestation Order a person can be arrested without a warrant. They may be either fined, imprisoned for up to 5 years or both.

What is an Occupation Order?  An Occupation Order can protect a person from domestic abuse by excluding the preparator from the property. Like Non-molestation Orders they can be applied for by those affected by abuse by ‘associated person’.

Where it is not possible for the Court to order an abuser to leave the property, the Court can order a Zonal Occupation Order. This essentially divides the home between the parties so that each may continue enjoying the property peacefully.

How long do the Orders Protect?  How long either Order lasts depends on the situation. It can last from a week up to a year. If the issues persist on expiry, the Order can be extended and in some extreme cases the Orders can last indefinitely.

In an emergency situation both Orders can be applied for quickly and without notice, meaning that the abuser is not informed that their victim is applying. Although a Judge will also want to hear their version of events shortly after to decide whether it should remain in place.

At Allard Bailey Family Law we pride ourselves on being a safe pair on hands during a personal crisis. Our specialist knowledge and proven results with both Non-Molestation Orders and Occupation Orders are available to support you through this difficult time.

Legal Advice

If you need advice on domestic abuse issues or any other family law matter during the Coronavirus lockdown, you can book a video or telephone consultation with one of our team by calling +44 (0)20 7993 2936 or completing the enquiry form on this page.

For help with urgent injunctions please contact Sabrina Bailey directly on +44 (0)7507 343443.

***If you or someone else is in immediate danger please call 999 and ask for the police. If you are unable to talk you can use the Silent Solution of calling 999 and pressing 55 when prompted.***

Additional Resources

Further information on support and resources, including specific organisations helping men, women and people from different backgrounds, is available here.

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What if my former spouse stops or reduces spousal maintenance payments as a result of the current Coronavirus situation?

In the first instance, it is important to establish the reason they are failing to make the spousal maintenance payments ordered by the Court. If there has been a genuine reduction in (or loss of) income, then it is possible that a Court would consider this to be a relevant change in circumstances justifying a variation of spousal maintenance payments. If this is the case, try to be understanding and take a practical approach to the situation. You are more likely to find a favourable solution if you can consider each other’s perspectives. We make some suggestions on how to do this below.

If there has been no change in their financial circumstances, they should continue to pay spousal maintenance in line with any Court order that is currently in place.

What if I have lost income and cannot afford to cover my own expenses whilst making full spousal maintenance payments?

The first step is to talk to your former spouse and explain the situation to see if you can reach an agreement to temporarily reduce or stop payments. It is essential to be understanding in this situation as you are both likely to be finding it difficult. Positive communication will help you to minimise anxiety and find a sensible solution.

If talking directly is not an option, you might consider instructing a family solicitor or specialist mediator to assist you from the outset.

You may find it helpful if you both complete a Schedule of Outgoings setting out your essential expenditure during this period. You can then exchange this information to help you to determine what a suitable level of temporary spousal maintenance may be.

As we are currently required to stay at home, some expenses such as utilities may have increased, but other outgoings will have reduced, such as spending relating to travel, socialising and other activities. It would be fair to take this into consideration and make an adjustment so that both of your basic needs for items such as food, utilities and accommodation can be met.

If you have savings, you could consider whether spousal maintenance payments can be met from these. It is also possible to obtain a clean break by making a lump sum payment in lieu of spousal maintenance payments. However, any sum to be paid should not be agreed without the prior advice of a solicitor and such an agreement should be recorded in a Consent Order.

In these unprecedented times, a Court might consider it unfair for you to accumulate debt if your former spouse is able to afford a temporary reduction in maintenance that would allow them to meet their current needs. Your former spouse should also consider whether they have sufficient savings to meet their income needs whilst you are unable to make full payments.

How long should any ceasing or reduction of spousal maintenance payments continue for?

Unfortunately, it is impossible for anyone to know how long the current situation will continue for and how this may evolve as time goes on. If at any point the payer’s income returns to a similar level to what it was, they should at that point increase the spousal maintenance payments to the amount set out in the Court order. If they fail to do so, the Court can order that maintenance payment arrears are paid.

What if we are unable to reach an agreement about how much maintenance should be paid?

If you are unable to reach an agreement between you, there are several options available.

Mediation: It is possible to attend virtual mediation sessions with a trained mediator, who can facilitate and guide discussions between you with the aim of reaching a resolution.

Negotiation: You could instruct specialist family solicitors to negotiate and broker an agreement on your behalf.

Arbitration: This is essentially a private Court process. A qualified arbitrator is appointed by agreement, the arbitrator hears evidence from both sides and then makes a legally binding decision on the outcome.

Court: Although it is possible for either of you to make an application to the Court – either to vary spousal maintenance payments (as the payer) or to enforce spousal maintenance payments (as the payee) – this should be avoided if possible. Such proceedings are costly and can end up being counter-productive if the costs outweigh any potential financial benefit. Court proceedings are uncertain and there is no guarantee of a set outcome. During these unprecedented times, the Courts are under immense pressure to deal with current cases effectively and there are likely to be delays in obtaining an outcome.

How should we record any agreement that we reach?

Where variations to the terms of a Consent Order are agreed, you should have a new Consent Order reflecting the amended terms drawn up by your solicitors. This should then be sent to the Court for approval so that it becomes legally binding and enforceable.

Alternatively, if the arrangements are likely to be temporary, you may wish to consider having a side letter or Deed (to be signed by both parties) drawn up by a solicitor, which sets out the details of the temporary variation so that it is clear.

At the very least, you should record the temporary variation of spousal maintenance payments in writing. This could be carried out by email, with one of you setting out the details and the other responding to confirm agreement. This would ensure that the Court could be provided with evidence if either of you raises issues with the variation at a later date.

We recommend that the benefits and risks associated with each of the above options is discussed with a solicitor in advance.

Is it possible to recover spousal maintenance shortfalls at a later date?

It is possible to agree that a temporary shortfall in spousal maintenance will be paid in full at a later date and within a certain period.  However, there is no guarantee that you would be able to recover the arrears if they are not paid. You could apply to the Court to enforce the terms of a Court order, in which case the Court would analyse the circumstances, including both parties’ financial situations and earning capacities.

If you need advice on spousal maintenance issues or any other family law matter during the Coronavirus lockdown, you can book a video or telephone consultation with one of our team by calling +44 (0)20 7993 2936 or completing the enquiry form on this page.

 

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If I share care of my children can they move between houses during the stay at home campaign?

The short answer is yes.  We have all been asked to stay at home (subject to certain exceptions) but where parents do not live in the same household, children under the age of 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.  Although this provides an exception to the ‘Stay at Home Rules’, it does not oblige you to move your children between homes.

If I share care of my children, do they have to move between homes?

The decision as to whether children should move between homes during the lockdown period is in the first instance a matter for their parents.  You have to consider the child’s present health, the risk of infection and the presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in either household.  Communication with their other parent is key.

If you and your child’s other parent agree that current arrangements should be temporarily varied, you are free to do that.

If you do not agree, but one parent is concerned that continuing with current arrangements would be against current health advice, and therefore unsafe, then the parent can vary the arrangement to one they feel is safe.  Before making any changes parents should consider the detailed guidance at judiciary.co.uk.

Remember that if a child is unable to have direct contact with a parent during this time, they are likely to worry about that parent.  It is therefore important to maintain or establish indirect contact, such as video calls or phone calls, where possible.

If I lose out on time with my child now can I claim it back when this is over?

This is possible but there is no guarantee.  If you make interim arrangements in relation to contact to ensure that all parties remain safe and comply with Government guidance, you can also voluntarily agree for the parent who has lost time with a child to make this time up when life goes back to ‘normal’.  However, you should bear in mind that there is no certainty as to when this might be and any decisions made now and in the future will have to be the right decision for the child at the time.

What rights do I have if my child’s other parent is behaving unreasonably – not letting me have video calls with my child, listening in or anything else?

There has been clear guidance that where the Coronavirus restrictions mean that the usual arrangement cannot be followed the spirit of the arrangement should be followed.  With this in mind, it will be difficult for a parent to justify failing to facilitate any form of contact between the child and their other parent, such as video and telephone calling.

If parents are unable to agree alternative arrangements, consider whether a family member or trusted friend might act as a mediator between you.  Virtual mediation with a trained mediator can be a useful tool to help parents negotiate and agree how and when contact should take place.  If an agreement cannot be reached by this method, parents may wish to consider instructing a specialist family solicitor to facilitate the discussion and find a solution.

Either parent can make an application to the Court for a Judge to determine the arrangements for contact, but this is a last resort.  The Family Courts are currently under immense pressure with hearings set to be undertaken by video or telephone.  There is therefore likely to be a delay in cases being heard and resolved.

If a parent unilaterally changes the arrangements for contact and this is later questioned by the other parent in the Family Court, the Court is likely to consider whether each parent acted reasonably and sensibly in the light of the official advice and the relevant Stay at Home Rules that were in place at that time.  It is therefore important that neither parent uses the current circumstances as an opportunity to deprive the other parent of contact with their child.

What happens if one member of a household has Coronavirus or is in a vulnerable group, how does that affect child arrangements?

As per Government guidance, if a member of a household has Coronavirus symptoms including a new continuous cough and/or high temperature, they must stay at home for 14 days.  All other household members who remain well must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days.

Following this Government advice will inevitably lead to some children being unable to have direct contact with one of their parents for a period of time.  It is in the best interests of the child that parents try to be understanding where these circumstances arise.  If the child is physically unable to spend time with their other parent, arrangements should be made to ensure that they remain connected.

Is there a limit on how far children should travel between households and what is the safest way to travel?

There is no limit, but a common-sense approach should be taken.  How far they should travel will in part depend on how they can safely get to their destination.

There is no specific guidance about the safest way to travel, but again common sense is key.  To limit possible exposure to Coronavirus many sources suggest that you walk or drive your own vehicle if you can and avoid public transport if at all possible.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office issued advice on 17 March against all non-essential travel overseas.  International travel is becoming very limited as air routes close, land borders close and new restrictions are put in place that prevent flights from leaving.

How can I be sure that my child’s other parent’s home is hygienic and safe?

As a first step speak to the other parent so you can explain and agree on what you consider to be a hygienic and safe environment for the child.  You may wish to direct them to any Government guidance.  It might help to ensure that you are both on the same page and that could provide reassurance to both parents that contact is safe.

If I am in the process of a divorce and making arrangements for my children, will this affect it?

Not necessarily as arrangements for children are often made on an interim basis.  In this unprecedented global crisis any new arrangements will almost certainly have to be reviewed once the restrictions are lifted.  If a court order is being made now, it can be noted in the order that arrangements have been agreed to reflect the current health crisis and should not necessarily determine the final arrangements.

Is there financial support for family legal cases available?

Unfortunately funding for family law cases is only available in very limited circumstances.  In uncertain times such as these where many people have lost their jobs, it can be difficult to obtain specialist family law advice.  If you are struggling but cannot obtain financial assistance, you can contact your local Citizens Advice Buraeux who may be able to advise and will also have the details of local organisations that can provide help and assistance.

If you need to instruct a Solicitor to assist you with urgent Child Arrangements issues, Louise Allard or Sabrina Bailey can be contacted directly.

Louise Allard: +44 (0)7507 343411 louise@allardbailey.com
Sabrina Bailey: +44 (0)7507 343443 sabrina@allardbailey.com
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What happens to my estate if I do not update my Will before my divorce is finalised?

If you have a Will naming your spouse as a beneficiary, it will remain valid until your divorce is finalised with a Decree Absolute.  This may only take a few months, but it can also take years.  Should anything happen to you in the interim, your estate will be administered according to your Will.

It is common for spouses to be an executor as well as the main beneficiary of each other’s Wills.  If you do not want them to be in charge of your estate should anything happen to you, you should update your Will as soon as possible.

Does my divorce or dissolution invalidate my existing Will?

No, it does not.  If you do not update your Will after your relationship has legally ended, any gifts to your ex-spouse will fail, but there may be other unwanted consequences.  The assets in your Will originally intended to pass to your ex-spouse may be governed by intestacy rules, which could conflict with how you would have wished them to be distributed.

If your ex-spouse was the named executor of your estate, this may mean that you are left without an executor and left to the law to decide who will be responsible for your assets.

What happens if I do not have a Will?

In UK, if you do not have a Will your spouse or civil partner is one of your (or possibly your sole) legal heirs and would remain so until your relationship has legally ended.  Even if you have separated with a court order, they will remain an heir until your relationship has legally ended

What does this mean for my Beneficiaries?

In all these situations, your ex-partner could benefit from your estate and it would fall to your intended beneficiaries to challenge this at a time when they should be allowed to grieve.

We would therefore strongly recommend that you review your Will as soon as it is clear your relationship is ending.  You can update it as often as you want or need to reflect your wishes.

For an initial discussion about your situation, please call 020 7993 2936.

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For appointment enquiries call +44 (0)20 7993 2936 or email info@allardbailey.com

If you are not ready to speak to a solicitor, you can use our free family law portal to find out where you stand legally and the steps you could take to move forward when you wish to do so.

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On the first day: Speak to your spouse about how you see your future, and listen as they explain how they see theirs.

It can be helpful to arrange a time without distractions to explain how you are feeling about the marriage and how you see your futures. If you understand each other’s perspectives and can work together constructively, it will be easier to reach a fair outcome for both of you.  This is likely to result in your divorce process running more smoothly and minimise your legal fees.

On the second day: Agree a ‘grounds for divorce’ to initiate proceedings.

The most common reasons are ‘unreasonable behaviour’ and ‘adultery’, which can signal confrontation, but this does not mean the process itself has to be confrontational.  You can discuss the grounds with your spouse and agree what you will include (or exclude) for the record.

On the third day: Talk about future living, financial, child (and pet) care arrangements.

The most effective arrangements involve compromise on both sides.  With this in mind, many separating couples find it easier to have conversations about interim arrangements with a counsellor or mediator.

On the fourth day: Tell your family and children.

If you have children, they may benefit from extra support. All children react to their parents’ separation differently. If your children are still in education, we recommend that you inform their school or nursery and consider independent counselling to help them adjust to their new life.

On the fifth day: Tell friends and work colleagues.

Even the most amicable divorce can be stressful so it will help you to have support from friends and colleagues.

Whatever your situation, you are not alone.  There are support networks such as Gingerbread, @onlymums and @onlydads which provide forums, information and advice for parents who are separating (or already separated).

On the sixth day: Pull together financial information.

As part of the divorce process you will need to exchange information about assets, liabilities, income streams and pensions so that everyone is clear what is in the family pot to be divided.

On the seventh day: Decide on solicitors or mediators to represent your interests.

A conversation with a law firm will help you decide whether to have representation, and from whom.  You can contact Resolution to find a solicitor who advocates non-confrontational divorce.

On the eighth day: Issue the divorce petition.

Your divorce does not officially start until the divorce petition is issued.  Although the law requires that the divorce petition is prepared by one spouse and served on the other, you  can discuss and agree who will initiate the process and when.

On the ninth day: Agree your financial and any care arrangements.

You will need to make more permanent arrangements regarding children.  These can be agreed between you, with the help of a mediator, collaboratively with solicitors, or with the help of the court via a Child Arrangement Order.

Separate arrangements will need to be agreed regarding the division of the family pot and any ongoing spousal support.  The objective will be for the assets to be divided fairly between you and for each spouse to become independent after a period-of-time.

On the tenth day: Get a Decree Nisi.

A Decree Nisi is a document stating that the court does not see any reason why you cannot get divorced and establishing the day the marriage will end.

On the eleventh day: Get a Decree Absolute.

It is over.  The Decree Absolute is a final order that officially brings a marriage to an end in England and Wales.

On the twelfth day: Move forward and make new traditions.

Remember to update your status by informing insurance companies, schools, employers and your GP. If you have one, you should also consider updating your Will.

All of the solicitors at Allard Bailey Family Law are committed to a non-confrontational and constructive approach to family law.  If you would like to discuss your divorce, separation or child arrangements, please contact Louise Allard or Sabrina Bailey.

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  1. Establish whether you have grounds to get divorced. Although ‘No Fault divorces’ are due to come into force (which means that you will only need to state that your relationship has broken down irretrievably to get divorced) under current law it is necessary to establish one of five reasons to be able to initiate divorce proceedings. The most common reasons being ‘unreasonable behaviour’ and ‘adultery’. Further information on the different reasons and how to satisfy the relevant requirements can be found here: www.gov.uk/divorce.
  2. Speak to your spouse. If you and your spouse are on speaking terms, it would be helpful to arrange a time without distractions to explain how you are feeling about the marriage. Keeping things amicable, where possible, is likely to result in your divorce process running more smoothly. It is helpful if you can work together constructively to try to reach a fair outcome for both of you. Being open and honest about how you feel and listening to each other’s perspectives can also assist in understanding how you both envisage your futures. This may also enable you both to minimise your legal fees. However, where relationships have broken down to the extent that such discussions are unlikely to be constructive, putting your position forward via solicitors can ensure that the relevant issues are addressed.
  3. Review Divorce Petition guidance. The party initiating divorce proceedings will need to complete a Divorce Petition for submission to the Family Court. Many people instruct a solicitor to assist in completing this form, particularly if there is significant wealth or assets involved.
    You may wish to review the Divorce Petition and consider the guidance prior to commencing the process in order to gain a clearer idea of the information that will be required from you. The form can be found on the gov.uk website.
  4. Gather your financial information. As part of the divorce process, you will need to provide full financial disclosure to your spouse. This is to ensure that both parties are aware of the matrimonial pot available for division. The objective will be for the assets to be divided fairly between you. Gathering your financial information will give you a clearer understanding of your assets, liabilities and income prior to entering negotiations, which should help the process run more smoothly. If you have an initial meeting with a solicitor, it is helpful to have this information to hand.
  5. Consider the final outcome you hope to achieve. How the assets are divided will depend on you and your spouse’s respective capital and income needs and these will be considered against the assets and income available for division. Will you need to re-house and if so, what type of alternative property might be suitable for you? Are there any children and if so, who will they live with and how will their needs be provided for? It might be helpful to prepare a schedule setting out your current income needs and how these might change on divorce. The starting point for the division of assets on divorce is a 50/50 split, but this can be varied depending on a number of factors.

If you are considering a divorce but are not yet ready to speak to a solicitor, you may wish to use our free family law portal to obtain bespoke information about where you stand.

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  1. Don’t allow the stress to define you. Make sure you keep busy with interests (or find new ones), hobbies and spend time with positive friends and family members doing things you enjoy.  Relationship breakdowns and disputes over children can yield unwanted ‘advice’ from others, so try to avoid those who are only interested in being caught up in the drama!
  2. Get support. Don’t keep your feelings or the fact you are struggling a secret.  If you need help and to talk then let somebody know.  A good starting point is your GP, but private counselling is also readily available so don’t be afraid to access it.
  3. Let go of what you can’t control. You need to accept you cannot change a person or their attitude to a situation.  Remain focused on the things you can control and let go of the rest.  Don’t allow yourself to get wound up or drawn into petty conflicts.  We see this happen a lot and it will only lead to heightened tension and stress.  Try to remain focused on the bigger picture.
  4. Knowledge is empowering. If there is anything you don’t understand about the proceedings, then ask your solicitor to explain it again.  Knowing what to expect can make the process far less daunting.  If your only experience of the courts has been watching Suits`, you need to be reassured that the family courts are very different to this!
  5. Look to the future. Life will go on after this and it’s good to spend time thinking about new hopes, goals, dreams and moving on.
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