A #Betterway To Divorce

I’m a proud member of Resolution, a community of family justice professionals who work with families and individuals to resolve issues in a constructive way.

Resolution membership is about the approach I take to my work. This means that as a Resolution member, I will always seek to reduce or manage any conflict and confrontation, support and encourage families to put the best interests of any children first and act with honesty, integrity and objectivity.

I know from my 10 years working as a family law professional, that clients reach the best outcomes when they are helped to understand and manage the potential long-term financial and emotional consequences of decisions. This is why I use experience and knowledge to guide my clients through the options available to them.

As a Resolution member, I have signed up to a Code of Practice that will demonstrate to clients the approach I will always take. The Code promotes a constructive approach to family issues and considers the needs of the whole family, in particular the best interests of children.

If you decide to work with me, this means:

  • Listening to you, being honest with you and treating you with respect.
  • Explaining all the options and giving you confidence to make the right decisions.
  • Helping you focus on what’s important in the long-term.
  • Helping you balance financial and emotional costs with what you want to achieve.
  • Working with others to find the right approach and the best solutions for you.
  • Managing stress in what can be an already stressful situation.

Because I’m signed up to the Resolution Code, I work with a network of other like-minded professionals, including mediators, financial planners and family consultants, to make sure I’m helping my clients find the right approach for them.

How Can I Get A Divorce?

How Can I Get A Divorce?

Wanting to get a divorce from your husband or wife is never an easy decision but in some marriages, it can be inevitable. Here are a few important things to keep in mind on how to file for divorce from your partner.

If a divorce is the only option for you, you need to be married for at least a year and your relationship has to be permanently broken down. You must reside permanently in England and your marriage must also be legally recognized in the UK.

Arranging Your Own Divorce

This is a possible step and it can be done without involving solicitors in the process. If both parts agree that the marriage has broken down permanently, a court hearing won’t be necessary. The paperwork can be straightforward if both agree on the reasons for divorce.

Mediation

You can also get mediation to help work out agreements with your husband or wife about property, money and your children. This can be very helpful to avoid going to court.

Grounds For Divorce

You are able to give 1 of the following 5 reasons for a divorce, the court calls these ‘facts’.

Adultery

Your partner has had relations with someone else and you cannot bear to be with them anymore. This will need to be with someone else of the opposite sex of your husband or wife. It will not count as adultery if they have intercourse with someone of the same sex, this also includes if you are in a same-sex marriage.

This reason can, however, not be used if you have lived with your spouse for 6 months after you’ve found out about their adultery.

Unreasonable Behaviour

This ‘fact’ can be used if your wife or husband are behaving in such a way that living with them is quite difficult. They could be behaving in the following ways:

  • Refusing to pay for housekeeping
  • Drunkenness or drug-taking
  • Physical Violence
  • Verbal abuse, e.g. insults or threats

Desertion

Your spouse has left you:

  • For more than 2 years in the past 2.5 years
  • To end your relationship
  • Without your agreement
  • Without good reason

You Have Not Lived Together For More Than 2 Years

This is a possibility if you have lived apart from each other more than 2 years and both parts agree to the divorce. The partner has to agree in writing.

You Have Lived Apart For More Than 5 Years

If you have lived away from each other for more than 5 years, that would be enough to get a divorce, even if your spouse does not agree with your decision.

Filing For Divorce

Paperwork needs to be filled for a divorce petition to start the actual divorce, the D8 Divorce form can be found online on the UK Government website, alternatively, you can obtain the form from your local county court office.

Costs

The cost of a divorce will vary greatly for each couple but there is a £550 fee to pay when starting the divorce procedure. You will need to pay the divorce centre when sending in the filled in forms. If you have hired a family law solicitor, your costs will also include their fees.

If you are in need of guidance or advice on divorce or children related matters, please do not hesitate to contact our teams in Cambridge or Norwich.

Brangelina Divorce: A Common Story

Brangelina Divorce: A Common Story

A common divorce story

According to major news sources, Brad Pitt’s alleged use of cannabis and alcohol has been the main factor in causing the breakdown of his relationship with Angelina Jolie. At FM Family Law we speak to and advise many mothers, father, wives, husbands and partners who say that the use of cannabis and alcohol has prevented their partner from engaging in their relationship and/or helping with the care of their children.

All too often marriages and relationships are detrimentally affected by the other person’s performance (or lack thereof) in that relationship and it is fair to say that the use of illegal drugs and alcohol often has a part to play.

In the case of Brad and Angelina, California law allows for “no-fault” divorces, meaning a spouse does not have to sue his or her partner for any specific grievance, such as adultery or abandonment.

In England And Wales, you can only petition for a “no-fault” divorce if you and your spouse have been separated for at least 2 years immediately preceding the divorce and your spouse consents to the divorce. Or you have been separated for 5 years, which does not require your spouse’s consent.

However, you are also able to base your divorce upon the ‘unreasonable behaviour’ of your spouse by detailing which aspects of their behaviour you believe have led to the ‘irretrievable breakdown’ of the marriage. This is a fault based divorce (like adultery) which allows you to comment on the negative behaviour of your spouse. This ‘unreasonable behaviour’ may well be caused by the use of cannabis and/or alcohol, which you are permitted to refer to in the divorce petition.

As in the USA, the use of cannabis and alcohol can also be a factor when the family court is trying to decide the future care arrangements of children, i.e. with whom the children will live and whether, when and how often those children will spend time with the other parent.

Angelina Jolie is reportedly seeking ‘custody’ of the couple’s six children. We do not use the term ‘child custody’ in England and Wales. The family court prefers to use less contentious language such as, with whom the children will live, spend time with etc.

Whether it is dealing with divorce or children cases, the family court seeks to analyse the effect that the parent’s use of alcohol and/or cannabis will have or is having or has had upon either the marriage or the children (depending on the case before it).

Some states in the USA have legalised the use of cannabis and medical cannabis is legal in California presently. This is not the case in England and Wales and from time to time the family court may order that a parent who denies taking cannabis and is facing allegations that drug taking has detrimentally affected their behaviour towards the family may be ordered by the court to take a drugs test before the case can progress any further. The same is true of alcohol and although the use of cannabis is not legal, the two are treated in a similar manner by the family court.

It must be made clear that the use of cannabis and alcohol are not enough for one to be prevented from spending time with or living with their children unless the court is satisfied that such use has contributed to a person’s abuse or neglect of their children or partner.

As for Brangelina, we will watch with interest as Angelina takes the reins in what must be the highest of high profile divorces.

If you need and guidance or advice on matters related to divorce or children, please contact our teams in Norwich or Cambridge.

Should you use social media during a separation?

Social media and separation

From Facebook to Twitter, social media is here to stay. Millions of people share the milestones in their lives on social media. From a promotion to the birth of a baby, many happy moments have been shared with the cyber world.

Happy moments are always honoured. Yet, life is far from perfect and many social media users choose not to sanitise what they share, believing posts, tweets and pictures should represent reality. The lows as well as the highs of life. Indeed, an honest post, sharing the pain of human emotion may well prove an empowering process, culminating in personal catharsis.

While a carefully worded post, announcing a divorce, may work for some, downloading dirty laundry is an entirely different matter. In recent years, social media has become a contentious and influencing factor in many separations. Pages of Facebook posts are often cited and used as incriminating evidence in a case. When experiencing a separation, therefore, it’s crucial to consider the potential consequences and pitfalls of sharing it on social media.

Inevitably, whether a separation is amicable or acrimonious, emotions will always run high, with either one party or both struggling to come to terms with the change in circumstances. If a separation is hostile, therefore, it would take very little to ignite an already incendiary situation.

Angry, online outbursts can negatively affect the circumstances of a separation and never more so, than if children are involved. If your ex-partner, for example, wanted to relocate to an alternative, remote residence with the children, posting hateful abuse online would undoubtedly weaken your claim that the children should not be removed from the immediate area. Taunting your ex-partner online with a torrent of torrid comments will only serve to create a viable reason why that person can and should no longer live locally.

Sharing online can provide compelling and damaging counter-evidence to a case, effectively resulting in settlement suicide. While everyone likes to shout about and share exciting experiences, it’s important to consider the potential impact of your online image. If you are seen flaunting financial gain online, whether real or imagined, pleading poverty is unlikely to be well-received when it comes to calculating a separation settlement. Even if any financial gain is perceived rather than actual, flaunting it on Facebook will not support your situation.

It’s equally important to avoid posting negative emotional comments. Throwaway statements about feeling down or depressed can easily be construed as an indication of unbalanced behaviour. Similarly, photographic evidence of your presence somewhere inappropriate or unplanned could be used as evidence of unreasonable behaviour.

During a separation or divorce, it may be sensible to steer clear of social media altogether. However, if avoiding online interaction seems unthinkable, then it’s essential to always be mindful of the broader consequences of sharing on social media. Pausing for thought before you post will help to avoid additional and unforeseen complications during what is often already an emotional and traumatic time.

Financial Needs On Divorce

Finances and divorce

On 1st July 2016, the Family Justice Council released its ‘Guidance on “Financial Needs” on Divorce’. The guidance is aimed primarily at courts and legal advisers and therefore the language can be complex in places.

The aim of the guidance is to define the term ‘financial needs’ on divorce and to provide legal professionals with a clear statement of the objectives that financial orders should achieve when dealing with the needs of the individual parties. The guidance comes as a result of three main areas of concern for the Law Society:

  1. Unacceptable regional disparity – Different family courts throughout England and Wales have produced very different results, i.e. different financial orders, where the facts of the case and the financial standing of the parties are similar. The Law Society is concerned by the lack of continuity throughout the courts.
  1. No statutory definition of needs – The law for dealing with financial claims after divorce is set out in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. It is regularly applied to cases in different ways by the courts and there is no single definition of financial ‘needs’, which does give the court flexibility as to the interpretation of the law but can also result in confusion for parties and legal professionals alike.
  1. More litigants in person without lawyers to manage their expectations – With the reduction and virtual extinction of public funding within the family law arena, more and more people are choosing to represent themselves in court. This means that many individuals attend court without having had the benefit of legal advice, which would include an assessment and advice as to what they can expect to receive by way of a financial order. The courts are finding that many people attend court without representation and are not prepared for or understand how a financial application works and what the likely outcome will be.

The Guidance says that:

  1. Generally, marriage is seen as creating an interdependent relationship;
  2. Dependence is created by the presence of children;
  3. Relationship generated needs should be met by the other party where resources permit.

The Guidance then explores what ‘financial needs’ are and how they are measured as well as the duration of the provision for needs after divorce.

In every financial application, the court will focus on the individual financial needs of each party. The Guidance itself is simply guidance and should not be taken as legally binding. The purpose of this guidance is to address the Law Society’s concerns as stated above and to reduce the lack of transparency in this area of law. Here are the complete details of the guidance.

 

Vince and Wyatt- why a financial agreement is a must

Case study: Vince and Wyatt

Earlier this month, a landmark ruling in a divorce case saw an ex-wife receiving a share of her ex-husband’s fortune over 20 years after the couple divorced.

Kathleen Wyatt and Dale Vince married in 1981, after beginning dating as students. They separated in the mid 80’s and actually divorced in 1992.

They completed a divorce, obtaining Decree Absolute, leaving them both free to re-marry, which Mr Vince did in 2006. However, neither party took steps to end the financial claims they had against each other arising from their marriage. Kathleen Wyatt did not remarry and in 2011, she began court proceedings for a financial remedy, claiming a £1.9 million share of Dale Vince’s assets.

During the couple’s relationship, the pair lived as New Age travelers. They had very little money even by the time of their separation. They did have children, who remained in the primary care of their mother after separation.

Some years after the couple separated, Dale Vince began a career in business. He launched the company Ecotricity which grew in success over a number of years. The success of Ecotricity, which supplies energy to more than 100,000 customers, has made Mr Vince very wealthy and he now lives in a £3million 18th century Georgian fort and drives a custom-made electric supercar.  At the time of trial, his company was valued at around £57 million.

Kathleen Wyatt’s application was originally dismissed out of hand by the courts and ‘stuck out,’ for being an abuse of process. Initially, therefore, she was told that she had no right to make a claim given the length of time since the couple divorced and the fact that her ex-husband’s wealth was all built up after their marriage ended. After a series of appeals, the case ended up before the Supreme Court. In March last year, they concluded that the court had initially been wrong to dismiss her claim out of hand and it was not an abuse of process. She was entitled to a proper hearing on her application for financial relief.

Ms Wyatt’s application was allowed to progress and a Financial Dispute Resolution hearing took place in October 2015, providing the parties, with the assistance of a Judge, the opportunity to try and negotiate an agreement. Although a settlement was not reached at this court hearing, the parties did come to an agreement earlier this year on the basis that Ms Wyatt would receive £300,000 and her costs paid. The Judge who approved the settlement commented they were satisfied that it was a reasonable outcome and that ‘the wife is entitled to receive a modest capital award following the breakdown of the marriage.’ Whilst the amount might not seem modest to some, it is a very small proportion of the Husband’s fortune and considerably less than the lump sum of £1.9 million Ms Wyatt originally sought.

The Supreme Court’s ruling should stand as a stark warning to anyone who is thinking about completing a divorce without also putting in place a court-approved financial agreement. It is vital that you seek legal advice about the financial aspects of your separation at the time you divorce. Deciding not to do this because the assets you have are limited is no longer an option for anyone who wants to protect their potential future wealth.

The financial agreement (known as a Consent Order) addresses the claims a married couple has against each other and sets out how and when these claims should be brought to an end. Often this is with the purpose of achieving what is known as a ‘clean break’ between a couple. If your financial situation is straightforward (and this would have been the case for Ms Wyatt and Mr Vince in the early 1990s) the costs of this are quite low. FM Family Law will complete the drafting of a consent order for £600 in straightforward cases.