Category: Family Law

The Queen’s Speech – and what it might mean to you

The Queen's Speech outlining the political agenda for the coming two years was given this week after the result of the recent snap election. The speech was dominated by brexit which is also the reason the agenda was set out for two years rather than the usual one.

While brexit did take up the bulk, other areas were also covered. We have identified three different areas which may be of some interest to you regarding new changes to the legal sector including:

 

Family Law

Draft Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill

The Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill’s main purpose is to protect victims of domestic abuse. The bill has a few different elements to ensure this.

The main elements of the bill will be

  • To define what is meant by domestic abuse in order to create clarity for the courts and victims
  • A Domestic violence and Abuse Commissioner will be appointed and their role will be to
    • Stand up for the victims and survivors
    • Raise public awareness
    • Monitor the response of statutory agencies and local authorities
    • Hold the justice system to account in tackling domestic abuse
    • Ensure that if abusive behaviour involves a child, the court can hand down a sentence that reflects the devastating life-long impact that abuse can have on a child

 

Alison Kitchman, Partner & Head of Family Law

“It is a welcomed bill which will hopefully see zero tolerance of domestic abuse so that we can confidently help victims and protect them from future abuse.”

If you would like to know more information please visit our domestic abuse page.

 

Conveyance

Draft Tenants Fees Bill

This bill got introduced before the snap election and was expected to be upheld whatever the outcome as it was popular amongst most of the parties. The Tenants Fees Bill would remove the responsibility of paying letting agent fees from the tenants and be passed on the property owner. Buy-to–let property owners need to be aware of these changes and understand that it will be their responsibility to pay the fees once the bill becomes law.

Potential implications are that landlords pass the cost onto the tenants through increase of rent. The bill also states that renters will be able to recover any fees which were collected illegally. 

 

Mark Walton, Head of Conveyance

“The Tenants Fee bill is obviously good news if you are a renter, however if you are a landlord or are considering a buy-to-let property you need to be aware of any potential extra cost. You may want to take this into consideration while negotiating when buying the property or with incoming tenants rental agreement”

 

Dispute Resolution

The effect of the Civil Liability Bill on Personal Injury

Earlier this year we wrote a blog to inform people of the proposed amendments to the Personal Injury claims process. Within the Queens speech the reforms were referred to, but now as ‘The Civil Liability Bill.’

(Please seen the link above for the full break-down).

Here are some of the key points:

  • At present personal injury in excess of £1,000 allows for recovery of legal costs.  The proposals are to increase that to £2,000 for general personal injury and £5,000 for road traffic accident whiplash claims.
  • The Bill has been prepared with the intention of reducing the number of whiplash claims.

 

Emma Cornell, Head of Dispute Resolution

“Personal Injury claims seem to have a bad reputation.  Of course fraudulent claims need to be stopped, but the proposed reforms have to make sure that they are not at the expense of denying compensation to those who are genuinely injured through no fault of their own”

For more information or questions on any of the issues above please use our contact form and we’ll call you back.

Child Abuse and Domestic Violence, Changes to Practice Direction Guidelines

Child Contact and Domestic Abuse

Following recent campaigning by the charity Women’s Aid, there will no longer be a presumption that it is in the child’s best interest to have contact with the father where there is evidence of abuse that would place the child, or mother, at risk.

Child Abuse and Domestic Violence, Changes to Practice Direction GuidelinesWomen’s Aid have been campaigning for many years to change the law with regard to child contact for fathers where there is evidence of abuse.

In 2004 they published a report, Twenty-nine child homicides: Lessons still to be learnt on domestic violence and child protection (Hilary Saunders), which detailed the murder of 29 children from 13 families over a period of 10 years. The murders were carried out by fathers who were known to be violent and abusive to the mothers, and yet they were granted contact with their children, sometimes unsupervised.

This report has been followed up by a new analysis of child murders by their fathers: Nineteen Child Homicides – What must change so children are put first in child contact arrangements and the family courts. Again there is a horrific picture of children being put at risk because of a presumption by the courts that parental involvement in a child’s upbringing is a good thing.

Women’s Aid campaigned for changes to Practice Direction 12J, following which a draft version has been produced which moves away from the ‘contact at all costs’ presumption to one where the risk to the child is considered.

Taylor Bracewell, an ambassador of the charity ‘Voices in the Middle’, fully supports these reforms, which are due to be introduced in the family courts in the near future. We hope this approach will provide the necessary safeguard for both children and families who have been victims of domestic abuse.

 

How can we help?

For details of how to protect you and your family by obtaining an injunction, or for advice on any issues surrounding child arrangements, please contact Tarik Elhadidi on 01302 640 382.

 

About Taylor Bracewell

Taylor Bracewell operates from offices in Thorne Road and Ten Pound Walk in Doncaster and Fountain Precinct in Sheffield. Specialist areas are: Family Law, Business Law, Personal Law (including Wills, Probate, Trusts and Conveyancing), Dispute Resolution, HR & Employment Law, Charity Law.

You can contact us at hello@taylorbracewell.co.uk or call us on 01302 341 414 in Doncaster or 0114 272 1884 in Sheffield.

Supreme Court ruling regarding cohabitee rights to deceased partner’s pension

Unmarried Cohabitees Could Have Rights to Deceased Partner’s Pensions

The UK’s Supreme Court ruling says that a cohabitee has a right to receive payments from their deceased partner’s pension in the same way that a spouse would. This is the case even where a nomination form identifying the beneficiary of the pension has not been completed.

Supreme Court ruling regarding cohabitee rights to deceased partner’s pension

This case involved Denise Brewster, from Coleraine in Northern Ireland. She had lived with Lenny McMullan for 10 years and they owned their own home; they got engaged on Christmas Eve 2009, but he died suddenly just two days later on Boxing Day, aged only 43.

McMullan had been an employee of Translink, Northern Ireland’s public transport provider, for 15 years. During that time he paid into Northern Ireland’s local government pension scheme. The scheme required its members to nominate unmarried cohabiting partners as beneficiaries before they could become eligible for survivor’s pensions, but McMullan had never completed the form. Ms Brewster believed that the form had been completed. The pension scheme refused Brewster the pension.

 

The Judgement

The five Supreme Court justices were unanimous in their judgement – the requirement for a nomination form should be removed from the pension scheme. Brewster had argued that she was the victim of discrimination under article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights; the justices agreed with this, describing the nomination form as ‘unlawful discrimination’ because married couples did not have to complete them. The court also found that article 1 of the first protocol of the European Convention of Human Rights had been breached. This protects a person’s right to property and peaceful enjoyment of possessions.

This judgement brings Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK regarding the requirement for a nomination form for public sector pensions. Although this case applied to a public-sector pension scheme it could have implications for all pension schemes.

 

Rights of Cohabiting Couples

Potentially, this means that the 6 million cohabiting couples in the UK have rights to each other’s pensions if one of the couple dies. However, these rights are not as clearly defined as they are in the case of married couples or those in a civil partnership, and there are other areas of law where the rights of cohabitees are either reduced or are less certain. For example, married couples and civil partners are exempt from inheritance tax when one dies, while cohabiting couples are only exempt up to £325,000; also, spouses and civil partners can transfer assets to each other without incurring capital gains tax, but that’s not the case for cohabitees.

One of the main ways in which cohabiting couples still face a battle when proving their rights is that they have to demonstrate that they were genuinely cohabiting, and for how long they had been doing so. To qualify for a ‘survivors allowance’ a surviving partner might need to demonstrate that they had been together for some time and that they had shared finances in some way.

Whatever the ruling, if you are a cohabiting couple you can avoid the costs and delays in the surviving partner receiving the benefits by taking action with your wills and your pensions. Top tips are to make sure your partner is nominated as a beneficiary on any pension or life insurance scheme; to check scheme rules to make sure you are not excluded; and to each make a will.

 

How can we help?

For advice on cohabiting, marriage and civil partnerships contact Alison Kitchman or Tarik Elhadidi on 01302 640409, or Rosemary Finn 0114 399 0093, all expert solicitors in our family team. For advice on wills talk to our Wills, Tax & Probate teams – Stephen Coates on 01302 341 414 or Lauren Smith on 0114 272 1884 – who will provide all the expert advice you need.

 

About Taylor Bracewell

Taylor Bracewell operates from offices in Thorne Road and Ten Pound Walk in Doncaster and Fountain Precinct in Sheffield. Specialist areas are: Family Law, Business Law, Personal Law (including Wills, Probate, Trusts and Conveyancing), Dispute Resolution, HR & Employment Law, Charity Law.

You can contact us at hello@taylorbracewell.co.uk or call us on 01302 341 414 in Doncaster or 0114 272 1884 in Sheffield.

Why a Clean Break Financial Order can save you money in a divorce

Why a Clean Break Financial Order can save you money

If you are getting divorced, get a clean break financial order in the divorce or you risk your ex coming back for more! Last week, the Court of Appeal awarded a wife a £1.6m lump sum and a share of the husband’s pensions more than 10 years after they separated and divorced. The divorce court has the final word despite what you may have agreed and paid between you initially on separation.

 

Glenn Hugh Briers (Appellant) and Nicola Ann Briers (Respondent)

Why a Clean Break Financial Order can save you money in a divorceThe relevant case that was decided on 25th Jan 2017 is case number B6/2016/2738, which was heard by Lady Justice Rafferty, Lord Justice Lindblom and Sir Ernest Ryder, and involved a divorced couple called Glenn Briers and Nicola Briers (http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2017/15.html).

In 1984 Glenn and Nicola Briers were married. They were both teachers, but in 1988 Mr Briers started a sportswear trading business. When he founded the business he issued 100 shares, 99 for him and 1 for his wife. By 1990 the business was doing well, so he stopped being a teacher to concentrate on it. His wife helped in the business, continued to teach and brought up their children.

The couple split up in 2002, at which time Mrs Briers stopped working in the business, but she continued to teach and bring up the kids. They divorced in 2005, and after protracted negotiations Mr Briers paid £150,000 to his ex-wife. In 2007 she became the sole owner of the matrimonial home, and in 2008 she transferred her share in the business to her ex-husband.

 

A Full and Final Settlement

By 6th May 2015 they were back in court. Judge Rogers of the Family Division of the High Court in Birmingham made a financial remedy order where he ordered Mr Briers to pay £1.6m to his ex-wife (in four instalments over 2 and a half years), and to transfer 25% of his Standard Life pension and shares to his ex-wife.

Why?

Judge Rogers decided that there had not been a full and final settlement when original negotiations were taking place between 2003 and 2005, and specifically he decided that Mr Briers had not given his wife full disclosure of his financial position. He concluded that Mr Briers had driven the negotiations, that they used a solicitor previously engaged by the husband, Mrs Briers did not sign a deed of settlement, and a contemporaneous note recorded that she had accepted the settlement conditional on her husband’s full disclosure.

 

The Appeal

Lord Justices Rafferty, Lindblom and Sir Ernest Ryder heard an appeal by the ex-husband.

Mr Briers appealed on several grounds: the two parties had reached an agreement in 2005, his ex-wife had delayed bringing the action, the decision was based on entitlement rather than need, it didn’t consider Mr Brier’s contribution to the business following separation, the business was not going to be sold but would be passed to the children, and the business was overvalued (it didn’t take potential tax liabilities into account).

Despite this the three appeal court judges decided that Judge Rogers had correctly assessed what had happened in 2003 to 2005, that the husband had been bullying and intimidating, and that Mrs Briers had not properly entered into a full and final settlement.

What Does This Mean to You?

If you have been through a divorce but you believe the settlement was unfair, especially if financial information was withheld, then you should seek advice regarding your options.

If you are going through a divorce and you want the settlement to be final, then you need to talk to us about a Clean Break Financial Order.

 

How can we help?

For advice on finance on divorce contact Alison or Tarik on 01302 640409, or Rosemary 0114 3990093 – all expert solicitors in our family team.

 

About Taylor Bracewell

Taylor Bracewell operates from offices in Thorne Road and Ten Pound Walk in Doncaster and Fountain Precinct in Sheffield. Specialist areas are: Family Law, Business Law, Personal Law (including Wills, Probate, Trusts and Conveyancing), Dispute Resolution, HR & Employment Law, Charity Law.

You can contact us at hello@taylorbracewell.co.uk or call us on 01302 341 414 in Doncaster or 0114 272 1884 in Sheffield.

Change of Name

Are you are recently separated or divorced, and keen to start using your previous surname again? If so, then you should be able to do this by simply producing your decree absolute to the relevant company or organisation.

However, some institutions such as banks and building societies may not accept a decree absolute as documentary evidence, in which case a formal Change of Name Deed may be required to change your name.

If you are recently separated or in the process of getting divorced then please contact us for further advice about your name change and other rights upon separation. Our fixed fees for preparing a Change of Name Deed start at £175 + VAT.

If you have children, you may also wish to change their surname. In these circumstances it is not quite as straight forward, as the consent of everyone with parental responsibility is required in order to do so.

For further information and advice about parental responsibility and the process of changing your child’s surname, please contact Tarik Elhadidi in the Family Department on 01302 640 382 or tarik@taylorbracewell.co.uk.

Family solicitors

What do consumers want from their family lawyer?

Family solicitors

The Solicitors Regulation Authority investigates

According to a blog post by ‘The Law Superstore’, the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority) is going to commission research into the experiences of consumers who use the services of family lawyers. The research is reported to also look at children’s and social welfare law and to focus on current evidence gaps in these areas.  The research is aimed at helping law firms provide better customer service and legal advice in future.

Rosie Finn, Senior Family Solicitor at Taylor Bracewell, comments:

“It is always helpful to get feedback from clients and it is important to listen to our clients to have a better understanding of the service they want from us.

Many people will rarely, if ever, need the services of a solicitor.  For most people, that interaction may be when they are buying a home, which can be stressful, but with a happy end result. In family law cases, the same cannot be said and many clients are distressed and anxious when they come to us. It is important that we understand that and bear that in mind in our dealings with them.

Offering excellent customer service is at the heart of everything we do and anything that enables clients to have a good experience of dealing with a lawyer should be welcomed.”

What are your thoughts?  If we are contacted by the SRA about this research, do you have any views about what you expect from a family lawyer that you would like us to pass on?  If you have used our services, do you have any feedback for us?

How can we help?

If you would like to discuss a family issue, contact Senior Family Solicitor, Rosemary Finn on 0114 272 1884 or email rosie@taylorbracewell.co.uk.

 

About Taylor Bracewell

Taylor Bracewell operates from offices in Thorne Road and Ten Pound Walk in Doncaster and Fountain Precinct in Sheffield. Specialist areas are: Family Law, Business Law, Personal Law (including Wills, Probate, Trusts and Conveyancing), Dispute Resolution, HR & Employment Law.

 

Get in touch

You can contact us at hello@taylorbracewell.co.uk or call us on 01302 341 414 in Doncaster or 0114 272 1884 in Sheffield.

Cohabitation Agreements

Have you got financial protection?

Since the mid 1990’s the number of unmarried couples has doubled to almost 3 million and cohabitation has become much more socially acceptable. On average, one in four people assume that unmarried couples have the same rights as married couples. It is thought that these rights are automatically accrued after the couple have lived together for a period of time. This is usually referred to as Common law Husband and Wife’.

This is a common misconception, when the reality is that in England and Wales there are no specific laws to protect the financial interests of couples living together.

If you are living with your partner and are seeking financial protection, then a cohabitation agreement could be the right option for you.

A cohabitation agreement can set out in writing who owns the assets and what will happen to them if the couple should separate. In addition and in a case involving property, a Declaration of Trust can specify the percentage share each party would receive from a property.

How can we help?

If you would like some advice on putting a cohabitation agreement into place or any other family issue contact Senior Family Solicitor, Rosemary Finn on 0114 272 1884 or email rosie@taylorbracewell.co.uk.

About Taylor Bracewell

Taylor Bracewell operates from offices in Thorne Road and Ten Pound Walk in Doncaster and Fountain Precinct in Sheffield. Specialist areas are: Family Law, Business Law, Personal Law (including Wills, Probate, Trusts and Conveyancing), Dispute Resolution, HR & Employment Law.

You can contact us at hello@taylorbracewell.co.uk or call us on 01302 341 414 in Doncaster or 0114 272 1884 in Sheffield.

Money

Working fathers earn 21% more than men without children

While fathers earn substantially more than men without children, mothers are hit by a wage penalty’

A recent study of carried out by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) analysed the pay of 17,000 42-year-olds in full-time work. It revealed that fathers in full-time work earn 21% more than men without children.

Fathers living in Britain with two or more children earn 9% more than those with just one.

The reasons for the fatherhood bonus are unclear, but the report suggests that it is likely to relate to hours worked, increased effort and positive discrimination.

In contrast, full-time working mothers earn 11% less than women who do not have children.

Working fathers tend to work longer hours after having children, while mothers tend to work shorter hours or go part-time.

77% of new mothers and pregnant women have experienced discrimination in the workplace according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Women who became mothers before they reached 33 are hit by the wage penalty. Those who have their first child after reaching 33 earn 12% more than those without children.

The pay gap applies to those without children too; childless women earn 12% less than childless men working in similar jobs.

Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary explained “It says much about current attitudes that men with children are seen as more committed by employers, while mothers are still often treated as liabilities.”

Sara Ellison, Head of HR & Employment Law and Head of the Sheffield office at Taylor Bracewell, comments:

The statistics appear to show that despite recent changes, with fathers being able to share parental leave and women having children later due to pursuing their careers first, it is women who are still assuming the main responsibility for childcare and are working fewer hours or more flexibly when they return to work. One of the reasons for this could be that the father is the main bread winner or higher earner, which would support the TUC’s assertion that there continues to be a pay gap between men and women.

Shared Parental leave was only introduced last April and therefore has not had long to have a noticeable impact. It will be interesting to see how these figures compare in another couple of years’ time.

How can we help?

If you’d like some practical advice and guidance regarding discrimination in the workplace or any other Employment Law or HR matter, please get in touch. Contact Head of Employment Sara Ellison, or another member of our experienced team of employment lawyers and HR consultants in Sheffield or Doncaster, by e-mailing employment@taylorbracewell.co.uk or calling 0114 272 1884 in Sheffield or 01302 341414 in Doncaster.

About Taylor Bracewell

Taylor Bracewell operates from offices in Thorne Road and Ten Pound Walk in Doncaster and Fountain Precinct in Sheffield. Specialist areas are: HR & Employment Law, Business Law, Family Law, Personal Law (including Wills, Probate, Trusts and Conveyancing), and Dispute Resolution.

You can contact us at hello@taylorbracewell.co.uk or call us on 01302 341 414 in Doncaster or 0114 272 1884 in Sheffield.

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Increasing numbers of parents going to court about child arrangements

Nicola Taylor, Family Lawyer, takes a look at the figures, and an alternative that avoids a distressing and costly court battle

In February 2016, Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) confirmed a 10% increase in the number of cases they dealt with, compared to February 2015. They also noted a 6% overall increase over the past six months, compared to the previous year.

When separated parents cannot agree arrangements about where their children will live or the time they should spend with each parent, they will need to look into the options available to resolve the dispute.

Mediation is an option parents are encouraged to consider prior to making an application to the court. The mediation process enables parents to meet in a neutral location in the presence of a mediator to discuss the situation and attempt to come to an agreement. The mediator is unable to give legal advice; they remain neutral and ensure all options are being considered.

In some circumstances, mediation may not be the best course of action, perhaps because one party refuses to attend or there are allegations of intimidation or harassment. The next stage after mediation, if an agreement has not been reached, would be court proceedings.

These statistics confirm that despite alternative dispute resolution methods being encouraged, more and more parents are going through the courts. As members of Resolution, and with trained Collaborative Family Lawyers in our team, the Taylor Bracewell Family Law Team in Sheffield and Doncaster will work with you to work towards achieving your desired outcome.

Kids in the Middle

In some instances children find themselves caught in the middle of their parents’ disagreements and this can be worrying for them. ‘Kids in the Middle’ is a charity set up to support children caught up in the middle of their parents’ divorce battles. Taylor Bracewell is a founding member of this fantastic charity and keen supporters of the work they do for young people.

Voices in the Middle is their current campaign, encouraging young people to share their stories. Visit www.voicesinthemiddle.org.uk to find out more.

How can we help?

If you require any advice regarding child arrangements or any other family issue, either in Doncaster or Sheffield, please contact Nicola Taylor, specialist family lawyer on 01302 640391 or email nicola@taylorbracewell.co.uk.

We have a specialist team of very experienced family law solicitors at Taylor Bracewell in both Doncaster and Sheffield. Our Family team have been recommended for the second year running in the ‘Legal 500 UK’ – one of only two legal firms based in Doncaster and Sheffield whose family departments have been recommended.

About Taylor Bracewell

Taylor Bracewell operates from offices in Thorne Road and Ten Pound Walk in Doncaster and Fountain Precinct in Sheffield. Specialist areas are: Family Law, Business Law, Personal Law (including Wills, Probate, Trusts and Conveyancing), Dispute Resolution, HR & Employment Law.

You can contact us at hello@taylorbracewell.co.uk or call us on 01302 341 414 in Doncaster or 0114 272 1884 in Sheffield.

Civil Partnerships | Incompatible with Equality Law?

Landmark legal challenge against the High Court

Charles Keidan and Rebecca Steinfeld, a heterosexual couple wishing to have their relationship formally recognised by a civil partnership, took their case to the High Court, as they felt they were being discriminated against when their request for a Civil Partnership was declined.

The couple wanted the law to recognise their relationship but without the “patriarchal history” of marriage. Civil Partnerships appealed to them as they “focused on equality”.

The Civil Partnership Act 2004 states that partners must be “two people of the same sex”.

The couple have gained thousands of followers for their case, with over 36,000 signing their petition

Mrs Justice Andrews dismissed their claim for judicial review, but gave the couple permission to appeal.

The Government’s response to the case was that, since the introduction of same-sex marriage in 2014, gay couples are now able to marry. This could result in civil partnerships being phased out in the future, but this is a “costly and complex” procedure.

The main differences between Marriages and Civil Partnerships

Legalities

Marriage has a separate legal regime from a civil partnership. It must comply with the Marriage Act 1949, Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and the Marriage( Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. Whereas for a Civil Partnership, provisions are set out in the Civil Partnership Act 2004.

For legal reasons civil partnerships cannot call themselves married and married couples cannot call themselves civil partners.

Formation

Marriages are formed by saying a prescribed set of words and can be conducted through either a civil ceremony or a religious ceremony. Civil partnerships are registered by signing the civil partnership document and no words are required to be spoken, the formation is an entirely civil event.

Registration

A marriage is registered in a hard copy register, whereas civil partnership details are recorded in an electronic register.

Annulment

The reasons for annulment are mostly the same for both marriage and civil partnerships. One exception which justifies annulment in marriage but not civil partnerships is if one party was suffering from a venereal disease in a communicable form.

Divorce/Dissolution

Marriages are concluded by divorce and obtaining a decree absolute and Civil partnerships are ended through a dissolution order. Adultery is a recognised reason to end a marriage, this is not a reason accepted for civil partnership.

Pensions

It is against the law for an occupational pension scheme, and for some private pension schemes, not to offer the same benefits to a civil partner as a married partner.
Private sector pensions
UK law only requires that schemes take into account service from 5 December 2005 onwards when calculating survivors’ benefits for same-sex married couples or civil partners

Public Sector Pensions

Although public sector survivor pension schemes guarantee a fairer deal for same-sex partners there is still a disparity based on gender.
Same-sex married couples and civil partners are treated in exactly the same way as widowers (not widows) under all public service pension schemes, private sector contracted-out occupational pension schemes, and the pension protection fund rules (these rules cover what happens when a pension scheme goes bust). This means that a survivor’s pension is paid to a surviving spouse or civil partner based on members’ contributions on their service back to 1988.

State Pensions

Same sex married couples and civil partners are treated the same as men married to women and may be entitled to a lower rate basic pension based on their spouses or civil partner’s National Insurance record only where the spouse or civil partner was born after 5th April 1950.

How can we help?

If you require any advice regarding a civil partnership, marriage, pre-nuptial agreement or any other family issue, either in Doncaster, please contact Alison Kitchman, Partner and Collaborative Family Lawyer on 01302 640 411 or email alison@taylorbracewell.co.uk or Rosie Finn, Senior Family Lawyer in Sheffield on 0114 399 0093 or email rosie@taylorbracewell.co.uk.

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What’s in a name?

With Mother’s Day coming up,

Nicola Taylor ponders the many names and titles to identify someone as mum, mother, mam, mom or mummy.

Being a mother you can be a Miss, Mrs or Ms. People often get hung up about what their title should be, particularly after a divorce. The reality is, it doesn’t really matter what you call yourself. There is no law around what title you should have or what happens to your title following divorce, so you can choose to remain a Mrs or change to a Miss or Ms.

There is also no law around what you can and can’t be called. As an adult, you are free to change your name to whatever you wish, even Mrs Amazing Mum Smith!

I’m sure there are plenty of children who want to be named after their favourite princess or superhero. A child’s name can be changed with the consent of all parents with parental responsibility. I wouldn’t, however, suggest you change your child’s name to that of a superhero; I’m not sure they will thank you once they’re older and you’re shouting come on Spiderman whilst he’s scoring a goal.

There will be circumstances and personal reasons why some people will wish to change their name legally and you can do this by preparation of a Change of Name Deed. This is a quick and simple process; the hard bit is usually letting everyone know your new name.

Another common question is what happens to a wife’s surname after divorce. The wife is free to retain her married name, or she can simply revert back to her maiden name without the need to do this formally by way of a Change of Name Deed.

Whatever your name or title, if you’re a mum, everyone at Taylor Bracewell wishes you a Happy Mother’s Day for Sunday.

How can we help?

If you are thinking about changing your name, whether this be your Christian or surname, or simply adding a name, and require further information or advice, please contact Nicola on 01302 640 391 or email Nicola@taylorbracewell.co.uk.

Our specialist team of very experienced solicitors in our Legal 500 recommended family law team in both Doncaster and Sheffield are here to help.

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Leap Year Proposal

We’re engaged, now let’s see a lawyer about a Prenup!

2016 is a Leap Year. This means that many women up and down the country and beyond will have taken the opportunity for a romantic proposal to their loved ones yesterday, on 29th February.

The tradition of leap year proposals is as fascinating as it is varied across different countries. Hopefully, your proposal was accepted yesterday (or you accepted your girlfriend’s proposal), rather than various fines’ being incurred as a result of a no’ (I think these days there may be more significant repercussions on a relationship than having to buy a silk gown or enough fabric to make a skirt’ if one says no’ to a romantic proposal!).

So, what happens next?

Going to see a lawyer about a Prenup’ (Prenuptial Agreemement) may be the furthest thing from your mind right now, but here are some reasons why it is a good idea to do so:

  • Many people marry later in life, after establishing a successful career and may have acquired significant financial assets, including pensions.
  • Children from a previous marriage may need to be provided for.
  • A Prenup is not about lack of trust, one party exercising control over the other, or the assumption that the marriage will break down; it’s about planning and protecting finances for both of you.
  • Starting a marriage with financial transparency indicates that the parties trust each other and trust is a major factor in any loving relationship.
  • Nobody plans for a plane to crash but we still make ourselves aware of where the emergency exits are and where the safety equipment is. Prenups are about deciding what is fair to both parties in case the airplane crashes, in the hope, of course, that it never does.

Romance can therefore still flourish if a Prenup is approached in a sensible, but sensitive manner.

If you require any advice regarding drawing up a Prenuptial Agreement or any other advice or support in family law matters, either in Doncaster or Sheffield, please contact Alison Kitchman on 01302 341414 in Doncaster or 0114 2721884 in Sheffield or email alison@taylorbracewell.co.uk.

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The importance of Co-habitation Agreements and updated Wills

Recent court case involving Joy Williams highlights the importance of having simple legal documents in place to protect your loved ones.

A judge has ruled in favour of Joy Williams, preventing her deceased partner’s estate from passing to his estranged wife. The law, however, has not changed, so if you are in a similar situation, you will need to take steps to protect your loved ones.

Following the death of Norman Martin, his partner Joy Williams faced losing her home when his estate automatically passed to his estranged wife.

Although Mr Martin had separated from his wife, he did not proceed with a divorce or update his Will to reflect his 18 year relationship with Ms Williams. As a result of this, all his estate passed to his estranged wife.

All I wanted was for the Court to recognise that I needed to have his share of the house that was our home, to provide me with some security for my future and this judgement has done just that. Joy Williams was quoted as saying in a BBC article I hope my situation raises awareness for others to consider their own financial position in relation to their partner and consider whether they need to take advice to protect each other in the future.

Alison Kitchman Partner and Head of our Family Team, shares her thoughts on the case.

It is important to take legal advice on the financial implications arising on separation, living with someone else and the impact of death in either situation, irrespective of whether or not you want to get divorced.

There is no such thing as common law husband and wife’ It’s a myth! There is no automatic legal protection for cohabiting couples. You have to be proactive and put legal documents in place before you suffer the consequences.

Lauren Smith, Head of Probate in Sheffield, adds When buying property that you will share with another person, always get legal advice to record ownership in the event of separation in life or on death, which can be achieved by a cohabitation agreement, a declaration of trust and making Wills. Always make a Will or review an existing Will on separation, cohabitation or any other significant change in circumstances.

How can we help?

This court case has not changed the law and it is as important as ever to draw up a co-habitation agreement and write a Will.

Contact Alison Kitchman, Partner and Head of our Family Team in Doncaster call 01302 640 411 or email Alison@taylorbracewell.co.uk or Senior Family Solicitor, Rosie Finn in Sheffield call 0114 272 1884 or email rosie@taylorbracewell.co.uk. Lauren Smith, Head of Probate in Sheffield call 0114 272 1884 or email lauren@taylorbracewell.co.uk or Stephen Coates, Head of Probate in Doncaster call 01302 640 384 or email stephen@taylorbracewell.co.uk can make sure you and your loved ones are protected.

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Cupboard Love!

Managing Personal Relationships in the Workplace

As a HR Manager, I dealt with numerous and varied issues over the years, but one personal relationship between two employees, both in serious relationships with other people, has stuck in my mind. Both employees worked in the same team and were using a particular cupboard to meet….and more!

One of the employees in question had a habit of taking their mobile phone and hiding it under a traffic cone when working outside…reported by them to be just in case their illicit beloved phoned them….behaviour which was seen many times on CCTV.

Apart from the rather delicate issue of catching the employees at it’ – in employment terms, there was the impact on the team with rumours galore!

Misconduct matters relevant to this situation included potential breach of contract, failure to follow reasonable management instruction, misuse of work time and a potential breach of the trust and confidence in the employment relationship.

Clearly such situations can be challenging for all parties and require a calm and sensitive approach.

Key points to assist you in dealing with similar situations

  • Are personal relationships at work a big issue for you / your company?

If so, consider implementing a policy to clearly set out expectations, provide guidance on what parameters of personal relationships in work are acceptable and what action may be taken if the policy is breached.

  • If such relationships are one offs’ or only occur now and then, deal with each one as it arises.
  • Don’t make assumptions or judge’ the employees involved.
  • Start informally, asking for the employee perspective, and management words of advice’ may cool things sufficiently.
  • Proceed formally where the relationship continues to have a negative impact on work.

Can we help?

If you / your company need practical advice / support / guidance regarding dealing with personal relationships at work or any other Employment Law or HR matter, please get in touch with Jo Cairns or another member of our experienced team of employment lawyers and HR consultants in Sheffield or Doncaster, by e-mailing jo.c@taylorbracewell.co.uk or employment@taylorbracewell.co.uk or calling 0114 272 1884 in Sheffield or 01302 341414 in Doncaster.

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Separating or divorcing? 5 Top Tips from a Family Lawyer

‘Meet the Expert’ column in Sheffield Telegraph, 12th November 2015, by Rosemary Finn, Senior Family Solicitor, Sheffield and Doncaster

Separating or divorcing? 5 Top Tips from a Family Lawyer

Whether you are emotionally and practically ready for divorce or separation can make a huge difference to the process and outcome. Through many years of experience as a Family Lawyer, I know that threatening to see each other in court is rarely the answer and should definitely not be your first or only option.

There are a number of better and different ways to deal with what might seem to be an impossible situation and which will enable you to maintain a civilised relationship with your former spouse. This is of particular importance if you have children to co-parent.

My 5 Top Tips are:

1. Contact a specialist Family Lawyer who is a member of Resolution (an organisation of family lawyers and other professionals who believe in a constructive, non-confrontational approach to family law: www.resolution.org.uk/findamember).

2. Arrange an initial meeting with your lawyer to discuss the implications, financial and otherwise, of separation and divorce for you and your children.

3. Explore with your lawyer all the options for dealing with your case, including collaboration, mediation, arbitration and more (www.resolution.org.uk/alternatives_to_court).

4. Meet a Life/Personal Crisis Coach to consider whether separation and divorce is really what you want and how you will cope.

5. Speak to a Financial Advisor to make sure that your money works for you, then draw up a budget and plan.

23rd 27th November was Family Dispute Resolution week and the focus will be on Resolution’s Parenting Charter.

The charter sets out:

  • What children should be able to expect from their parents if they are separating and
  • What separating parents need to do in the interests of their children.

This places further emphasis on couples to deal with each other decently and act in the best interests of their children.
You can separate and divorce decently. Using alternatives to the court process will save you time, money and more than a few grey hairs and sleepless nights!

Professional support adds value; the lawyers you choose are key to the process.

Do you need advice regarding your separation or divorce?

For help in any family law matter, contact our experienced Family Law team in Sheffield or Doncaster, by e-mailing family@taylorbracewell.co.uk or calling 0114 272 1884 in Sheffield or 01302 341414 in Doncaster.

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SPOTLIGHT ON…Rosie Finn

Our series of weekly blog posts featuring paralegals, lawyers and solicitors who began their legal career without a law degree proved to be very popular; we have therefore extended this into a fortnightly blog series giving you an insight into all our lawyers/paralegals and solicitors as well as our partners and heads of department.

Today’s Spotlight shines on Rosie Finn, Senior Family Solicitor.

Do you have a law degree?

Yes

How long have you worked at Taylor Bracewell?

2 years

Current Job title?

Senior Family Solicitor.

What was your first job?

My first legal job was a training contract at McKinnells in Lincoln.

Did you always know you wanted to do legal work?

Yes, from the age of about 13. Although I did consider Physiotherapy and teaching History.

Your journey to becoming a lawyer:

I didn’t get the grades I wanted in my A Levels so I went to Wolverhampton University, which was a Polytechnic in those days, to study for an HND in Business studies.

I was very fortunate as I did well on the first year of that course and was accepted onto the Law Degree, which took another 3 years to complete.

I then went onto the College Of Law in Guildford for 1 year to do my Solicitors’ Final Examination. Thereafter, I did a training contract at McKinnells in Lincoln and qualified as a Solicitor on 1st October 1987.

What do you love about Taylor Bracewell?

The people I work with. They are friendly and supportive. We can generally find the humour even in the most stressful of situations.

If you were an animal, what would you be and why?

I would be my own dog as he has a lovely life eating, sleeping, playing and going for walks. He also gets lots of cuddles and attention!

Look out for the next in our series of ‘Spotlight on…’ blog posts in two weeks’ time!

About Taylor Bracewell

Taylor Bracewell operates from offices in Thorne Road and Ten Pound Walk in Doncaster and Fountain Precinct in Sheffield. Specialist areas are: Family Law, Business Law, Personal Law (including Wills, Probate, Trusts and Conveyancing), Dispute Resolution, HR & Employment Law.

You can contact us at hello@taylorbracewell.co.uk or call us on 01302 341 414 in Doncaster or 0114 272 1884 in Sheffield.

Doctor Foster: The Hidden Assets

BBC Drama and Real Life Demonstrate the Importance of Full Disclosure of Assets During a Divorce

Doctor Foster is a five part drama which was recently aired on BBC 1 on Wednesday nights. Written by Mike Bartlett, it shows how Gemma Foster’s (Suranne Jones) life is completely changed when she discovers her husband, Simon (Bertie Carvel) is having an affair.

In episode 3, Gemma meets with a divorce lawyer who requests her to bring evidence of her financial circumstances to her first appointment. Gemma only brings statements from her current accounts, which startles the lawyer, as the lawyer would have envisioned her to have full or at least some knowledge and information of the parties finances and assets, not just details of her accounts. Gemma explains that her husband deals with her finances.

The lawyer explains to Gemma that her husband will officially be entitled to 50% of everything as a starting point. As Gemma is unaware of her full financial situation and she believes her husband could have hidden assets, this would mean that Gemma would receive less than 50% of what she is entitled to.

As Simon is unaware Gemma knows about the affair, the lawyer encourages Gemma to investigate further into their finances whilst carrying on as normal.

How true to life is this situation?

This may come as a surprise, but it is not unusual for one party to a marriage to be completely in the dark about their finances. In most cases, there is nothing sinister about this and the party has simply taken control at managing the family outgoings. However, in some cases, as in Dr Foster’s, a party has taken control to enable them to hide assets and be secretive about matters.

Hidden Assets

It is not uncommon for people to have hidden assets in marriages; it could be an additional savings account or an investment. In case of divorce, couples are required to disclose all of their assets, property, income and pensions. Should a spouse deliberately fail to do so, this could cause serious repercussions for them. In some cases, the court can decide to penalise the party with the hidden assets by giving them a less favourable settlement than their partner’s.

Last week, two women won Supreme Court cases allowing them to re-open divorce settlements after they had uncovered that their ex-husbands had misled them about their assets during divorce proceedings. This means it is now possible for other ex-spouses to re-open financial settlement agreements if they are able to demonstrate that their former spouse was not entirely honest in disclosing their full assets during previous proceedings.

For a full analysis of the Supreme Court cases and their implications, read Rosemary Finn’s article.

Self Help

Gemma was encouraged by her lawyer to look through her husband’s files and access his confidential documents.

Under no uncertain circumstances must a lawyer ever encourage their client to rifle through their partner’s personal and financial documents. It is one thing coming across a bank statement which has been left on the kitchen table, but a completely different situation if you have deliberately gone looking for information.

It is a criminal offence to take such drastic actions and a guilty party will be at risk of a fine or imprisonment. It is also likely to tarnish their credibility in the divorce settlement.

Please seek legal advice if you suspect your spouse is hiding assets during your divorce proceedings.

If you are interested in watching Doctor Foster, the series is available on BBC IPlayer.

How we can help

If you are in the unfortunate position of contemplating the divorce route, we can help. We have a specialist team of very experienced family law solicitors at Taylor Bracewell in both Doncaster and Sheffield.

Please contact Nicola Taylor, a member of our specialist Family team, on 01302 640391 or email family@taylorbracewell.co.uk.

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(Image credit: BBC)

Does signing up to the Ashley Madison (or a similar) website constitute adultery?

Taylor Bracewell’s Alison Kitchman, Partner and Collaborative Family Lawyer, looks behind the Ashley Madison Hack headlines into what constitutes adultery and how you can deal with the situation if you’ve found out your husband/wife was registered on an infidelity website.

Signing up to an infidelity site does not, in itself, amount to adultery but it can spell the beginning of the end of a marriage. Often looking for attention or excitement outside the marriage is a sign that all is not well within the marriage. Communication is key and if the parties are not talking to each other and/or making love to each other, eventually one or both of them may look elsewhere.

Adultery means sexual intercourse with another person whilst still married, whether prior to or following the parties’ separation so the “act” must have taken place to divorce on this basis.

If a spouse signs up to such websites or indulges in chats with third parties by text, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat or any other forms of social media, but does not actually commit the act of adultery, whilst this can feel equally upsetting to their wounded spouse, it can only be used as evidence of conduct giving rise to a divorce on unreasonable behaviour.

It takes 2 to make a marriage work and only one to end it!

If you find yourself in this situation, refer to a relationship counsellor/ personal crisis coach first, either individually or as a couple, to see if this is a symptom of a failing marriage or the cause and whether the marriage can be saved before contemplating the divorce route.

Do you need our help?

If you are in the unfortunate position of contemplating the divorce route, we can help. Alison Kitchman heads up a specialist team of very experienced family law solicitors at Taylor Bracewell. With expert senior collaborative divorce solicitors in Doncaster as well as specialist senior family solicitors in Sheffield, we will provide you with skilful guidance and advice on any aspect of family law.

If you require any advice regarding separation or any other family issue, either in Doncaster or Sheffield, please contact our friendly team on 01302 640391 (Doncaster) / 0114 272 1884 (Sheffield) or email family@taylorbracewell.co.uk

I’m not abducting my child!

As the summer holiday season is fast approaching, I do hope there is not a repeat of the difficulties which many parents faced in 2014.

Thousands of parents were being stopped at British borders by officials, suspicious that they were abducting their own children.

This is primarily as a result of children not sharing their parents’ surname. This may arise if the child’s mother remarries or chooses to keep her maiden name upon marriage.

Cohabiting couples are the fastest-growing type of family in the country and therefore many children are born out of wedlock. If this is the case, when the child’s birth is registered they are registered with the surname of only one parent whether that be the mother’s surname or the father’s surname.

I would therefore advise that if you are travelling out of the country and you and your children do not share the same surname that you carry evidence of your relationship to the child. This can be by way of the child’s Birth Certificate and it would also be advisable to carry a letter from the child’s other parent giving their consent to taking your child out of the country.

If you require any further advice on this issue or wish for a document to be drawn up confirming each parent’s relationship to their child, please contact our experienced Family Lawyer, Nicola Taylor, on 01302 640391 or email nicola@taylorbracewell.co.uk.

Social Media | Relationships

Social Media Ruined my Relationship

As I was driving to work the other day I heard something on the radio about recent changes to Snapchat’, stating that you can no longer see the top three people who you ‘Snapchat’ with.

The radio presenters went on to describe how this upset many people, particularly those who regularly checked their partners’ phones to see if they had been up to no good!

This got me thinking about how Social Media, whether it is Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, plays a large part in our everyday lives.

Whilst Social Media is a great tool for getting out there, finding out what is happening, it can also be at the heart of many problems and in some cases relationship break-ups.

As a divorce lawyer I often meet Clients whose husbands/wives/partners have been caught out forming relationships with other people as a result of their posts/tweets. I recall one Client who had been ‘tagged’ by a friend showing he was somewhere where he shouldn’t have been!

Snapchat is a mobile phone ‘app’ that allows people to send pictures, videos and messages which are visible to the recipient for 10 seconds before disappearing into the unknown. Someone who regularly ‘snapchats’ another may cause serious trust issues in their relationships with their partners.

There has also been an increase in the number of times that postings on such social media sites have been used as evidence in Court whether this is for the divorce, children related cases and in some cases injunctions where serious threats have been made.

One vital message I could give is “think before you post”! What might seem like an innocent, or in some cases a heat of the moment, comment it may well in fact have serious repercussions for you.

How can we help?

We have a specialist team of very experienced family law solicitors at Taylor Bracewell. With expert senior collaborative divorce solicitors in Doncaster as well as specialist senior family solicitors in Sheffield, we will provide you with skilful guidance and advice on any aspect of family law.

If you require any advice regarding separation or any other family issue, either in Doncaster or Sheffield, please contact Nicola Taylor, specialist family lawyer on 01302 640391 or email nicola@taylorbracewell.co.uk

National Marriage Week | 24-hour divorce to allow terminally-ill woman to marry

National Marriage Week:

A personal account of how Alison Kitchman, Partner and Family Lawyer in Doncaster and Sheffield, helped a man and his terminally ill girlfriend say “I do” before it was too late

My client wanted to marry his terminally ill girlfriend but there was a problem: he had not divorced his first wife yet!

The so-called “quickie divorces” usually take 4-6 months! I was challenged as the doctors only gave the bride-to-be a week to live.

As well as the romantic gesture of the proposal, there were practical financial implications if they did not marry as he would have been forced to sell the family home in which they were cohabiting because of the big inheritance tax bill which would have followed.

I got the divorce through in 24 hours with the help of his wife and her solicitor who agreed to a divorce based on 2 years’ separation. They consented to the court shortening the time for service of the various procedures in reliance on medical evidence.

The Court and Judges were responsive to the sensitivity of the matter and were only too happy to oblige on the basis that the wife was fully consenting with legal representation to protect her legal and financial position.

We made wills for the couple before and after the marriage. The vicar at the hospital obliged by shortening the time to read the banns and within hours of faxing the Decree Absolute of Divorce, the happy couple were saying “I do”.

And although this was not the classic fairy tale where they lived happily ever after, it was a most remarkable experience which I have never forgotten!

How can we help?

We have a specialist team of very experienced family law solicitors at Taylor Bracewell. With expert senior collaborative divorce solicitors in Doncaster as well as specialist senior family solicitors in Sheffield, we will provide you with skilful guidance and advice on any aspect of family law. If you require any advice regarding divorce or separation, or any other advice or support in family law matters, either in Doncaster or Sheffield, please contact Alison Kitchman on Alison@taylorbracewell.co.uk or any other member of our Legal 500 Family Law Team on 0114 2721884 in Sheffield or 01302 341414 in Doncaster.

National Marriage Week | Do we need a Prenup?

Prenups are Romantic!

So, its National Marriage Week (07-14 February 2015)! And unsuprisingly, prenuptial agreement has become a popular topic once again.

The process of drawing up a prenup isn’t entirely a cynical or unsentimental exercise as very often you are making provision for someone else. It can be reassuring to a partner to feel that they are going to be provided for.

Well known divorce lawyer, Ayesha Vardag, known as the Diva of Divorce, has recently re-married and entered into a pre-nuptial agreement before doing so.

She had an overtly sentimental approach to her wedding. The couple had a website that revealed the secrets of every aspect of their wedding. She admitted to being “shockingly romantic”.

The pre-nuptial agreement the couple have signed has apparently done nothing to diminish their love or romantic tendencies. If such a high profile divorce lawyer can be clear-headed in these circumstances, then perhaps the rest of us can be with the correct advice.

There are many sound practical reasons for having a prenup. Many people marry later in life, after establishing a successful career. They may have acquired significant financial assets, including pensions. Children from a previous marriage may need to be provided for. Finally, dealing with a protracted court case to reach a financial settlement is not an enjoyable experience for anyone.

Therefore, romance can still flourish if a prenup is approached in a sensible, but sensitive manner.

But what about trust?

A prenup is not about lack of trust, one party exercising control over the other, or the assumption that the marriage will break down; it’s about planning and protecting finances for both of you.

Starting a marriage with financial transparency indicates that the parties trust each other and trust is a major factor in any loving relationship.

Nobody plans for a plane to crash but we still make ourselves aware of where the emergency exits are and where the safety equipment is. Prenups are about deciding what is fair to both parties in case the airplane crashes, which we pray nonetheless, never happens!

How Can we help?

We have a specialist team of very experienced family law solicitors at Taylor Bracewell. With expert senior collaborative divorce solicitors in Doncaster as well as specialist senior family solicitors in Sheffield, we will provide you with skilful guidance and advice on any aspect of family law. If you require any advice regarding drawing up a Prenuptial Agreement or any other advice or support in family law matters, either in Doncaster or Sheffield, please contact Rosie Finn on rosie@taylorbracewell.co.uk or any other member of our Legal 500 Family Law Team on 0114 2721884 in Sheffield or 01302 341414 in Doncaster.

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Just One More Christmas then I’ll leave!

As the end of the year approaches, many families will stick it out to spend one last Christmas together, usually for the sake of the children.

This is a common reaction to this time of year and as an experienced Family lawyer, I often see many new clients in January, having decided that the time has come for them to break away from their partner and start a new life. New Year, new start!

Christmas is a time of joy and most families spending happy times together. But that cannot be said for all families.

When we are sat at the Christmas dinner table we will all be pulling our crackers, breaking them in two to see what gift is inside. Well, sometimes it’s not only the crackers that are breaking in two: we often see a lot of families also breaking in two as they decide the time has come to separate.

It’s a tough decision to leave a partner because often it affects many other loved ones as well. If you find yourself making the decision that you want to separate or divorce your spouse, there will be many questions which you have and lots of uncertainties.

You may be thinking: –

  • Where will I live?
  • Who will the children live with and when will they see the other parent?
  • How will I survive financially and what are my financial claims?
  • If you are not married you will want to know if you have any financial claims on your partner.
  • How much will it cost me to seek legal advice?

The important thing is to make sure you have all the facts so that you can make an informed decision.

I am part of the Family Law Team at the UK Legal 500 firm, Taylor Bracewell Solicitors. We have a team of specialist lawyers who can advise and guide you fully, whether you are contemplating a separation or have taken that step to move on.

Make sure you have all the facts to hand so that you can alleviate those feelings of uncertainty and establish what is feasible and where you stand from a legal perspective. Emotionally there is always support at hand as well, through other professional organisations.

It is important as well to know exactly how much this advice will cost which is why at Taylor Bracewell Solicitors, we offer Fixed Fee First Appointments to discuss and advise you in respect of all aspects following your separation. Based on the information you provide us with, we will give you detailed advice on all the options available to you to resolve matters as professionally and amicably as possible.

Going through separation does not mean that you will need to go to Court. You have options such as Mediation or Collaboration; both of which can assist you and your spouse/partner in making the best decisions and finding the right solution which effectively meets your specific needs and those of your family.

If you want to speak with me about any of the options listed above, to gain more information, or to arrange a Fixed Fee First Appointment, please contact us today and we will ensure that you receive the best service possible. Our Family Team boasts of some of Doncaster and Sheffield’s most experienced Family Law solicitors and we are here to skilfully guide you through what is undoubtedly one of the most difficult decisions of anyone’s life.

Please call Nicola Taylor on: 01302 640391or email nicola@taylorbracewell.co.uk

3 Ways to avoid Court Proceedings when getting Divorced

No one enjoys going to court. Even lawyers would generally prefer to resolve cases without reference to the courts.
If you get divorced, you cannot avoid dealing with the courts altogether as there is a court process to be followed for securing a Decree Absolute.
However, it is possible to avoid formal court proceedings when dealing with the financial aspects of a divorce.
Sorting out a financial settlement can be very stressful, and if not handled properly can be extremely costly.

If you are contemplating divorce or have already started the process then it is important that you consider alternatives to the court procedure. In doing so, you will save yourself time, money and more than a few grey hairs and sleepless nights!

What are the available options?

1. Mediation

This is a process where you and your spouse will meet with a mediator who is neutral to discuss the issues arising from your separation. Mediators are trained to help people resolve disputes. You will be assessed to see if your case is suitable for mediation. Thereafter, the mediator will meet with you and your partner to narrow the issues between you and to help you to try and reach agreement.

A mediator cannot give legal advice but can provide information. You are both entitled to legal advice during this process although your lawyer does not attend mediation with you.

2. Legal Aid

Depending on your circumstances, Legal Aid may be available to you for the mediation process and the mediator will carry out an assessment of your circumstances, and will tell you if you are eligible for Legal Aid during the mediation process. This is one of the few areas of family law where Legal Aid is still available as the government is keen to encourage people to consider alternative dispute resolution methods. If you are not eligible for Legal Aid during the mediation process, you will receive information regarding the mediator’s charges.

Mediation can be a cost-effective and conciliatory way of dealing with matters. In any event, courts now require anyone who issues a court application to provide signed confirmation from a mediator that they have attended a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting ( MIAM).

3. Family Arbitration

An arbitrator will gather all the facts and evidence from you and your partner. Your views will be taken into account.

The arbitrator will give a ruling, known as an award. You must both agree to arbitrate and one of you cannot back out without the other’s agreement. Furthermore, you agree at the outset to accept the award.

Arbitration is an alternative to court with the following advantages:

  • Speed
  • Flexibility; and
  • Confidentiality

as well as the ability to choose an arbitrator best suited to deal with the specific circumstances of your case.

Even if there is a narrow issue that needs to be decided, that specific issue can be referred to arbitration. For instance, you may have agreed on what to do with the family home and the pensions, but you may remain in dispute regarding maintenance for your spouse.
An arbitrator can be asked to deal with that remaining issue. You will need to pay for the arbitrator’s services but arbitration is more cost-effective than court proceedings. Arbitrators are experienced family lawyers who are independent of either party. You are entitled to your own independent legal advice during this process.

4. Collaborative Law

A non-confrontational approach to resolving issues arising on relationship breakdown. Each of you will have your Collaborative Family Lawyer by your side throughout the process.

What happens if you decide to use the Collaborative approach?

  • You and your partner will meet with your separate Collaborative Family lawyers to discuss what can be expected in the collaborative meetings.
  • You and your lawyer will discuss how to prepare for the first four-way’ meeting.
  • Your lawyer and your partner’s lawyer will speak to each other either face to face or over the phone to plan for the first meeting.
  • At the first four-way’ meeting, you will all sign a Participation Agreement setting out the terms on which the process will operate and confirming that it is neither yours nor your partner’s intention to go to court.The process is voluntary. The meetings are private and are conducted in a courteous and supportive manner. Once agreement has been reached, both lawyers will draw up the necessary paperwork to make it legally binding.
  • You and your partner will be invited to share your objectives and you will all plan the agenda for the next meeting.
  • You may also discuss how financial information will be shared and agree on who will bring what financial information to the next meeting.

Only if the process breaks down, can you issue an application with the court and in those circumstances, you must instruct another firm of solicitors or another barrister to deal with your case.

At Taylor Bracewell Solicitors, we have highly experienced collaborative lawyers with more than 20 years experience in family law including child arrangement orders, spousal and child maintenance, matrimonial finances such as property and pensions. With specialist divorce and family solicitors in Doncaster and Sheffield, we provide first class service to clients across the South Yorkshire region, Derbyshire and beyond.

For further information regarding divorce and family law in general, please contact Rosemary Finn, specialist family lawyer in Sheffield and Doncaster. Rosemary is an accredited Resolution Specialist and a most approachable solicitor.

For an initial chat about your personal circumstances, please call Rosie on 0114 2721884 or 01302 341414. She can also be reached via email at: rosie@taylorbracewell.co.uk

Does my Civil Partnership conversion affect my Will?

It’s the Final Countdown until the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 comes into force; allowing couples to convert their Civil Partnership into Marriage. However as the seconds pass by, more loopholes are being revealed which need to be addressed before the law comes into force on 10 December 2014.

The latest area of concern is the impact of a marriage on an existing Will. The current law states that marriage revokes an existing Will unless the person making the Will intended to be married at a later date when making it and names their spouse in the Will. However what happens when Civil Partners convert to a marriage after making a Will?

The Government has currently put a paper before Parliament which will amend the law in a way which allows existing Wills to automatically survive after a Civil Partnership is converted into a Marriage. However, we will have to wait and see if this amendment is made before December 2014.

In the meantime, if you are in a Civil Partnership and wish to convert to marriage, please consult our Probate team to amend your Will in a way which will sustain the conversion; saving you the additional cost of writing a new Will, yet continuing to protect the interests of those closest to you!

Please contact our Probate team on personal@taylorbracewell.co.uk or 01302 341414