Category Archives: Divorce

Happy First Birthday Family First

A year after its launch Ridley & Hall celebrates the success of Family First.

Family First is an innovative and unique service that supports families in need of legal advice.  This service allows clients at Ridley & Hall to choose the level of support they require for divorce, children and financial cases and in doing so they choose the price that they pay.

Meena Kumari, Head of Family at Ridley & Hall, explains:

“There have been many challenges in family law in the last 12 months with many firms closing their doors after the loss of Legal Aid.  These profound changes have affected clients’ ability to access legal advice.  When a relationship breaks down, the next steps you decide to take and the thought of legal action can often be overwhelming.  Family First offers clients greater freedom of choice and an opportunity to save money on legal costs, with our costs starting from only £200.

Family First offers an alternative that is both affordable and transparent.  The level of support includes a checking service for court documents, a do-it-yourself with help service where our clients pick and choose when you seek assistance and a pay as you go service which helps you budget.”

Statistics shows that there are more clients representing themselves in court proceedings.  Litigants in person often need legal advice for only part of their case, for example, at a hearing.  Family First offers this flexibility.

The Family First team wants to help resolve your dispute as painlessly and cost effectively as possible.  We offer a free half an hour consultation, where we can talk you through your options and costs.

For more information, please contact the Family First team at Ridley & Hall either by phone on 01484 538421 or by e-mail.

April Brings Landmark Changes in Family Justice

April marks two major developments in the world of family law with the implementation of the Children & Families Act 2014 and the integration to the Single Family Court.

The Act which comes in to force on 22nd April brings with it a wide range of changes relating to children and families which includes more rigorous plans to tackle delay in adoption system, maximum 26-week time limit on completing cases concerning children taken in to care, changes to the system governing young people living in children homes and foster parents, new legislation extending parental leave beyond parents to adopters and those going through surrogacy arrangements.

Meena Kumari, family Solicitor and accredited Resolution member, commented on the Act stating that there were many changes the top three impacting on private law children cases include :-

  1. The long awaited presumption that it is in the best interest of the child of separated parents to have continued involvement with both parents in their lives unless they present a risk to the child.
  2. Change in terminology will no longer mention residence and contact orders, rather child arrangement orders which create equality between separated parents. The arrangements contained within any order will still, however, determine where a child lives and when they will see the other parent.
  3. Making it a requirement to attend a family mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM) before apply to the court for certain orders. To find out more about mediation visit the FamilyFirst Mediation webpage.

The Single Family Court will bring together the functions of the Magistrates Court, County Court and High Court under one uniform umbrella organisation.  All locations of family courts will detail with all aspects of family law with the exception of some matters relating to international child related disputes and adults with mental incapacity which will be reserved to the High Court.

All new cases will be started and heard in the Family Court but will be allocated to an appropriate judge by the court staff.  All level of judges and magistrates will work alongside each other (as judges of the family court).  Each hearing cases on appropriate levels of complexity and issues.

For specialist advice on your all your rights after separation contact the Ridley & Hall’s FamilyFirst team either by phone on 01484 538421 or by e-mail.

What Will Happen to My Pension When I Divorce?

When a marriage breaks down a pension is treated as an important matrimonial asset; the value of which should be shared fairly between the separating couple.

Where parties have been in a long-term marriage, the matrimonial home and pension are often the largest assets, therefore careful consideration is required to ascertain how they will form part of any future financial settlement.

It is essential that the value of any pension is established. This is often referred to as the “cash equivalent value”.  This information is normally provided on an annual basis by the pension schemes.  Whilst this provides a good indication as to the value of the pension an accurate value can be obtained by instructing an actuary to prepare a report detailing an accurate valuation of the pension as well as any conditions and projected income of the pension fund.

Older couples may have their pension in payment where the pension will still have a cash equivalent value.  The income that derives from the pension can be treated as an asset that can be divided between the couple.

There are three options when considering pensions.  These are as follow:-

  1. Off-setting – One spouse retains all or part of their pension in consideration for having a larger share in other assets such as the matrimonial home, savings and policies.  The advantage of such an agreement is that the pension is not available as an asset immediately.  Pensions may fluctuate in value.  Such an agreement also allows for less disruption to the children and family at a time when emotions are often running high. The disadvantage of off-setting is that it creates short-term solutions but the long-term consequences and implications will require specialist advice from our family team.
  2. Attachment Order – This is where the monthly pension income or lump sum that the policy holder would receive upon retirement will be paid to the other spouse.  One of the great disadvantages of this option is that, if the pension policy holder dies before an order is made by the court or the spouse retires, the benefit is lost.
  3. Pension Sharing Order – Where the pension is split between the two spouses in accordance with the proportions that have been agreed or ordered by the court.  The spouse receives a specified percentage of the pension fund which becomes their pension and can either be placed in a new pension fund or added to their own existing pension fund depending on the circumstances of the scheme.  The difficulty with a pension sharing order is calculating the appropriate percentage split of the pension.  The complexities in this area due to arguments that a pension could have been built up before marriage and after separation for which specialist legal advice from our family team will be required.

For older couples who are divorcing the correct pension option is essential as this will determine their future income and standard of living into retirement.

    

For further advice regarding divorce, please contact the FamilyFirst team either by phone – 01484 538421 – or by e-mail.  For pensions, please contact our Elderflower service. Elderflower not only provides legal advice on divorce but also good financial advice for the short term and estate planning for the long term.

Married or Living Together for the Over 65s?

Recent figures released by the Office for National Statistics show that the number of unmarried over-65s living together has increased from 177,000 to 250,000 in eight years, increasing by more than 40%. This is generally believed to be at least partly attibutable to a change in attitudes towards the “morality” of simply living together, as opposed to getting married.

Whilst attitudes are changing about the rights and wrongs of living together, it can be an informed choice on the part of couples who want to ensure that their family are provided for.  Relationships are formed either after the death of a long-term partner, or alternatively after a divorce, and couples are very mindful of the fact that they wish to preserve assets for their family.

So how does the court differentiate between married and unmarried couples?

Firstly, in terms of ownership of assets, the court has greater powers to make all sorts of orders about property in divorce proceedings, whereas they have less discretion with cohabiting couples.  The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 governs divorces and how the court make orders about properties.  The sorts of things that the courts take into account when making decisions about finances on divorce are the needs and financial resources of the couple, the length of the relationship, the needs of any dependant children, the standard of living enjoyed by the couple during the course of the marriage, the couples’ ages, the contributions made by each of them to the marriage any disability, and any other factor that the court thinks is relevant.  This means that couples are left wide open to claims by their partners when the relationships break down over assets which one may assert was “theirs” prior to the relationship starting.

The law governing cohabitees, by contrast, is dealt with largely on the basis of who actually owns what.  The court will look at who owns the property.  Is it joint names, or one person’s sole name?  If the relationship breaks down and one of the cohabitees wishes to change the way the property is held legally, they have more of an uphill struggle.  The length of the relationship, the standard of living, the needs and financial resources are not factors that the court can take into account.  The law dealing with cohabitees is dealt with under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996.  It is a very complex area of law.  Essentially, to change the way a property is held (ie to make a claim over a property), the person making the claim must show that there was an intention to hold the property differently, and once they have established that, they must show that they have contributed money or “monies worth”.  “Monies worth” has to be labour, or work that has been done to the property, which is over and above general decorating.  The judges dealing with cohabitee cases do not have the wide discretion that exists in divorce laws.  This may well suit a person who has a property in their name, and children by a previous relationship, as it makes it more likely that they can secure their children’s interests.

For both married and unmarried couples, if they wish to secure their position effectively, then they should consider entering into a prenuptial agreement (for couples about to marry) or for unmarried couples, a trust deed or deed of agreement that evidences their intentions if they are to separate.  The courts in England are now more likely to uphold a prenuptial agreement than they were even 10 years ago.  The court would need to be satisfied that the agreement was made without any undue pressure being put on any of the participants.  They would need to be satisfied that it was done a reasonable period before the wedding was due to take place, and that both participants knew what assets (and liaibilities) the other person had.

So the answer – make sure you get an agreement in place to protect you and your family whether your are married or unmarried.

For more information on any Family matters, please contact the FamilyFirst team at Ridley & Hall either by e-mail or on 01484 538421.

Young Divorce – Lessons to Learn From a Bitter Divorce

The bitter and acrimonious case of Scot Young may not yet be over, despite the High Court ruling in November 2013 that Michelle Young be awarded £20 million.

The judge said that he felt sympathy for the children of the family after 7 years of bitter feuding between the parents had been played out in public.  Michelle Young had asked for £6.5 million towards her divorce costs, but the Judge awarded £5 million, saying that Michelle Young had duplicated costs by going to 13 different firms of solicitors, and 4 different accountants who between them dealt with over 65 different court hearings.

Michelle Young alleged that her former husband, Scot Young had tried to hide billions of pounds from her within the divorce proceedings.  Mr Young had been jailed for contempt of court for failing to comply with an order that required him to provide personal financial documentation.  The judge disagreed with the extent to which Mr Young had covered up his financial arrangements, but did accept that he had tried to hide a lot of assets from his wife.

The judge has ordered Mr Young to pay £20 million to his former wife within 28 days, on the basis that he had some liquid assets in 2008 to pay them.  If he breaches the order, Michelle Young will no doubt have to apply back to the court to enforce the order.

The judge criticised both parties, saying “I have to be highly critical of the way in which the case has been conducted at various times by both parties. In many respects, this is about as bad an example of how not to litigate as any I have ever encountered.”

Divorce is always difficult, and emotions run high, and for most people, the sums of money involved in this case are mind boggling.  However, the judge criticised both the husband and wife in this case.  Mr Young was criticised for attempting to hide the true scale of his wealth, and Mrs Young was criticised for seeing conspiracies everywhere.  Vicky Medd, an experienced family solicitor said “It is the job of the family lawyer to help guide clients through the process, and to try and help them concentrate on their future, rather than allowing emotions and a lack of trust to guide them in their decision making now.  This hopefully ensures that legal costs are kept to a minimum and that the process is relatively short.  The stresses that separating couples undergo as a result of the separation are bad enough, without long, expensive and fraught court proceedings making things worse.”

Vicky Medd is a Family Solicitor and Mediator at Ridley & Hall LLP. She can be contacted on 01484 538421 or via e-mail.

Family First is Two Month’s Old

Our innovative Family First department is 2 months’ old but we have over 50 years’ of Family law experience. Please choose us to help you http://www.ridleyhall.co.uk/our-services/family-and-matrimonial/family-first/

Financial Update in the Family Court

Generally, the courts within divorce cases deal with pensions.  They deal with them by way of a pension sharing order, or a pension attachment order.  The other alternative is for the court to look at giving more of the other assets to a husband or wife within divorce.

However, the Pensions Ombudsman has recently dealt with a complaint by a wife, Mrs McNicholas, against Scottish Widows.

Mr McNicholas’ pension was with Scottish Widows.  During negotiations between solicitors and financial advisers, Scottish Widows produced a calculation of the value of the pension as being £608,436.74.  Mr and Mrs McNicholas were able to agree how to divide their assets, and the court made an order by consent that the pension would be shared.  This means that money was transferred from Scottish Widows to a pension fund that Mrs McNicholas had set up with Legal & General.  By the time the transfer was put into effect, the Scottish Widows pension had increased in value to £622,946.  £311,473 was transferred to Legal & General, to put into effect the terms of the order.

Scottish Widows then contacted Mrs McNicholas saying that they had calculated the pension value in error, and that she should have received £213,847.  They indicated that they were going to request Legal & General to return £97,626 to them.

Mrs McNicholas complained to the Pensions Ombudsman who upheld Mrs McNicholas’ complaint.  They found that the injustice to Mrs McNicholas in returning the money was far greater than the injustice to Scottish Widows who had made the error in the first place.  They also ordered Scottish Widows to pay £250 to Mrs McNicholas for the distress and anxiety that had been caused to her.

Pensions are a complicated area of financial provision within divorce and civil partnership dissolution.  When funds are large, husbands and wives often instruct actuaries to value a pension.  Sometimes funds are valued lower by the pension company themselves for all sorts of reasons – including where pension funds are in deficit, as the pension company is trying to protect the other pension pots.

Here at Ridley & Hall LLP, we can offer comprehensive advice on pensions within divoce and civil partnership dissolution.

Please contact the Family team on 01484 538421 for more information.

Elderly couples ‘Need More Relationship Guidance’

Elderly couples ‘need more relationship guidance’, BBC news 27.06.13

By Hannah Richardson BBC News education reporter

Elderly people in the UK should be offered more relationship support to help them cope with older age, the Relate charity says.

Relationships play a critical role in dealing with the pressures of old age, but can fracture if they are not nurtured, costing the state more money.

For full story click here

As Divorce surges in the over 60s Meena Kumari, Divorce specialist at Ridley & Hall Solicitors comments “I’ve  seen a significant increase in the number  ‘silver separations’ – older couples going through Divorce. They have heightened anxieties surrounding the disentanglement of a lifetime worth of assets and fears whether they will meet someone to support them in older age. More marriage guidance would equip these couples with the journey ahead.”

Meena heads up a new service Family First to help support couples with precisely these issues.

Support for Families who are the Victims of Crime

The recent Channel 4 documentary ‘The Murder Workers’ was extremely interesting, if at times distressing viewing.

The programme focused on the work of Victim Support officers within the homicide team, and the work they undertake with families who are plunged into a world of chaos due to a relative being murdered.

One worker based in Essex, had worked with a grandmother for over 12 months who found herself as the full time carer for her three young grandchildren after her daughter, the children’s mother, was murdered by her partner, the children’s father.

The Victim Support worker assisted the grandmother in a number of ways, including providing emotional and financial support and to encourage child behavioural specialists to work with the children, who had witnessed their mother’s death.

One part of the programme also focused on the legal procedure the grandmother had to face. Although the children’s father had been found guilty of murder and was serving a lengthy prison sentence, as the only person with parental responsibility for the children, the grandmother found herself having to consult with the father on important decisions regarding the children’s well-being. Eventually, she was given an order of the court which gave her parental responsibility for her grandchildren and the father’s parental responsibility was taken away by the courts.

Helen Dandridge, Trainee Solicitor at Ridley & Hall, comments “Up and down the country, there are thousands of grandparents, relatives and other kinship carers who find themselves having to care for children through no fault of their own, whether this is a result of death or not. At such a traumatic time, considering any legal implications for the children are often not high on the list of priorities”.

Ridley & Hall is one of the leading law firms providing specialist advice and support to those carers to secure the legal and financial recognition they deserve. We are able to assist families in obtaining relevant court orders, including residence orders and special guardianship orders and to secure financial assistance from the local authority.

If you would like more information, please contact us on 01484 538421 and ask to speak to a member of the Family First Team.

Click here for more information about the services offered in Family First.

Ridley & Hall Solicitors put Families First

Ridley & Hall have launched a new service to help separating parents who do not qualify for legal aid after the breakdown of their relationship.Meena Kumari, Head of Family First at Ridley & Hall Solicitors

Legal aid was removed for most private law family matters from 1st April when the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 came into force.

Partner Meena Kumari is keen to support families in need of legal advice:-

“When a relationship breaks down it can be devastating.  We hope that our new service called Family First will provide the right support at the right price for our clients”.

The new service offers an innovative approach following the loss of legal aid.  Meena Kumari believes that Family First offers clients a greater freedom of choice and opportunity to save money on legal costs;

“We let clients choose the level of support they require for divorce and cases involving children.  The levels of support include a checking service for court documents, a do it yourself with help service where clients pick and choose when they need help and a pay as you go service.  There is complete transparency in relation to legal costs and there are no hidden fees”.

Ridley & Hall Solicitors are an award winning firm. The Family First team are Accredited members of Resolution, a member of the Law Society’s Advanced Family Panel and trained in Collaborative law.

In addition, Ridley & Hall has set up a mediation department, headed by Vicky Medd.  Vicky is a family solicitor with over 20 years experience, and is a very experienced family mediator.  Vicky believes that clients should choose how they want to resolve their disputes.  “Mediation is a cost effective and speedy way of assisting clients in resolving their dispute.  Over the years I have helped many participants resolve disputes between themselves, without the intervention of the Court.  Costs have been significantly reduced and participants are in charge of the process, making the decisions themselves.”

For further information click here, call us on 01484 538421 or email us.