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Divorce and Family team

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Our divorce and separation team understands that the breakdown of a relationship, particularly if children are involved, can be a difficult and stressful time for all those involved. We listen to the needs of our clients and treat each client as an individual. This ensures we are able to tailor our advice and help guide you through the legal process. We can assist you to make important decisions at a time when you may feel unable to do so.

Philip Hoddell
    • Philip Hoddell

    • Partner, Head of Divorce Colchester, Chair of Strategic Board
    • View profile
 

Divorce is easy (unless it isn't)

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From an early age, all divorce lawyers have drummed into them the fact that you cannot act for both a husband and a wife in a divorce. We will know that under our code of conduct that is a non-negotiable point. It does not stop us often being asked though,...

Beware of the online divorce

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Government statistics show that as many as 40% of divorces are now being dealt with online. But what is the background to this and where are the pitfalls of an online divorce? Online divorce was introduced by the Ministry of Justice in 2018. A lot of...

The danger of ignoring divorce papers

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Increasingly, the family court is willing to step outside of strict rules of procedure where it appears fair for it to do so. The decision made in the recent case of Ali v Barbosa demonstrates this. The facts of the case were quite interesting, as the...

Don't talk about Love Island?

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The reality show’s presenter, Caroline Flack, hit the news recently after she was arrested for an alleged assault on her current boyfriend. Now one of her exes has taken to Twitter. Under the hash tag “#abusehasnogender”, he says that...

Celebrity divorce - be careful it's a jungle out there!

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I previously blogged about non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and how Paul Hollywood’s girlfriend had allegedly ended their relationship when he asked her to sign one that would effectively have gagged her from talking about their private life. Now it...

Parental alienation - two cases, two very different outcomes

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I previously commented on a case involving parental alienation , and the Judge’s decision in that case to transfer residence from the mother to the father as a result. Last week, two decisions have been published involving the topic, however, with...

Should the divorce courts overrule other courts?

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In divorce, not everything might appear to fit neatly within the jurisdiction of the divorce courts. Couples often run businesses together or one may employ the other. There may be family trusts, or assets held with other family members outside of the...

Is the Judge's ruling final in divorce?

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In divorce proceedings, very few financial cases get as far as a trial. When they do, the presiding judge often has to conduct a delicate balancing act between competing claims. What the law regards as ‘fair’ between husband and wife would not...

Celebrity divorces - rumour has it...

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It has been reported this week that Adele was only married to her husband, Simon Konecki, for 11 months before they separated. Divorce proceedings are currently ongoing in Los Angeles and documents reveal that they married on 6 May 2018. Original reports...

What happens to my earnings after divorce?

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In an earlier blog, called ‘ For how long should spousal maintenance be paid? ’, I commented on the Court of Appeal case of Waggott v Waggott and the judge’s comments that, “any extension of the sharing principle to post separation...

What happens to my money if my child's relationship fails?

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Getting on the housing ladder has never been more difficult for young couples. It is often the “bank of mum and dad” that steps in to help buy that first property. But with more and more couples choosing to live together rather than getting...

Are Generation 'Z' more likely to demand a pre-nup?

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Generation ‘Z’ refers to those born from 1996 onwards, the generation following millennials. A recent YouGov survey suggests that this generation is more likely to take a pragmatic approach to marriage and protect their assets by signing a ...

Don't lose your Decree Absolute

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The Decree Absolute is the final court document which confirms that a marriage has legally ended. We will always send you the original of your Decree Absolute and will recommend that you keep it in a safe place, as it can prove difficult to obtain another...

Hiding assets before getting divorced

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Divorce can be a very stressful time and a question I often get asked is, “How can I protect my assets when I am getting divorced?” There will often be a queue of well-meaning friends and relatives lining up to give people advice about what to do...

What not to do when getting a divorce!

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When going through a divorce process, do not: 1. Send the divorce petition to the court without consulting your spouse/their legal adviser Within the current system, you cannot get divorced without “pointing the finger” at...

Celebrity separation: Can you have your cake and eat it too?

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Celebrity baker, Paul Hollywood, has certainly hit the headlines this week after his girlfriend, Summer Monteys-Fullam, allegedly dumped him after refusing to sign a non-disclosure agreement. But who is in the right here and what is the legal status of...

Divorce law reform - equality or equity?

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Many people are aware that the government intends to introduce ‘no fault’ divorce. This is with the stated aim of reducing the acrimony that can sometimes accompany marriage breakdown. However, what some people may not know is that Crossbench...

What are controlling behaviour and coercive control?

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Legislation designed to protect victims in abusive relationships has already led to much comment in the press. We are also seeing more and more claims of it being made in divorce proceedings. But what exactly is controlling or coercive behaviour? The...

Divorce: why not put your cards on the table?

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I have previously blogged about how honesty is the best policy in divorce proceedings , but when and what you can disclose is still a much-misunderstood subject. The High Court has recently issued some further guidance which might help. Divorce lawyers...

Domestic abuse victims' treatment in family courts

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Over 120 MPs from various political parties have written to the Government requesting an inquiry into how the family courts in England and Wales treat victims of domestic abuse in court proceedings. This is a very important area which has been the subject of...

What is parental responsibility and who has it?

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Parental responsibility is defined by the law as “the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority that a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property by law.” I have many clients ask me, what is parental...

Prenuptial agreements - assessment of parties' needs

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My previous blog ‘Will they stand up in court’ about prenuptial agreements , concluded that although they are an important feature in divorce proceedings, a court will be willing to rewrite the terms in order to meet genuine financial needs....

Spousal maintenance - how much and for how long?

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In a recent speech, Mr Justice Mostyn reiterated what he believed to be the most significant factors in determining the issue of spousal maintenance in the following 11 points:- A spousal maintenance award is properly made...

Make sure you are divorced before you get remarried

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Any divorce lawyer will tell you that, when you get divorced, you need to look after your decree absolute carefully. This is because you will need to produce it if you want to remarry. But what happens if the decree absolute was granted by the court by...

Parental alienation - a warning to all separating parents

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I was interested to read a recent family court decision concerning parental alienation. Parental alienation concerns the influence one parent has over a child, making them feel a particular way about the other parent. The child may be encouraged to fear or...

Money and divorce: But money can't buy you love

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The winners of Britain’s largest ever lottery prize are in the news this week as they have decided to divorce. Colin and Christine Weir had normal jobs and had been married for 30 years when they won £161m on the Euro Millions in 2011. 8...

Covert recordings as evidence in the family court

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Secret or ‘covert’ recordings are becoming a frequent feature within family court proceedings. Nowadays, given the advances in technology, sophisticated recording devices are widely available at modest prices and it is very easy to even use your...

She fought the law and the law won

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I have blogged before about how divorce courts are increasingly holding couples to the agreement that they reached, even if there is a subsequent ‘change of mind’. Now the High Court has confirmed that the rules are exactly the same for...

Be wary of online divorce legal services

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Getting divorced is a very stressful time for everyone. Sorting out your legal position, making arrangements for the children and splitting finances, all have to be done at a time when you may be feeling unable to cope with very much. So where to turn...

Divorce myth 2: Couples who live together without marrying become common law spouses

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How do I become a common law spouse? Put simply, you don’t! The suggestion that a couple’s relationship acquires some sort of legal status because they have lived together for 6 months/2 years/5 years etc is a complete myth....

Divorce myth 1: It is possible to obtain a quickie divorce

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Every week brings news that another celebrity couple has obtained a quickie divorce, where years or even decades of marriage are ended in a matter of seconds. Are quickie divorces only for celebrities? In fact there is...

Civil partnerships for all?

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Earlier in the year, the Supreme Court ruled that English law was incompatible with European legislation in that it allowed same sex couples to enter into a civil partnership or get married, whereas mixed sex couples were confined to just the option of...

What happens to our finances when we get divorced?

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I have blogged elsewhere about the Ministry of Justice’s current divorce statistics . Worryingly, it shows that in the last quarter measured, more than 32,000 divorce petitions were issued but only about a third of them led to...

The biggest cause of divorce is marriage...

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In the first radical shakeup in 45 years, the government has launched a consultation on its proposals for the most far reaching reforms of divorce law since 1973. At the moment, unless a couple waits until they have been separated for at least 2...

What are my rights in a common law marriage?

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The number of marriages is increasing with the population, but an ever larger number of couples is choosing to cohabit instead. A recent survey though showed that a significant number of cohabiting couples still thought that they were...

Can my partner force me to sell our house?

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We are often asked what happens to a jointly owned house when an unmarried couple separates. As all family lawyers know, it is possible to force a sale of a property under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996, but what...

It still matters where the money came from

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There has been a growing trend for spouses to claim that the origins of family wealth are unimportant and that any increase in assets which correlates with the time of the marriage should, without exception, be shared equally. Now the High Court has...

The end of civil partnerships?

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Recently I commented on how the Civil Partnership Act 2004 discriminated against same sex couples but that after the long overdue introduction of same sex marriage in 2014, the current situation now discriminates against opposite sex couples. Now the...

Marriage or civil partnership?

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Section 1 of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 is only seven words long, but it represents a milestone in the way in which same sex couples are treated by the law: “Marriage of same sex couples is lawful” reads the section. The act was...

Prenuptial agreements - will they stand up in court?

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This was the question faced by the High Court in the recent case of KA v MA. In it the Judge analysed the existing law on prenuptial agreements and made decisions about how that law should be applied to the specifics of the current case. By...

Will the supreme court grant Mrs Owens her divorce?

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Later this week, the Supreme Court will hear the case of Owens v Owens, where, after 37 years of marriage, Mrs Owens issued divorce proceedings based on her husband’s unreasonable behaviour. Mr Owens did not want to get divorced (some have suggested...

In divorce, when will early sale of the family home be ordered?

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This was the question that the High Court had to deal with on an appeal from a decision made by a district judge in Newcastle. The answer might be a surprise though. After a 25 year marriage, the original divorce court was confronted with a...

For how long should spousal maintenance be paid?

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This remains one of the most difficult questions to answer when dealing with divorce but a recent Court of Appeal decision may have shed some light on the current trend, at least in the more senior courts. Mr and Mrs Waggott were both unhappy with the...

Why should I pay child maintenance when we have equal shared care?

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Ever since the Child Support Agency was introduced in the early 1990s it has had a bad press, often for the inability of the complex systems used to take account of what happens in the real world. The Child Maintenance Service, which has replaced the CSA in...

Bankruptcy and the Family Courts

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In an anonymised judgement the High Court has upheld the terms of an original agreement between husband and wife in divorce, even when the husband’s intervening bankruptcy has had a significant effect on the outcome of the case. The original divorce...

Honesty is the best policy

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The family court has sent a clear warning to divorcing couples that are lying about their assets can lead to severe repercussions. In a recent case, the judge had to consider whether to make normally confidential divorce papers available for...

Can the court save me from a falling property market?

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That was essentially the plea made to the High Court by Essex based Mrs A (the parties were given confidentiality during their divorce). She and her husband had been married for nearly 30 years and were wealthy as a result of the successful construction...

Harassment in divorce - a cautionary tale

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Manchester businessman, Matthew Eckersley, has been left ruing the day he tried to save money on legal fees by directly contacting his wife, Zoe, during their divorce. Stockport Magistrates Court found Mr Eckersley guilty of harassment and ordered him to pay...

Should you consider a cohabitation agreement?

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There has been a significant increase in the number of people choosing to cohabit without marrying. Unfortunately cohabiting couples do not benefit from the same legal rights as married couples if their relationship breaks down - whether it was a long term...

What happens to a joint bank account when one account holder dies?

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This important question was recently decided by the Privy Council (effectively Judges from the Supreme Court hearing appeals from overseas British Commonwealth countries – in this case the Bahamas). Not every couple has joint bank accounts, but...

So money can't buy you love

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A local couple who won £148m on the Euro Millions Lottery in August 2016 are reported to have separated, despite having two young children and previously having said that the huge win would bring them closer together. Recent reports claim...

Do we need a new family law system?

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The engagement of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle has got all the press talking about weddings and marriage. It coincides with a campaign by The Times to introduce so called ‘no fault’ divorces to this country and also provide better legal...

Is it fair to share only one inheritance?

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In a surprising judgment, the Court of Appeal has recently ruled that it would be fair to share the inheritance of one spouse but not the other. After a 14 year marriage and three children (the eldest of whom was sadly disabled), Mr Radwan and Ms...

Empty promises count for nothing

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Amidst high drama in court, a Judge in London has held that it was hard to believe that a woman would not have got her ex partner to repeat the promise she claimed he made, in writing, particularly when she “clearly did not trust” him. ...

When will behaviour affect a divorce settlement?

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As well as containing some highly unusual facts, a recent case in the High Court has highlighted how difficult it is to convince a Judge that bad behaviour should affect the size of a divorce settlement. In an interesting twist though, the Court’s...

Can a spouse get out of their promise to the court?

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Financial agreements between divorcing couples can sometimes contain many complicated provisions. The court has quite a limited range of powers (the payment of maintenance or a lump sum, transfer or sale of a property, sharing of a pension etc). So often...

Why the Child Maintenance Service does not work

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In the last month the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has published statistics from the Child Support Agency (CSA) showing that outstanding arrears of child maintenance currently stand at £3.2 billion. Meanwhile, the Commons Works and Pensions...

Not even a billionaire is a genius

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This continues my line of blogs about spouses who have claimed they should have a greater than equal share of the marital assets because of “special contributions” they have made to the creation of wealth. You can read previous...

Italian court rules against lifetime maintenance awards

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Italy is notorious in legal circles for ordering parents to continue to pay for the upkeep of their adult children. Last year, a middle aged father was ordered to keep supporting his 28 year old son through university, in one of about 8000 similar disputes...

If a banker is not a genius, can a footballer be?

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In December I commented here about the case of Mandy Gray and Randy Work. He had failed to persuade the court that his banking “genius” should entitle him to a greater share of the family’s £180m fortune and so decided to take his...

Farmer's Brexcuse plea fails to impress Judges

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In one of the first known cases of its kind, Paul Mansfield, a fruit farmer from Kent, is seeking to persuade the Court of Appeal that the effect of the Brexit vote should be taken into account in his divorce. After a very lengthy marriage, and nearly...

Dishonesty is not always relevant

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In a previous blog, (which you can read here) I discussed the Supreme Court’s decision to allow 2 wives to reopen their divorce settlements because their husbands had lied. In each case, assets had been concealed and it was felt that had their...

When do you own your parent's house?

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In an unusual case, the Court of Appeal has recently clarified some of the circumstances in which living in a property might give the occupier a financial interest in the value of it, despite the title deeds being in the names of other family members. ...

It ain't over til it's over!

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Last month I blogged about the case of Mr & Mrs Briers, and his attempt to overturn the divorce settlement the Court had awarded her 13 years after they separated. The Court of Appeal has now decided in Mrs Brier’s favour, proving once again that...

The right to be heard in Divorce Proceedings

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I am often asked by clients what will happen if their spouse refuses to engage in the divorce and ignores Court Orders to provide financial information in advance of a final hearing. A recent Court of Appeal decision has confirmed that a trial Judge...

When will half of everything not be fair?

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This is the question that the High Court has recently had to decide in the high profile case of “Mr & Mrs X” and their four children. This case had it all: allegations of alcohol and emotional abuse, family trusts, the meteoric rise in the...

So how long does a divorce take?

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I am often asked by clients “how long does a divorce take?” Sometimes a client is eager to get re-married – it is not unknown for people to fix a wedding date and then tell me when it is and ask me whether it is possible to get their...

Short marriages - what is fair?

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The recent case of H v H [2016] EWFC B81 is a timely reminder that in the case of short marriages, a court’s starting point is going to be to put spouses back into the position that they were in before the marriage. In this case, the husband was...

"How final is your "final" divorce agreement?"

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“I didn’t think she would do anything like this years later” are the words of Glen Briers, a self made millionaire and owner of fashion brands Lambretta and Vision Streetwear. His comments came as he asked the Court of Appeal to overturn...

Will a genius get a better divorce settlement?

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That is the question that a London based American financier is asking the Court of Appeal to decide in his favour. Randy Work claimed that a High Court Judge was wrong to award his ex-wife half of their £140m fortune, arguing that he should have...

What happens to pension on bankruptcy

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In some circumstances a trustee in bankruptcy is entitled to look to recover payments from the bankrupt’s sources of income, in order to help satisfy the legitimate claims of creditors. In this case, the Court of Appeal clarified that this power...

Fined for alienating children

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An Italian Court has set what is believed to be an historical precedent by fining the mother of three children 30,000 Euros for attempting to alienate them from their father. All of the people remain anonymous, but commentary on the case suggested...

BRANJ - Exit "Better in Britain"

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The breaking news this week that Angelina Jolie has filed for divorce from Brad Pitt has shocked many people, but probably surprised fewer – Hollywood marriages don’t normally seem to last the distance. There is certainly no shortage of...

Be careful what you agree to

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The Court of Appeal has refused to overturn a County Court Judge who accepted that a property dispute between an unmarried couple had been settled by a conversation they had in a carpark. After 20 years of living together in a property owned by one partner...

When divorce settlements are determined by financial need

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For nearly 20 years, divorce lawyers have known that after a lengthy marriage, the starting point for a court is going to be the equal division of all of the marital assets. In a recent high profile case, High Court Judge Mrs Justice Roberts gave a further...

"New Age Travellers" settle ancient divorce case

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Last year I posted on the case of Vince –v- Wyatt, often referred to in the press as the “New Age Travellers” case. Ms Wyatt made a financial claim against her ex-husband nearly three decades after they separated. At the time of...

Treatment of pension following divorce

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The treatment of pensions following divorce has recently been scrutinised by the High Court in a case where spouses nearing the age of retirement divorced after a very long marriage. Although recent legislation has meant that pension funds can be...

Unmarried couples - jointly owned property

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There are increasing signs that the family courts are willing to go further than the Government is prepared to legislate for, and the recent Court of Appeal decision of Barnes v Phillips [2015] EWCA Civ 1056 is a case in point. Mr Barnes and Ms Phillips...

Dishonesty and the family courts

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In two high profile judgments, the Supreme Court has effectively sent a warning to spouses who might be considering trying to hide assets in the their divorce. Alison Sharland’s divorce settlement was £10m plus 30% of her husband’s shares...

Kate should have primed with a pre nup!

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Following the recent split of supermodel Kate Moss from her indie band The Kills guitarist husband Jamie Hince, there has been intense press speculation about how much the lack of a prenuptial agreement might cost her. Some commentators have gone as far as...

"It ain't over until the court says it is"

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A couple of months ago I commented on the case of Vince v Wyatt, a case which has captured the public imagination as the “ new age traveller divorce ”. At that time, the Court of Appeal had said that Ms Wyatt could not pursue a financial claim...

New age traveller divorce

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The Supreme Court is now considering its judgement in the case of Vince v Wyatt, a couple who divorced more than twenty years ago after only three years of marriage. Although there was one child of the marriage, the couple lived as travellers for the short...

Warning to spouses who fruitlessy litigate

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A recent Court of Appeal judgement has sent a warning to spouses who fruitlessly litigate cases which ought to be capable of settlement and then appeal against perfectly sensible orders. In this case, both husband and wife were high earning professionals in...

Child Maintenance Service - application fee and charges

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The Child Support Agency (“CSA”) is gradually being replaced by the new Child Maintenance Service (“CMS”) following more than two decades of pretty poor performance by the CSA. At the same time, the CMS has introduced application fees...

Grandparents day - should grandparents have an automatic ability to apply for contact orders?

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This Sunday is national Grandparents day, and as many families plan a happy day of celebration with three (or sometimes more) generations coming together, it is worth taking some time to consider the legal position of those grandparents who don’t see...

Grandparents day - should grandparents have an automatic ability to apply for contact orders?

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This Sunday is national Grandparents day, and as many families plan a happy day of celebration with three (or sometimes more) generations coming together, it is worth taking some time to consider the legal position of those grandparents who don’t see...

Equal division of assets

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In the recent reported High Court case of SK v TK, Mr Justice Moor re emphasised that, after a long marriage, the starting point was to equally divide a family’s assets and that it is only in exceptional circumstances that a departure from equality...

Should non UK taxpayers be able to use the UK courts to divorce?

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A senior High Court Judge has questioned why a Malaysian couple, neither of whom are UK tax payers should be allowed to use the UK divorce Courts to argue over their £500 million case. Describing the legal costs that the couple have run up with...

Pre Marital Agreements revisited

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In a high profile case in the High Court, the Judge has criticised a wife who signed a Pre Marital Agreement and then attempted to go back on the terms of it when the marriage broke down some fifteen months later. The Judge was satisfied that both husband...

Enforcement of child contact orders - new research

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When couples separate, the majority are able to agree who their children will live with and how often they will spend time with each of their parents. A minority can’t, and although this is one area where mediation is often very successful, every year...

Company owner's fast car collides with Supreme Court

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Divorcing company owners beware – the UK’s most senior court has delivered its judgement in Prest v Petrodel Resources Limited and Others and the news is not good for the corporate world. In my previous article I reported that Mrs Prest was...

Child abduction by parents

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I have blogged before about cases where children have been taken from their country of residence by one parent. The preliminary legal argument is then usually about whether the children should be returned to the country they came from for the courts...

How old is old enough?

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I have written before about the legal implications of a parent unilaterally moving children from one country to another. The usual rule is that children should be promptly returned to the country where they usually live, for legal decisions about their...

Government introduces a presumption of shared parenting

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The government has confirmed that it intends to introduce legislation to provide for a presumption of shared parenting. The Children Act of 1989 will be amended to provide that a Court is to presume, unless the contrary is shown, that involvement of each...

The end of a meal ticket for life?

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Legal commentators are getting very excited about a divorce case that has recently been heard in the Court of Appeal (and where the Court’s decision will be delivered at a later date). Multi millionaire hotel boss Andrew Davies has asked the Court of...

The Future Of Families In Britain

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Following the publication of data from the 2011 Census, the think tank Centre for Social Justice has published a report headed “Forgotten Families? The Vanishing Agenda”. It claims that increasingly, marriage is the preserve of the middle and...

'An open road and a fast car?'

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So said one of the country’s most senior divorce judges, Lord Justice Thorpe, when he was out voted by two other Judges in the Court of Appeal in the case of Prest v Prest and Others, a case decided in October 2012. Mr Prest and some of his companies...

International Child Abduction

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Both Italy and Australia are signatories to the Hague Convention on child abduction (as is the UK). Broadly this states that if children are wrongly removed from one member country to the other, the Court of the country where they are physically present will...

Access rights - To move or not to move?

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The High Court has just ruled that a mother of two children should be allowed to move from her current address provided she and the children remain in England and Wales (the countries covered by the High Court). This overturned an Order made two years...