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Vines Legal's A-Z of All things Family and Matrimonial; J for Judges

Welcome to our Alphabet Information Series.  Today’s topic is J for Judges.

 

What is a judge?

A judge is a person who oversees Court proceedings, either alone or as a part of a panel of judges. The judge conducts the trial impartially and, typically, in an open court (save for Family Law matters). The judge hears all the witnesses and any other evidence presented by the barristers or solicitors of the case, assesses the credibility and arguments of the parties, and then issues a ruling on the matter at hand based on his or her interpretation of the law and his or her own personal judgment. In some jurisdictions, the judge's powers may be shared with a jury.

 

Different Types Of Family Law Judges In The UK

When your family law matter reaches Court, your case will be heard by a judge or a bench of Magistrates. The type of judiciary you face will depend on the type of court where your case is being heard. Generally, family cases are heard in the County Court or a Magistrates Court, and will either be heard by a District Judge, Circuit Judge, Bench of Magistrates and/or a Legal Advisor.

 

Magistrates, or Justices of the Peace, are members of the local community without legal background or knowledge who sit in the Magistrates’ court. They bring a broad experience of life to the bench, working part-time. Justices of the Peace receive support in court from Legal Advisers and cannot hear cases without one. They must sit for at least 26 half-days a year.

 

District Judges are legally qualified and sit alone in Court without a legal adviser. District Judges hear the longer and more complex cases which come before the Court. They do not normally wear robes in Court. District Judges are full-time judges who deal with the majority of cases in the County Court. In the Family Court, District Judges hear most of the cases involving the division of family assets and, along with the Circuit Judges, they also hear the cases involving children. They preside over a wide a range of family and civil law cases such as divorces, child proceedings and domestic violence injunctions.

 

Deputy District Judges are part-time and sit in the County Courts and District Registries of the High Court for between 15 and 50 days a year. In general their jurisdiction is the same as that of a District Judge. 

 

Recorders are a type of judicial officeholder who sit in both Crown and County Courts. They are solicitors or barristers with at least ten years practice before these Courts. Their jurisdiction is broadly similar to that of a Circuit Judge, but they generally handle less complex or serious matters coming before the court. Appointments are made for five years, and Recorders normally sit for between 15 and 30 days a year.

 

Circuit Judges are appointed to one of the six circuits in England and Wales, and sit in the Crown and County Courts within their particular region. Some Circuit Judges deal specifically with criminal or civil cases, while others are authorised to hear public and/or private law family cases.

 

There are also High Court Judges who can be assigned to the Family Division. Finally there are Judges of the Court of Appeal, senior judges, who hear both criminal and civil appeals which have been referred up to them from other Courts.

 

By Administrator on 15 Oct 2019

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Vines Legal's A-Z of All things Family and Matrimonial; I for Injunctions

Welcome to our Alphabet Information Series.  Today’s topic is I for Injunctions.

 

What is an Injunction? 

An injunction is an Order of the Court preventing someone from doing something such as disposing of assets, being violent or threatening. in family law, an injunction is a Court order that requires someone you are associated with to do or not do something. The two main types of injunctions you can take out under the Family Law Act are:

 

A Non-Molestation Order

A Non-Molestation Order aims to prevent your current or former partner/spouse from threatening or using violence against you or your child/ren. The order also aims to stop any harassing or intimidating behaviour. The ultimate purpose is to protect your health, safety and well-being, as well as that of your child/ren.

 

An Occupation Order

An Occupation Order determines who can live in the family home. It can also mean that the other party cannot enter the area nearby.

Do you feel unsafe living with your partner? Or have you left home because of violence? If either of these things are true in your case, and you want to return to the property but exclude your abuser, you may wish to apply for an Occupation Order.

 

What happens if the Order is breached?

If the Non-Molestation Order is breached, they will be committing a criminal offence and you can get the police involved. The maximum sentence for the breach of a Non-Molestation Order is 5 years imprisonment. However, if you do not wish to begin criminal proceedings you may take them back to the Family Court that made the Order for punishment for breaking the order.

If you already have an Occupation Order, a breach is not a criminal offence, unless you have a Power of Arrest attaching to the Order. Breaching an Occupation Order that has a Power of Arrest could result in imprisonment or a fine. Without a Power of Arrest you can apply back to the Court that made the Order for the offender to be punished/arrested.

 

Who can apply for an injunction? 

To apply for an injunction, you must be an ‘associated person’. This means you and the other party must be connected with each other in at least one of the following ways: 

  • You are or were married to each other.
  • You are or were in a civil partnership.
  • You live with each other or used to live together.
  • You live or used to live in the same household.
  • You are blood relations.
  • You are or were engaged to be married to each other.
  • You have children together – this may include those who are parents of the same child, as well as those who have parental responsibility for the same child.
  • You are in an ‘intimate relationship of significant duration’.
  • You are both taking part in the same family proceedings such as custody or divorce.

 

If you would like more information about Non Molestation Orders and Occupation orders; or if you need advice and help with your situation please contact us on 01246 555610 for a free consultation where one of our experienced solicitors will be able to assist you. 

By Administrator on 8 Oct 2019

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Vines Legal's A-Z of All things Family and Matrimonial; H for Home Rights

Welcome to our Alphabet Information Series.  Today’s topic is H for Home Rights.

 

Home Rights Notice 

For most people, the home that they share with their spouse or civil partner, and possibly children, will be their single most valuable asset. It is very common for people to panic when a marriage or civil partnership breaks down if the property is held solely in the name of your spouse or civil partner. This can leave some people feeling extremely vulnerable and worried about what their rights are. At the very least, you will have matrimonial home rights in the property, which mean that you are allowed to occupy the property without being disturbed.

If you are married or in a civil partnership and the family home is held in the sole name of your spouse or civil partner if the relationship ends you should consider registering your “home rights”.

 

But what are home rights?

Matrimonial home rights, are a statutory right to protect your interest in the home you lived in when you were married or in a civil partnership, but where you do not own the property.

If you do not own a share in the matrimonial home, whilst you sort out your matrimonial finances, you can register a caution at HM Land Registry which will be placed on the title register of the property. You will then be protected from your spouse or civil partner; selling, transferring or mortgaging the property, without your consent. A Home Rights Notice permits the occupation of a property, but it does not give any actual right of ownership to it.

The matrimonial home rights notice would be removed once you were divorced, but at that point you should already have dealt with the financial aspects of the divorce meaning that the notice would no longer be required.   

 

If you would like to discuss your matrimonial home rights, then please do not hesitate to contact us on 01246 555610.

 

By Administrator on 1 Oct 2019

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Vines Legal's A-Z of All things Family and Matrimonial; G for Grounds

Welcome to our Alphabet Information Series.  Today’s topic is G for Grounds. 

Everyone asks, “do I have grounds for divorce?”  Others have a list of reasons they’re sure must be “grounds’ for divorce”. But are they?

The grounds for divorce are a set of rules outlining the circumstances under which a person will be granted a divorce by the Courts in the UK.

Unreasonable behaviour is the most common reason(fact) for a divorce in the UK as it means couples can divorce without needing to wait until they've been separated between two and five years. However, unreasonable behaviour is a ‘fact’ to be relied upon and not a ‘ground’ for divorce.  The explanation for this is because there is only one ground for divorce under English law. This ground is the irretrievable breakdown of your marriage.

To prove that a marriage has irretrievably broken down there are five facts (reasons) that can be used:

  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable behaviour.
  3. Two years separation, with Consent
  4. Five years separation, without Consent
  5. Desertion

Unreasonable Behaviour, is by far the most common used and usually requires the person applying for the divorce (Petitioner) to show examples of their spouse’s behaviour which satisfies the Court that their spouse behaved in such an unreasonable manner that the Petitioner finds it impossible to continue living with them.

 

Depending on your individual situation, choosing the right reason for divorce can be complex and will require some thought. If you’re confused and need more information and/or advice call 01246 555 610 to arrange a free, no obligation consultation with one of our experienced solicitors.

 

By Administrator on 24 Sep 2019

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Vines Legal's A-Z of All things Family and Matrimonial; F for Financial Dispute Resolution

Welcome to our Alphabet Information Series.  Today’s topic is Financial Dispute Resolution. 

So what is an FDR?

The FDR is usually the second Court hearing in matrimonial, financial relief proceedings. It is short for Financial Dispute Resolution hearing.

At this stage, you and your spouse should have all of the financial information you need to feel comfortable reaching a settlement and many cases do settle at this point. The purpose and aim of the FDR hearing is to encourage discussion and negotiation between both parties. It is important to think of this hearing as an opportunity to hear what a Judge has to say, with a view to reaching a resolution. Achieving a settlement at this stage could save considerable further expense compared to the cost of a Final Hearing.

 

So what happens at an FDR?

Each party will meet with their legal representative an hour or so before the hearing is scheduled to take place. This gives you the opportunity to discuss the outcome you would like to achieve and discuss anything that may be causing you concern. This is also an opportunity to narrow any issues and see if some elements of your case are agreed. Your representation will ask you questions to understand the range of settlements you would be prepared to accept so that they know the frame within which they can negotiate on your behalf.

At this stage, it is usual for both parties’ legal representatives to discuss matters to understand the other party’s position and to get a feel for their desire to settle.

 

What about the hearing?

During the hearing, the Judge will generally give an indication as to which elements of each party’s position he prefers and the decision he would make if the matter was at Final Hearing stage. The parties do not usually give evidence, but the Judge will look at all relevant information, including without prejudice offers made by each side, to assist the parties in reaching an agreement.

The FDR hearing is “without prejudice”.  This means that if matters cannot be agreed, the Judge who hears the FDR is not permitted to hear the Final Hearing.

If there are any remaining areas of disagreement at FDR, further directions can been made and incorporated into a court order showing what further evidence is needed before the matter can proceed to a Final Hearing. . A solicitor can advise you in advance of the FDR on whether any further information is required to understand the full financial picture and you should not worry if you feel that you need more information before you can reach a settlement with your spouse or partner.

 

Can negotiating continue after the hearing?

Definitely! Both parties will be actively encouraged by the Judge, and hopefully their legal representatives, to negotiate and reach a mutually satisfactory agreement on the day. Although most FDRs are only listed for an hour, you should expect to spend the whole day at Court if negotiations go well.

If an agreement is reached at FDR, whenever possible the legal representatives will seek to finalise a draft order on the day and ask the Judge to approve it.

Equally, if matters have not settled at FDR this does not mean that you cannot continue to negotiate. There is often several months between the FDR and the Final Hearing and if matters have not settled this time allows time for valuable discussion and negotiations to see if matters could still be resolved outside of Court.

For various reasons, in some cases matters do not settle and asking a Judge to decide how to divide assets between former spouses or civil partners is the only option. If matters are not agreed at the FDR stage, the Judge will fix a date for a Final Hearing.

If you have any queries regarding the above information or would like any further advice remember obtaining accurate legal information from the outset can be vital in the resolution of your matter and can make the process less stressful. Call 01246 555 610 to arrange a free, no obligation consultation with one of our experienced solicitors.

By Administrator on 20 Sep 2019

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Generation Z say 'yes' to Pre-Nups!

Members of 'Generation Z' - those born from 1996 onward - are likely to take a practical approach to marriage and protect their assets before tying the knot, a YouGov survey on prenuptial agreements suggests.  In a survey of 2,064 people of the 136 respondents aged between 18 and 24, 42% of women and 36% of men said they would likely sign a pre-nup. The stigma of consulting a solicitor ahead of getting hitched has long ago disappeared. Generation Z has grown up influenced by celebrity culture and take a realistic approach to marriage or civil partnerships. 

Pre-nup agreements are one of the areas Vines Legal can help you with. We offer a personal service, providing you with clear explanation and advice on all options so that you completely understand the process. We can help you arrange a Prenuptial Agreement that suits you. To book your free, no obligation, initial consultation call Julia, our receptionist, on 01246 555610.

 

Credit - www.tinyurl.com/lgprenup

 

 

By Administrator on 19 Sep 2019

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Vines Legal's A-Z of All things Family and Matrimonial; E for Equity

Welcome to our Alphabet Information Series.  Today’s topic is Equity and Equitable Accounting. 

What is equity?  Most people would answer it's how much your house is worth. Equity actually has several meanings. In Accountancy, ‘Equity’ is the difference between the value of the assets and the value of the liabilities of something that is owned. ’Equity’ is also a name given to an area of law.

Most commonly, when using the word ’equity’ in family & matrimonial law and cohabitation cases, we are using it to work out the beneficial interest in an asset, such as the family home. If, for example, there is to be a transfer of the family home, or indeed any property, to one party then the solicitors will need to calculate the transferring parties equitable interest in that property.  

"Equitable accounting" is also another common phrase that is used to determine whether or not there should be some further re-adjustment of any sums payable, this is done after it has been determined whether or not a party has a share in the property and if so what that share is. This normally takes into account the fact that one person has continued to live in the property and possibly continued to pay the mortgage on his or her own. Such adjustments can make a significant difference to the outcome of these types of disputes. There are three different matters that are usually or more commonly looked at:

  • Occupation rent: Should the person who has remained in the property pay to the other a contribution having regard to the fact that he or she has had sole occupation of the property?
  • Mortgage installments: If one person has continued to pay a greater sum to the mortgage than the other, is he or she entitled to repayment of that contribution?
  • Improvements: If the person who has remained in the property has improved the property after the other has left should that party receive some additional contribution in respect of those costs or the equity the improvements may have created?

If you have any queries regarding the above information or would like any further advice remember obtaining accurate legal information from the outset can be vital in the resolution of your matter and can make the process less stressful. Call 01246 555 610 to arrange a free, no obligation consultation with one of our experienced solicitors.

By Administrator on 17 Sep 2019

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Vines Legal's A-Z of All things Family and Matrimonial; D for Divorce

Welcome to our Alphabet Information Series.  Today’s topic is Divorce. 

Have you or a loved one been thinking of divorce? Divorce, it’s a scary word but it’s ok, read today’s blog which will give you some good tips to prepare, tell you about the five stages and finally a glossary to tell you what all these new words mean. 

HINTS AND TIPS

It’s a good idea to read up on divorce and get yourself familiar with what’s to come next. Here are some tips for preparing for divorce:

  1. Be absolutely positive you want a divorce
  2. Accept that your divorce is what needs to happen
  3. Get yourself a good solicitor
  4. Get support from friends and family
  5. Set realistic goals for the future
  6. Try to act civil with your spouse
  7. Hope for the best but also prepare for the worst
  8. Know that you will be okay no matter what the outcome may be

 

THE DIVORCE PROCESS IN FIVE STAGES

1. The Petition

The divorce process starts with one party sending their Petition to the Court., It can sometimes be a a good idea for the other spouse to see a copy of the divorce petition before it is sent to the Court. Once the petition has been sent to the Court it will be given a case number and copies will be sent to the other party. This is known as issuing. It can take two to three weeks for the Court to issue the divorce papers and send them out.

2. The response

Once the other spouse receives the papers they must then respond to them by filling in a form called an ‘Acknowledgement of Service’. This is sent to the Court within seven days and will confirm whether or not they agree to the petition continuing and what their position is regarding any claim for costs.  

If your spouse fails to return the Acknowledgement of Service your Solicitor will talk to you about the next steps.

3. The Decree Nisi

Once the acknowledgment of service has been returned to the Court, sealed and sent to the petitioner, the petitioner can then apply for Decree Nisi. This is the procedure by which the District Judge is asked to consider the petition and other papers and decide whether or not the petitioner is entitled to a divorce. To apply for Decree Nisi the petitioner needs to complete an application form and a statement confirming the contents of the petition are true.

If the District Judge is satisfied with the papers they will issue a Certificate confirming the time, date and place of the Decree Nisi pronouncement. It may not be necessary for either the petitioner or respondent to attend Court on the pronouncement.

4. Order From The Court

Once the Decree Nisi has been pronounced the solicitor will receive the Order from the Court. The Decree Nisi is the first decree in the divorce proceedings but it is not until Decree Absolute is pronounced that the divorce is finalised and you are no longer married.

5. Decree Absolute

Six weeks and one day from the date Decree Nisi is pronounced the petitioner can apply for the Decree Nisi to be made Absolute, to complete the divorce proceedings. If the petitioner does not apply the respondent (other party) must wait a further three months before they may apply to the Court.

From start to finish the divorce process can take between four and six months, depending on the issues involved and the availability of the Court. If one of the parties decides not to co-operate or there are complicated financial issues it can take much longer to finalise matters.

 

GLOSSARY

When getting divorced or ending a civil partnership, you may hear or read legal words that may confuse you and make the process even more intimidating. Here are some of the key words you may see and their meanings.

Petitioner - or ‘applicant’ although both terms are often used. This is the person applying for the divorce.

Respondent - The person who receives the divorce petition/ application or some other application to court, such as in financial proceedings.

Petition - Now known as an Application for Divorce although both terms are still used. This is the application form you complete to request that the court grants you a divorce.

Prayer This the ‘summary’ section of the petition that asks the court to make an order for the marriage to be dissolved, that the respondent pay the costs of the application and that a Financial Order may be granted at some point.

Particulars - If an application for divorce is based on unreasonable behaviour or adultery, it has to set out details. This can be upsetting and, in some cases, offensive. It is nearly always best to try and agree the particulars before the application is sent to the court.

Acknowledgement of service - A standard form that the respondent (and any co-respondent) must sign and return to the court to confirm that they have received the petition/application and saying whether or not they agree to the divorce.

Decree Nisi - The interim decree or order of divorce indicating that the court is satisfied that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. Six weeks and one day after Decree Nisi has been made, the applicant/petitioner can apply to the court to make Decree Nisi absolute (decree absolute) and the marriage is then terminated.

Decree absolute - The final order of the court, which dissolves the marriage.

Statement in support of divorce - This statement poses a number of questions aimed at ensuring that the contents of your petition remain true and correct and that there have been no changes in circumstances that may affect your ability to support the irretrievable breakdown of your marriage. This statement has to be filed at court when you apply for your Decree Nisi.  

Arming yourself with accurate legal information from the outset can be vital in the resolution of your matter and can make the process less stressful. If you are considering a divorce and just wish to talk through the options then call 01246 555 610 to arrange a free, no obligation consultation with one of our experienced solicitors.    

By Administrator on 12 Sep 2019

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Vines Legal's A-Z of All things Family and Matrimonial; C for Cohabiting

Welcome to our Alphabet Information Series.  Today’s topic is Cohabiting. 

Cohabiting in the UK is defined as an unmarried couple who are living together in a long-term relationship, which resembles a marriage. The cohabiting couple may or may not have children together, jointly own a property or share bills.

Many people think that cohabiting couples have the same rights as married couples believing they are “common law spouses” and should the worst happen they will be afforded the same protection under the law as married couples.

The fact is, common-law marriages have not existed in England since 1753; however, many still think that a period of living together (seven years is popular, but some guess two or four years) grants them legal protection. This is entirely incorrect.

Therefore, if a cohabiting couple separates, they do not have the same legal rights as a married couple. In general, unmarried couples cannot claim ownership of, or an interest in, the other's sole property or assets in the event of a breakup, except for any assets or property which they own jointly.

With unmarried cohabiting families becoming the fastest growing type of family in the UK and because unmarried couples have fewer legal rights than married couples, many may now be seeking a Cohabitation Agreement.  A Cohabitation Agreement is a form of legal agreement reached between a couple who have chosen to live together.  These agreements can cover things such as, how they pay rent, mortgage or household bills, arrangements for children, finances and property that may have been owned before or bought while living together. 

If you have any queries regarding the above information or would like any further advice remember obtaining accurate legal information from the outset can be vital in the resolution of your matter and can make the process less stressful. Call 01246 555610 to arrange a free, no obligation consultation with one of our experienced solicitors.

By Administrator on 10 Sep 2019

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Vines Legal's A-Z of All Things Family and Matrimonial; B for Barrister

Welcome to our Alphabet Information Series.  Today’s topic is Barrister. 

What is a Barrister?  Well most people might say a “fancy solicitor that wears a wig” or the “person in Court they see on television”. Actually there is a bit more to it than that. 

A Barrister is a lawyer who has recognised skills in advocacy (speaking on your behalf), who may represent you and act on your behalf in Court if there is a dispute about money or children. The Barrister can also provide you with additional specialist advice in relation to the legal aspects of your case.

The Barrister will speak in Court and present your case to the Judge. In contrast, a Solicitor not only speaks in Court but generally meets with clients, does administrative work and provides legal advice. Not everyone will require a Barrister.

In most cases, to instruct a Barrister you need to go through a solicitor, who will be responsible for the litigation part of a case (taking the initial instructions, issuing proceedings, gathering the evidence, the preparation of a case for trial, and of course the instruction of counsel (Barrister).

A Barrister's physical appearance in Court depends on whether the hearing is "robed" or not. In England and Wales, criminal cases in the Crown Court almost always have the Barristers wearing robes and wigs but nowadays there is more movement in civil cases to not wear them. The vast majority of County Court hearings are now conducted without robes, although the traditional outfit continues to be worn in High Court proceedings.  Whether or not a Barrister wears the robe is not in any way indicative of their level of skill or expertise.

If you have any queries regarding the above information or would like any advice relating to family or matrimonial matters remember that obtaining accurate legal information from the outset can be vital in the resolution of your matter, and can make the process less stressful. If you would like to arrange a free, no obligation consultation with one of our experienced solicitors then call our office today on 01246 555 610.

By Administrator on 6 Sep 2019

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