Vines Legal Logo

Vines Legal Limited

Matrimonial & Family Law Specialists

Progressive • Dedicated • Persistent

Call today for your free initial, no obligation, consultation on 01246 555 610 for immediate, friendly and professional advice.

Proposed changes to the crime of 'wilful neglect' to children

Proposed changes to the crime of 'wilful neglect' to children

The cross-bench peer, Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, has been working on an amendment to the draft Crime and Courts Bill currently being examined by MP's.

The retired senior judege  and former President of the Family Division of the High Court has been involved with the charity Action for Children in defining the broader crime of 'maltreatment' to replace the current legal concept of 'wilful neglect'.

'Wilful neglect' dates originally back to the Victorian poor laws. It is a crime in which  it must be shown that a responsible adult has assaulted or abandoned a child, or exposed a child to injury or suffering.

The new definition of 'maltreatment' would include harm to a child's "physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development".

Dame Clare Tickell, head of the Action for Children charity, emphasised the need for a law which would give children the necessary protection, and described the proposed  reforms as a 'straightforward and crucial step'.

There have been a number of cases in which authorities have been seen as not stepping in early enough to protect children in their care - most notably the shocking Baby P case. Last year, Action for Children produced a report which found that a high percentage of social workers and police officers felt unable to get involved in suspected cases of abuse and neglect of children. The proposed new law of maltreatment is aimed at helping those children.

By Claire Clark on 27 Feb 2013

Continue reading

Children and Families Bill - Legislation for the way we live and work today.

Children and Families Bill - Legislation for the way we live and work today.

This week sees the publication of The Children and Families Bill, which promises to significantly reform parental leave, and to alter the way the most vulnerable children in society are protected. Reforms to adoption and family justice are to be made, with the role of Children's Commissioner to be reinforced.

Couples are to be able to share parental leave from work following the birth of a child - as long as the maximum of 52 weeks in total is observed, mothers and fathers will be allowed to take turns, take time off together or mix and match the way in which the leave is taken. The Department of Education has stated its belief that this is the best way to get mothers back into work quicker if they so choose, enabling fathers to play a greater role in bringing up their children and creating a necessary greater flexibility within the workplace.

Reforming adoption law through changes to the Children Act 1989 and Children and Adoption Act 2002 are intended to speed up the process of children being placed in a loving home, and the educational interests of children in care are highlighted by the creation of  a 'virtual school head' for each local authority. This is to keep focus on the educational standards for children in care, as it is currently felt they are not improving  fast enough.

The family justice system sees additions to the Children's Act 1989, with a presumption in favour of shared parenting being included. The government wishes to remove delays, and keep children's best interests uppermost in the decision-making process.Child arrangement orders are to replace contact and residence orders.

Business Minister Jo Swinson commented that this Bill will provide for the work/life balance necessary in the 21st Century.

By Claire Clark on 12 Feb 2013

Continue reading

Groundbreaking judgement on "Donor Dads" highlights need for documentation at the outset.

The recent case involving three couples who were all friends - two lesbian couples and one gay couple - has resulted in two sperm donor fathers being given leave to apply for contact with their  biological children, despite there being no legal relationship between those parents and their offspring.

One of the gay men was a biological father to both the children of one lesbian couple, whilst the other gay man was the biological father of the other lesbian couple's child. The sperm donations were made informally, with no recourse to solicitors nor anything put in writing. At the point at which the fathers requested more contact with their children, the friendship began to deteriorate.

The fathers of the children concerned applied for leave to apply for both contact and residence. Mr Justice Baker in Re G;Re Z, allowed leave for the fathers to apply for contact under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989, emphasised the importance in future cases of considering the contact the parents had had to date with their biological children - in this case, the adults concerned were all friends and the children had met the individuals on many occasions. The person's connection to the child and the disruption which might be caused by their introduction into the child's life must be considered.

Leave for the fathers to apply for residence was not granted, and Mr Justice Baker also said that the right to respect for 'private and family life' under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights should be protected by future legal decisions.

The obvious conclusion to this case, and one which was drawn by the solicitor acting for one of the mothers, is that it is vital to formalise any type of sperm donation with legal advice and documentation. However, there is no doubting the enormity of this decision, and many donors  must now be feeling that the way is open for them to at least attempt contact with their biological offspring through the legal precedent set by this case.

By Claire Clark on 5 Feb 2013

Continue reading

People behaving badly!

People behaving badly - Not what you might think when it comes to the financial nitty-gritty of a divorce or separation!

When discussing how a judge or the law in general will view an individual's behaviour during their marriage, we have all heard comments such as: "She's the one who moved out, she won't have a leg to stand on in court" and "He was seeing someone else, the judge will definitely be on my side".

Many myths abound as to what constitutes conduct to be taken into account when the financial details are being hammered out, and you will hear people speak with utter conviction about how someone will come out of their divorce proceedings with either nothing or everything, but the reality is very far from the common perception.

What you may well perceive to be behaviour which a judge would take into account is often far from relevant. The fact is that a for a judge to consider someone's conduct, it is necessary for that conduct to be so grave that it would be otherwise unfair to ignore it.

Whilst it is quite common knowledge that the two main legal grounds for divorce are unreasonable behaviour and adultery, neither of these two are relevant in themselves when a financial settlement is being finalised.

We have experience of one individual who,whilst receiving the monthly amounts from his wife to pay for the mortgage on the marital home, did not actually pay the mortgage with this money. The ultimate result of this was that the house was repossessed. Despite such conduct, the judge dismissed this as irrelevant when settling the finances of the case between them.

By contrast, one party to a divorce deliberately flooded the upstairs of the family home, causing thousands of pounds' worth of damage, and this was considered relevant. In another case, one party gambled the majority of the couple's money and assets away, a factor which was also taken into account.

It can be seen from the examples above though, that there is no actual definition of "conduct" for the purposes of financial settlements following a divorce or separation.

Take advantage of our 30 minute free consultation to meet us and get an overview of your options, don't rely on hearsay or other people's experience of divorce.

By Claire Clark on 16 Jan 2013

Continue reading

Litigants In Person - We ignore them at our peril.

Whilst the concept of individuals/ businesses representing themselves in our legal system is not a new one, it is becoming an issue which as professionals we are unwise to ignore.

A combination of a pressured financial situation, along with the well-documented reduction of Legal Aid ( especially in the family area of law ), has led to a noticeable increase of litigants-in-person.

When faced with mounting costs, people increasingly feel that they have no option other than to attempt to do a lawyer's job themselves. Whilst someone will know the facts of their own individual case undoubtedly better than anyone else though, this does not necessarily equip them for the legal process.

We here at Vines Legal have had reports of people feeling completely - and understandably - out of their depth when faced with courtroom etiquette, dealing directly with other barristers and when trying to understand a whole system in an impossibly short space of time.The legal jargon alone can be enough to alienate someone not in the know!

Attempting to come to terms with everything necessary for self-representation can be so consuming that it negates whatever the individual is actually trying to achieve. To avoid greater disillusionment with the judicial system in this country, and indeed any further damage to its credibility with the public in general, the legal profession needs to consider this growing problem.

There are no straightforward answers to the issues highlighted above. Perhaps the most helpful thing we as lawyers can do is commit to being as direct and to-the-point as possible on behalf of our clients. To get straight to the heart of the legal matter, avoiding time-wasting and legal "treading of water " and give the very best and most pertinent service to our clients.

Before you make any individual or commercial decisions to go it alone, it is surely worth a discussion with those qualified to give you an indication of where that will lead you.

By Claire Clark on 14 Jan 2013

Continue reading

New Brooms Sweep Clean for 2013

Early this month saw  "the day we're most likely to file for divorce" - it's actually becoming something of a cliche every year now, isn't it?!

However, as with all cliches, it does have some foundation - as we mentioned in our blog in December, people do put off that initial meeting with a solicitor prior to Christmas. Naturally, the idea of upheaval is never a welcome one, and people do not want to rock the boat during what is a traditional time for family.

What about the aftermath though? Once the tree and the tinsel come down, the presents have lost their novelty and the children are finally back at school and in a routine, that's the point at which we find new clients making their first appointment with us.

Faced with the prospect of another year in an unhappy domestic situation, people do take that plunge in January, and decide that this is one Resolution they are determined to keep. As always at Vines Legal, we offer that initial free 30-minute consultation which enables us to briefly assess your situation and offer you an outline of your options.

Should you decide that 2013 is the year things are going to change for you, contact us and take that first step to your new future. It is never an easy decision, but sometimes that first appointment can be the most difficult to arrange. We understand that, and we do not urge you into any decisions unless you are ready for them. Our legal team is here to listen, and to assess your position - any further progress is then most definitely in your hands.

By Claire Clark on 10 Jan 2013

Continue reading

Exciting times!

We are relocating to 47 Clarence Road, Chesterfield, S40 1LQ - Tel: 01246 555 610. (N.B. The telephone number will not be effective until Monday 17th December 2012).

This building is the perfect size to accommodate all of us, and enables us to provide the professional service we always strive to create. More than anything else though, our new building gives us the location we have been looking for.

The Chesterfield office will give us the base to go on, raise our profile through networking with new as well as existing contacts, and add to our services. This will give our current and future clients a greater all-round service than ever before, as Vines increases  its opportunities to be able to refer work in the wider business community.

We also intend to run business networking events from our premises, as we firmly intend to establish Vines Legal within the Chesterfield business environment, and indeed throughout the Midlands as a whole. We believe strongly that we can only improve as advisers, the better connected we are.

We will be hosting a new office welcoming party in the New Year – further details to follow!

By Claire Clark on 29 Nov 2012

Continue reading

"Let's just get Christmas out of the way first........"

As we approach the festive season, there are more things than just buying presents and entertaining relatives which dominate our thoughts. For many, it is a time which brings their relationship troubles to the fore.

Separation and divorce at Christmas
Whilst it is a cliche, it is also true that January sees an annual surge in the numbers of new clients approaching family law firms about separation or divorce. The "New Year, new broom" attitude often takes over after a fraught holiday period during which tensions and differences have been exacerbated due to couples spending more time together and possibly realising that they really have come to an impasse.

Here at Vines Legal, we often find that people are aware that their relationships is in trouble well before Christmas arrives to remind them - but it's something of a jolt when yet another year comes to a close and they still have unresolved issues. The end of one year and the start of another really does motivate many of our clients into making a long-delayed decision.

It is more than likely that just the thought of the Christmas period yet again coming round can make people realise they don't want to spend it with their spouse or partner. However all the old reasons spring readily to hand: we always spend Christmas as a family, we can't do that to the children at this time of year, what will it do to my parents etc etc. Whilst we are not in any way belittling or marginalising such feelings, we know from experience that these emotions do not go away once the sentimentality of Christmas has passed.

Get Some Advice
A visit to discuss your options at any time with our experienced lawyers does in no way mean that you are starting the divorce or even separation process. It will make you aware of your financial and legal position going forward and will shed some light on your alternatives whether you decide to act before or after Christmas.

Vines Legal offers a free 30-minute initial consultation to all its clients, so you are able to discuss things with us whenever you feel ready.

Facing up to things sooner can help you get on track for a brighter New Year all round.

By Claire Clark on 29 Nov 2012

Continue reading

Resolution of Financial Issues following Separation and Divorce

You may have read or heard in the press recently that the Law Commission has launched a Public Consultation on how the law should guide a judge's treatment of financial issues during the separation process - but what does this really mean? Could this affect you if you are considering separation? We've tried to simplify this below, and explain how the process is governed now, and how it might change because of this ongoing review.

Currently, the judge in a matrimonial case has discretion to consider the case as a whole, and has the scope to treat different cases and individuals according to his/her opinion of the facts presented in court. s25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act is the legislation which allows for such discretion, it has been deliberately drafted in this manner. However, the flip side of allowing such discretion does often mean that there is very little certainty to the outcome of a case going to court - and in our view it is important for both a practitioner and a client to have an element of certainty.

Frequently, our clients will ask us how we think a case will pan out for them, as it is natural in such circumstances to be anxious about the outcome, especially whilst trying to make plans for the future. An individual's home and their future income and living standards can all be dependent on a judge's interpretation of a case, and it is clearly an area which needs to be considered thoroughly on all sides.

As practitioners, we want to be able to give our clients a degree of certainty, direction and information, but we also want to maintain the flexibility within the law which allows the judge to view each case individually and with care, allowing the judge some scope. What we would seek to avoid, and indeed hope the Law Commission's review indeed does avoid, is the creation of very strict guidelines stipulating how a judge must act. We do not want to arrive at a "one size fits all" treatment for separating couples, for as we all know, every family and their circumstances differ, and separation will have differing effects going forward for the individuals concerned.

Here at Vines Legal, we strive to consider every client's individual position, and we realise that the personal upheaval comes at emotional and financial cost during a separation. Whilst we strive to keep such upheaval to a minimum for our clients and we would like to see more certainty, we believe it is vital to retain the scope within the law for flexibility - after all, everyone wants to be treated fairly wherever possible.

By Catherine Wenborn on 2 Oct 2012

Continue reading

The £99 Co-op Divorce - value for money?

Co-op is the most recent supermarket brand to enter the family law market, with its claim to be able to complete a divorce for less than the cost of a family weekly shop. In these straitened times in which we are all now living, and with the scaling down of Legal Aid in connection to divorce and separation, it would certainly seem to be a timely entrance to the family law market.

However, before we all start adding "divorce" to the shopping list, along with "cornflakes" and "bin bags", it certainly pays to take a closer look at what you actually get for your money.

Co-op actually uses the term "DIY" divorce on its website, and the whole process is made to sound extremely straightforward. £99 for the paperwork, an additional £50 per hour if you would like a lawyer to check your documents prior to submission and then £150 per hour for any legal advice thereafter. There is also a hotline you can call.

From reading the information on the website, you could be forgiven for thinking that it is a straightforward way to tackle divorce, and it would be best to leave all those avaricious family law practices well-alone. Who needs face-to-face contact?

We think that everyone needs face-to-face contact when discussing such a life-changing process - you need to meet and talk with a person. Only then can all the necessary details come into play, as speaking to a lawyer who understands the process thoroughly will make you aware of your options in a way that simply ticking boxes cannot.

The Co-op's approach does indeed look straightforward, but if you have children, money and any assets to take into account then you will soon find extra costs and time unavoidably incurred. Whilst the Co-op will gladly act for you in resolving any such matter this will involve moving on from the DIY divorce, and at such a point you will then start to be charged by the hour as you would by any other solicitor. It is not exactly clear as to whether you will be guaranteed face-to-face contact either.

Our advice is, as always, to meet with any prospective adviser and decide for yourself if you wish to use their services. You need to give yourself the best possible chance of obtaining the most informed, thorough and effective legal advice available to you.

By Catherine Wenborn on 2 Oct 2012

Continue reading

There are 110 items on 11 pages.