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Matrimonial & Family Law Specialists

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The Telegraph newspaper announced recently that interfering in-laws accounted for as many as 1 in 10 marriage breakdowns in the UK shown by a recent study.

The study involved polls of both married couples and divorcees. It found that almost two thirds had not discussed their future career ambitions or lifestyle choices to decide whether they were truly compatible.

When asked the main cause for their divorce, a third cited adultery and 1 in 7 spoke of compatibility issues while 11% of those polled blamed interfering parents in law as the “main” cause of their divorce.

Previous studies have concluded that couples spend an average of 18 months and £20,000 planning a wedding.

Top 10 main reasons for marriage break down (participants could select more than one):

  • Affair – 33%
  • Selfishness - 22%
  • Personality traits - 14%
  • Abusive behaviour - 14%
  • Different expectations from life - 13%
  • Compatibility – 13%
  • Job loss or debt – 12%
  • Interfering in-laws – 11%
  • Got married too young – 9%
  • Political beliefs – 8%

The original article was published in the Telegraph on the 12th June, and can be read here.

By Claire Clark on 1 Jul 2013

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Child maintenance is financial support paid to the parent that has day-to-day care of the child. The fee helps towards a child’s everyday living costs when the parents have separated and applicable for children that are under 16 years of age, or under 20 and in full-time education.

The parent who doesn’t have day-to-day care of the child (the ‘paying parent’) pays child maintenance to the parent or person who does (the ‘receiving parent’).

Child maintenance is often arranged through the Child Support Agency (CSA) who is dealing with a record high number of applications, the Government has claimed.

4 in 5 parents involved with the CSA now pay for their children voluntarily, according to statistics from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Meanwhile, the number of unwilling parents who have had child support deducted directly from their earnings has fallen by 20% over the last five years.

Work and Pensions Minister Steve Webb said:

“We now live in a society where paying for your children after a break-up is the norm ….Britain is moving from relying on a divisive and unpopular state child maintenance service to parents working together for the sake of their children.”

If you are confused by the latest child support regulations, please call the team at Vines Legal to discuss on 01246 555 610.

By Claire Clark on 27 Jun 2013

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The Supreme Court effectively ripped up a “cheat’s charter” earlier this week, that had previously enabled wealthy spouses to hide assets from their ex-spouse, in a bid to reduce a divorce settlement.

This follows from our previous blog, (can be read here) that opened the door on rich tycoons, like Michael Prest, 51, founder of the Nigerian oil firm Petrodel, who hid a number of his properties and concerns through overseas trusts in order to avoid a high settlement to his wife Yasmin.

In this landmark ruling, the High Court, ordered the Nigerian oil mogul to hand over a multi-million pound property portfolio to his ex-wife, even though these properties were owned by an offshore Company.

Law firms across the UK welcomed the decision as a ‘blow against cheating spouses’ who seek to evade their responsibilities using corporate structure".

Claire of Vines Legal in Chesterfield comments “This landmark ruling means that business men and women cannot deliberately ‘hide’ assets in Companies to protect them in the event of a marriage breakdown.”

“Although assets may be owned by a business this case clearly demonstrates that the Court can and is willing to shake the corporate veil, in order to get at the assets.”

If you are thinking of filing for a divorce and are concerned about how you will be affected, please call the team at Vines Legal on 01246 555 610 for a free 30 minute, no obligation, consultation.

By Claire Clark on 24 Jun 2013

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New research published by the Divorce Online Blog, highlights the huge significance that social media now has to Family Law in the UK. The study found that 1 in 3 divorce orders list Facebook as a contributing factor, with frisky e-mails via the site being one of the most commonly cited examples of unreasonable behaviour.

Office romances and affairs that once took months to progress are now instant through the likes of social networking sites, like Facebook and Twitter, contributing to a growing population of “virtual friends”, providing an open forum for suspicious behaviour.

This was the first research of its kind to be conducted by Russell Clayton of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, who carried out the initial surveys has now through the publicity generated, acquired further investment to continue this investigation.

Russell who is a doctoral student at the university, advises couples to “limit Facebook usage in order to achieve a healthy, lasting relationship”.

Social networking sites are playing an increasingly important role in the challenging issue surrounding disclosure and privacy in family cases. Traditionally, clients can present documents that they have “found” showing that full disclosure has not been made by their spouse. Now though, they are increasingly presenting social evidence including photographs, wall posts or other information posted on the sites. In this scenario, difficult questions surrounding privacy and the law of confidence arise.

At Vines Legal, it’s our role to fully advise our clients on the wide-reaching implications that their actions on social networking sites may have in future family proceedings.

If you would like to discuss your case, contact the friendly team on 01246 555 610.

By Claire Clark on 19 Jun 2013

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The 4th July 2013, will see a new Family Proceedings Fees (Amendment) Order that comes into force meaning that there will be a substantial increase in the fees paid to issue a Divorce Petition.

The Government say the intervention is needed as costs to divorce increase, as the current fee only covers 85% of the administration cost to process the documents: In the latest data, shown for 2011/12 the total cost was £594m and the fees recovered only amounted to £477m, seeing a large shortfall of £92m, which is contributing to the UK economy debt.

The summary states “These changes will affect, primarily, individuals pursuing family cases through the Courts and local authorities pursuing public law family proceedings. The fee increases for family proceedings will affect individual users of the service and local authorities who issue care and supervision proceedings.”

Despite the economy benefit, this new legislation will come as a blow to unhappy couples looking to start the divorce process, with Legal Aid funding for Family Law, also having been slashed earlier this year.

From the initial information shared, the increase looks to rise from £340 to £410.

If you are looking to pursue divorce proceedings, we encourage you to contact Vines Legal in the first instance to discuss how we can support you through your separation process in the most cost-effective manner, call the Chesterfield office on 01246 555 610.

The new legislation has been announced on the Government website and can be found by clicking this link

By Claire Clark on 17 Jun 2013

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National Statistics released this week reveal that married people and those in civil partnerships rate their 'life satisfaction', the sense that their activities are 'worthwhile' and 'happiness yesterday' significantly higher than cohabiting couples, single, divorced and widowed people.

The research, based on the annual Population Survey collected between April 2011 and March 2012 show that single people rated their 'happiness yesterday' on an average 0.4 of a point lower than those who are married or in civil partnerships.

Summary of findings on age, sex, ethnicity, migration and religion

Holding other factors equal:

  • Personal well-being is highest among younger and older adults and dips in middle age
  • Differences in personal well-being between men and women are small, but women report higher ‘life satisfaction’, ‘worthwhile’ and 'happy yesterday’ levels.
  • People of Black/African/Caribbean/Black British ethnicities rated their ’life satisfaction’ lower on average than White people.
  • Indian and Pakistani people also rated their ‘anxiety yesterday’ higher than White people.
  • People who have migrated to the UK rate their ‘life satisfaction’ and ‘happiness yesterday’ more highly on average than those who were born in the UK.
  • Immigrants who settled in the UK more recently give slightly higher ratings for ’happy yesterday’ than those who have been living in the UK for 12 years or more.
  • People who say that they have a religious affiliation rate their levels of ’happiness yesterday’, ‘life satisfaction’ and ‘worthwhile’ higher than people who said they have no religious affiliation.
  • The size of relationship between religious affiliation and personal well-being is small.

Personal well-being, often referred to as subjective well-being, is people’s own assessment of their own well-being.

Many factors have been shown to be related to personal well-being such as health, disability, age, ethnic group, employment situation, relationships, religious beliefs and participation, etc.

The report can be viewed in full here

By Claire Clark on 13 Jun 2013

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Divorce Lawyers across the UK are calling for an urgent reform in the Law in order to stop husbands hiding their wealth from their wives upon commencing divorce proceedings — as Britain’s most senior judges prepare to rule in a landmark “cheat’s charter” case.

Local Law firm, Vines Legal based in Chesterfield, has spoken out about existing legislation ‘cheat charters’ which can prevent divorcees from obtaining assets which are held by their former spouses within companies.

The Supreme Court will next week (12 June) make the decision whether oil mogul, Michael Prest, 51, can escape handing over assets totalling more than £17.5m to his ex-wife Yasmin, 50, through his divorce settlement.

In 2011, the High Courts ordered Mr Prest, to pay the settlement to his former wife, of 15 years, however the Judge stated as Mr Prest has avoided previous Court Orders, that he should in the first instance, hand over the assets of his properties to the UK as a part-payment.

The Court of Appeal (CoA) reversed the ruling in October 2012, and Mrs Prest took her case to the Supreme Court.

Divorce lawyers are concerned that the CoA ruling would have a negative impact on wives and effectively create a “cheat’s charter” for wealthy husbands looking to escape their financial obligations to the family.

Solicitor of Vines Legal, Claire Clark expressed “Ministers should be ready to amend this legislation in Parliament if the Supreme Court fails to act when it delivers a verdict. There is widespread concern among family lawyers across the UK about the implications if this loophole isn’t closed”.

Under the current legal interpretation, the reason spouses are not able to access property held in companies is because other investors or creditors might have claims on the assets.

If you are in the situation of filing for a divorce and are concerned about how you will be affected, please call the team at Vines Legal on 01246 555 610.

By Claire Clark on 12 Jun 2013

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Uproar has been caused this week with lawyers and children’s group campaigners following the announcement from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of new guidelines.

The new guideline, thought to be introduced next year is aimed at reducing the bill met by taxpayers for pursuing fathers, but lawyers believe that the new child maintenance charges will instead financially penalise children.

Currently, parents disputing the amount paid once separated can appeal to the Child Support Agency free of charge, though this is one of the services due to be cut in the new measures.

The new Child Maintenance Service, which will replace the CSA, will now charge a mother 4% of her payment to investigate a payment failure and a further 20% to fathers who no longer reside with the family, on top of their payment, as a penalty.

This announcement comes from government pressure to cut the £500 million annual bill to administer the system and said it’s with the hope that parents will to agree payments between themselves.

However, many independent legal firms and regional groups of the Law Society have remarked concerns that many of the associated legal issues have been largely ignored.

The new system will mean that, for example, a mother due £100 per week from her former husband/ partner would instead receive £96 if she asked the CMS to step in. The agency would pursue the father for the £100, plus a further 20 per cent, in this case £20.

Considering that the average weekly maintenance figure for the UK is just £40, the percentage fee is a substantial reduction in the claim.

If you are concerned you will be affected by these changes, please call the team at Vines Legal on 01246 555610.

By Claire Clark on 5 Jun 2013

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A report published this month by the Marriage Foundation states that couples who don’t marry when they become parents are often more likely to offer a stable home.

The study is based on new findings from Understanding Society and concludes that the trend away from marriage is the main driver of rising family breakdown. Key findings include:

  • 45 per cent of young teenagers (aged 13-15 years old) are not living with both parents
  • Half of all family breakdowns takes place during the first two years
  • Amongst parents who remain intact, 93 per cent are married.

In sharp contrast, of the 47 per cent of children born to unmarried parents today, the report predicts that just 11 per cent will reach the age of 16 with unmarried parents still together. The remainder will either marry or split up. Those who remain unmarried and intact are a small minority.

With family breakdown costing an estimated £46 billion a year – that’s to say, more than the entire defence budget – in addition to the immeasurable social damage, it is clearly in the interest of government and the taxpayer to work to counter this devastating trend.

The report expresses concerns that the Government has ignored the strong correlation between marital status and family breakdown and focused instead on "long term stable relationships" when developing family policy papers.

The full report can be read here.

By Claire Clark on 3 Jun 2013

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Hope for those who think they cannot afford the legal costs of divorce

Hope for those who think they cannot afford the legal costs of divorce

The much-trumpeted changes to legal aid which came into force last month have, hidden away in the legislation, created a chance for some people to obtain funding to proceed with divorce.

There has been provision for a spouse to claim, where applicable, funding from the other spouse if they do not have the resources to pay for legal representation.This was covered by the 'maintenance pending suit' legislation within the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, however it has now been explicitly provided for in two separate sections of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (“the Act”).

The less well-off spouse, who may have worked part-time for most of the marriage or stayed at home and brought up the children - may not have any assets in their own name, or have any access to actual liquid cash with which to pay a lawyer. Under the new Act they can now make an application to court for the payment of their costs by the other party to be considered. Under the new sections of the Act there is provision for 'orders for payment in respect of legal services' - effectively known as 'legal services orders'.

The main message to be taken is that, as long as the disadvantaged spouse cannot reasonably afford legal advice or representation - either through borrowing, liquidating assets or through third party funding - then there may be a case for claiming a legal services order from the other spouse. This is of course as long as the other spouse has the sufficient and appropriate ability to provide any such assistance. We anticipate that the ability of one spouse to apply for their costs to be paid by the other will be very controversial and could be subject to abuse.

With the new regime firmly in place it will be interesting to see how regularly this part of the Act is utilised.

By Claire Clark on 2 May 2013

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