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Matrimonial & Family Law Specialists

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Child Arrangements During the Christmas Holidays

Divorce lawyer Chesterfield - Child arrangements at ChristmasAlthough Christmas is traditionally a time for celebration and joy, for separated parents it can be a little more complicated. However, there are plenty of ways that you and your ex-partner can navigate the Christmas holidays to ensure it’s as enjoyable and peaceful as possible. As experts in matrimonial and family law, we’ve put together some useful advice on how to make sure everyone enjoys the festive period.

Coming to an arrangement that works for you

For some separated parents, there will inevitably be stresses and difficulties that come with trying to organise the Christmas holidays around two households. It’s not always easy to amicably come to an arrangement for the children that everyone is over the moon about.

No, it may not be your idea of a perfect Christmas to split the big day itself down the middle, or have to disrupt your holidays travelling to and from your ex-partners house. But by taking the wishes and feelings of everyone concerned into account, and being flexible with timings and arrangements, it is possible for everyone to enjoy at least some aspects of the festive season.

Of course, everyone’s individual circumstances are different, and what works for one family might not be appropriate for another. There’s no right or wrong way to approach this; its about finding an arrangement that works best for all parties involved.

What happens if we can’t agree?

Unfortunately, there may be occasions when, despite the best of intentions on both sides, you and your ex-partner simply can’t come to an agreement about how to organise the Christmas holidays. It’s completely understandable that, following a divorce or separation, your relationship has become strained, or methods of communication have broken down. In this case, family mediation may be a sensible option.

Mediation means that an independent, un-biased third person will work with you and your ex-partner to encourage communication that will help you both come to a decision that you’re reasonably happy with. Of course, there will be some give and take involved, but reaching an agreement together with the help of a mediator can be both an amicable and constructive approach.

However, should you come to the end of the mediation process and you have been unable to reach an agreement that you’re both comfortable with, you can get a family law solicitor to make a formal application to the court requesting what is known as a Specific Issues Order. This order will solely relate to the arrangement in question as an isolated issue, or it may be part of a Child Arrangements Order application which addresses other arrangements too. Rest assured that should we need to formally apply for this type of order for you, the Court will fairly consider the wishes, circumstances, and preferences of both parents, and decide on an arrangement that is in the best interests of the children or child involved.

Advice and support from the experts

Here at Vines Legal, we’ve got extensive knowledge of Child Arrangements Orders, including Specific Issues Orders, and are well rehearsed in supporting families through these applications. If you are considering a separation, or going through a divorce, and want to ensure that arrangements regarding your children are decided upon as smoothly and amicably as possibly for Christmas and the future, please contact us on 01246 555610 for a free initial consultation. We’d be happy to explain all of the options available to you in a friendly, professional manner.

By Vines Legal on 14 Nov 2020

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The 5 Most Common Financial Mistakes Made During A Divorce

The 5 Most Common Financial Mistakes Made During A DivorceMaking sense of the financial aspects of divorce isn’t easy, especially during what is typically a stressful and emotional time for those involved. But financial settlements are a key part of the divorce process, and need to be worked through carefully and sensitively to ensure the best outcome for you and your family.

Here at Vines Legal, we’re well-versed in assisting our clients with financial settlements, and dedicated to ensuring the whole process runs smoothly. With that in mind, we’ve summarised 5 of the most common financial mistakes that clients can make, which we can help you avoid!

1 - Attempting to Hide Assets

It may be tempting to downplay assets that you don’t want your ex-spouse to have a share in following a divorce. But it’s strictly a bad idea; both non-disclosure of an asset, or being dishonest about its true value, means any financial settlement is open to challenges. Even if the settlement has been passed by the court, revealing non-disclosure at a later date could mean that your ex-spouse has the right to take you back to court. You may also be at risk of perjury if you fail to disclose your assets or income in full.

2 – Failing to Plan for the Future

Another common mistake that people make regarding finances is failing to plan for the future. Working out what finances you’ll need to survive on after you divorce is an important part of the process, and one that is key to your future wellbeing. Financial planning should include keeping track of your income and outgoings, as well as establishing what assets belong to the family, and what you need to live on comfortably after the divorce.

3 – Forgetting about Debt

Failing to take debt into account is another common mistake clients make. Unfortunately, you and your ex-spouse can both be held responsible for all debts, even if they are in your ex-spouse’s name. Cutting financial ties during a divorce is incredibly important to ensure that you’re protected in the event that repayments are missed. If you have no joint debts, a ‘notice of disassociation’ can be acquired which removes the financial connection with your ex-spouse on your credit file.

4 – Failing to Split Pensions

It’s easy for you to overlook pensions, but they are a key consideration and need to be included in your financial settlement. Once the value of a pension has been established, there are 2 commonly used options; pension sharing and offsetting. As the options are often complex, it is advisable to seek expert legal and financial advice.

5 – Trying to Save the Family Home

Of course, it is tempting to want to keep some resemblance of stability following a divorce by staying in the family home, especially if there are children involved. But its sometimes far more sensible financially to sell your home and split the proceeds between you and your ex-spouse, rather than trying a maintain a home that once benefitted from two people’s incomes. Buying something that is more manageable for the future, without the painful memories, may be a better option in the long run. Options here, however, need to be carefully tailored to the circumstances of the case and needs of dependent children.

If you want to avoid these common financial mistakes during your divorce, our professional and experienced team at Vines Legal can help. To ensure you achieve the best financial settlement for you, contact us on 01246 555610 for a FREE initial consultation.

By Vines Legal on 27 Oct 2020

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Is My Ex Entitled To Half My Business And Is This Viable?

Splitting a business during a divorceAs matrimonial solicitors, we know that divorce may be one of the most difficult, confusing and stressful times in your life. When you divorce, you and your ex-spouse need to make a decision on how on how to separate your finances. This includes dividing up property, savings, investments, and pensions. If you have children together, financial arrangements will also need to be made to ensure that they are supported, which may include child maintenance payments.

Taking Business Interests into Account

The process of separating finances after a divorce is never simple, but taking business interests into account can add another layer of complexity. There are many things to consider when a business is involved, and determining some of the following points is a good place to start. For example, are you and your ex-spouse both involved in the business? Do you both wish to remain actively involved or, does your business only involve one of you, with the other lacking knowledge of the way it’s run?

Then there’s always the possibility that one spouse established the business before the marriage, or that it may have been a family business that has been inherited. Whatever the circumstances, however, there must be full disclosure of all assets including those jointly and solely owned. Commonly, the main income of either both, or one of the parties, is actively generated by the business. Following the divorce, therefore, it is essential that this income meets the parties’ needs.

How are Business Assets Divided when you Divorce?

Whether you run a limited company, a partnership, or you are a sole trader, the Family Court will take the value of your business into account when dividing up the assets between you and your ex-spouse. An independent valuation of the business may be required. It can be hard to extract cash from the business to pay the other party a lump sum without damaging the business and its ability to produce an income. Care needs to be taken in decisions relating to a business in a divorce.

As you can see, it’s not a straightforward process, and Vines Legal would strongly recommend seeking expert advice in order to successfully navigate you through the process. Although it’s a complex area, our matrimonial solicitors are well rehearsed in divorce proceedings that involve businesses. We’ll assist you at every stage, and help guide you through what can be a confusing and distressing time. Our experienced team will work with you to help ensure you understand the process, and work hard to achieve the best financial settlement for you.

If you’d like advice on ensuring your business is valued fairly and accurately, guidance on how to remove your spouse from the business if they are not actively involved, or advice on dividing the business, we can help. For immediate, friendly and professional advice, call us on 01246 555610 to arrange a free initial, no obligation consultation.

By Vines Legal on 18 Oct 2020

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How Is Child “Custody” Determined?

Divorce lawyer Chesterfield child custodyAfter the breakdown of a relationship, arrangements over the “custody” of children can be set out within a Child Arrangements Order. Of course, making the correct arrangements for your children after a divorce or separation is absolutely crucial to their upbringing, and decisions about where they’ll live and how much time they’ll spend with the other parent are incredibly important.

What are Child Arrangements?

Over the years, you may have heard the terms "custody" and "access" or "residence"  and "contact" used in relation to these circumstances, but they’re now most commonly referred to as ‘child arrangements’ and are a key step to determining the future care of your children. Under the Children Act 1989, both parents normally have a legal responsibility to look after their children, financially and otherwise, until they are 18 years old or have left full-time education.

In an ideal world, parents would decide these arrangements together, but as disputes are common during the breakdown of a relationship, Courts will often assist. In this case, you can apply for a child arrangements order which will determine who the children will live with and the regularity of their time spent with the other parent. Because every case is different, the Court does not have a pre-determined view as to whether the children should live with one parent or the other.

Making Child Arrangements if you Divorce or Separate

As mentioned in our previous blog post, only those with parental responsibility can apply for a Child Arrangement Order. In the event that you do not have parental responsibility, permission from the Court can be requested to make an application.  

The Role of Mediation

If the details of child arrangements cannot be agreed between you and your ex-spouse or partner, mediation can be a useful and sensible option. The mediator will be able to give you impartial advice while you and your ex-partner make decisions about where your children will live, how much time they will spend with each parent, when the contact takes place and how, and any child maintenance payments.

At the end of the mediation process, you’ll get a document showing exactly what you agreed. This agreement is not legally binding, but you can make it legally binding by getting a solicitor to draft an Order  for a Court to approve after mediation. In the event that you can’t agree, even after mediation, you can ask a Court to decide on anything you have not already agreed. Before applying to Court, in most circumstances, you will have to show that you’ve at least attended a meeting to see if mediation is right for you.

Here at Vines Legal, we’ve got extensive knowledge of child arrangements, and years of experience in helping our clients through the process of separation and divorce. If you are considering a separation, or going through a divorce, and want to ensure that arrangements regarding your children are decided upon as smoothly and amicably as possibly, please contact us on 01246 555610 for a free initial consultation. We’d be happy to explain all of the options available to you in a friendly, professional manner.

By Vines Legal on 6 Oct 2020

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Protecting the Children During A Divorce or Separation

Protecting the Children During A Divorce or SeparationGoing through a divorce or separation is an exceptionally difficult time for all parties involved. But when there are children to consider too, it can be even harder. Making arrangements for looking after your children is a necessary step that must be undertaken in the event of a divorce or separation, and providing you and your ex-partner can agree on these, it may be possible to avoid going to court.

For example, if you can agree on where the children will live, how much time they’ll spend with each parent, and how you’ll financially support them, there’s no need to go to a court hearing. You can, of course, use a solicitor to make the arrangement you have agreed on legally binding, which may be a sensible option.

Ensuring the Best Interests of your Children

Mediation can be a good way to get help agreeing on child arrangements, as the mediator will be able to give impartial advice without taking sides. If this fails, however, and you and your ex-partner are unable to agree on the above points, engaging a solicitor is an effective way of ensuring the best possible arrangements are made that are in the very best interests of your children.

What is a Child Arrangements Order?

Formerly known as Residence Orders and Contact Orders, a Child Arrangement Order may be required from the Court to decide where the child will live and what contact they should have with the other parent. If shared care is ordered, this doesn’t always mean that the time is split between the parents in an equal fashion.

What about Parental Responsibility?

Only those with parental responsibility can apply for a Child Arrangement Order. For example, if the father of the children is not married to the mother, and is not registered on the children’s birth certificate, he will not automatically have parental responsibility. If the father is registered on the children’s birth certificate, but this happened before December 2003, he will also not automatically have parental responsibility.

If you don’t have Parental Responsibility of the child, you will need to request permission from the Court to make a separate application for this. However, this can be avoided if the other parent is willing to sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement with you.

What Does a Child Arrangement Order Involve?

In short, a Child Arrangement Order involves formalising the decisions of who your child or children should live with, how much time they should spend with the other parent, and the logistics involved in that with regard to timings and contact. For any specific decisions regarding your child’s upbringing such as where they go to school, decisions surrounding medical care, or whether they should receive a religious education, a Specific Issue Order can be arranged. You can also apply for a Prohibited Steps Order to stop the other parent from making a decision about the child’s upbringing, for example, moving abroad without the consent of the other parent.

Here at Vines Legal, we’re experts in helping our clients through the process of separation and divorce. If you are considering a separation, or going through a divorce, and want to ensure that you protect your children during the process, please contact us on 01246 555610 for a free initial consultation where we can explain all of the options available to you.

By Vines Legal on 14 Sep 2020

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FAQs - Your Divorce Questions Answered

Divorce FAQs family divorce lawyer ChesterfieldAs experts in matrimonial and family law, we’ve been asked just about every question possible when it comes to divorce and separation. And as you can imagine, we are well versed in providing factual, trustworthy and honest answers! Questions are bound to come at all stages of the divorce process. That’s why we’ve compiled a summary of frequently asked questions and answers, in an attempt to make what can be an extremely challenging time that little bit easier.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Divorce?

Starting the divorce process may seem like a daunting and potentially lengthy prospect. But in reality, it can take between approximately 4 and 6 months to obtain a divorce, although the Coronavirus pandemic has increased these timescales at present. There may be complications, however, that can considerably extend the process, including complex financial issues, child arrangements, assets, property, and pensions.

That’s why we’d always recommend that you seek legal representation right from the beginning. An error at any stage can be costly, sometimes difficult to put right, and may leave you in a worse position than you would have been if you had used a solicitor from the start.

What are the Grounds for Divorce?

The only ground for divorce is that the marriage has broken down and cannot be saved. To prove this, you’ll need to establish one of 5 facts: Adultery, Unreasonable Behaviour, two years of Separation with the consent of both partners, Separation of five years even if one partner does not agree or has refused to cooperate, or Desertion.

How Must Does a Divorce Cost?

To lodge a Divorce Petition at Court there is a filing fee of £550. The person issuing the petition is obliged to pay the Court fee, but can ask that the respondent makes a contribution to this of the fact relied upon is fault based. In addition, there are solicitor’s fees. We work hard to provide you with the best possible outcome, and appointing a solicitor at this stage is a sensible way of ensuring that you get one to one support when you need it, and a full explanation of all options from the outset.

Do I Have to Go to Court?

The receipt of the final decree absolute legally dissolves a marriage; it would not be usual for the parties to have to attend Court for the divorce proceedings unless the suit is defended or there is a disagreement over a costs claim. However, it is important to note that the divorce proceedings do not include the resolution of financial settlements or child arrangements.

If you are able to resolve financial matters by way of agreement, it is highly unlikely that you’ll be required to attend at court. However, if financial and child arrangements cannot be resolved between the two parties, you may need to go to court. Although this can be a stressful process, rest assured that your solicitor will be there to guide you through all the required forms, statements, evidence and responses, ensuring that you get the best and fairest possible outcome.

If you have further questions regarding divorce, Vines Legal, who are specialists in matrimonial and family law, can help. For a free initial, no obligation consultation, please call us on 01246 555610 for immediate, friendly and professional advice.

By Vines Legal on 3 Sep 2020

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What Is the Difference Between A Decree Nisi & A Decree Absolute?

What is the difference between a decree nisi and a decree absolute in divorce lawWhen you’re in the final stages of the divorce process, there will undoubtedly be a sense of relief when you know that what may have been a long and potentially stressful journey is finally coming to an end. As specialists matrimonial and family law, Vines Legal comes across many questions related to the process, and this is one that crops up time and time again – What is the difference between a Decree Nisi and a Decree Absolute?

We’ve taken the opportunity to explain what the two end stages of a divorce actually mean, and how you know when your divorce is legally over.

What is a Decree Nisi?

A Decree Nisi doesn’t officially end a marriage, but is applied for after receiving the acknowledgement of service form from your spouse. It is a provisional decree of divorce; essentially a document stating that the court sees no reason why the divorce cannot proceed.

This formal, but nevertheless provisional stage, confirms that the person seeking the divorce is entitled to end the marriage. A Decree Nisi is granted when the court is not only satisfied that the petitioner has established a cause for divorce, which includes unreasonable behaviour, adultery, desertion, 2 years separation with consent, or 5 years separation, but that the marriage has broken down completely.

It’s not necessary to attend court unless one or both of the parties wish to withdraw the petition, or if there is a dispute regarding costs or a previous agreement or ruling. Should parties be required to attend, the court will be expected to carefully examine all of the evidence provided by your solicitor in the divorce application, and verify all of the documents presented. If the court is satisfied that the grounds for divorce have been met, the Decree Nisi will be granted.

What is a Decree Absolute?

The Decree Absolute is the is the legal document granted by the court that officially brings the marriage to an end. Your solicitor will apply for it at the appropriate time after the receipt of the Decree Nisi, and once you receive your decree absolute, your legal marriage is dissolved.

It’s worth mentioning that although the marriage is officially dissolved, there may still be financial settlements or child arrangements to take into account, unless of course these have been previously agreed. These can be made before, during, or can even continue after the marriage has officially been dissolved. Following that, your solicitor can arrange a clean break order once the decree absolute is obtained, as this will prevent your ex-spouse from trying to claim any of your assets or future earnings.

Here at Vines Legal, we’re experts in matrimonial and family law and have many years’ experience navigating the divorce process. For immediate, friendly and professional advice, call us on 01246 555610 to arrange a free initial, no obligation consultation.

By Vines Legal on 9 Aug 2020

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What are the Differences Between a Marriage & a Civil Partnership?

difference marriage civil partnership lawyer ChesterfieldIf you’re thinking about making a long-term commitment to your partner and formalising your relationship, marriage may seem like the obvious choice. But there’s another way to make a lifelong commitment that offers similar legal and financial security; and that’s a Civil Partnership. Whether you’re looking to move away from tradition, you’re uncomfortable with the religious connotations associated with marriage, or you simply like the idea of being ‘equal partners’, weighing up the differences may be beneficial before you make a decision.

What Defines a Civil Partnership?

Civil partnerships officially came into force in 2004, and for the most part, gave same-sex couples the same legal rights as married couples. At that time, same-sex couples were not legally allowed to marry in England and Wales. Fortunately, same-sex marriage was legalised in 2014, which meant same-sex couples then had the choice between marriage and civil partnership. Opposite sex Civil Partnerships, however, only came into force last year, with the introduction of the Civil Partnership (Opposite sex Couples) Regulations 2019.

Key Differences Between Marriages & Civil Partnerships

For both same sex couples and opposite sex couples, Civil Partnerships are separate legal regimes from marriage. Unlike marriage, where prescribed words must be solemnly spoken, Civil Partnerships are registered simply by signing the civil partnership document, with no words required to be spoken. Although people embarking on Civil Partnerships may choose to incorporate some sort of ceremony, the actual formation of a Civil Partnership is an entirely civil event.

There are other subtle differences too, including the following:

  • The names of both parents of the parties are included on Civil Partnership; marriage certificates only contain the name of the father.
  • Grounds for ending a civil partnership do not include adultery.
  • There are some places in the world where Civil partnerships are not recognised.

Similarities Between Marriages & Civil Partnerships

There are many similarities when it comes to rights shared by married couples and those shared by civil partners. For example, married couples and civil partners share the same property rights and pension benefits, and they share the ability to obtain parental responsibility for a partner’s child. When it comes to next of kin, married couples and civil partners also have the same rights, as well as being exempt from inheritance tax.

Divorce and Dissolution

Another key difference between marriages and Civil Partnerships is the way that they can be ended. Divorce and dissolution are both ways to end a legally binding relationship; but divorce applies to couples who are legally married, and dissolution applies to those in a civil partnership. The marriage or civil partnership must have been in effect for at least a year in order to apply for either of these.

If you’d like to speak to an expert about entering into a marriage, civil partnership or cohabitation agreement, or you’d like some advice regarding a divorce or dissolution, Vines Legal can help. Contact us on 01246 555610 for a free initial consultation.

By Vines Legal on 20 Jul 2020

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Living Together Agreements to Protect Your Rights

Living together rights - family lawyer ChesterfieldIn recent years, marriages between men and women in England and Wales have fallen to their lowest level, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). There are many reasons why couples may decide not to tie the knot; more and more people are prioritising education, travel, starting a family, and buying a property above costly wedding ceremonies. And with the average wedding cost in the UK now tipping £27,000, it’s not surprising that people are saving their money for other things.

What Rights do we Have if we Live Together?

So, when it comes to couples that live together but aren’t married, or ‘common-law husbands/wives’ as they may be incorrectly referred to, what rights do they have? Despite the common misconception, there is no such thing as a ‘common-law’ wife or husband; unmarried couples do not actually have any legal rights at all, regardless of how long they have been together.

As the law stands in the UK at the moment, unmarried couples do not have the same rights as married couples. This includes an absence of maintenance rights, rights to their partner’s pension, and automatic inheritance; unless, of course, you have made a will.

If you and your partner live together but for whatever reason, marriage isn’t on the cards, it is still perfectly possible to protect your rights. You may wish to buy a property together, and perhaps have children, so it makes sense to think about your financial circumstances and consider your wishes in the event that a dispute ever did arise. A Cohabitation Agreement is a good way to offer you some protection, and of course, peace of mind.

What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

A Cohabitation Agreement is a legal document that can be drawn up to cover the financial aspects of your relationship whilst you live together. For example, a Cohabitation Agreement may be useful for a couple choosing to buy a home together, wishing to decide who will pay certain bills or debts, or when drawing up what proportion of share in the property each person will hold.

They’re also a good way to protect both parties in the event of a separation. Taking the time to draw up a Cohabitation Agreement from the outset can save huge amounts of money on litigation fees in the future, not to mention stress, should a separation occur.

Here at Vines Legal, we’re experts in Cohabitation Agreements, and we strongly recommend at least considering the option as a sensible way to protect your rights when you live with someone. Not only can enjoy peace of mind and avoid confusion; future decisions regarding property, money, children and pets will be pre-determined in the event of a relationship breakdown.

If you are looking for advice and expertise surrounding Cohabitation Agreements, Vines Legal can help. For a free initial consultation with our specialist family lawyers, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01246 555610.

By Vines Legal on 3 Jul 2020

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Do Prenuptial Agreements Mean Anything in the UK?

Do Prenuptial Agreements Mean Anything in the UK?Once thought of as unromantic documents written up by the rich and famous to protect their assets, prenuptial agreements have become much more common in the UK over the last few years. But do they mean anything in the eyes of the law, and do they actually protect you in the event of a divorce?

Are Prenups Legally Binding in the UK?

When talking about prenups, this is often the first question asked. Technically, no, prenups aren’t legally binding in the UK. However, the terms of a prenuptial agreement are often decisive in the event of a dispute that is dealt with by the court, unless the effect of the agreement is deemed to be unfair.

A prenuptial agreement is more likely to be upheld if the following conditions are met:

  • The agreement was signed at least 21 days before the wedding took place
  • Both parties received independent legal advice before they signed the agreement
  • At the time of creating the agreement, there was full financial disclosure including assets and debts
  • The agreement was freely entered into
  • The agreement is fair, reasonable and mutually beneficial to both parties and, if applicable, children

Prenuptial agreements will also be assessed by the Court on a case by case basis, dependant on the circumstances surrounding the contract. Contracts drawn up by family law solicitors are considered much more legally sound, so it’s definitely worth getting proper advice on taking the right precautions to ensure it is valid.

Why Would I Consider a Pre-Nuptial Agreement?

If you are getting married, there may be many reasons why it might be worth considering a prenuptial agreement. If there was a later divorce, it would simply mean that your assets would have a much better chance of being divided in a way that is considered fair for both parties. But there are many more reasons too.

Perhaps this is not your first marriage and you wish to protect your assets? Perhaps there are children or dependants involved from previous relationships, and you’d like to ensure their future financial stability? Or perhaps one party has significant assets, or there is an imbalance in financial provision.  

Of course, no one really goes into a marriage hoping or expecting it will end, but if circumstances change, or something unexpected happens, a prenuptial agreement can provide both parties with much greater certainty on the outcome of any divorce. 

If you are looking for advice and expertise surrounding prenuptial agreements, Vines Legal can help. For a free initial consultation with our specialist family lawyers, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01246 555610.

By Vines Legal on 18 Jun 2020

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