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Matrimonial & Family Law Specialists

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

What Happens to The Pets if we Separate?

What happens to the pets if we get divorcedAnimal lovers will no doubt agree that their pets are well and truly part of the family. It makes perfect sense that during a separation or divorce, your furry friend is taken into consideration. Some people do take the decision to record their intentions in a pre-nuptial agreement, which can be useful for providing clarity in the future. But what happens if you have no such agreement?

Unfortunately, there’s a real possibility for disagreement here; the bonds we form with our beloved pets are strong, and it’s common to want to keep your relationship with your pet part as of your life, even if you no longer wish to be with your spouse. So, what happens to your pet when you divorce and how is it decided?

What Does the Law Say?

It may come as a surprise, but in the eyes of the law pets are treated as property. If there is a dispute following a separation or divorce, it is uncommon for the court to get involved with the ownership of the pet, and/or contact with it (but not unheard of), meaning that, generally, any disputes will be resolved directly between you and your ex-spouse.

The first thing to consider is - who bought the pet? Whose money was used to buy it? Was it a gift? If so, can you prove it? Another important thing to do is to establish who has supported the pet financially; vet bills, insurance policies, food, general care needs etc.

This may seem a bit unfair, especially if you consider yourself to be the main carer of the pet, or the person that spends the majority of time with the animal. But if one party can prove that they purchased the pet, or exclusively finances the vet bills etc, there may simply be no argument in the eyes of the law. However, where the animal has financial value, for example; a pedigree dog or horses, the court may take this value into account when dividing your assets.

What if I Want to Share the Care of my Pet with my Ex-Spouse?

Of course, sharing care is always an option. However, there are several practicalities that need to be addressed before any sort of shared arrangement can be established. If you don’t want to have any contact with your ex-spouse, how will you organise the logistics of moving your pet from house to house? Who finances vet bills if you pet becomes ill? If a ‘shared care arrangement’ can be agreed, it is a good way of maintaining contact with your pet and minimising more emotional distress.

Probably the most important thing to keep in mind in what will inevitably be a complicated and difficult time, is the welfare of the pet. Despite the legal stance on possession with regard to pets, please bear in mind that pets are an important part of any family, and they deserve careful consideration when it comes to your separation.

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, please do contact us on 01246 555610 for a free initial consultation.

By Vines Legal on 3 Jun 2020

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What Happens To My Pension If We Divorce?

Pensions on divorce lawyers ChesterfieldThere are so many things to consider when thinking about separation and divorce that it may seem overwhelming. But amid the stress of a relationship breakdown, it’s really important not to overlook pension assets. There are numerous financial aspects involved in the divorce process that inevitably have to be worked through - pensions are a key consideration, and need to be included in your financial settlement.

Here at Vines Legal, we make a fair pension agreement a priority for our clients. With that in mind, we’ve put together a summary of the key points to consider when it comes to minimising the financial impact your divorce will have on your retirement.

The Value of Your Pension

The first thing to do is establish the value of your pension. We will approach the provider, or providers if you have more than one, and request that they supply the value of your pension. This is commonly known as the ‘cash equivalent value’. For those with a ‘defined benefit’ pension, or final salary scheme, the value will depend on how many years you have worked, and your salary.

How can Pensions be Split on Divorce?

There are three main options when it comes to dealing with pensions in a divorce.

1. Pension Sharing

One option is known as pension sharing, where one spouse obtains a share by court order, of their ex-spouse’s pension. This is calculated with reference to a number of factors.  The agreed share is then debited from one party’s pension pot and credited to the other.

Pension sharing is a popular course of action as it allows for a clean break, but it is advisable to seek legal advice on this course of action as it can be a more complicated process depending on individual circumstances and the ages of the parties.

2. Offsetting

Another option is offsetting. By offsetting a pension, the funds can be offset against other assets, commonly property. Again, an accurate pension valuation is really important to make sure that the agreement is fair.  Specialist legal advice is recommended.

3. Attachment or Earmarking

The final option is commonly referred to as pension attachment or earmarking. This course of action obligates the pension provider of one spouse to pay the other spouse a certain percentage of the monthly pension payment, and/or cash lump sum, that would pay out on retirement.

If you are considering a separation or divorce, it’s really important that you know your rights when it comes to splitting your assets in order to minimise the financial impact that your divorce will have on your retirement. As you can see, the options are complex, and it is, therefore, advisable to seek expert legal and financial advice. This is particularly important where there may be more than one pension involved, or if the fund is large.

Vines Legal are experts in ensuring our clients receive their fair share of pensions during a divorce settlement. If you are considering a separation or divorce, please do contact us on 01246 555610 for a free initial consultation.

By Vines Legal on 19 May 2020

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The 5 Stages of Divorce

5 stages of divorce - lawyer ChesterfieldIf you’re considering a divorce, or have decided that divorce is your only option, there are 5 key stages of the process that you should be aware of. As experts in matrimonial and family law, we’ve put together a comprehensive summary of the 5 stages of divorce; what to expect at each point, and the legal requirements involved in the process.

From the very beginning of this process, we advise that you seek legal representation as an error at any stage can be costly and 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.

Stage 1 – File for Divorce

In order to file for divorce you must have been married for at least one year, and secondly, your marriage must be recognised as valid in the UK.

The first step that your solicitor will undertake is the completion of a divorce petition form.  Your solicitor will provide full advice and support while completing the divorce petition and ensure you have all the relevant documents required. They will also ensure your petition is filed with the court and the court fees are paid.

Stage 2 – Notice of the Divorce Petition

Once the divorce petition is filed, your spouse will receive the completed petition form as well as the notice of proceedings form (which will contain your case number and details of what to do next), along with the acknowledgement of service form.

Stage 3 – Response to the Divorce Petition

Your spouse will need to take advice from a solicitor about their steps from here.

If they agree with the divorce petition, they will be required to fill out the acknowledgement of service form and return it to the court within 8 days. The application can then proceed to the next stage.

If they do not agree, your spouse will still need to fill out the acknowledgement of service form, but will also be required to fill in the part of the form which specifies that they are defending the divorce. They must respond within 21 days, and a court hearing will follow which allows both parties to put across their arguments, via their solicitors.

In some instances, if you receive no response, and can prove the petition has been received, then your solicitor can continue with the divorce proceedings without a response. N.B. This isn't possible in all circumstances.

Stage 4 – Apply for Decree Nisi

The next stage of the divorce process, after receiving the acknowledgement of service form from your spouse, is applying for a decree nisi. This provisional decree of divorce is a document stating that the court doesn’t see any reason why the divorce cannot proceed. 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.

At this point, it’s important to mention finances. If both parties' solicitors can reach an agreement to a financial order at this point, it can save a lot of hassle and money in the future, ensuring no unexpected claims from your ex-spouse, and no further legal fees. Another important issue that your solicitor will now address is care arrangements for any children you may share with your ex-spouse.

Stage 5 – Apply for Decree Absolute

The decree absolute is the official document that legally ends your marriage, and your solicitor will apply for it at the appropriate time, after the receipt of the decree nisi. Once you receive your decree absolute, your legal marriage is dissolved.

It's important to note that, while the receipt of the final decree absolute legally dissolves the marriage, it does not include, unless you have previously agreed, any financial settlements or child arrangements. These can be made before, during or can continue after the marriage has officially been dissolved.

If financial and child arrangements cannot be resolved between the two parties, then these will likely proceed to court. This can be an arduous and difficult task where your solicitor is there to guide you through all the required forms, evidence and responses to ensure the best and fairest possible outcome for you.

If there are no current financial resolutions to be made, then your solicitor will arrange a clean break order once the decree absolute is obtained, as this prevents your former spouse from laying claim to any of your earnings or assets in the future.

As specialists in matrimonial and family law, Vines Legal can help make the divorce process as smooth as possible. For a free initial, no obligation consultation, please call us on 01246 555610 for immediate, friendly and professional advice.

By Vines Legal on 6 May 2020

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5 Ways to Look After Yourself During a Divorce

Look after yourself during divorceIt’s no secret that going through a divorce is likely to be one of the most stressful events in your life. Even when you have a relatively cooperative and confrontation-free relationship with your ex-spouse, divorce can still be an extremely difficult experience.

That’s why it’s really important to make sure you look after yourself during the process. You don’t need to consistently put on a brave face – your life has changed immeasurably and it’s perfectly natural to go through a process of grieving for the relationship, and the life, that you have left behind.

To make sure you get through what is undoubtedly going to be a stressful time, we’ve put together a few tips to ensure you have all the tools you need to weather the storm.

1. Accept and experience your emotions

There are no short-cuts to getting over the plethora of confusing emotions that inevitably go hand in hand with the separation and divorce process. Sweeping them under the rug or refusing to acknowledge your pain will, more often than not, backfire in the long run.  Allow yourself to feel your emotions. Accept that they are painful. Cry if you need to. Vent your anger to your friends and family. Express your relief. And remember, there’s no right or wrong way to feel.

2. Prioritise self-care

If we could give you just one piece of advice on how to look after yourself during a divorce, it would be to prioritise and practice self-care. If there’s ever a time to be kind to yourself, it’s now. Make time to do the things you really enjoy, and rediscover things you used to enjoy. Treat yourself to that massage, enjoy long bubble baths, visit your favourite restaurant. Taking time to do the things that make you feel happy and relaxed will go a long way in minimising your stress. Obviously, during lockdown, these things need to be things you can do at home, like turning your bathroom into your own spa or reading a good book, watching a classic movie or cooking your favourite meal.

3. Look after your physical health

It’s easy to neglect your physical health when you’re going through a divorce, but taking time to look after it can make all the difference. Emotional pain can rob you of sleep, the desire to eat, and the motivation to exercise. Try to make a conscious effort to eat well, take time to go out for a walk in nature or set up an exercise routine at home, and ensure you give your body and mind the time it needs to rest and recuperate.

4. Call on your support network

You may feel a huge sense of loss during and after the breakdown of your marriage. Now is the time to lean on the one’s you love and that love you too – your family and friends. Hopefully they will be a great source of comfort to you, providing plenty of emotional support and advice to help you through this. Try not to be too wary of burdening people with your problems – these people care about you and will want to be there for you.  

5. Look to the future

The process of separation and divorce can involve a lot of thinking about the past; what might have been, and what you could have done differently. That’s natural and perfectly normal, and it will take some time to move through the grieving process and start to think about rebuilding your life. But the future is right in front of you, and allowing yourself to consider what you want to do with it is a great way to recapture some excitement for the next chapter of your life. 

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, please do contact us on 01246 555610 for a free initial consultation.

By Vines Legal on 22 Apr 2020

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How To Avoid Relationship Breakdown During The Easter Weekend & Lockdown

Relationship breakdown in Lockdown - Divorce lawyer ChesterfieldWith Easter weekend nearly upon us, as we enter week 4 of lockdown, some families may be feeling the pressure of being constantly in one space together.

We thought we'd put together some helpful tips on why people are feeling stressed, ways to alleviate the pressure, what to do if you're in an abusive relationship and what your options are if you have issues with child access during this time.

What is the impact of lockdown on families & relationships?

Due to lockdown, families are thrown together in an intense situation where there is anxiety and uncertainty for the future. A number of stressful situations will present, which will include:

  • Everyone being on top of each other at home with different family members having competing needs
  • Frustration because of the inability to socialise in the usual way with friends and extended family
  • Worry about elderly relatives
  • Worry about catching the virus
  • Financial worries where family members are furloughed due to the crisis and have reduced income or where there is worry about the survival of a business

Each on their own causes stress, but put these together and it's like a big pressure cooker, which could cause a relationship to crack and break down.

So what can be done to try to stop the breakdown of a relationship due to this situation?

People might say, "well, you're a family lawyer - don't you want relationship breakdowns?" Well, actually, in the first instance our job is to see if a relationship can be saved. A legal separation process should only be seen as a last resort. Some of our suggested tips for getting a relationship through lockdown are:

  • Try to give each other some space. Sounds obvious but your wouldn't be around each other all the time in a "normal" situation, so you're bound to wind each other up if you don't give each other space now.
  • Get together for family time by planning an indoor activity like a special meal or a game together.
  • Whether you're a couple with children or not, try and get a "date night" booked in - couple time when the kids are in bed and a bit of relationship pampering.
  • Communication is key! Talk to each other about how you're feeling. Don't let the stress build up into a meltdown situation.
  • If you feel the pressure building, take yourself off to a different space within the house or garden and allow a cool off period.
  • Accept these are challenging times and don't be too hard on yourself or each other.
  • Financial pressures - look into what financial help is being offered during the crisis, from grants, help with mortgages and debt repayments and so forth. Almost everyone will be financially impacted upon in some way from this situation, so don't feel you're on your own.

I'm in lockdown but in an abusive relationship and I'm scared. What do I do?

An abusive relationship can take many forms - it's not just physical abuse.  It can be verbal, psychological, emotional or financial abuse and each is as bad the others. It is indiscriminate between gender and age. It is made worse because people are thrown together at home who may, in normal circumstances, be able to get away from each other by going to work or staying with friends and family. Please seek help if you're in this situation. Here are some options:

  • If you're in immediate fear for your safety or that of the children, then call the police. They have the power to remove the other person and impose restrictions that they cannot return home for a period of time.
  • Consult a solicitor for an injunction which can restrict behaviour or prevent one person from living in the property. At Vines Legal we offer a free initial meeting where options for your particular situation can be discussed.

I am separated from my partner but I have a child arrangements order in relation to my child. It has broken down due to lockdown. What can I do?

There is very clear guidance from the President of the Family Division that the Coronavirus situation in itself does not prevent children from passing between separated parents in the normal way, if it is safe for them to do so and in accordance with Government direction.

Situations will arise where the parent with the child may try to use the current situation as a deliberate excuse to stop the other parent's contact and this is wrong. If it is not possible for the absent parent to have contact because one or either party must self isolate due to the illness then the "spirit" of the order must be kept to and that parent offered indirect contact at regular times through Skype, Zoom or Facetime.  Children will be scared and unsettled at the moment and it is important that the relationship they have with both parents is preserved so they feel stable and reassured. If it was to be found by the Court that a parent deliberately broke a court order without finding a reasonable alternative, then serious punishment could follow.

If help is required, we offer a free initial consultation to discuss concerns and provide advice. Each situation is different.

We hope you've found this advice helpful with the lockdown situation, both for this coming weekend and beyond.

Have a lovely Easter and stay safe.

By Vines Legal on 9 Apr 2020

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What is Parental Responsibility and What Does it Mean to You?

parental responsibility family lawyer ChesterfieldYou may have heard the term ‘parental responsibility’ mentioned, especially when seeking legal advice regarding family law. But what does the term really mean in a legal sense, and who has it?

According to the UK government, all mothers and most fathers have legal rights and responsibilities as a parent, known as ‘parental responsibility’. This means that the parents have certain rights and powers in relation to the child, as well as important obligations.

Key responsibilities include providing a home for the child, and protecting and maintaining the child. Parental responsibility also includes a number of duties considered essential to the upbringing of the child and your role as a parent. These include a responsibility to discipline the child, choose and provide for the child’s education, agree to the child’s medical treatment, name the child and agree to any change of name, and look after the child’s property.

Mothers automatically have parental responsibility for their child from birth. But it’s slightly more complicated for fathers. A father will usually have parental responsibility if he is either married to the child’s mother, or is listed on the birth certificate. 

However, there are some grey areas surrounding parental responsibility and what it means to you, depending entirely on your unique situation. To give you some clarity and better understanding of the term, we’ve put together some useful answers to common questions surrounding parental responsibility.

I am a separated parent and have parental responsibility for my child, but don’t live with them. Do I still have the right to spend time with them?

Technically, no. Having parental responsibility for your child, but not living with them, does not mean that you have the right to spend time with them. It does, however, mean that the other parent has a legal obligation to include you when they make important decisions about the child’s life.

A major decision, for example, may include one parent's wish to move abroad with the children. Obviously, this is classed as an important decision and would, therefore, require that both parents with parental responsibility agree, in writing. However, for routine decisions, you don’t always need to get the consent of the other parent.

What if myself and my ex-partner can’t agree on important decisions regarding our children?

When separated parents with parental responsibility can’t agree, it is possible to apply for a Specific Issue Order or Prohibited Steps Order. This means that a judge will be involved in making a decision which is in your children’s best interests.

I was married to my ex-partner when our child was born. Does this mean I have parental responsibility even now that we are divorced?

Yes. If the parents of a child are married when the child is born, both have parental responsibility, and both keep parental responsibility if they later divorce. This also applies to children that they have jointly adopted.

I am not married to the mother of my children. How do I get parental responsibility?

There are 3 ways in which an unmarried father can get parental responsibility for his child. The first option is by jointly registering the birth of the child with the mother (please note that this only applies from 1/12/2003). The second is by establishing a parental responsibility agreement with the mother, and the third is by getting a parental responsibility order from a court.

I do not have parental responsibility for my child. Do I still have to support them financially?

Yes. Parents have to ensure that their child is supported financially, whether they have parental responsibility or not.

As you can see, parental responsibility, and what it means to you, can depend on a variety of circumstances. For further advice on any of the issues discussed above, or for guidance on your individual situation, please do contact us on 01246 555610 for a free initial consultation.

By Vines Legal on 6 Apr 2020

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The Pitfalls of a DIY Divorce

DIY divorces vs divorce lawyer Chesterfield

You’ve decided to divorce your spouse. You know it’s the end, you know there’s no way back; so, what next? Those unfamiliar with the process will naturally find it daunting and confusing. You may have even heard from well-meaning friends or optimistic colleagues that a do-it-yourself divorce might save you some money, and minimise stress.

With the best of intentions and a healthy dose of patience from both parties, DIY divorces require no lawyers, no trials, and all communication is carried out between the couple involved. Sounds simple, right? On the surface, opting for the DIY approach may seem like an attractive option. And for some couples, it can work.

But there are conditions. Firstly, your case must be considered as an ‘uncontested divorce’, meaning that both parties agree to the termination of the marriage and the reason for it. Secondly, you must have resolved all the issues surrounding the arrangements for children, the financial support of those children, and how any property, assets, or debt should be divided. Thirdly, and arguably most importantly, you must have both agreed to willingly participate in the process, have a full understanding of each other’s financial positions, not feel pressurised by the other person and be able to work together.

So, although DIY divorces may seem appealing in theory, make no mistake; there are pitfalls, and unfortunately, they are common. For example:

  1. A Decree Absolute (final Decree of Divorce) does not resolve financial issues between you. For this to be achieved you must have a Clean Break by way of a financial Consent Order.


  1. One pitfall of the DIY divorce is the likelihood that key details will be overlooked or forgotten in what can be a long, confusing process. If you’re not an expert in divorce procedures, it’s easy to miss things that may have simply not occurred to you. Failing to tie up loose ends and leaving some matters outstanding, however small, means that you may not get the closure you were hoping for.


  1. You may end up worse off in the long term - saving money on a divorce is undoubtedly an attractive option, but in the event that the financial matters don’t go as smoothly as you’d anticipated, there’s a very real chance that you could end up worse off in the long run. Arguments over money and the animosity caused can have a hugely detrimental effect on your future relationship with your ex-spouse – not ideal, especially if you share children and need to keep communication channels open for the future.


  1. You don’t agree on absolutely everything - of course, DIY divorces CAN run smoothly if both parties agree on absolutely everything throughout the process. But in reality, the likelihood of this often slim. Dividing property, finances, and debt, isn’t easy. Your marriage has broken down, your future looks very different to the one you imagined when made your marriage vows, and you’re simply not reading from the same page anymore.


Then there are savings, investments, shared assets, and even seemingly minor considerations such as treasured possessions and family pets to think of. And what happens if you share children? Can you agree on the final details of custody arrangements, child care, and financial support?

The truth is, DIY divorces, more often than not, prove to be a false economy, leaving you with more problems to deal with than if you had simply consulted a solicitor from the outset. There are many advantages to getting legal help to ensure that divorce proceedings move forward as smoothly as possible.

 If you are going through a divorce or are considering a separation and need some advice, please do contact us on 01246 555610 for a free initial consultation.

By Vines Legal on 24 Mar 2020

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Is technology stealing your marriage?

You get home, it’s been a tough day at work and you want to unwind.  The kids may have been driving you crazy all day and you want to escape.  Reaching for the game controller or your phone to relax and zone out is all well and good but, like all things in life, there does need to be a degree of moderation. When it starts to interfere with your family and marital life it may be time to put the technology down.  Clients are now defining ‘unreasonable behaviour’, the most common ground for divorce in UK law, in increasingly modern ways including being on the internet, social media sites and gaming for hours on end. For the partners of people who are obsessed with video games, it feels as if they are being ignored or even abandoned in favour of the latest computer game obsession.

A few interesting facts…

  • In 2018 the word ‘Fortnite’ was listed in 200 divorce applications.
  • Family lawyers say that video games are involved in 15% of divorce cases.
  • 54% of gamers are men and 46% are women.
  • 57% of people aged between 25 and 34 complain of being snubbed in favour of their partner’s smartphone affecting their romantic lives.
  • Indirectly arguments are also being caused by techology with the lastest "must have" smartphones often costing hundreds of pounds and being put ahead of family holidays.

There’s no doubt that the internet and all its attractions such as social media and gaming are a big part of our lives but the key is not to make it the biggest part and, the same as we all strive for work-life balance, we should try and balance our social media time and family time.

If the above information is striking a chord with you or would like any further advice regarding your personal situation, 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 Vines Legal on 27 Feb 2020

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Valentine’s Day and Divorce?

Centuries ago, during the middle ages, this day was a time when courting was in full bloom and was largely associated with love and romance. While (Saint) Valentine’s Day was originally a liturgical celebration and a feast day, it slowly developed into a day where lovers expressed their feelings through gifts and cards. Today, the day is mostly recognized as a commercial holiday promoted by the card and gift industries. Yet, for some people this day can be depressing because not only are you feeling alone but you may also be grieving the failed relationship or marriage.

Remember Valentines doesn’t have to revolve around romantic love and try some of these instead:

Love yourself – go to the spa for the day and treat yourself to afternoon tea and a massage.

Pet love – no one loves you unconditionally like your pets, why not go for a walk with your dog and get out in to nature for a life affirming break.

Friendship love – invite a few friends round for a movie and take out night.  Pour a few drinks and enjoy a lot of love and laughter.

Family love – Take some flowers to your parents and have a nice family dinner.  Encourage the children to join and have some family time.

Whatever you do, try not to dwell on the past and think about what you ‘should be doing’ on Valentines. Make sure you plan some enjoyable activities. 


By Vines Legal on 14 Feb 2020

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Vines Legal's A-Z of All Things Family and Matrimonial; Z for Zonal Order

Welcome to our Alphabet Information Series.  Today’s topic is Z for Zonal Order

A victim of domestic violence may apply to the Court for an Order for their protection. There are two types of Order which the Court can make. You can read more about these Orders in our “I for Injunction” blog . The Courts can also make an exclusion zone, excluding a person from a particular place. These exclusion zones are known as Zonal Orders and typically prohibit a person from going to or entering a defined area. This could include a building, a road or larger geographical area and are chosen specifically to keep the abuser from entering within a certain distance of the victim's place of residence/work place/place of study/child's school etc.

Breaching a Non-Molestation Order including entering restricted areas is actually a criminal offence with penalties ranging from arrest and possible imprisonment with a potential prison sentence of up to five years. After an Order is breached the perpetrator could be arrested and criminal charges may follow.

If you have any queries regarding the above information or would like any further advice regarding your personal situation 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 Vines Legal on 11 Feb 2020

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