Our solicitors assist clients with the multitude of problems which arise as a result of disputes within the family. These include divorce and separation, unmarried partnerships, financial settlements, Child Arrangements Programmes and Orders (formerly known as Residence/custody, contact/access/visitation) and care proceedings.
When a marriage breaks down it can sometimes be best to bring matters to a conclusion as quickly as possible and to divorce straight away. However, this is sometimes not possible or is not the best course whether for emotional, legal or financial reasons. We will explain the options available to you and discuss with you the consequences of each of them. If necessary, we will act on your behalf or, where appropriate, refer you to mediation.
There are many different answers to the question ‘What is fair in this case?’ We have extensive experience of advising both people with limited incomes and assets and those with high incomes and substantial assets. We will try to tailor a settlement which takes into account the need for maintenance, lump sum, pension sharing or property adjustment. We will always seek to negotiate a settlement. However, where appropriate, we will take robust court action on your behalf. We will also advise on the other financial consequences of the breakdown of a relationship, be they the need to refer for benefits advice, taxation advice or the need to consider a new will.
The Unmarried family
Many people believe that if you live with your partner as man and wife for two years without actually marrying you then become common law husband and wife. This is a popular myth. Unfortunately, in law there is no such thing as a common law husband or wife.
The law does not recognise cohabiting couples in the same way as it recognises married couples when the time comes to divide assets, and share out the responsibility for debt when couples separate.
If the house where the couple live together is in the sole name of either the man or the woman, then the other partner can find themselves severely disadvantaged upon separation, despite having invested money in the property. There are ways to try and get a share; by negotiation, and, if there is enough evidence to warrant it, by making an application to the Court for the Court to determined what, if anything, should be paid out or transferred to the applicant. This can be costly and emotionally draining.
These costly legal battles could be avoided by couples if, when they buy a property, or move in together into a property that one party owns already, they make a simple legal agreement, called a Cohabitation Agreement. That document, in the event of a dispute, would be very persuasive to a Court or in the course of pre-separation or post-separation discussions of each person’s rights, obligations and responsibilities towards the other in the event of a dispute.
Disputes can arise regarding contact between parents and their children and about the children’s residence. We advise on all aspects of these problems. Consistent with our philosophy, we will always attempt to negotiate a settlement with the minimum of bitterness and, where appropriate, refer the matter to mediation. However, court proceedings are sometimes necessary and where this is the case we will act on your behalf quickly and firmly. Not all issues surrounding children are between the parents or other family members. On occasions, the local authority steps in and takes the children into care. We are experienced in acting for both parents and grandparents in situations like these.
There are occasions when family breakdown is accompanied by violence or harassment. In this situation, the court has the powers to forbid certain behaviour and, where necessary, to order people from their homes. Orders of this type are thankfully uncommon. However, we are fully experienced and can both advise on and obtain such orders where they are needed.
What will it cost?
We offer a first free 30 minute initial consultation at which we will advise you on the merits of your case, the likely costs of any action which we take on your behalf. We will keep the costs issue under review throughout the case and discuss with you the costs consequences of any developments within it. We can if necessary make arrangements with you for payment by regular monthly instalments. We will remain conscious at all times of the need to minimise costs so as to maximise both the assets and the income available for the family.
Livingstons are proud to be the first firm in the area to offer fixed fees in the majority of family issues. For more information please speak to Sharon Ritchie or Sarah Robinson.
A Quality service
Relationships break down all too often. When they do, it is important that those involved receive the best possible advice. It must be independent and legally correct, whilst also acknowledging that family disputes are not contests in which there are winners and losers, but are searches for fair solutions. At Livingstons, we provide just such a service.
Who to contact:
Please contact our family law specialists: Sharon Ritchie or Sarah Robinson on 01229 585555