Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player


 


Overview

Our Family department provides advice and representation in Family and Divorce cases. We deal with the following matters:

- Disputes over children
- Section 8 Children Act Proceedings
- Parental Agreements
- Divorce
- Financial Settlements
- Consent Orders
 
Whether your case is better resolved through negotiation, conciliation, or through contested hearings we are with you every step of the way to achieve the best possible result. We work with you, setting out all our costs, in a transparent way whilst fully explaining all your options. This could include:

- One off consultation and case review
- Assisting you behind the scenes (bundles services).
- Full representation in Court, including litigation
- Assisting with Mediation

We pride ourselves in offering clients the benefit of our technical expertise. We understand that through accessibility and a compassionate approach our client’s will receive a high standard of service.

Disputes over children

Often when a relationships break down there are issues in relation to the care of children, which require a high degree of sensitivity and discretion. This often involves, but is not limited to the time a child spends with each of his or her parents or family members (by order made by the court or by agreement), school arrangements and a parent who wishes to move abroad with a child.

We work with you to find a workable solution that puts children at the forefront and serves their best interest. Every case has unique circumstances and we listen in order to find the best solution for all parties. Our solicitors have gained considerable experience over the years working with clients and their families. No matter how complex, we will always seek to gain a clear understanding of the issues before seeking a child-focused, practical and workable solution.

We strive to resolve matters by agreement (through mediation or the collaborative process) but often it must be resolved through the court process. In those circumstances we are here to support you through the court process and ensure that your views are heard and considered by the court. We are happy to represent you at all court levels as our advocates are extremely able, conscientious and are able to empathise with you every step of the way, no matter how difficult proceedings can be.

In family proceedings involving children, the Courts must consider the welfare of a child as of paramount concern. The child’s welfare is their priority.


What is the Welfare Checklist?
When the family court is making a decision on matters that will affect a child, the courts are required to look at the welfare of the child as the paramount consideration. The welfare checklist consists of seven statutory criteria that the courts must consider under the Children Act 1989 when reaching its decision in cases involving children.
What are these criteria?


The seven criteria set out in the welfare checklist under s1(3) Children Act 1989 are:


1. The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned :

The Court must consider the wishes and feelings of the child, taking into account the child’s age and level of understanding in the circumstances. This will normally be determined by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) or social services, and reported to the Court. The Court will take into account whether or not a child’s wishes and feelings are their own. The Court will balance the views of the parties concerned, including the views of a child who is of an understanding age and mature enough to form their own opinions. More information about Cafcass can be found at https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/

2. The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs:
                                                                                                                                                     The Court will consider who is in the best position to provide for the child’s emotional, physical and educational needs. A child’s emotional needs can be more difficult to deal with, and the Court will consider who is best able to provide for the emotional needs of the child – both short term and long term. There is no bias towards mother's it is simply who is in a better position to meet these needs which often is found to be both parents.

3. The likely effect on the child if circumstances changed as a result of the Court’s decision:

The potential impact of changes to the child’s life will be considered. For example if they are used to living close to family and friends and their school, a move away to another city may cause them disruption. The Courts will aim to make an order that causes the least disruption to a child’s life, this is balanced against the other factors to be considered.

4. The child’s age, sex, backgrounds and any other characteristics will be relevant to the Court’s decision:

The Court will consider specific issues such as religion, race and culture when making a decision about a child. They may also take the parents choices into account if they feel this will impact the child’s life. In an age of diversity it is very important that children are able to benefit from their cultural heritage on both the maternal and paternal side of the family.

5. Any harm the child has suffered or maybe at risk of suffering:

The Courts will look at the risk of harm to the child. This means immediate risk of harm, as well as the risk of harm in the future. ‘Harm’ includes physical, emotional and mental harm. The Courts will weigh up the potential risk of harm to the child in future and make an order as appropriate. An order may include safety measures to protect the child, as the child's safety is the Courts paramount consideration.

6.  Capability of the child’s parents (or any other person the Courts find relevant) at meeting the child’s needs:

The Courts will consider how able each parent is to care for the child and to meet their particular needs. This will be subjective and depend on the facts and circumstance of each case, sometimes it is appropriate that one parent be responsible for day to day care when one parent is not working, as they can readily meet the needs of the child especially when they are very young.

7.  The powers available to the Court in the given proceedings:

The Court must weigh up all the factors under the welfare checklist, and consider all available orders within their discretion. It will then make the best order available that is in the best interests of the child. More importantly where parents are able to agree some parts of the order the Court will deal with the issues that cannot be agreed ensuring that the parents are fully involved in the decision making. These orders decide who the child is to live with or spend time with, and can be granted to more than one person whether they live together or not. If a child arrangements order states that the child will live with a person, that person will have parental responsibility for that child until the order ceases. Contact with a child can either be direct (such as face-to-face) or indirect (such as by the exchange of letters). Some orders will make very specific arrangements for the child; other orders will be more open with detailed arrangements to be made between the parties by agreement. Child arrangements orders are not only made in respect of parents; there can also be orders for arrangements between siblings and wider family members. Sometimes the order will give directions that contact is to be supervised by a third person, or that contact is to take place in a specific location.

The Children Act can be found at https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1989/41/section/10 Children Act section 8 orders.


 
Divorce

The breakdown of a relationship is always a difficult time due to emotions running very high. We work closely with you to find a constructive and practical solution. The process can seem confusing and daunting but our client’s rely on our open and clear advice in the face of complex situations. Whether you are in a civil partnership, living with a partner, or require advice as to the most appropriate country for proceedings to take place we can advise and assist to find the best possible approach.

Financial Settlements

We are experienced in resolving difficult financial claims between divorcing couples. We are able to provide clear and constructive advice to resolve matters and we make all attempts to keep matters amicable and lines of communication open with the other party. Complex Financial Proceedings will benefit from early advice and support which will be provided by the advocates at the practice or by Counsel we will instruct on your behalf should the need arise.

Reaching a financial settlement on divorce is governed by section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, so it is vitally important to have help from expert divorce solicitors who will be familiar with this law and the way it is usually interpreted by the Court. It will save time and costs in the long run to reach an agreement which the Court is very likely to judge as being fair. Having expert advice can assist in getting this right early on in the process. The section 25 can be found at   https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1973/18/section/25

Both parties have a duty to the Court to give a full, frank, clear and accurate disclosure of all their financial and other relevant circumstances. ‘Full and frank disclosure’ is the process by which both parties exchange full details of their financial positions. This is so important that – if an Order is made – the parties have to sign statements confirming that their disclosure is true. There are significant consequences if it is later found that the disclosure is false, including that any Order made may be set aside, and proceedings for contempt of Court could be brought against that person, which could lead to a term of imprisonment or to a fine. A party is also open to being penalised in costs (i.e. being ordered to pay some of the legal costs of the other party). If a person is deliberately untruthful in the process of full and frank disclosure, criminal proceedings may be brought against that person under the Fraud Act 2006.

This all seems very intimidating, but it is in place because full and frank disclosure is so very important in matrimonial finance matters. The importance of full and frank disclosure is that without it the Courts and the lawyers are not able to carry out any real assessment of fairness. If the financial picture before the Court is not accurate, then any settlement is not going to be fair. If that failure was material, it will not be ignored by the Courts. As far as relates to full and frank disclosure, therefore, benefits not only the financially-weaker party but also the financially-stronger party. It is in everybody’s interest for a financial settlement to be final and unassailable. Those tempted to siphon away or shield assets should be aware of the serious consequences of being untruthful in their disclosure.

That said, the Court arena is not the only arena to obtain a fair settlement. Once disclosure has taken place a Consent Order can be agreed between the parties.

What is a consent order:


A consent order, is an order made by a judge in divorce proceedings, where both parties have agreed their financial settlement and consent to an order being made without the need for a court hearing. The consent order agreement will explain to the court how you intend to split assets such as money, property and savings. The order can also include details on spousal and/or child maintenance arrangements, which enables the family court to enforce these if the maintenance is not paid. Most financial orders that are made of consent, make for a clean break order, which severs all financial ties following your divorce. If parties agree how property and money is to be divided then it can help parties move on in a more positive manner. An order can be applied for at the decree nisi stage of a divorce and becomes legally binding when the Decree Absolute has been granted in the divorce proceedings.