The pitfalls of DIY divorces
As a family lawyer who offers fixed fee consultations at a reduced hourly rate, I hope that those who need legal advice will be able to afford at least a detailed consultation with me to ensure that before you embark on any divorce process you receive advice as the best way forward. However, increasingly I am being approached by husbands and wives who have managed their own divorce using either an online company or information they have obtained on the internet and have progressed a divorce themselves. There is a wealth of very useful information on the internet which can help guide you through a divorce process.
The divorce process itself is not particularly complicated and you can be guided perfectly well using information available online or through an online divorce company. The legal process of a divorce is not necessarily the difficulty. It is the huge emotional trauma faced when moving forward with a divorce that can sometimes make the process more troublesome.
Most people from my experience assume that when they receive their Decree Absolute which is granted at the end of a divorce process that this is the end. They assume that because they are divorced they do not need to go on to think about any other matters. Many have been able to discuss co-operatively the arrangements for their children and their financial matters and one client recently produced to me a detailed typed note which set out an agreement he had reached with his wife ten years ago when they separated and went through a divorce process co-operatively using an online company. That client, and I suspect indeed many others, wrongly assumed that because the divorce had been finalised that the financial agreement he had entered into with his wife as part of the divorce was binding upon them.
Family law meets Mindfulness
As a specialist family lawyer and mediator I know that when you are dealing with family separation and change, it is about much more than just the law. It is an emotionally difficult process first and foremost, and then a legal process and journey, all of which require careful individual consideration. I am here to guide you through the legal process, delivering the right advice with care, sensitivity and compassion. However, that’s only one part of the process. Often, clients tell me that they feel out of control, overwhelmed, consumed with anger and sadness and unable to cope. These feelings do not always end when a divorce is concluded legally. They can also sometimes prevent the divorce process from being able to progress.
The emotional divorce is a process which takes time. Divorce represents the death of a marriage and all the hopes and dreams that went into it. Like death, this requires a grieving process for healing. Dr Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief are known to be denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It is likely that you will experience many, if not all, of these stages when you are going through a separation or divorce and this is known as the grieving process.
If you feel that you are stuck, we work in consultation with family consultants, counsellors and coaches who can help you cope with what you are going through. Often the emotional stages are more difficult to work through than the legal aspects of ending your marriage.
I have decided this year not to follow the media hype about the supposed rush to pick up the phone and ring a family lawyer for a divorce or separation on the first Monday of January each year. I confess in the past I have mindlessly retweeted the usual press speak every year around this time talking about the surge to divorce. This year, I have really thought about the impact of this upon those going through a difficult time in their relationships and it makes me cringe.
The first week of January has passed and I have not experienced a massive surge of new instructions nor, when I come to think about it, have I in the last 15 years of practising as a family lawyer. It's undoubtedly busy because people are often more resolute about getting things done after the festive break, but the phone wasn't constantly ringing with new clients seeking a divorce just because it is the start of a new year. I don't think I am alone since I have a healthy caseload of clients in my legal and mediation caseload. We do see peaks and troughs in our work but it's not always in January. More often it is in the summer when parents are trying to juggle work with child care commitments and September, sadly after the school summer holidays.
We are supporting the Text Santa Christmas Jumper Day on Friday 18 December 2015. You will find our staff at Kingsley David each wearing their festive Christmas jumpers to do our bit to raise money and awareness for families in difficulty at Christmas.
We know that Christmas can be a very tough time. The Text Santa will help raise money for three amazing charities who will help families in need at Christmas – Macmillan Cancer Support, Make-A-Wish to grant magical wishes to enrich the lives of children and young people fighting life threatening conditions and Save the Children who work in more than 120 countries helping to save children’s lives.
Marc Lansdell our Head of Overseas Property will shortly be returning from the Luxury Property Show which took place in Shanghai between 11 and 13 December 2015.
This is the eighth Shanghai International Luxury Property Show. It is known as the best platform for overseas exhibitors to explore the Chinese market and meet face to face with Chinese high net worth buyers. Each year the Luxury Property Show attracts over 100,000 visitors and over 500 exhibitors who come from all corners of the world to show case their luxury properties and real estate services.
The song is written by her husband Matt, who also plays guitar on the track. They recorded the song, Never Too Old For Christmas at their home and hope that it will raise greater awareness around brain tumours and raise some money for The Brain Tumour Charity through iTunes downloads.
Clare was diagnosed with a pituitary adenoma in 2007 – a non-malignant tumour similar to the one which TV presenter Sue Perkins recently revealed she too has lived with for the last eight years.
Are you aware that from 1 January 2016 a mediator must be accredited to verify an attendance at a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting, either by completing of the FM1 form or the Form A?
The Family Mediation council (FMC) is the umbrella body for family mediators in England and Wales. It is made up of six organisations with family mediation members – the ADR Group, the College of Mediators, The Family Mediators’ Association, National Family Mediation, the Law Society and Resolution. These are referred to as the member organisations (MOs) of the FMC. The FMC are working towards a position where all practising mediators in the six FMC member organisations are also directly registered with the FMC and either hold, or are working towards becoming an Accredited Family Mediator. This ensures that there is a standard framework for the professionally qualified status for family mediation.
There are many mediators who have gone through the rigorous training course to become a family mediator. However, not all mediators go on to become accredited. This changes means that mediators must work towards becoming accredited in order that they can continue to be registered on the ‘Find a Mediator’ search facility which the public use to find mediators.
An accredited mediator is someone who has had a significant number of practical hours experience as a mediator and has undergone a rigorous application to become accredited, which involves producing portfolios of four fully completed mediation cases for assessment.
Our mediator, Clare Kitteridge, has been recognised by Resolution and the Law Society as an Accredited Mediator since 2012.
Family Dispute Resolution Week - 2015
Every day this week, I have been posting information and articles on ways in which parents can put their children first during a divorce or separation. I have been talking about why this is so important but also how difficult it can be for parents to put into practice when emotions are running high and the help that is available. Why? Each year Resolution, an organisation of 6,500 family lawyers and other professionals in England and Wales, who believe in a constructive, non-confrontational approach to family law matters, runs a campaign during the last week of November titled Family Dispute Resolution Week. The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness that there are better ways to resolve family disputes.
This year, the campaign has focused on putting children first and all week family law professionals have been tweeting using the hashtag #childrenfirst. This hashtag, by Wednesday morning had been used nearly 2,500 times by around 900 users, including the Ministry of Justice and the Family Justice Minister, reaching a potential audience of over 6.5 million people. I am sure by now the campaign has reached well in excess of this amount, which is a fantastic achievement given the importance of the theme for this years’ campaign – children.
Doctor Foster – What about Tom?
I, like approximately 7.5 million others, was an avid viewer of the BBC drama Doctor Foster. This followed the story of Dr Foster whose seemingly perfect life gets changed almost in an instance when she discovered her husband had been having an affair with a woman considerably her junior.
We followed Dr Foster as she went through various emotions including feeling suicidal, grief, depression, shock, anger, denial, upset through to survival and ultimately acceptance. It felt real to many watching, including many of my own clients who unfortunately have either gone through the same, or were going through the same deeply traumatic experience. It touched those who were still grieving the loss of their relationship and almost gave a confidence boost to those who wanted to see Dr Foster’s husband suffer, perhaps because their own husband or wife, they felt, had not been accountable for their unfaithfulness and that was particularly evident on twitter throughout the series. Many shared their experiences and sought consolation online from others who had been in a similar situation.
Family law but not as you may know it !
I received a telephone call this week from a gentleman who was calling on behalf of his daughter. He was concerned about protecting his daughter and grandchildren who were going through a difficult separation. He told me that his daughter was worried about contacting a solicitor because she “did not want to rock the boat”.
This was not an unusual conversation. Many people worry about those closest to them going through a separation and how it might impact upon their future and want to be able to help them. I speak to many people including my own friends who share the same concerns and preconceived opinion that instructing a solicitor will antagonise an already difficult process. A solicitor who is not a Resolution Member or perhaps a solicitor who does not specialise in family law may fit that description. However specialist family solicitors who are Resolution Members and understand the best way to approach an emotionally difficult process know that when people are dealing with family separation and change it is about much more than just the law.
Protection is primary, succession is secondary and tax is tertiary
You can't give what you haven't got or as we pretentious lawyers would say: “nemo dat quod non habet.” So there is strong argument for ensuring that what we have is preserved for our heirs. We can then give it to them. Then we need to be mindful of tax and to organise our affairs to ensure that we pay no more tax than we should.
A lot is said about tax. It is an essential part of the foundation of a civilised society. As essential to our lives as is the blood coursing through our bodies. One way or another it has to be paid and it gives us our many privileges.
How I can help – Emotionally Intelligent Approach
I am committed to helping you achieve the best possible outcome for you and your family. When you are dealing with the breakdown of your marriage or relationship, you often feel out of control and unable to cope. My aim is to provide advice, support and to set out choices to help you regain some control. I understand the complex emotions that arise during separation, having undergone separate training in emotional intelligence and the importance of protecting children during this time. With appropriate advice I want clients to feel empowered to make reflective decisions enabling the family to move forward and to be able to communicate with each other, despite differences, long after the legal process has concluded.
I am often amazed how reluctant families are to consult solicitors for advice on a separation out of fear for the cost or from a misconception of what we can do to help as family lawyers and mediators. Often I hear people say that they fear lawyers will create unnecessary acrimony and hostility and increase costs. I am committed to helping couples create positive futures for themselves and their children following the end of a relationship.
What to do if you have life insurance? Consider putting it in trust. Otherwise it goes to your estate and it may result in a tax bill or bigger tax bill. It is added to the rest of your estate, increasing its size and thus its potential to suffer Inheritance Tax at 40%.
The trust is a simple document often given to you by the insurance company. Nothing complicated.
Lasting Powers of Attorney
Who looks after you if you become incapable of doing so yourself? Whether your property and finances or your general health and welfare? The Court will choose if you don't do Lasting Powers of Attorney.
Thursday 11 June 2015
Our next Family Law Evening Surgery will be taking place on Thursday 11 June 2015 between 5.00 p.m. and 8.00 p.m.
Expert Advice and Pensions
As part of the full and proper consideration of your financial position following a divorce or separation, you will be asked to provide full and frank disclosure of your financial position in order that the legal options can be explored. It is also of value and hugely important to consider your financial future at the time of your divorce or separation and how this may be impacted. You will be asked to consider if you want to deal with any properties that you hold, capital investments, incomes and your pensions.
Pensions, the Family Court and Bankruptcy
We have all heard about the changes coming into force in April 2015 in relation to pensions, allowing greater freedom of choice as to how people are able to access, use and pass on their pension pots from now on. Individuals of minimum pensionable age (currently 55) will be able to access 100% of their pension fund as cash. Previously only 25% could be accessed. 25% can be taken as tax free cash. The residue can be taken as cash but this is taxed as income.
Does this mean that divorcing couples where one or both of those are 55 will be able to ask the Court to access the cash from their pension fund as part of a financial settlement? Where might this lead one or both parties on retirement if they run out of cash? Only time will tell as to how lawyers and Judges will deal with pensions on divorce following the changes in April 2015.
Kids in the Middle – Making the welfare of children in separating families paramount
“All children have the right to information from a variety of sources, especially to information aimed at the promotion of his or her social, spiritual and moral well-being and physical and mental health.” United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Article 17.
There is no doubt that a major cause of unhappiness in young people occurs when parents separate. Having practised as a family lawyer for over 15 years, I am fully aware of the effect of divorce upon parents and also their children as a family. Family law can have an ever lasting impact on the lives. As a family lawyer I see all too often the damage that can occur to children when their parents experience difficulties in their marriage or relationship. I visit schools where teachers report that they have witnesses a growing presence of stress, anxiety, depression and other conditions amongst their pupils which affect their day-to-day lives often resulting from problems at home. I don’t doubt that most parents have the absolute best interests of their children at heart. However, sometimes in the chaos and upset of divorce, children can be overlooked.
Dispute Resolution Options
I am a collaborative family lawyer and mediator. If I introduce myself as a divorce lawyer perhaps you would already have a view of how a family lawyer should speak and behave and you might even be forgiven for letting out a groan. I am on a mission to change the way in which you look at family lawyers and what we do.
You may have an idea of a family lawyer as someone wanting to make money out of people’s sadness. You may not want to go and see a solicitor out of fear that we will encourage you to go to Court. You may worry that your divorce will take years to complete and cost you thousands of pounds.
Tuesday 25 November 2014 (5-8pm)
Resolution’s third Family Dispute Resolution Week will take place on 24-28 November this year. This awareness raising week aims to highlight the alternatives to Court for separating couples and their families.