Deciding how to support and manage children is one of the most complex aspects of divorce. This blog provides practical advice to help you and your ex-spouse make arrangements regarding your child or children.

How to communicate with your child

Divorcing is likely to be a highly emotional time. One or both parents may feel angry, confused, betrayed, shocked, sad and more. These feelings are normal, but they can make focusing on finding practical solutions to build your child’s future difficult.

Creating a supportive environment for your child during this transition is crucial. To do this, encourage open communication so you can understand how they are feeling and help them adapt to changes.

It’s essential for both parents to separate their personal feelings about each other and the divorce from their interactions with their children. If you find this overwhelming or difficult, professional help is available from charities such as Relate or you could speak to a counsellor or mediator.

Children cope much better when conflict is reduced, so it’s vital to have discussions and make decisions regarding your child when they are not around to overhear or interrupt. Always communicate with each other directly, not via your child.

Resolution, the membership body for family law professionals who resolve issues constructively, has some useful advice on communicating with children here. If you are struggling to agree on important matters, seek help from a legal professional or mediator.

Will we need to go to court to decide arrangements for our children?

Certain aspects may lead to conflicts during divorce or separation, such as deciding where the children will reside, determining the amount of time they will spend with each parent, and working out how and where special occasions like birthdays and Christmas will be celebrated. Every family is unique, and finding a solution that works for all parties involved may require patience and compromise.

If parents are capable of having discussions, the courts will not intervene in matters related to their children until they have explored every possible solution to reach conclusions but have been unsuccessful in doing so. However, if the divorce is due to domestic abuse, the courts may intervene to protect the safety of the parent and child.

You may also need to go to court if:

  • You’re worried about your child’s safety or wellbeing when they are with the other parent
  • You feel vulnerable or controlled by your ex-partner
  • Your spouse refuses you access to your child
  • Your former partner is alienating you and they are purposefully sabotaging any opportunities you have of having a meaningful relationship with your child. Parental alienation can include making false allegations to persuade authorities you are not fit to be a parent or manipulating the child into not wishing to spend time with you

In such cases, we advise you to speak to a legal professional as they may deem it necessary to apply for a court order known as a ‘child arrangements order.’

Additionally, a ‘specific issue order’ can stipulate how the child is raised. This can include which school they will attend or whether they will be brought up to follow a specific religion. A ‘prohibited steps order’ can be applied for if you need to stop the other parent from making any decisions about the child’s upbringing without informing you or discussing matters with you.

Court intervention is sometimes necessary but should be considered a last resort if you and your former spouse are on speaking terms. Fees and legal representation can be very costly, and the process will likely be stressful and time-consuming for all parties.

Who is responsible for the costs of looking after children?

Responsibility for costs associated with the child lies with both parents, with the parent no longer residing with the family expected to make maintenance payments until the child is 16 (or 20 if still in full-time education).

If the parents cannot agree on a payment amount, the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) will determine it. The CMS can also act if the parent responsible for these payments doesn’t pay.

The amount of maintenance required can depend on several factors, such as the parent’s income, the number of nights the child spends with them, and any other responsibilities the parent has. A useful calculator to work out payments can be found here

Can we make the arrangements for our children legally binding?

Arrangements for your children can be kept informal and flexible, and you are under no obligation to formalise them. However, if parents disagree, are not amicable or are unable to communicate, a court can make child arrangements legally binding through a ‘consent order.’

The consent order can cover all aspects of childcare, such as where the child will live, how much time they spend with each parent, and when and where this contact takes place. It can form part of an overall consent order relating to other aspects of divorce, such as finances, property and maintenance payments.

AGR Law

We’re an award-winning law firm advising individuals and families on all aspects of divorce and child arrangements. We pride ourselves on our children-first, non-confrontational approach to divorce. Contact us on 0116 340 0094 or email us hello@agrlaw.co.uk

Most marriages experience highs and lows, but there are instances where a relationship has run its course and the couple decide to separate.  This is when people seek advice from us on divorce, as a couple or individually.

Formally ending a marriage is a huge decision and, even if you’re convinced it’s the best course of action, it can be an emotional process. Most relationships begin with love, excitement, and hope for a lifetime together, so the decision to end it can be difficult.

This blog will help you determine whether it is time to consider divorce and, if it is, help prepare you for it.

Is it time to consider divorce?

Here are some of the most common reasons why couples may choose to divorce. Does one or more describe your situation? You have:

  • Regular arguments that cannot be resolved despite attempts to communicate and find a workable solution
  • A breakdown in communication, leading to deep misunderstandings and issues
  • Broken trust, which is impossible to rebuild
  • An experience of any form of domestic abuse (whether it’s physical, emotional, coercive, verbal, sexual or financial) is dangerous for you and any children involved. In such instances, we strongly advise you to seek help immediately. Avoid discussing divorce with your spouse, as preparing to leave increases the risk of abuse worsening
  • An unfulfilling, disconnected relationship where you and your spouse have grown apart or become incompatible, despite efforts to work on your relationship. You may also be lacking intimacy
  • A feeling of being trapped in a relationship where you and your partner have fundamentally different aims and goals for the future

What is the divorce process?

Below is a brief outline of the divorce process:

  • One or both parties apply to a solicitor for a divorce
  • After a 20-week period of reflection, the applicant or couple decide whether they wish to proceed
  • If they do, the court makes a Conditional Order
  • Six weeks later, the court can make a Final Order

The process takes a minimum of 26 weeks, but negotiations, processing and administration usually means it takes longer.

How do you speak to your spouse about divorce?

If you are considering talking to your spouse about divorce, the way you begin the conversation will depend on your specific situation. If the relationship has already broken down your spouse may not be shocked by the news. However, if they are unaware of how you are feeling, they may feel hurt and become emotional or angry. You need to prepare yourself to support your spouse with their emotions.

The first step is to consider where and when you want to initiate the conversation. It’s best to pick a neutral space that’s free from interruptions, so you can comfortably express your feelings.

Avoid apportioning blame to your spouse. Instead, focus on expressing your honest feelings. For example, say, ‘I feel…’ rather than, ‘You make me feel…’

Be prepared to listen to your spouse calmly. Do not interrupt, even if you disagree with what they are saying, as that may result in an argument. Avoid bringing up past conflicts and, instead, concentrate on practical matters and the future.

It is also important to give your spouse space to process their emotions. If you find it challenging to communicate or talking is not productive, seeking professional help from a counsellor or mediator may be beneficial.

What do we need to consider?

Below is a brief list of elements you will need to consider as part of your divorce settlement:

  • A financial agreement, taking into account pensions, property, savings and investments, income from businesses and debts
  • What will happen to the matrimonial home and any assets, including cars, furniture, jewellery and other personal property
  • Where dependent children will live, who will have access to them when and maintenance payments. In most divorces, their needs are rightly prioritised

Divorce will affect our friends and family too – what do I do?

Talking to others about how you feel can help you relieve the stress of divorce and feelings of isolation. But remember, it’s a personal matter between you and your spouse, so try not to let anyone influence your decisions.

You may come across people who say their divorce was the best thing they ever did but, if you dig a little deeper, you may find it took a great deal of anxiety, financial worry and uncertainty about the future to get to a point where they could put it behind them and start their lives afresh. Don’t let them rush or pressure you.

With so much to consider and other people involved, it’s important to appreciate from the outset that you may never find an ideal outcome for everyone. You need to prioritise yourself and your children, whilst supporting your spouse as best you can so proceedings remain amicable.

Don’t be afraid to tell friends or family if you don’t feel like talking about what is going on at home. You may just want to enjoy their company to take your mind off your divorce, and they need to acknowledge that.

If a couple has one or more dependent children, stepchildren or both, going through a divorce can be a challenging experience for them. However, staying in an unhealthy marriage can have detrimental effects on their mental and emotional wellbeing, confidence, and more, so staying together for the sake of the children may not be the best option.

In our June blog, we will provide guidance on how to support children through divorce and in our July blog we’ll talk about how to move on after divorce, so look out for those.

Contact AGR Law

Our experienced team can support you with complex and straightforward divorces, providing the best legal advice and representation in a sensitive and empathetic manner. Call us on 0116 340 0094 or email hello@agrlaw.co.uk

April 2022 saw the biggest reform to divorce laws in decades with the introduction of The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill. The new laws modernised the divorce process, making it less damaging and more reflective of the reasons modern-day marriages fail.

In brief, the new laws meant:

  • Couples in England and Wales could divorce without having to assign blame to either party
  • Divorces could no longer be contested, meaning an unhappy party would no longer remain trapped in an unhappy marriage
  • The language used was updated, for example the ‘decree absolute’ was renamed the ‘final order’
  • Couples could now make a joint divorce application

How have things changed two years on from the laws being introduced?

We asked our Director, Gina Samuel-Richards, for her opinion on whether the new laws have brought about the much-needed change that was hoped for.

Resolution members campaigned for change for more than 30 years, but they never gave up. Were you frustrated by the government’s slow progress on this important reform?

I was actually quite surprised when I read Baroness Lady Hale’s book, ‘Spider Woman’ that she had been part of the Law Commission which recommended ‘no-fault’ divorce in the 1970s.

The government did not take the recommendation on board, and instead we had the fault system as per the 1973 Matrimonial Causes Act. I feel this was a missed opportunity, especially seeing how society was changing, and divorce did not hold the same taboos as before. Many countries had had a no-fault system, which had not led to disproportionate divorce rates. I saw many clients becoming frustrated that they could not end a marriage, which they felt had run its course.

When the new laws were introduced, there was speculation that they would lead to ill-thought-out ‘quickie’ divorces. Has that been the case, or has the longer minimum waiting period prevented this? 

I have not found there has been a difference in the reasons why individuals are choosing to divorce. Our clients are adults who have come to the conclusion that their marriages no longer work, for whatever the reason may be. On choosing to divorce, they still have the same considerations, such as affordability, starting a new chapter in their life, providing for children or even meeting their own needs in later life and whether they will have to return to work.

Have the number of divorcing couples risen or fallen? There was speculation that some couples would wait for the laws to be introduced to begin proceedings, which would cause an initial influx of cases. Did that happen? 

In my experience, some couples did wait for the new change in the law, as they did not want to attribute blame to a situation where people had simply fallen out of love. However, divorce is always on the rise, take for example the ONS figures found there were 113,505 divorces in 2021. This is a 9.6% increase to 2020.

Some may say there may have been a delay in people making applications in 2020 due to the effects of Covid in all of our lives, but in 2019, there were 107,599 divorces, a rise of 18.4% on the previous year. The stats for 2022 and 2023 aren’t available yet. I do expect to see an increase in cases as per the trend, but I would be very surprised if there is a significant increase in aggregate. I think one of the reasons for this, is that people can’t afford to divorce due to the high costs of living, so they are choosing to remain sharing a house, although living separate lives.

Has the lack of accountability caused frustration for those who hold their spouse responsible for their marriage breaking down? How do you resolve that?

Unfortunately, some individuals want the court system to attribute blame to the other party. In family law, the court is not typically interested in doing so. The Family Court is only interested in reaching what it deems to be a fair and equitable position to enable each party to get on with their lives. Sometimes, clients are happy to know they have been heard by someone else, typically us and their solicitor, and for their feelings to be validated. However, whilst we are empathetic to their feeling, we also try to steer the conversation to find a resolution as quickly and pain-free as possible. We try to encourage our clients to be conciliatory and non-confrontational, as having a more focussed approach to resolving the issues helps them achieve their objectives much quicker and it is less costly.

Is there any further reform to divorce law you’d like to see?

At this point, not in divorce law per se, but in cohabitating couples.

Our societies are made up differently now (1 in 5 couples choose to cohabitate), and not everyone will want to formalise their relationship in accordance with marriage under English Law or enter a Civil Partnership. However, they will live together for many years, raising children and supporting one another as if they were married. This also extends to those who are married under their religious or cultural traditions but have not formalised their marriages or civil partnerships.

Individuals in such relationships have no legal protection. I would like to see such individuals protected should the relationship break down. As things stand, the person whose name the assets, including the family home, are held in is the legal and beneficial owner. It may be the other party to the relationship has no legal or beneficial interest, and therefore could leave a relationship, no matter how long and how committed, with nothing. I have seen this happen, where a lady had a traditional religious marriage which was not formalised. She never worked as she stayed at home and raised the children. She had no savings or assets in her name. After 40 years, her partner said he wanted to end the relationship, and she had no financial means to restart her life.

Get in touch with our experienced team

To find out more about no-fault divorce and how we can help you, email hello@agrlaw.co.uk or call us on 0116 340 0094.

We encourage everyone over the age of 18 draw up a Will and keep it up to date as it’s the only way to ensure your wishes are carried out when you die. A valid Will also lessens the burden on loved ones who may otherwise face significant financial and legal complications.

As well as leaving assets to loved ones and friends, you may also leave a donation to one or more charities. These are known as legacy gifts or legacies. They are an excellent way of ensuring causes close to your heart can continue their good work after you’ve gone.

Legacy gifts can be:

  • A residuary gift – a percentage of your estate after debts have been paid and specific gifts have been distributed
  • A pecuniary gift – a fixed sum of money
  • A specific gift – assets or items you wish to donate

You can include how you would like your donation to be used in your Will to support a specific area of your chosen charity’s work.

Why leave a legacy in your Will?

As well as helping your chosen charity or charities, leaving a legacy gift may reduce inheritance tax as the donation is taken off the value of your estate before tax is calculated.

Inheritance tax is a complicated area but, generally speaking, 40% of your estate over the threshold of £325,000 is payable. Charitable donations over 10% of the net value of your estate may reduce inheritance tax to 36% on some assets, although the rules are complex so this might not apply to everyone.

Although donating to a charity this way can reduce the amount inheritance tax paid, it does of course mean that other beneficiaries (such as children or siblings) will inherit less even when you consider the reduction in inheritance tax. This can cause arguments with those who want to maximise their entitlement, so it’s crucial that your wishes are set out in your Will.

How much money is left to charities in Wills?

A major amount of vital charity income comes from legacy gifts. Legacies have continued to be resilient when other income streams are performing less well due to the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis.

According to Legacy Foresight’s Legacy Market Review 2023, charity legacy income in the year 2022/23 was estimated to be up to £4bn. That’s an annual income growth of 6.5%.

Long-term, legacy income is predicted to grow, but Legacy Forecast predicts that the next few months may see average legacy values falling due to the housing market being less buoyant.

How do I go about leaving a legacy gift?

To leave a legacy, simply provide details at the time of your Will-writing appointment. You will need to take the charity’s name, address and registered charity number with you and have decided, or be prepared to discuss, the amount you’re pledging or the item(s) you’re donating. If you have a specific activity or area of the charity you’d like to support this can be stipulated, or the Will can state ‘for general charitable purposes.’

Most charities love to connect with their pledgers so they can thank them properly, keep them up to date with their news and demonstrate the impact their gift will make.  Some charities also have a legacy team or person in place to answer any questions, so take a look online.

What else needs to go into a Will?

Our blog ‘Five essential things to include in your Will’ is a great starting point if you need to write your first Will.

How can AGR Law help?

Our experienced team can draw up a legally binding joint or individual Wills which sets out your wishes for your estate after you’ve died. Contact us to find out more on 0116 340 0094 or email hello@agrlaw.co.uk

Last year, the Child Support Collection (Domestic Abuse) Bill gained Royal Ascent. This means the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) will have greater powers to intervene in cases where parents have separated due to domestic abuse, providing improved financial protection for parents who have separated from perpetrators.

What does the CMS do?

Child maintenance ensures living costs are covered when a couple separates, and one of the parents no longer lives with a child or children. It may also be needed when the parents have never been in a relationship. To be eligible, the child or children must be up to the age of 16 or 20 and in full-time education.

The CMS acts in two ways – ‘direct pay’ and ‘collect and pay.’

  • Direct pay is when the CMS calculates how much needs to be paid voluntarily by the non-resident parent
  • Collect and pay is for when direct payments have been repeatedly missed. The CMS collects payments from the non-resident parent, and pays them to the resident parent

Why are the new laws needed?

Through the new laws, any resident parent whose former spouse or partner was abusive will be able to access child maintenance via collect and pay. They will be able to do this without having to prove that direct payments have been missed, and consent from the perpetrator will not be necessary.

This will mean the CMS will act on the resident parent’s behalf, meaning they will not need to be in contact with their abuser to arrange maintenance payments, though they will need to provide evidence of abuse.

This is a huge step forward in preventing financial abuse, emotional abuse and blackmail where a perpetrator withholds (or threatens to withhold) payments.

In addition, the new laws will:

  • Give the CMS power to report suspected financial abuse cases to the Crown Prosecution Service to help bring abusers to justice
  • Provide CMS staff with enhanced domestic abuse training
  • Waive CMS fees for domestic abuse cases
  • Trial one-to-one support for domestic abuse survivors

How did the new Bill come about?

In 2017, Emma Day was murdered by Mark Norris, her abusive ex- partner with whom she had a child. Her murder followed arguments between them surrounding maintenance payments. Investigations revealed Ms Day had made the CMS aware of the history of domestic abuse and the violent threats she had received from Norris.

South London Coroner’s Court’s Domestic Homicide Review urgently recommended an independent review into how the CMS supported parents who had experienced domestic abuse and needed to set up maintenance payments. This was carried out in 2021. It highlighted the need for the CMS to provide greater protection to its clients and a robust training programme for staff.

Dr Samantha Callan, who was commissioned to lead the review, said:

“As well as violence, there is now legal recognition that domestic abuse includes financial and other forms of coercive control which can continue to play out – or be initiated – after parents separate. My review highlights the pressing need for the Child Maintenance Service to help protect its clients from all forms of abuse and be aware that these can be perpetrated by the receiving as well as the paying parent and I am pleased the Government is acting on my recommendations.”

The Child Support Collection (Domestic Abuse) Act 2023 Bill had its first reading in the House of Lords in June 2022. It received Royal Assent in June 2023.

Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse can take all sorts of forms, including coercive control, emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, financial (or economic) abuse, harassment or stalking and online or digital abuse.

It is a crime, and the police and other authorities treat it as such. The perpetrator may try to convince you that the abuse is your fault and that it’s a normal part of being in a relationship, but this is not the case.

If you and/or your children are in immediate danger, ring 999 and seek police assistance. If you need non-urgent help:

  • Refuge (women) – telephone 0808 200 0247 (freephone, open 24/7)
  • Women’s Aid – livechat via their website or email helpline@womensaid.org.uk
  • Find a local domestic abuse service here
  • Respect (men) telephone 0808 801 0327 (freephone, 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday)

How can AGR Law help?

We specialise in Family Law and Domestic Abuse, and can help separating parents with childcare arrangements, child arrangements, financial matters and more.  Contact us on hello@agrlaw.co.uk or 0116 340 0094 if you need support.

The Worker Protection Bill has been updated meaning, from October 2024, employers will be duty-bound to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment proactively rather than redressing incidents.

The landmark new laws will bring about a much-needed culture change in workplaces where sexual harassment thrives.

What is sexual harassment in the workplace?

Legally, sexual harassment is termed as ‘unwanted conduct of a sexual nature’. It can range from inappropriate jokes to sexual assault and rape that has violated someone’s dignity and/or created an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them, whether it was intended or not.

Why are new laws needed?

The prevalence of sexual harassment at work is well documented by women’s organisations and trade unions. Our research shows that it is rife, with:

  • At least 40-50% of women and almost 70% of LGBT workers experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace
  • Four out of five people are reported as feeling unable to report sexual harassment to their employer
  • People of colour reporting higher rates of sexual harassment

How did the new laws come about?

A 2018 inquiry by the Women and Equalities Committee into sexual harassment at work, recommended that existing laws were enhanced to force employers to proactively protect workers and employees.

Sponsored by MP Wera Hobhouse, the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023 was first read in the House of Lords on 15 June 2022. Several organisations supported it including The Fawcett Society, USDAW (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers), and the TUC’s This Is Not Working Alliance. The Bill gained Royal Assent on 26 October 2023.

The Bill’s passage through Parliament

Although the Bill is welcome news, there were two significant alterations on its passage through Parliament. Namely, the draft Bill required employers to take ‘all’ reasonable steps to protect employees (not just reasonable steps, as per the final Bill) and the inclusion of harassment by third parties (such as clients and customers) in the course of employment was removed.

The changes were made due to concerns that free speech could be curtailed (with rules being imposed upon third parties as though they were employees) and the burden and costs placed on employers.

Campaigning for protection from harassment by third parties, in addition to employers’ preventative duties, may continue as the government committed to this reform in 2021. It formed a significant part of the draft Bill.

Our recommendations – be prepared!

To prepare for the new laws, we recommend reviewing and refreshing your policies and reporting processes to demonstrate a proactive approach to preventing harassment. You will need to include effective company-wide training and regular audits to ensure you can demonstrate the measures you’ve taken should a complaint occur, including one-off incidents.

Our experienced team offers business support compliant with the latest legislation to avoid potential liability.

Contact us to find out how we can help.

Nights out with friends, family and colleagues form a big part of most people’s Christmas and New Year celebrations, but others can spoil your fun by behaving inappropriately or illegally.

Below are some tips to help keep you and your party safe, ensuring you all have a good night without making yourselves vulnerable.

Before you leave

  • Charge your phone fully and have a trusted taxi number in your contacts list in case of emergencies. Put your phone somewhere safe, along with your keys, money/cards, ID and other valuables. Don’t put your wallet in your back pocket where it’s easy to pinch or lose
  • If you or one of your group is concerned someone may turn up and cause trouble, don’t share your plans with anyone beforehand. Don’t post, or allow your friends to post, anything on social media that identifies your location (or advertises that your house is empty) until after the event
  • Bars and clubs can become busy, so getting split up from your friends is easily done. Set up a group chat in case one of you gets separated from the others
  • Plan how you are going to get to your venue and home again:
    • If you need to be driven, pre-book your journeys beforehand with a licensed cab or arrange lifts with someone you trust. Keep enough cash back to make sure you can get home and try to travel together
    • Avoid walking anywhere alone if you can but, if you must do it, don’t take short cuts. It’s better to go a longer route which is well lit and has CCTV than walk down dark allies, through parks etc. Walk purposefully and phone someone if you can, but don’t let your call distract you from your surroundings. Strut safe is a phone line run by volunteers where you can talk to someone until you’re safely through your door
  • Decide on a codeword for emergencies so you can all leave immediately but discreetly if a situation arises
  • Make sure you have plenty to eat before you go out or plan a meal early into your night so you’re not drinking on an empty stomach

When you’re out

  • Try to stick together as a group. If you’re nipping to the loo or the bar tell someone and, ideally, go in a pair. Put a message in the group chat if one of you hasn’t been seen for a while. You can drop a pin or use what 3 words to locate each other if needed
  • Know your limits, and don’t let anyone pressure you into taking drugs or drinking too much. Pace yourself and have a glass of water between alcoholic drinks. If someone insists on getting a round in, ask for a soft drink if you don’t want any more alcohol. Remember, you’re more vulnerable if you’re under the influence
  • If you or one of your group has drunk too much, go outside somewhere safe for some fresh air and have a drink of water
  • Be aware of who is around you. Don’t accept a drink from someone you don’t know (especially if you haven’t seen it being prepared at the bar) and don’t leave your bag or drink unattended. If you suspect someone is spiking drinks, tell a member of staff. The police will need to be informed and someone may require medical assistance. Don’t invite strangers to your home or into a taxi

Here are some useful contacts if you need help over the Christmas and New Year period:

  • Samaritans – Freephone 116 123. Support is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
  • National Domestic Abuse Helpline – Freephone, 24-hour, 0808 2000 247
  • Mind – mental health helpline 0300 123 3393. Available Monday to Friday, 10am to 6pm. Closed on 25 and 26 December 2023, and 1 January 2024

AGR Law

The AGR Law team can support you with family law and commercial and personal services, including Wills, Power of Attorney and more. If you have any queries, contact us at hello@agrlaw.co.uk or call 0116 340 0094.

We’re closed from 4pm on Friday 22 December 2023 to 9.30am on Tuesday 02 January 2024.

The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill reached Royal Assent on 24 May 2023 following successful campaigning from charities including Bliss and the Rainbow Trust.

The Act allows the parents of children receiving neonatal care extra paid leave, enabling them to spend important time with their premature or sick babies and preventing them from having to choose between caring for their baby and returning to work.

Neonatal leave and pay has been on the Government’s agenda since the Conservative Manifesto in 2019 and was included in the March 2020 budget. However, despite consultations taking place to include the provisions in their Employment Bill, it was never introduced. Since then, Bliss has been working closely with MPs to introduce the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill.

Having a baby requiring specialist care in a neonatal unit after birth can cause a huge financial and emotional burden on parents. This incredibly challenging time, combined with the ever-increasing cost of living, means parents are currently often forced to take unpaid leave to be with their premature or sick baby.

We want to give you an overview of the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act and explain what it means for both employees and employers.

What is the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act?

The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act is defined as ‘A Bill to make provision about leave and pay for employees with responsibility for children receiving neonatal care.’

The key changes are:

  • The Act will provide additional paid leave for parents whose babies require neonatal care after birth, aiming to reduce the worry for parents about having to return to work or take unpaid leave, and allowing them to spend more time providing crucial care for their baby
  • It will allow parents to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave (for each parent), in addition to other leave entitlements, such as maternity and paternity leave
  • The change in law also ensures fathers and partners have the flexibility to share caring responsibilities by increasing the amount of paid leave they can access beyond the usual two weeks of paternity leave
  • The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act will fit alongside Shared Parental Leave, and the flexibility that this provides, which will mean both parents feel able to prioritise their child, and family, in that precious time after birth
  • Accrued neonatal leave is taken after an employee’s maternity leave ends. This is because maternity leave is triggered by the birth of the baby and cannot be paused and restarted

Who is eligible?

  • The parents of babies who are admitted into hospital up to the age of 28 days, and who have a continuous stay in hospital of seven full days or more, from their first day in a new job
  • Statutory Neonatal Care Pay will be paid if the parents meet certain conditions regarding a minimum continual service of 26 weeks with minimum earnings of £123 per week, the same as the Statutory Maternity Pay entitlement

When can parents benefit from the new legislation?

Unfortunately, it is estimated the implementation of the new law won’t be until April 2025, meaning parents won’t be able to benefit until then. However, many charities are lobbying MPs to call for implementation sooner so approximately 120,000 parents don’t miss out on this vital extra support.

What will the new legislation mean for employers?

According to the Bliss Employer Guide:

The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act provides an excellent opportunity to support employees during a challenging period of their lives. Currently, many employees take sick leave in lieu of any other paid leave option, and some leave the workforce altogether. By implementing a neonatal leave and pay policy, you will:

  • Ensure that the leave parents take is predictable (as far as it can be) for them, as well as for you as an employer
  • Improve retention by giving parents the time they need before returning to work
  • Improve your offer to prospective employees by including neonatal leave and pay as part of your benefits package
  • Help your employees focus on their job when they’re back at work – rather than worrying about a baby still unwell in hospital

How can AGR Law help?

We’re an award-winning law firm with offices in Leicester and Northampton. We also offer virtual appointments.

We advise individuals, families and businesses – specialising in family law, and personal and commercial services.  Contact us on 0116 340 0094 or hello@agrlaw.co.uk

If you read our September blog ‘five essential things to include in your Will’ you’ll know that choosing the right executors is crucial. In this blog, we explain the role of an executor to help you decide which of your friends or family will be most suitable.

Will executor duties

An executor is a person who is legally responsible for ensuring the possessions and assets of a person who has died are distributed as per their wishes.

Responsibility starts when the person dies. Unless an estate is small and straightforward, or if it’s held jointly with a surviving person, executors need to apply to the court for the Grant of Probate. This permits them to claim, transfer, sell or distribute the estate. Responsibility ends when everything has been passed onto the beneficiaries. This is known as the probate (or administration) period.

Up to four executors can be stipulated in a Will. When the Will is made, your solicitor may offer you extra copies to give to them, or you can give them your solicitor’s details so they know who to contact when you die. If nobody is named, responsibility falls to the deceased’s next of kin.

The executors are responsible for:

  • Calculating the assets
  • Calculating debts (mortgages, credit cards etc.) and selling assets to pay them off if needed
  • Valuing the estate
  • Sorting out the tax on any income generated by the estate, and dealing with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
  • Ensuring remaining assets are then distributed to beneficiaries who may be family, friends or charities
  • Keeping accounts to show how the estate has been administered

The probate period can take between six months and one year.

If there are several executors, they will need to agree where to hold money (this could be in a new, separate account), how withdrawals or payments are made from this account and what assets they need to sell.

Debts and taxes

Executors are responsible for paying any bills and unpaid taxes, applying for tax refunds, filling in a self-assessment form if needed and repaying any overpaid benefits.

They may also have to deal with people making a claim. By placing a notice in The Gazette anyone with an interest in the estate has two months to come forward. If the estate is distributed before this time and a claim is successful, the executors may have to pay it themselves. Placing notices in local newspapers can also help protect you from unexpected claims.

Executor of a Will HMRC responsibilities

Inheritance tax may need to be paid to HMRC. To do this, the executors need to identify assets and debts to estimate the estate’s value. This can take a long time, especially if the deceased had trusts or there’s tax to pay, so you need to be aware that there may be deadlines for payment and penalties if you don’t meet them.

How long do you need to keep the records of a deceased person?

HMRC can ask to see a deceased person’s records up to 20 years after inheritance tax has been paid, so it’s crucial that you keep:

  • A copy of the Will
  • Inheritance tax forms and supporting documents, including any unused inheritance tax threshold that can be transferred to a spouse or civil partner
  • Records showing how you calculated the value of the estate
  • Final accounts which show how money, property and personal belongings were distributed. Beneficiaries may need a copy of the final accounts too

How can AGR Law help?

An executor’s duties can be daunting, time-consuming, and complicated. Under the supervision of our director, Gina Samuel-Richards, we work with Satwinder Sidhu (a Private Client and Estate Planning Consultant) and Faizal Essat (a Legal Executive Advocate) to handle the probate process for you.

Find out more about probate or contact us on 0116 340 0094 or hello@agrlaw.co.uk

We’ve talked previously about the need to have a legally recognised and up-to-date Will, and the consequences of dying intestate, but we know drawing up a Will is daunting and easy to put off.

In this blog, we outline the top five essential things to put in your Will. Each point also includes tips to help you prepare for a Will-writing appointment. Next month, we’ll tell you all about executors and their roles, so look out for that.

Our top five things to include in your Will are:

  • Who do you want to benefit from your assets and property?
  • Do you have any debts?
  • Who will look after your children or pets?
  • Do you have any requests for your funeral?
  • Would you like any charities and good causes to benefit?

Who do you want to benefit from your assets and property?

In your Will, you need to state who you want to receive your assets and property when you die. Assets can include money in accounts, savings, pensions, shares, insurance policies, etc. Property can be valuable items such as houses and cars, or sentimental items such as wedding rings or things which have been passed down through the family.

It’s important to go into detail and ensure everything is covered, and that your Will is updated as your circumstances change. Even the closest families can argue over who gets what, so you need to put everything in writing to minimise disputes.

To prepare for your Will-writing appointment, you need to gather some documents. These include property deeds, insurance policies, share certificates, bank account details and other information relating to your assets. Also, list specific items that you want people to inherit. Remember, promising someone verbally they can have an item isn’t a legally recognised way of distributing your estate, so others may contest your wishes if they’re not specified in your Will.

Do you have any debts?

Debts, including mortgages and car finance, are paid off using money in your estate when you die. In the UK, debts aren’t passed onto surviving family members unless they’ve acted as a guarantor or co-signatory of the debt. If your estate can’t cover the outstanding money owed, debts will be paid in priority order and any remaining will be written off. If your estate is more than the total amount of money you owe, it will be distributed as per the instructions in your Will.

To prepare for your Will-writing appointment, gather documents relating to the above, list how much is owed and to whom, and how and when you are paying them off.

Who will look after your children or pets?

You need to specify who will have parental responsibility for children under 18 (who are classed as minors) in case there is ever a scenario where there are no surviving parents. Your named person or people, known as testamentary guardians, will have the same rights and responsibilities as a parent.

To prepare for your Will-writing appointment, think carefully about who you would like to be responsible for your child or children’s upbringing. You can prepare a Letter of Wishes which is not legally binding but can be placed with your Will to help guide your testamentary guardians. You can include your hopes for living arrangements, education and more.

You should also include pets in your Will in a similar way as above to help ensure they find a loving home and are looked after when you die. You can name someone to rehome them and allocate money for their care from your estate.

Do you have any requests for your funeral?

We know how hard it is to think about your funeral but, if you have specific wishes, it’s essential to include them in your Will. For example, you can state whether you want to be buried or cremated, have a ceremony or wake in a particular place, include some of your favourite music or ask everyone to dress in bright colours. Some people opt not to have a funeral at all.

To prepare for your Will-writing appointment, consider what you would like your funeral to be like. You may need to research costs (keeping in mind that they are likely to rise) and consider how they will be met.

Would you like any charities and good causes to benefit?

There are so many UK charities in need of financial support, and leaving a gift in your Will is an excellent way of giving to a cause you care about. Leaving a legacy gift may also have tax benefits, as inheritance tax is calculated after gifts have been deducted from your estate.

To prepare for your Will-writing appointment, think about the good causes you’d like to benefit. It could be a charity that has helped you or a family member, such as a hospice or care provider, or one who fights for a cause you care about, such as animal welfare or the eradication of domestic abuse.

Look out for our next blog

Another crucial element of your Will is who you appoint as executors. Look out for next month’s blog covering their role and responsibilities.

How can AGR Law help?

A Will is a legally binding document. Any errors can invalidate it, meaning you die intestate, and your estate may not be divided up as per your wishes. Any omissions can make resolving disputes longer, more complicated, and more expensive.

Having your Will drawn up by us will mean:

  • We won’t miss any elements that make a Will legally binding
  • We won’t miss off any of your money or property assets
  • We will help you plan for scenarios where one or both partners die
  • We can keep on top of alterations, such as marriages, divorces/dissolutions, deaths, house moves etc.
  • Your Will will be drawn up to consider the circumstances in which dependants can claim if they feel they’re not provided for

For more information, please get in touch with our experienced team by calling 0116 340 0094 or emailing hello@agrlaw.co.uk.

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