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.

Deciding who lives where when you separate is one of the trickiest aspects of negotiation. There are many variables but, in the eyes of the law, the outcome usually depends on your relationship status and who is named as owner or tenant of the property. Other considerations include whether you have children under 18 and/or any dependents (such as elderly parents) living with you.

Below we describe some common scenarios and your rights in each situation.

If you jointly own (or are buying) your home

If you jointly own or have a mortgage on your home you will both have a legal right to remain in the property, even if you’re unmarried or not in a civil partnership. This also means that if your partner moves out, they still have a right to return unless a court order prevents them from doing so. There are two types of joint ownership; ‘joint tenancy’ and ‘tenancy in common’ as stated on your title deeds:

  • Joint tenancy is where you both own the whole home together
  • Tenancy in common is where you each own a share of the property, which may be equal or unequal

If your relationship has broken down, you may wish to change your tenancy from ‘joint tenancy’ to ‘tenancy in common’ otherwise your share of the property may go to your ex-partner if you die before you agree on what to do with your home or have had the opportunity to alter your Will. We can give you more information on that and discuss your options.

If you’re both named in the title deeds and your partner wants to sell your home, but you wish to remain, you may be able to buy their share of the property. Conversely, if you want to move out and they wish to stay, they may be able to buy you out. If the remaining partner needs to take a mortgage out, they will have to prove they can afford the repayments alone. Once a mortgage is arranged, a solicitor will transfer ownership on the land registry.

If your ex-partner owns the home and you aren’t on the title deeds or registered as owner

Unmarried partners

Partners living together but not married or in a civil partnership have very few rights, including the automatic ‘home rights’ that others in a legally recognised relationship enjoy.

If your ex-partner owns the home, and you’re not named on the title deeds or registered as an owner, you may be able to apply to the court to allow you to stay. The court may grant you the right to remain if you have a child or children under 18 or you can prove that you have contributed to your home financially and that your ex-partner considers the property to be yours too.

Married couples or civil partners

If you’re not on the title deeds or registered as the property owner, but you’re married or in a civil partnership, you can register with the Land Registry to stop your partner from selling your home or to ensure you’re informed if a mortgage company wants to repossess your home.

If you’re both renting your home

Tenancy agreements can vary greatly but, generally speaking, if you have a joint tenancy agreement you both have a right to stay even if you aren’t married or in a civil partnership. If one of you wants to remain in the rented property, you will need to ask your landlord to transfer the tenancy to the sole occupier. We advise to do this as soon as possible as there is a risk that one partner giving notice on a jointly rented house may end the tenancy for both of you. We also advise getting all communications and agreements with your landlord in writing, and that any changes to the occupation of the property ends one agreement and begins a new one to ensure there can be no confusion over who is responsible for paying rent and bills.

The tenancy is only in your ex-partner’s name and you want to stay in the home

Unmarried partners

Your ex-partner may ask the landlord to transfer the tenancy to you if the relationship is amicable, or you may be able to apply to the court. Permission to stay may be granted if you are the primary carer for children and/or dependents who live with you.

Married couples or civil partners

If you’re married or in a civil partnership, you have the same ‘home rights’ as those who own homes. If you wish to remain in the property and a court determines that is the best solution, they can order that the tenancy is transferred to you as part of a divorce or civil partnership dissolution.

What to do if you can’t agree on what to do with your home

If you and your ex-partner can’t decide who will live where, a mediator can help you by encouraging positive and productive conversations until you reach a conclusion. If you cannot find a solution and your situation calls for the court to get involved, a judge will typically divide the value of your home between you. They will consider the needs of any dependents when deciding who should live where.

Are you experiencing domestic abuse?

If you need to move out or want your partner to leave due to domestic abuse, please look out for next month’s blog, ‘My living arrangements need to change due to domestic abuse. What do I do?’ which will be on our website at the beginning of August.

AGR Law

We can support you with any matters relating to relationship breakdown and housing. Please contact us on 0116 340 0094 or hello@agrlaw.co.uk to arrange a virtual or in-person appointment with a member of our experienced team.

If you read our blog ‘civil partnership and marriage – which is right for you?’ you’ll know that one of the few differences between the two is how they are legally ended. Marriages are ended with a divorce, and a civil partnership is dissolved. You can apply for a legal separation if you’ve been married or in a civil partnership for less than one year.

The law around divorce and dissolution changed in April 2022, when no fault divorce came into effect. We wrote about it HERE but, in brief, the main points are:

  • One of the couple no longer has to accept blame for the relationship breaking down. Previously, couples had to cite a reason for separation, such as adultery, domestic abuse or desertion, or you had to live apart for at least two years. This caused bitterness and resentment between couples whose divorce or dissolution would have otherwise been amicable
  • You can solely apply for a dissolution or divorce, and your spouse can no longer contest it. Joint applications are still accepted, but applying individually means you won’t remain trapped in a relationship you no longer wish to be in

What do you need to consider when applying for a dissolution?

As with all separations, dividing up assets and planning your financial future can be complicated. It may be especially overwhelming if you’re upset and feeling uncertain, or if children or your wider family are affected.

There is a great deal to think about, and getting calculations and valuations correct before an agreement is finalised is vital. Some common considerations are:

  • Pensions – some pensions allow you to move money from your partner’s pension into your own, offset the value of a pension against other assets, or a portion of a pension may be earmarked for a former partner when payments begin
  • Owned/mortgaged property – we can help you work out how much equity is in your home, where any children may live or continue to live, whether one partner can buy the other out or whether it is necessary to sell the jointly-owned home and find two new properties
  • Savings, investments and money in bank accounts – we can help you divide these up, taking into account your earning ability, living expenses, age and other considerations such as disabilities and financial responsibilities
  • Debts such as overdrafts and credit cards – we can help you make a plan to pay off any debts as part of your financial settlement
  • Assets – we can support you in deciding how belongings are divided up, including cars, white goods and furniture, plus more sentimental items
  • Maintenance payments – these may be needed to help cover a child’s or children’s living costs when one of the parents no longer lives with their child or children. We recommend having a legally-binding agreement in place (rather than negotiating terms between you) as payments may be missed which aren’t enforceable

How can we help you?

As you can see from the above, separation and finances are complicated areas of law. You don’t want to leave anything to chance, so we always recommend seeking legal advice for dissolutions.

Unless the relationship is abusive, we endeavour to help you settle terms constructively using mediation to avoid asking the court to draw up a financial order. This involves a trained mediator listening objectively to both points of view. The mediator doesn’t take sides but suggests practical steps you can take to reach an agreement you’re both happy with. As members of Resolution, we take a constructive approach to family law issues that considers the whole family’s needs.

Mediation isn’t free but is quicker and cheaper than going through the courts. You may be eligible for vouchers or Legal Aid if you have children or are on a low income. Please contact us for information.

Mediation also ensures that both partners are fully aware of the financial situation, as one person often handles household finances.

Mediation is the right option for us – what now?

Mediation can be used for any areas of your dissolution that you disagree on but, as this blog is about reaching a financial settlement, we want to tell you how you can make the most of your first session. We’ll need to see details of:

  • Your income – your salary, wages, benefits plus any bonuses you expect
  • Your living expenses – including the rent or mortgage on your property, travel, food and utilities
  • Debts – anything you owe, including credit cards and loans

Bring any statements or bills to your first mediation appointment. You and your partner need to be honest about finances throughout the dissolution process otherwise your agreement may be invalid, and you may have to go through the courts to get a fairer share.

AGR Law

For more information about how our experienced team can support you, please email hello@agrlaw.co.uk or call 0116 340 0094. We offer virtual and face-to-face appointments.

When separating couples approach us for help, one of the biggest worries they have is financial stability and supporting their family.  The stress of the last few years has put a considerable strain on some relationships, and the current cost-of-living crisis has increased tensions further. Sadly, whilst this may be the cause of several breakups, it’s also the reason estranged couples have no choice but to remain under one roof as they are unable to afford two homes.

We thought it would be helpful to tell you what financial support may be available to you and, later in our blog, how you can manage your relationship if the only option is to continue living together.

Are you entitled to financial support as a single person or parent?

Please note, the below refers to residents in England; the advice may not the same for those living in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Benefits

You may be able to claim Universal Credit If you’re looking for a job or you’re on a low income and need support to cover the costs of housing, children and childcare, remembering that childcare costs may rise if you live as a single parent. To find out if you are entitled to financial support, click HERE

Council tax

Households with only one adult may be able to get a discount on their council tax bill, depending on where you live and other circumstances. You can find out more HERE

Child maintenance

If your partner or spouse doesn’t live with your child as part of your family, but they are their legal, biological or adoptive parent, they will have to pay maintenance to their main carer to support them up to the age of 16, or 20 if they are in approved education or training.

There are several ways you can arrange child maintenance:

  • You can arrange it with the other parent voluntarily
  • You can have maintenance calculated and collected under a government scheme
  • It can be arranged by a court order
  • If you are getting divorced or ending a civil partnership, child arrangements will form part of this process

If you are arranging maintenance yourself, we recommend (even if your separation is amicable) that agreements are put in writing and you take notes of conversations you’ve had. If this is your preferred option but you’re not sure where to begin negotiations, or you’re afraid the process will be difficult, we can help you find a solution with mediation.

Legal Aid

If you need legal help but are worried about costs, your case may be eligible for Legal Aid. Eligibility depends on several factors, including if you or your family are at risk of harm or abuse or if you need family mediation. Find out more about how we can help you HERE

What if the only option is to stay living together?

Sadly, we see cases where couples would prefer to instigate divorce or live separately but are forced to stay under one roof due to finances, so are unable to move on from their situation. According to experts, the number of couples unable to afford separation doubled last year. Surveys also suggest that 30% of couples are staying together because of financial concerns.

Living separate lives whilst still cohabiting is a tricky situation, but it can be bearable short-term unless the relationship is abusive which we cover below.

When separation is slower it can be more amicable. Here is some advice for managing your relationship:

  • Try setting boundaries, such as giving each other space
  • Decide how you are going to co-parent and try not to let your spouse or partner down
  • Try not to keep secrets from each other
  • Decide what you want to do, who you want to see and where you want to go individually now rather than as a couple
  • If you’re not sure whether separation is the right thing to do you can try a trial separation, such as staying with family or friends for a short time, and then see how you both feel
  • Try to support each other. You’re both in the same boat trying to make the most of your situation
  • Set some time aside to discuss how you can save money. Not only will this give you extra funds to put towards your solo futures, but it might also enhance your relationship. Cancelling TV subscriptions may result in more conversations and cooking together rather than going out for meals or getting takeaways might give you both something to focus on and enjoy
  • Be prepared for people not to understand your situation. Splitting up but remaining living together will sound odd to some, but you don’t have to explain yourself if the burden of running two homes is too much in the current economic situation

Financial and economic abuse

As the saying goes, ‘money is power’ and that’s true in a lot of domestic abuse cases where financial and/or economic abuse is taking place.

  • Financial abuse can take several different forms, including controlling the victim’s access to money (even that which they earn themselves), misusing money, using credit cards without permission, gambling with jointly owned assets, drawing up contracts in the victim’s name and refusing to pay child maintenance
  • Economic abuse is when a perpetrator restricts access to money for basic essentials such as food, clothing, transport, employment, training and education

Financial and economic abuse rarely happen in isolation and is often one behaviour in a pattern of coercive control.

As we’ve said before, there is no excuse for domestic abuse of any kind, and that includes stress or pressure caused by the cost-of-living crisis. If you or your family are in immediate danger, call 999 and seek help from the police. Refuge has a freephone, 24-hour helpline you can call for advice: 0808 2000 247

Do you need help?

Our team are family law specialists offering the best legal advice, representing you where needed and understanding that separating is an uncertain and worrying time.

Call us on 0116 340 0094 or email hello@agrlaw.co.uk if you need our advice or support.

The first Monday back to work after the new year is dubbed ‘divorce day’ as solicitors see a rise in enquiries from unhappy couples. Reasons for this typically include stress from money worries post-Christmas, spending more time together over the festive period and too much drink leading to arguments.

Last April, the long-awaited no-fault divorce reforms became law. We thought it might be helpful to clarify the main changes to help you decide whether divorce is the right option for you.

What was the main change?

With the new no-fault divorce law, couples can now legally separate without assigning blame to either party for their relationship breaking down.

Previously, you had to be separated for two or five years or a reason had to be cited. Reasons included adultery, unreasonable behaviour and other such allegations regarding the conduct of one of the couple. This led to ill-feelings from the beginning as one person had to shoulder the blame.

Couples can now produce a statement saying that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. Talks are far more constructive and focus on key areas, such as living arrangements, children and finances. Negotiations are steered firmly towards you, your spouse and your family’s futures, rather than accusing each other for the marriage breaking down.

Why was change needed?

The reforms were the biggest changes to divorce law in almost 50 years. The law now better reflects why modern marriages fail and allows those who have grown apart but remain amicable the opportunity to divorce without conflict.

The language used is also now clearer and more up-to-date. For example, ‘the petitioner’ is now known as ‘the applicant,’ the ‘decree nisi’ is now a ‘conditional order,’ and the ‘decree absolute’ is called a ‘final order.’

What are the other benefits of no-fault divorce?

The concept of contesting a divorce has been removed, so an individual can apply without the other party agreeing. This means nobody can remain trapped in a marriage they want to end, and abusive spouses are no longer able to contest a divorce as a tactic to prolong their behaviour.

Some groups were concerned that the new laws would result in divorces which hadn’t been properly considered, but couples must contemplate their decision with a compulsory period of reflection. This lasts a minimum of 20 weeks from the date of application when a conditional order will be made. There is an additional minimum six weeks between the conditional order and the final order.

Is legal representation still needed?

Even though divorcing is now more amicable and less complicated, legal representation is still needed. A divorce is legally binding, and the terms cannot be changed once they’ve been agreed upon. It’s imperative to make sure every aspect is carefully considered, and that the paperwork is in order with all the details correct.

Divorcing can be a highly emotional time. Even if you and your spouse agree it’s the best course of action and you remain friends, it still marks the end of a marriage which was likely once the happiest time of your life. It’s a huge decision to make and there is a great deal to consider. Any anxiety, pressure or opinions from friends and family may prevent you from thinking clearly, so it’s best to talk through every aspect with an experienced legal professional.

We can also guide you through the legal consequences of changing your marital status, such as possible changes to your tax and pension.

What is AGR Law’s role in divorce cases?

Unless the divorce is due to domestic abuse or a similar circumstance, we always encourage couples to plan their separation constructively through mediation. This is where we help you find a workable solution that suits both of you. The mediator won’t take sides or tell you what to do, they are neutral and there to facilitate conversation so that it keeps moving forward until terms are agreed upon.

Through mediation, we:

  • Prepare documents for court
  • Advise on financial matters including the family home, pensions, savings and investments
  • Advise you on what you are and are not entitled to and help you negotiate
  • Advise disputing parents on childcare, contact and maintenance payments

As well as being able to resolve the practical elements of your divorce, we understand that the process can be an exhausting and uncertain time. Our experienced team deals with divorce cases every day, so will be able to offer emotional support to you as well as the best possible legal advice.

What if an agreement cannot be reached through mediation?

Mediation isn’t suitable for every divorcing couple, and sometimes the only solution is to go to court. We’re experienced in this and prepared to fight your corner, no matter how challenging your case may appear.

We can:

  • Instigate court proceedings and represent you
  • Prepare cases for presentation to the judge
  • Communicate with your spouse via their solicitor if conversation is not possible between you

If you’d like to find out more, email us at hello@agrlaw.co.uk or call 0116 340 0094

The theme of Resolution’s Good Divorce Week 2022 (28 November to 02 December) is ending the family court crisis.

With the number of divorces rising, courts are facing an unprecedented backlog, and couples have to wait on average 52 weeks to conclude proceedings. This leaves important matters unresolved for too long, increasing uncertainty and anxiety for the couple and their family.

Resolution, the association of 6,500 family justice professionals of which we are members, is highlighting the crisis through Good Divorce Week. They recently surveyed members, and the results show:

  • 90% said court backlogs were causing additional and unnecessary stress and pressure for clients
  • 34% said they’d referred a client to a counsellor or therapist to help them cope with the stress of ongoing court delays
  • 20% said court delays caused clients to rely on benefits

The latest statistics

Statistics show:

  • There were 113,000 divorces in 2021, that’s a rise of nearly 10% on the previous year
  • Private children cases were down by 7%, but they are taking on average nearly a year to reach a conclusion. That’s six weeks longer than the previous year
  • Estimates suggest it takes nearly two years to resolve financial matters

What does that mean for divorcing couples?

The delay leaves couples in limbo, putting the family’s life on hold and meaning they cannot move on for too long.

This has a knock-on effect on every aspect of day-to-day life. Children may suffer the consequences of the delay more as they may not know which parent they will be living with, how much they will see the other parent and even which school they will be going to until the divorce is finalised.

#ABetterWay – resolving disputes away from court

We work with families through separation, so we recognise that divorcing can be stressful and traumatic for everyone involved.

As Resolution members, we adopt a constructive and non-confrontational approach to resolving family issues. We encourage separating couples to agree divorce terms, such as finances, division of assets and living and children arrangements, through mediation. This method is more amicable, prevents lengthy and costly court battles, and ensures you have more control of your future.

You can find out more about the benefits of mediation HERE

What can you do?

As part of Good Divorce Week, Resolution is raising the issue of the court crisis in Parliament with MPs and peers. They are also highlighting options that are available to families to resolve disputes outside of the court. If fewer cases went to court, those that need to be dealt with by a judge (such as divorce cases involving domestic abuse) could be dealt with quicker.

Resolution is asking as many people as possible to contact their MP to encourage them to get involved in the campaign. They have produced a template that can be personalised, and they ask for any responses to be forwarded to them.

Find out more HERE

If you’d like advice on any aspect of divorce, contact us on hello@agrlaw.co.uk or call 0116 340 0094

After years of campaigning, divorce law changed in April and couples can now separate or dissolve a civil partnership without having to apportion blame. One of the other big changes in the ‘no-fault divorce’ reforms is that divorces can no longer be contested.

Before no-fault divorce

Before no-fault divorce became law, one of the couple filed for divorce citing a period of separation or their partner’s behaviour as the reason.

Their partner could contest it if they wanted to remain legally married. There could have been several reasons for this, such as believing the marriage could be saved with help from a counsellor or they may have been unable to move on and couldn’t accept that their partner wished to either. They could also have objected to the grounds of the divorce. For example, if they were accused of adultery or unreasonable behaviour, they could deny it.

These cases would have gone to court where a judge would have heard evidence from the couple and their witnesses and decide who is telling the truth.

Contesting a divorce was rare but, when it occurred, it made the process longer and far more pressured for everyone involved. One well-known contested divorce case was Owens vs Owens which began in May 2015.

Mrs Owens petitioned for divorce, citing Mr Owens’ unreasonable behaviour had led to the marriage breaking down irretrievably. Mr Owens contested this. In court, the judge decided that the example allegations given by Mrs Owens were ‘flimsy’ and the context and seriousness of them had been ‘exaggerated’ so the petition was dismissed.

Mrs Owens appealed, but The Court of Appeal was satisfied that the judge had correctly applied the law so the case was dismissed. In 2018, Mrs Owens appealed the decision again and the case was heard by the Supreme Court. Once again, Mrs Owens was unsuccessful in persuading the court that Mr Owens’ behaviour was unreasonable enough under the law as it stood at the time.

What about now?

With no-fault divorce now law, the right to contest a divorce has been removed. Instead, after a petition has been filed, a minimum 20-week period of reflection has been introduced to give the couple time to work through their differences and ensure that divorce is the right way forward.

This has also alleviated concerns that the new laws will lead to ‘quickie’ divorces and couples ending marriages without proper consideration.

What if one of the parties doesn’t want to divorce?

Often a couple will jointly decide that the marriage has broken down but, with the new laws, an individual can still make a divorce application without the other party agreeing.

We predict that there will be very few cases where one of the couple wishes to remain married when the other one doesn’t. When the laws were passed, the view was that both parties should consent to marriage and it’s unfair to trap someone in a relationship they want to leave, like Mrs Owens. The new laws will also prevent anyone defending a divorce as a tactic to continue abusing their spouse.

With the process also now more amicable and streamlined, we believe that very few divorcing couples (if any) will be disadvantaged by the new laws.

Call us on 0116 340 0094 or email hello@agrlaw.co.uk if you need advice.

Divorce rules changed significantly from April 2022, when the long-awaited no-fault divorce became law. We talked about this in a previous blog, so look there for more details.

As part of any divorce process, decisions need to be made about how to separate finances once the marriage is dissolved. As well as maintenance payments to help pay for children or living expenses, couples need to consider:

  • Debts, loans and credit cards
  • Savings and investments
  • Any pensions or life insurance they have in place for the future
  • Property and contents
  • Businesses
  • Vehicles

The agreement is called a ‘financial settlement’. It is made legally binding when the court approves a consent order drawn up by a solicitor.

How long does a financial settlement take?

How long it takes to decide on a settlement typically depends on how good or bad the relationship is between the divorcing couple and how complicated their finances are.

If a solution can’t be decided upon through mutual agreement or with mediation from a solicitor, a judge may need to decide how your financial affairs are split through a financial order. The court will look at several aspects, including earning capacity and how long the couple has been married, but children’s needs are always prioritised. For example, accommodation must be provided for children and therefore for their main carer too.

Going through the courts will be more costly, take longer and increase stress significantly so we advise that couples avoid this if possible. The exception is if the relationship was abusive when communication between the couple is not feasible and Legal Aid may be available to help cover the costs of legal proceedings.

What might you be entitled to?

There is a presumption that the assets will be shared 50/50 and the breadwinner and homemaker are treated equally. It is up to the party who feels they should be entitled to more than 50% to consider if any of the factors laid within the law apply to their specific situation. Other factors such as pre-nuptial agreements and the needs of the children can influence division of assets.

Where do you start?

We advise couples to begin planning their day-to-day finances by considering the following:

  • Joint accounts, loans and credit cards. You may need to contact your bank to let them know you’re divorcing and open separate accounts for wages and salaries. Consider freezing cards to prevent any dishonest behaviour
  • Assess your circumstances by considering what you have, how much you owe, what you earn, how much you pay out each month and then look at how everything could be split
  • Try to discuss and factor in what is going to happen next. For example, is the family home going to be sold for two smaller houses or can one of you afford the family home on your own?

Why do I need a legally binding financial settlement?

Financial insecurity can be one of the most worrying aspects when going through a divorce.

The courts will always aim for the divorcing couple to be financially separated. This is called a ‘clean break’ and means there will be no ongoing financial disputes between parties. If a clean break cannot be achieved on divorce, the court can order maintenance to be paid for a fixed period with a view to arranging a clean break in the future.

In England and Wales any unresolved financial issues, even once the marriage is legally dissolved, mean either of the party can make a claim against the other’s wealth or future earnings. Claims can be made at any time and are only considered compromised after three years have passed since the finalisation of the divorce. This is one of the reasons why we always try to ensure money matters are settled fully as part of the divorce process wherever possible.

How can AGR Law help?

Our professional team work with you to negotiate a secure financial agreement, guiding you and identifying any loopholes along the way. We believe mediation is key to finding an amicable solution and keeping costs down, but we also have the knowledge and expertise to strongly defend your case if it needs to go to court.

Call us on 0116 340 0094 or email hello@agrlaw.co.uk to find out more.