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The ideal time to purchase your first home

The ideal time to purchase your first home

For many years, reports have dominated the media suggesting that the UK is suffering from a so-called housing crisis – with younger Britons increasingly struggling to secure a place on the nation’s property ladder.

However, recent data suggests otherwise – and changes to Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) introduced at the end of last year now provide hope for future would-be homeowners.

“Following important SDLT cuts introduced in November last year, there has never been a better opportunity for young Britons to save big when purchasing their first home,” says Caroline McCullagh, property and conveyancing expert with Palmers Solicitors.

Towards the end of 2017, the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, abolished SDLT for first-time buyers on all homes valued up to £300,000 as part of his Autumn Budget announcements.

“This means that new homeowners can potentially save thousands of pounds when purchasing their first home,” Caroline explains.

Evidence has already surfaced suggesting that the changes are proving hugely beneficial.

Towards the end of January, high street lender Halifax published data suggesting that the number of first-time homeowners in the UK had soared to a 10-year high of 359,000.

Since the changes were first announced, critics of the Chancellor’s big move have voiced concerns that the Government has failed to address the growing issue of would-be homeowners hoping to get on the property ladder in expensive locations such as London and South East England, where prices are considerably higher than in other parts of the country.

However, Caroline explains how even those first-time buyers who wish to purchase a property valued at more than £300,000 can still benefit from the changes.

She said: “During the Budget, the Chancellor also introduced a substantial SDLT cut for first-time buyers purchasing residential property up to £500,000.

“Homebuyers in this situation will now no longer pay SDLT on the first £300,000 of the property’s value – which can still make for significant savings,” she said.

Palmers Solicitors advise on all aspects of Property Law. For more information, please contact Caroline McCullagh or another member of our South Woodham Ferrers Property team at enquiries@palmerslaw.co.uk.

The art of the amicable divorce

The art of the amicable divorce

Divorce is often thought of as a confrontational matter. This idea is exacerbated by the fact that, in order to divorce through the Courts within two years of a split, couples are expected to demonstrate that their marriage has broken down ‘irretrievably’ on grounds of unreasonable behaviour – a task which can often lead to ‘playing the blame game’.

In recent years, commentators have been calling for the introduction of no-fault divorce in England and Wales, which would enable couples who share a desire to split amicably to do so in a less confrontational way.

A divorce does not need to turn into a bitter, argumentative dispute.

Kevin Double, Consultant and family law expert with Palmers Solicitors, explains: “Contrary to popular belief, if a couple has fallen out of love on non-confrontational terms and both parties are willing to pursue an amicable split, there are other options available aside from lengthy Court battles.

“The trick is finding the right solicitor – someone who truly understands the situation and has the right background and experience to help you draw up a fair agreement and get this swiftly approved by the Family Court.”

Kevin said that couples should always consider the bigger picture – such as the impact on children and finances – before diving head-first into bitter disputes.

“By communicating your intentions clearly and rationally with your partner and understanding each other’s needs, it is entirely possible to divorce amicably. This can help to avoid any unnecessary acrimony – which is crucial, especially in sensitive cases involving children,” he said.

“Naturally, this is easier said than done. But with the right patience and the right advice, it can be achieved.

“Whatever steps you take, the key is always to work through your own concerns without ignoring those of the other party,” he said.

Palmers Solicitors advise on all aspects of Family Law. For more information, please contact Kevin Double or another member of our South Woodham Ferrers Family Law team at enquiries@palmerslaw.co.uk

Child contact for divorced parents during Christmas time

Child contact for divorced parents during Christmas time

The Christmas period is an important time for families – particularly those who have children. But the festive season can often pose a problem for divorced or separated couples, who may find themselves fighting over child access during the Christmas holidays.

Kevin Double, Consultant and family law expert with Palmers Solicitors, explains why and how difficult disputes can arise – and what parents can do to minimise disagreements and ensure children are not negatively affected.

“Divorced or separated parents can often find themselves at loggerheads during the Christmas period, often due to a lack of forward-planning and communication in terms of child contact arrangements over the holidays,” he says.

Kevin adds that Christmas time can be particularly difficult for “non-resident parents” who rarely see their children – and that “resident parents” who have custody need to take this into account.

“In situations such as these, it is important for non-resident parents to know their rights – and for resident parents to take these into consideration and weigh-up the wider implications of preventing their ex-partner from seeing their children at Christmas.

“Assuming there aren’t any serious welfare concerns, it is wise for both parties to start planning for appropriate holiday access as early as possible and to try and reach some form of agreement about dates and times well in advance,” he says.

“There are options for parents which can be agreed ahead of time – such as alternating who gets to spend Christmas Day with the children each year or even having ‘two Christmases’ each year.

“If there is a court order in place, parents should act in accordance with any pre-agreed Child Arrangement Orders,” he said.

Child Arrangement Orders, which regulate the arrangements relating to contact with children after a divorce or separation, have taken over old-fashioned Contact Orders and Residence Orders in recent years.

“Mothers and fathers are able to apply to the Courts for a Child Arrangement Order if they are having trouble reaching an agreement and such an Order has not already been put in place,” Kevin says.

“Such documents can ‘set in stone’ child access arrangements, providing clarity for both parties and reducing the likelihood of any disputes.”

Palmers Solicitors advise on all aspects of Family Law. For more information, please contact Kevin Double or another member of our South Woodham Ferrers Family Law team at enquiries@palmerslaw.co.uk.

The link between school summer holidays, divorce and separation

The link between school summer holidays, divorce and separation

Longstanding research suggests that the period immediately following the school summer holidays is prime time for divorce and separation in the UK.

It is thought that approximately 40 per cent of all marriages will end in divorce – and that the vast majority of relationship breakdowns will take place either in September or in January, following either the school summer holidays or Christmas break.

Kevin Double, Consultant and family law expert with Palmers Solicitors, explains why the summer holidays can often intensify existing tensions between couples.

He says: “The summer is widely regarded as a time of family fun and bonding; a time of exciting trips abroad and barbecues on the beach. For those couples who might already be growing apart, however, this can be far from the case.

“Most UK couples – especially those with children – will spend a lot more time together during the summer than they would normally and this in itself can spur on a feeling of ‘too close for comfort’.

“Perhaps the differences between the two of you will grow more apparent, or the stress of juggling work commitments and child care will lead to an increase in arguments.”

According to Kevin, the problem has been exacerbated in recent years by the rise in popularity of social media.

Kevin explains: “Social media encourages people to keep a close eye on what their friends are up to at all times – including other couples. Many people today spend a lot of time editing and perfecting their summer holiday photos and shouting about all of the exciting things they have been up to.

“In many cases, this can spark jealousy and unrealistic expectations concerning what married life or ‘a happy couple’ should look like – which can inevitably lead to arguments fuelled by a lingering feeling of dissatisfaction. This can pose a particular problem for those couples who are already experiencing issues.”

If you and your partner have been experiencing relationship difficulties, it is always wise to act fast and seek specialist legal advice at the earliest possible opportunity – particularly if you are considering divorce or separation. This will help to minimise the likelihood of a bitter dispute later down the line.

Palmers Solicitors advise on all aspects of Family Law. For more information, please contact Kevin Double or another member of our South Woodham Ferrers Family Law team at enquiries@palmerslaw.co.uk

The complications surrounding children’s holidays when parents are separated

Recent media reports have shed light on some of the issues which may arise regarding children’s holidays – particularly in cases where parents are separated.

Experts have warned of an increase in bitter disputes between separated parents, which can often arise when one parent wishes to take their child abroad, but their ex-partner disagrees with the idea.

Kevin Double, Consultant and family law expert with Palmers Solicitors, says: “So-called ‘missing passport’ disputes can often end up before the Courts if it has not been previously agreed between the parties who should hold a child’s passport.”

Recent stories highlighted by the press have illustrated that even if an agreement is set in place regarding which parent will hold a passport, some hostile parents may refuse to hand over a passport – or allege that it has been lost or stolen. Complex and bitter disputes are likely to follow.

Kevin says: “Such disagreements can be very stressful – and ultimately upsetting for the child involved, who may be disappointed by crushed dreams of a trip to Disney World.”

But not all of these disagreements boil down to hostile parents, Kevin says.

“In some cases, a proposed holiday may legitimately be inappropriate for the child. For example, a parent may wish to take the child abroad during term-time – which could lead to educational and financial losses, or the holiday proposed could be seen to put the child at risk in some way, perhaps if they suffer from certain medical complications. In these instances, the other parent’s opposition to the holiday may be entirely appropriate,” he says.

“We would strongly advise that separated parents agree who will hold a child’s passport early on, in order to minimise disputes later down the line.

“Parents planning or opposing a trip should also think very carefully about what is best for the child’s overall wellbeing,” he adds.

“If a dispute does arise, however, and parents find themselves seeking the Courts’ assistance, this can be dealt with on an urgent basis if the need arises.”

Palmers Solicitors advise on urgent applications to the Court as described above, and all other aspects of family law. For more information, please contact Kevin Double at our South Woodham Ferrers team at enquiries@palmerslaw.co.uk

Palmers Solicitors appoints new conveyancing executive to keep up with home-buying demand

Palmers Solicitors appoints new conveyancing executive to keep up  with home-buying demand

Residential property transactions are on the rise, with the latest data from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) revealing that 1,231,120 home purchases made their way past the completion stage in 2016 – that’s 5,150 more than in 2015.

Furthermore, data suggests an upward trend towards the end of the year, while separate studies suggest that a record number of first-time buyers managed to get a foot on the property ladder in 2016. In fact, according to high street mortgage lender Halifax, the number of first-time buyers completing on home purchases hit a nine-year high last year.

But whether you are purchasing a home for the first-time, downsizing or moving on to bigger and better things, buying a property is one of the most important – and stressful – purchases any person is ever likely to make, and it is important to have experienced, expert advisers on hand to guide you through the complex conveyancing process step-by-step.

Palmers Solicitors has a large Residential Conveyancing department, whose solicitors and conveyancers have over one hundred years of experience between them. Our team specialise in advising people in and around Essex, South East England and beyond on property purchases, residential conveyancing and more.

This month, we will be welcoming new conveyancing executive Caroline McCullagh to our team, who will be bringing her extensive background in all aspects of conveyancing – including particular experience in advising on complex leaseholds and unregistered titles – to Palmers Solicitors’ South Woodham Ferrers team.

Caroline is widely experienced in dealing with high value private client matters and clients referred from agents both in the local area and nationwide. In her spare time, she enjoys combat sports such as Airsofting – a pellet-based variation of paintball.

Palmers Solicitors advise on all aspects of conveyancing, property sales and purchases. Our experts are also able to advise on the more complex areas of residential property law, including leasehold enfranchisement and land acquisition. For more information, please contact our South Woodham Ferrers team at enquiries@palmerslaw.co.uk.