Family Law, Divorce & Children Archives - Palmers Solicitors
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Family Law, Divorce & Children

‘No-fault’ divorce delayed to April 2022

‘No-fault’ divorce delayed to April 2022

The Government has confirmed that the implementation of ‘no-fault’ divorce will be delayed from ‘autumn 2021’ to April 2022.

Described by ministers as “the biggest reform of divorce law in 50 years”, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 will enable couples to part without having to wait two years or having to apportion blame for the breakdown of the marriage.

The in-built adversarial approach of the existing divorce process has been criticised by family lawyers for fuelling conflict and leading to unnecessarily bad outcomes for families.

Since the Act gained Royal Assent – the final stage in the legislative process – more than a year ago, the Government says it has been working to amend court processes and forms to accommodate the change in the law.

Announcing the delay in a Parliamentary Written Answer, Justice Minister, Chris Philp, said: “While this delay is unfortunate, it is essential that we take the time to get this right.

“The new divorce process will work to reduce conflict, which is especially damaging for children, and will reflect work the Government is undertaking through the Reducing Parental Conflict programme.

“That programme will build the evidence on what works to reduce harmful levels of parental conflict below the threshold of domestic abuse, working with local areas to help them embed support in their local services for families.

“We will also use this opportunity to strengthen signposting to family mediation as a means to resolve arrangements for children and division of assets on divorce.”

Sarah Dowie, a Associate Solicitor with Palmers, who specialises in family law, said: “The further delay means that, under current rules, a person petitioning for divorce must provide one of five reasons to demonstrate that their marriage has broken down irretrievably; namely adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion for at least two years, two years’ separation with the consent of both parties or five years’ separation if contested.

“Despite the current divorce laws, it is still possible to deal with separation and divorce amicably and round table discussions can be arranged, allowing couples to work through the practical matters that need to be resolved.”

For help and guidance on matters relating to divorce, separation or maintenance order payments, please contact us.

What is a cohabitation agreement and how can it protect my finances after separation?

What is a cohabitation agreement and how can it protect my finances after separation?

The latest statistics reveal that more than 100,000 couples applied for divorce in England and Wales last year – representing the largest annual percentage increase in nearly 50 years.

However, the true number of separations could be much higher, as those who do not legally marry are rarely included in official figures.

This also means that potentially thousands of cohabiting couples in England and Wales separate each year without the legal protections afforded by marriage.

Here, Sarah Dowie, an Associate Solicitor with Palmers, explains why unmarried couples should take steps to protect themselves in the event that they decide to go their separate ways:

What is the difference between marriage and cohabitation?

Contrary to popular opinion, cohabiting couples do not acquire the same legal rights as married couples and are financially vulnerable in separation compared to married couples.

Couples who live together but do not marry, for example, are not automatically entitled to a share of their partner’s estate or pension when they die, or property and maintenance payments upon separation.

How can cohabiting couples legally protect themselves in separation?

Cohabitation agreements are commonly used to decide how assets, such as property, motor vehicles and finances, should be split in the event of separation.

As a legally binding document, it can go into great depth and can include almost any financial matter, from rent, mortgage and household bills to joint bank accounts and pensions.

A cohabitation agreement can also be used to decide who children (and pets) will live with, and in combination with a written Will to state how you would like your assets distributed on your death.

While cohabitation documents can be drafted during your relationship, it is important to write them early to avoid conflict further down the road.

For more information about cohabitation agreements, please contact us.

How has the pandemic affected family law hearings? – Check out our latest podcast

How has the pandemic affected family law hearings? – Check out our latest podcast

The current remote system for family law hearings has been in place since the coronavirus pandemic began in spring 2020, as a result of ‘stay at home’ measures being introduced and social distancing becoming commonplace.

But how have the changes affected the system of dealing with family law matters?

In our latest podcast, our expert team at Palmers Solicitors discuss the system and how it has changed. They also consider whether any changes that we have seen might be here to stay.

You can listen to our latest Blended Families podcast here.

We have already covered a range of topics which are still available to listen to, including: divorce demystified, drink and drug driving, e-scooters explained, driving with mobile phones and blended families.  [links to each podcast]

Make sure you subscribe to Palmers Solicitors’ podcasts to receive our latest updates.

Separation agreements – how they can help if coronavirus is delaying divorce proceedings

Separation agreements – how they can help if coronavirus is delaying divorce proceedings

The breakdown of a relationship can be a hugely stressful time. Couples who have already been experiencing marital tensions, may have found the past few months particularly difficult – with the effects of the lockdown and financial worries adding to an already difficult situation.

However, the practical considerations involved in divorce are much more difficult at the moment.

Family Court hearings are currently being delayed or held remotely and even when they reopen fully, there will inevitably be a backlog of cases to deal with.

This is where a separation agreement can be helpful.

Surjit Verdi, a Partner with Palmers and Head of Family Law explained: “A Separation Agreement or Deed of Separation can be used where a couple cannot, or prefer not, to issue divorce proceedings immediately but wish to resolve the issues arising from their separation.

“It can be extremely useful as it records that a couple intend to live separately and it may also refer to a Divorce taking place at some point in the future.

“Importantly, the Agreement will usually deal with financial arrangements such as the sale or transfer of the family home.

“Arrangements for children can also be included in the Separation Agreement, such as child maintenance payments and how much time they spend with each parent.

“Where a couple are separated, but still temporarily living under the same roof, the Separation Agreement can deal with short term financial arrangements such as the payment of the mortgage and bills. It can also cover living arrangements within the house.”

It is important that certain procedural requirements are met for a Separation Agreement to be recognised by the Law so advice should be sought from a solicitor who is a specialist in this area of divorce law.

Palmers’ Family Law experts are at hand to assist with all Family Law matters including Separation Agreements. For more information, please contact us.

No fault divorce moves closer to royal assent

No fault divorce moves closer to royal assent

England and Wales have moved one step closer to ‘no-fault’ divorce as the landmark Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill received its second reading in Parliament this month.

The long-awaited legislation – described as the biggest ‘shake-up’ of family law in almost 50 years – had been postponed, initially due to the 2019 General Election and then as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Surjit Verdi, a Partner with Palmers who specialises in family law, said: “The new laws, first announced in April last year, will introduce major reforms for divorcing couples, including the introduction of ‘no-fault’ divorce.

“Under this change, separated couples will no longer be required to attribute blame to either party, removing the need to prove one of five grounds for divorce, such as adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, or two or five years of separation.”

The bill will also scrap so-called ‘quickie’ divorces by increasing the minimum waiting period between the initial petition stage and when the court grants the provisional decree of divorce to at least 20 weeks.

Including the existing six-week waiting period between the granting of the decree nisi and the decree absolute, a divorce will now take a minimum of six months to process – around double the current average time.

The second reading comes after recent figures revealed that divorce enquiries in the UK surged following the introduction of Covid-19 lockdown measures.

According to new figures, published by a national law firm, the number of couples enquiring about divorce increased by 42 per cent in March compared to the same period a year ago.

The authors of the study pointed to underlying tensions, such as financial concerns and tensions as a result of couples being in constant close confinement.

For advice and support with all aspects of family law including divorce, please get in touch with our expert team.

Employees returning from parental leave continue to be eligible for furlough scheme

Employees returning from parental leave continue to be eligible for furlough scheme

Employees returning from statutory maternity and paternity leave in the next few months will remain eligible for furlough through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

Since 10 June, it has no longer been possible to furlough an employee for the first time, with the Government set to introduce part-time furlough from 1 July onwards. To facilitate this, the scheme will only be available to employers that are using the CJRS and employees that have previously been furloughed.

Because workers must complete 21 days of furlough to be eligible for part-time furlough, this means that the cut-off date for employees to be placed on furlough leave was Wednesday 10 June.

However, employees returning from parental leave will be eligible for the CJRS as they return to work, with further details set to be announced by the Government imminently.

The CJRS has helped more than one million employers so far, with more than one quarter of the UK workforce being furloughed.

Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, said: “When I announced these changes to the furlough scheme last month, I was clear that we wanted to do this in a fair way, that supports people back to work as the country begins to re-open following coronavirus.

“But for parents returning from leave, their circumstances has meant that they are still in need of support, and I’m pleased that they will be able to receive the financial assistance they and their family will need.”

For specialist employment law advice relating to furloughing employees returning from parental leave, please contact us today.