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August 2020

What is a Child Arrangements Order?

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One of the most difficult parts of going through a divorce or separation is the impact it will have on any children involved. Couples with children may have to have a Child Arrangements Order when divorcing or separating. This is a court order that regulates who the child is to live with, and how much time will be spent with either parent.

If you and your ex-partner can easily agree on these things, you may not need a Child Arrangements Order. You can then avoid going to court hearings and you do not need any official paperwork. It can be difficult to come to an agreement however and even if you do, you may still want to make your agreement legally binding.

Who can apply for a Child Arrangements Order?

A Child Arrangements Order is commonly applied for by separating parents, however this is not always the case. Sometimes one of the parties may not be a biological parent, or may be a guardian or other relative. For example, grandparents may apply for a child arrangement order in a situation where one or both of the child’s parents has passed away or if they are having difficulty arranging to see their grandchildren.

what is a child arrangements order?

In order to apply for a Child Arrangements Order, you must have some sort of parental responsibility for the child. For example:

  • A parent, guardian or a special guardian
  • Someone who currently has parental responsibility of the child
  • A person in a marriage or civil partnership when the child is a child of the family (even if they are not a biological parent)
  • Anyone who has residence order in respect of the child, or who has lived with the child for three years or longer-term

Anyone else who wishes to seek a Child Arrangements Order can only do so if they apply to the court for permission first.

Agreeing on a Child Arrangement Order

Any parent wants to do what is right by their child, but it can be difficult to know exactly what that is sometimes. You’re not expected to know it all and it’s not easy to reach an agreement, so there are routes for you to take for some extra support. You could start with mediation. A mediator provides third party, unbiased advice and help on deciding what is best for the child going forward. This includes:

  • Where the child lives
  • When they spend time with each parent
  • When and what other types of contact take place (phone calls etc)
  • Child maintenance payments

At the end of mediation, if an agreement can be reached you’ll get a document detailing what has been agreed, however this is not legally binding. If you were unable to agree on suitable terms, or you would like the terms to be legally binding, the next step is to enlist the help of a solicitor to draft a consent order for a court to approve. A consent order is a legal document that confirms your agreement, signed by both you and your ex-partner.

what is a child arrangements order?

A solicitor will also be able to help by providing advice on deciding the terms of your Child Arrangements Order, drafting legal documents and agreements, legal advice during the mediation process and help filling in forms. They will also help by if necessary, preparing evidence and supplemental information for court hearings.

Once the Child Arrangement Order is applied for, the Court schedules a ‘directions’ hearing to encourage the parents to reach an agreement that takes into consideration what is best for the child. If this is not possible, further hearings can be scheduled where evidence can be filed and witnesses can be called. At the final hearing, the court reviews all of the evidence and statements, and makes a final decision which is put into an order of the Court.

When doing so they will primarily consider:

  • The wishes of the child
  • The child’s emotional, physical and educational needs
  • Any danger of abuse or neglect
  • The ability of the child’s parents/guardians to meet the child’s needs
  • The effects on the child of any changes in circumstances as a result of the order

Can you make changes to a Child Arrangement Order in the future?

Let’s say that five years down the line you decide to make some changes to the Child Arrangement Order. Family circumstances change over time and particularly as a child gets older, so it’s understandable that you might find yourself needing to make some adjustments.

what is a child arrangements order?

If you and your ex-partner both agree to any changes, then you won’t be breaching the order by departing from its terms. That doesn’t mean that the changes you’ve informally made are legally binding however, unless the order is formally varied by in court. If you want to be sure that there will be consequences if anyone breaches these new terms, you will need to involve the Court.

What happens if one of us breaches the Child Arrangements Order?

The Court can help you decide on the details of a Child Arrangements Order, but once in place it does not monitor any breaches. It would only become aware of a breach if a formal application for an Enforcement Order is made by either party. This will be investigated by the Court and if necessary, an Enforcement Order will be issued. When making an Enforcement Order, the person in breach could be faced with a warning, a fine, community service or in the worst cases, a prison sentence.

When the child reaches the age of 16, the Child Arrangements Order is usually redundant, unless the order specifically states otherwise. From this point, it’s up to the child to decide how much contact they would like to have with the parent they don’t live with – but they must remain living with the parent detailed on the order until they reach the age of 18.

How Bromfield Legal can help

Childcare arrangements are often the main worry in divorce or separation. We understand this as childcare arrangement solicitors and experts in children’s matters, and we will aid you with resolving issues about where a child should reside and who they should have contact with.

We understand that court action should be a last resort, so will always endeavour to resolve issues before this happens. For support with your Child Arrangements Order, get in touch with us today.

What am I entitled to in a divorce?

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Going through a divorce can be really upsetting and unsettling. It’s one thing to lose a marriage that you’ve perhaps been in for years, but everything that comes with may it be left in the lurch too; your children, your property and your finances.

Part of the divorce proceedings is working out who is entitled to what share of the family assets, and this can be a complex process. There are no specific guaranteed entitlements for either person when it comes to getting a divorce as each marriage is unique and everyone’s circumstances must be assessed individually when trying to reach a divorce settlement that works for each party. What you’re entitled to can be a difficult question to answer, but we can hopefully offer some clarity.

What assets are split in a divorce?

Assets can be split into two categories in a divorce; matrimonial assets and non-matrimonial assets. Matrimonial assets are assets that have been acquired during the marriage by you and your partner such as your family home, pensions, savings, personal belongings and cash in the bank.

divorce

Non-matrimonial assets are inherited assets or assets brought into the marriage. These are financial assets that were acquired before entering into the marriage and could be property, pensions or a business. These are usually treated differently to marital assets but aren’t necessarily excluded from a divorce settlement. It depends on the individual circumstances. For instance you might have inherited some money, but you then used that money to purchase a car for the family. The car may then be considered a matrimonial asset.

How would these assets be split?

You might initially think that any matrimonial assets – particularly finances – should be split 50/50 and non-matrimonial assets left to whoever they legally belong to. There is no rule or law to say that assets should be split equally. There are a number of different factors to consider, including:

  • The needs and welfare of any children under the age of 18
  • The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each of the parties within the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future
  • The financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each of the parties has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future
  • The standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage
  • Any physical or mental disability of either of the parties to the marriage
  • The contributions which each of the parties have made or are likely in the foreseeable future to make to the welfare of the family
  • The duration of the marriage

The hope is to come to a mutual agreement on the fairest way to split assets but if there is a need for the court to step in and get involved, assets will be split with the above factors in mind.

Splitting finances

When splitting finances, your divorce solicitor will usually break any finances down into three areas:

  • Capital claims – properties, shares and savings
  • Pension value
  • Income – including any from additional property rentals etc

finances

Even though finances aren’t always split equally, it’s usually the starting point when working out who should have what. From there, the individual circumstances are taken into account. Splitting finances will always be more straightforward if both parties agree to the divorce and if the on-going relationship is not bitter, if there’s not children involved (or if there are, that they are grown up and financially dependent), if one of you isn’t financially dependent on the other and if you agree how your property and pensions should be split.

Who is entitled to our property?

A family home is often the most valuable asset within a marriage – not only financially but emotionally too. There’s a few different options when dividing a house within a divorce:

  • Sell and share – both parties move out of the matrimonial home and split the sale proceeds between them in an agreed way
  • Buying out – one party can buy the other out of the property and become the sole owner
  • Transfer of value – one party transfers some of the value of the property to the other person. The spouse leaving the home would not then own any of the property but would keep a stake in the home value, meaning that if/when it got sold then they would receive a share of the sale proceeds
  • Unchanged ownership – one party will continue to live in the house but the ownership of the property remains unchanged

house

What about if only one person’s name is on the property deeds? Does that mean they have full control over the property? Ultimately, yes you may take the property back as yours – however it’s not quite that simple. Your ex-partner still has matrimonial home rights. This means that even if a property is not in someone’s name, they have a right to live there until the marriage ends if it is their matrimonial home. Once the divorce is finalised however, this may end their right to live there so it is by no means a permanent solution.

What happens to our pensions?

Dividing pensions in divorce can be a complex part of the process that your divorce solicitor and pensions advisor are probably best handling. Not all pensions can be divided in a divorce, however. Pensions that can be split include:

  • A personal pension scheme (includes Stakeholder and Self Invested Personal Pensions)
  • Workplace pensions such as a defined benefit scheme or defined contribution scheme
  • Any part of your entitlement to the new State Pension that is ‘protected’ and built up under the old pre-April 2016 Additional State Pension

When it comes to splitting these pensions, they are commonly dealt with in one of the following ways:

  • Pension sharing order – you’re given a percentage of any one (or more) of your ex-partner’s pension funds by court order
  • Pension offsetting – the value of any pensions is offset against other assets. For example, you might agree to keep the pension fund and your ex-partner might agree to keep the family home
  • Pension attachment or ‘earmarking’ – some of your pension at retirement is paid to your ex-partner, or vice versa. This can be done in either a lump sum, or as part of the pension income – or both
  • Individual agreement – between both parties, you might decide to forgo any claims on pension assets in favour of a more balance settlement of other divorce terms. For example, one party might get better child access arrangements, or child maintenance if they agree not to claim against the other part’s pension assets

How we can help

If you’re going through a divorce, you don’t need us to tell you that it can be difficult. The last thing you need though is the headache of trying to split all your assets alone whilst trying to come to terms with big life changes. Although it is possible to arrange everything on your own, we would always recommend using a solicitor.

reach

Whether that’s booking in for a couple of advice sessions to help you get your head around what you might be entitled to, or whether that’s using a solicitor to help you through the whole process; we’re here to make the process simpler, smoother and quicker.

Here at Bromfield Legal, we are experienced in family and divorce law. We will always do what is right and fair to obtain the best outcomes for our client in a divorce. For more information on how we can help, please contact us.