Advice about relationship breakdown
At Roper James we understand how distressing the breakdown of a relationship can be. Our experienced family solicitors will provide you with clear, sensitive, and effective advice at this difficult time. We use our expertise to consider the needs of the whole family, especially any children. Our family lawyers are members of Resolution First for Family Law and follow their code of practice, which promotes a constructive approach to family issues. Further details about Resolution are available here www.resolution.org.uk
No two relationships are the same. We will take the time to listen to you and advise you about the best way forward for your personal circumstances, whether you are looking for advice about the breakdown of a marriage, civil partnership, or separation from your cohabitee.
We can advise you all the way through divorce proceedings, from the preparation of the application for divorce through to the making of Decree Absolute which formally brings the marriage to an end. If you have received an application for divorce, we can discuss with you the best way to respond to it.
Following the breakdown of a relationship, it is important to seek clear, practical, professional advice about how to reach a fair settlement with as little conflict and expense as possible. We can provide timely expert advice to help set your divorce on the right course and reduce stress.
In our experience, most financial settlements can be negotiated through solicitors without the need to go to Court. It is vital, however, that any agreement reached is set out by your solicitor in a formal Consent Order and approved by the District Judge. This provides finality and certainty, and will be required to make any pension sharing arrangements.
Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution approach which can be quicker and cheaper, and may reduce conflict. Rather than going to Court, the aim is to try to reach an agreement with the help of a trained mediator. We can refer you to mediation, and advise you on any proposed settlement, which could then be written up as a Consent Order for the Court’s approval.
Anyone wanting to make an application to the Court in a family case must, with a few exceptions, consider mediation as the first step. The mediator will assess at an intake meeting whether mediation is suitable.
DIVISION OF ASSETS
There are several factors set out in the Matrimonial Causes Act which a judge is required to balance to achieve a fair settlement. We can advise you about these factors, and their impact in your particular circumstances, to help negotiate a settlement which the District Judge will approve.
Broadly speaking, all assets which have been acquired over the course of a marriage will be considered in any financial settlement. This includes the house in which you live, as well as any other property you may own, savings, investments, and pensions. There may be exceptions depending on your circumstances, which we can advise you about.
PENSION SHARING ORDERS
It may be appropriate for there to be a pension sharing order, to provide equality of income in retirement or a fair capital settlement. The first step would be for each of you to obtain a valuation of your pension entitlement from your pension provider. The exact percentage of the pension to be shared is an actuarial calculation and would require a specialist report. Each individual pension scheme has its own requirements, and we can advise you about your options.
Common law marriage is a myth. The law in England and Wales does not regard those who live together but are not married (cohabitees) as having the same status as those who are married, or in a civil partnership, when it comes to separation. It is important to seek advice as soon as possible about your position.
One of the ways in which cohabitees can protect their position is with a Cohabitation or Living Together Agreement, setting out from the outset what each partner’s entitlement would be in the event of separation. We have considerable expertise in drafting these agreements and would be happy to discuss your proposals with you.
It is important to make sure that the impact of any relationship breakdown upon children is minimised, and to remember that the relationship between a child and their parent is quite different from that between you and a former partner.
Parental Responsibility describes all those rights, duties, and responsibility which a parent has for their child. Where the parents are not married, a father will have Parental Responsibility provided that he has jointly registered the birth with the mother, or they have a Parental Responsibility Agreement. If it has not been possible for the parents to agree, we can help negotiate arrangements for children to spend time with each of their parents, or help you with court proceedings under the Children Act.
For step-parents, we can prepare Delegated Parental Responsibility Agreements, where the parent delegates some of their Parental Responsibility to their new partner. We can also help grandparents to negotiate arrangements or to apply to the Court for an order that children spend time with them too.
In circumstances where a couple are bringing assets into the marriage, such as property or savings, we can prepare a pre-marriage agreement (Pre-nuptial Agreement) which is a contract between you setting out your intentions should the relationship break down.
Although such agreements are not binding in England and Wales yet, they are likely to be upheld by the Court provided that the terms are fair and that it has been drawn up with both parties having independent legal advice, and giving full financial disclosure to each other, at least 3 months before the marriage itself.
CO- HABITATION AGREEMENTS
Statistically more people now live together than get married. Frequently, young couples set up home in property which has in part been funded by their parents. The parents may, understandably, wish to protect their investment in the property in case the relationship breaks down. In these circumstances we recommend that, in addition to any Declaration of Trust, the couple enter into a Cohabitation Agreement clearly stating how the money for the property has been provided and how it is to be divided should they separate.
We charge for the time spent dealing with your case on the basis of our hourly charging rate. At our first meeting we will provide you with an estimate of the costs and review it as your case proceeds. We will ask you for a payment on account before starting work and will bill each month or when the costs on your case exceed £250.00 plus VAT. We ask that bills are paid within 21 days of delivery.
If we agree a fixed fee with you, we will provide you with written details of the work included in that fee. We will also inform you in writing of any further work that may be required.