Thursday, July 24, 2014

What's The Deal with Holiday Contact for the non resident parent?

This can be an area of never ending dispute.Something that should be a pleasure turns into a battle. When parents separate some find it hard to accept that the other parent - who has different parenting values, skills and attitudes has a say in their child's upbringing. Couples who stay together argue over their differing parenting styles so this can become so much more acute when they are no longer a unit. The battle can be over winning - proving that they are right and they lose touch with the fact that a child is in the middle - suffering.

Here's what  happens:

1. Mum wants to know every detail of who is travelling, where they are staying etc but thinks nothing of moving her new boyfriend into her home without dad being told anything about him. 

2. Mum refuses to release the passport.

3. Mum refuses to allow the child to go skiing with dad.

4. Mum considers it is her right to veto what dad chooses to do.

5. Dad refuses to allow a change in the contact order (child care arrangements order Since April 2014) so that mum can take the children to Disneyland for 2 weeks

6. Dad refuses to allow the children to miss school and this is the only time mum can afford to go.

This is about the child's life. In every case if asked the child would respond:

"I want to go and I don't want to be in the middle and I don't want my parents to fight.  It's all my fault - if I had not been born they would not be fighting".

If the parent's cannot agree there is only one solution - an emergency Court Application. This can be effective and Judges are well used to dealing with such disputes. The Government likes people to Mediate - particularly in Children Act Applications.  Sometimes there is not time to Mediate. Sometimes the other party can deliberately delay matters with no intention of Mediating. Whatever the circumstances a Court Application can be made quickly if appropriate. Each case is decided on its own facts and the overriding principle is what is in the child's best interest. Where parent's views differ sometimes a judge is needed to decide.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Is £700,000.00 legal fees value for money?

Here is a post that was lying fallow in my draft box:

A Judge has expressed despair over a wealthy family that have legal fees in excess of £700,000.00 and their case is still focused on a preliminary issue as reported in The Telegraph

This is a long marriage of 43 years and involves the wife objecting to the husband gifting assets to their son which she deems unfair to her and her daughters. The husband lacks capacity and may need to be represented by the official solicitor.  He is worth £50 million, so perhaps the cost of £500000 each to gain millions is a price worth paying, or maybe they just need to fight.

Litigation involves a dilemma of mindset. The wife has a claim.  In simple terms her claim may be £80 out of a total of £100. She would accept £70. The husband believes she is due no more than £50 so he will risk £30 to avoid the guaranteed loss of £20. The wife will accept the guaranteed loss of £10 for the guaranteed gain of £20 in her offer. The closer the litigation gets the more likely the wife is to settle and the more likely the husband is to gamble.The dilemma of the defendant - although the risk of loss is a greater probability the thought of victory takes over.

What would you do if it was the last day of your life?

Settle or gamble?

Family litigation is a gamble.

Life is a game.

Make sure you are playing by the same rules.  When the knives are out they are out and turning back can become an impossibility.

You may win but at what cost?  And I am not talking about money...

What I do:

Outline the best and worst case.

Give you the odds.

Give my advice and opinion.

If you pay for advice the choice of whether you follow it or not is yours... after all it is only money.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Do you believe him? Scot Young on the Rack

Britain's most acrimonious divorce continues.

Scot Young is facing some tough questions.

Is he bankrupt or is he a liar hiding vast wealth?

Whatever he appears too clever for his own good.

As reported in the The Telegraph he is facing this interrogation due to financial irregularities.

What is unusual:

1. He owes people vast sums of money but they are supporting him financially.

2. Seems odd that they don't therefore lend or give him some money for legal representation.

3. He is accused of faking his own bankruptcy.

4. His wife has uncovered what appears confidential documents and  is able to rely on them.

5. He gave his daughter an old laptop. Even if he was broke this does not make sense. 

6.  His business connections and friends are being made to give evidence.

His wife is prepared to settle for £300 million and her legal fees paid. Is that a touch greedy maybe? What message does this case give to wealthy individuals contemplating marriage? 

How will they extract the money from Mr Young even if he is found to be lying? He has already shown that he is prepared to go to prison.

What if he is not lying?  How will his wife's lawyers get paid? Not sure anyone will be worrying about them but the whole case appears a gamble from both sides.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Not Bad Enough to Leave, Not Good Enough to Stay?

Some people live in relationship limboland for years. They can't decide whether to leave or stay. Their relationship is tired, they may argue, they may live separate lives, however they avoid change. Why?

Reasons people stay in relationships that are not working:

1. Fear of change.

2. Fear of loneliness.

3. Fear of the unknown.

4. Loss - of money, family, friends and social life and the life that they know.

Reasons people don't try to improve relationships that are not working:

1. Anger

2. Resentment

3. Laziness

4. Pessimism

5. Fear of change

There is a report in The Telegraph that states that divorce and separation costs the country £50 billion per annum. There is a suggestion that the government should set up a national relationship strategy, what ever that means.

In order to save money and potentially help people make an informed choice I suggest the following:

1. Make divorce easy and remove the seven step antiquated procedure and instead offer divorce on the ground that one party wants to divorce.

2. Make every couple attend one session with a relate counselor before filing the petition. Free to everyone.

Counselors do not tell people what to do, they do not tell people to leave, they do not tell people to stay in unhappy relationships. A good counselor will help people uncover whether their relationship is worth saving or whether it is over.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Child rearing - who's views prevail? Mum or Dad's?

Mum wants you to have long hair and dad short.
Mum wants you to be a vegetarian and dad thinks you need the protein from meat.
Mum wants you not to go skiing and dad wants to take you on a skiing holiday.
Mum wants you not to have treatment for your brain tumour.
Mum wants you not to see dad's girlfriend.
Dad wants you to join scouts.
Mum wants you to be brought up a strict catholic.
Mum wants you to go to private school.

The list can go on forever.  There is opportunity to argue about every aspect of a child's life and it can cause problems when couples are still together.  But what when they separate? Who wins?

Each parent has parental responsibility and has a right to their view being taken account of in important aspects of a child's life - schooling, religion.  Day to day decisions are left to the parent whom the child is with - so dad can set a different bedtime and diet if he wishes.

Some people refuse to share this parenting role and the children are put in an impossible position.

In a recent case reported in The Telegraph a mother would not allow her 5 year old son to see his father because she wanted him to be a vegetarian and was worried the father would feed him meat.  The Judge has threatened to remove the child from the mother's care if she does not support contact with the father.

Adjusting to two sets of rules is hard for children.
Living between parents who hate each other is hard for children.
Choosing between parents is hard for children.

It is obvious so one can assume that all parents know this, but for some their priorities are on punishing their ex and not their children's welfare.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Divorce for over 60's on rise...

More people over 60 are getting divorced, which is the opposite trend to the rest of the nation's age groups.

The Telegraph cites the following reasons:

1. People are living longer so don't want to stay forever in an unhappy relationship. (Not if you have another 30 years left anyway...).

2. Less stigma attached to divorce (surely that has been the case for 30 plus years?).

3. That old silver fox...  men with a wandering eye syndrome.  (I blame viagra).

I have a few ideas of my own:

1. There are more people married who are 60 plus as marriage becomes less popular so the 60 plus age group makes up a bigger slice of a diminishing cake.

2. Some of these are second or third divorces.

3. Companionship has been replaced by gadgets.

4. Relatives are now encouraging them to divorce as opposed to pressurising them to stay together.

5. Religion has lost it's standing in our society, for the white ethnic group of which a large majority of the 60 plus age group will be.

6. The state will support you again. There is a void when people's children leave home where they are  forced to be more financially independent of state support unless they are in the benefit system per se.

7. Options... the world has opened up a lot more.

Fascinating.  There are lots of reasons why people divorce at whatever age.  However, divorce can only happen when one or both parties no longer place a value on the relationship.   

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Children Lose Contact with Their Father

A recent report has stated that a total of 1 million children of England and Wales have lost  'meaningful contact' with their father upon their parents separation and divorce. 'Meaningful contact' is defined as seeing their father at least twice per year. In certain areas of Liverpool, over 60% of the households are in this group. They are brought up by single mothers and it is reported that they live in male desserts as it is reported that there is no male teachers at their primary school.

How can the government improve this new situation? There are many reasons why parents lose contact with their children;
  1. They were never involved in the first place. For example, the mother became pregnant and was not in a committed relationship.
  2. There is extreme acrimony between the parents.
  3. There is no pressure upon them either from themselves or society to maintain a committed relationship with their children.
  4. The relationship with the child has broken down either due to their behaviour or their ex-spouse's behaviour... the term parental alienation is not recognised by the courts but children can be turned against the non resident parent by the resident parent.
  5. There is a history of domestic violence.
  6. Geography, such as the mother living a long way from the father, and finances prevent contact taking place.
People are quick to judge single mothers and also non-resident fathers.

An in depth study of the profile of this group of children is needed to gather any strategic plan. If a large majority of these children are born  to mothers who have no relationship with their fathers with no means of earning to support them, why is this? Is it the fault of the benefit system or the lack of opportunity to these young girls who see having a child as their most favourable financial option? Perhaps this make it too small minority, and perhaps the vast majority of these fathers are what used to be termed as feckless. How to you prevent young men from becoming feckless? Is it too easy to create a child in today's sexually free society? So how can we turn the clock back? Is it even desirable to do so? The power of statistics taken out of context creates alarm and prejudice.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Increase in Child Abduction Cases

There is a reported increase in the number of child abduction cases:


1.  Ease of international travel results in more international relationships.

2.  Reduction in cost of international travel.

3. Increased reporting in the media.  In the past a number of people may have been victims without the resources or knowledge to seek help.  Social media helps bring matters to the public's attention, quickly and cheaply.
If you are in an international relationship and you fear the risk of child abduction exists what can you do? 
    1. Get legal advice immediately.  This is one area of law where delay can be fatal to the future outcome

    2.If your ex partner lives in a country which is a signatory to the Hague Convention then an application to return the child to their country of residence is likely to succeed.  This means that the courts  local to the child's home will decide where the child will live.

    However, speed is critical as there are a  number of defences which include acquiescence and the child having a new established place of residence.

    3.  If you suspect your child is about to be abducted border alerts can be put in place and you can obtain the return of the child's passport.
     This is a highly complex area of law.

    If you are the victim of child abduction it is likely that you will be eligible for free legal advice in England and Wales

    As in most things - prevention is better than cure so seek advice as soon as you suspect your partner or ex partner is contemplating abducting your child. 

      Tuesday, June 11, 2013

      Why Do I Need a Consent Order?

      In a recent case ( Vince v Wyatt), a former traveller, whom at the time of his divorce was on state benefits, had the unwelcome news that his ex wife was seeking a share of his  multi-million pound fortune 20 years after they had divorced. After they separated in 1984, he had set up an eco-green telephone system which became popular at Glastonbury and his company Ecotricity Ltd. subsequently expanded to be worth £90 million pounds. His ex wife sought a share of this and via an initial application at the High Court sought payment from him in advance for her legal fees at £150,000.

      Her ex husband went to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal agreed that this was an abuse of process. That the ex husband had no prospect of winning his payment for her legal fees back even if he had won on the claim she made against him. The ex-wife, was still on benefits and her life had remained one of poverty.

      Unlike civil proceedings where there is statutory limitations limiting claims to 6 years, in matrimonial finances there is no long stop date. However, the Court of Appeal pointed out that the court will not consider flimsy and unmeritorious claims. The parties have made a mistake of not obtaining a Consent Order upon divorce and finalising their claims,  however the length of delay since the divorce was so extreme that the court held that it was unreasonable and unlikely that the wife could succeed on making her claim against her husband. 

      This case highlights the situation that if your finances are to improve in the future, you do risk  your ex-spouse coming back for a share if you do not have a clean break Consent Order upon divorce. The ex husband succeeded in having the ex wife's claim strike out however, he still had substantial legal costs to get to that stage; and the stress of going to court and facing the risk of potentially losing half his fortunate was an unwanted stress. His solicitor stated that her client had been put in an impossible position.

      It is therefore important to get a clean break Consent Order upon divorce if you and your partner have no assets or substantial earning capacity in order to remove the possibility of the above scenario. If you have assets and a reasonable income the chances of your ex-spouse making an application to court at a future date and succeeding is considerably higher. It is therefore even more important to ensure that matters are finalised upon divorce. Many people consider this to be unnecessary as they are not interested in their ex-spouses and have no interest in their money, however people change so circumstances change, and the costs of dealing with the matter later are far worse than dealing with it at the appropriate time.

      Thursday, April 18, 2013

      Any point in having a Consent Order on Divorce?

      One compelling reason:

      Legal finality.

      What are the problems if I don't have one?

      Your ex spouse can come back at any time in the future and make a claim against you, regardless of how much money you have given them to go away, regardless on how fair your agreed division was.

      A recent case where the couple had been divorced over 10 years and the husband won the lottery resulted in him having to make a lump sum payment to his wife.

      If you remarry without opening your claim (ie you are the Respondent to the divorce and do not defend nor   issue a financial application) you lose all rights to make a claim on your own remarriage.

      What's the problem with that?  There was a case last year where the husband was due to receive a share of the matrimonial assets and remarried before the Consent Order was sealed by the court and lost his rights to his share.

      I explain what a Consent Order is here

      What is a Consent Order?

      We offer a fixed fee service here

      Fixed Fee Consent Order