Monday, September 25, 2006
For many same sex couples the change in the law in December 2005 to allow them to have a wedding and get married under the label of a Civil Partnership has been welcomed as another obstacle removed in the fight against discrimination.
Given that there is no case law available to Judges to consider in the Dissolution of a Civil Partnership, and given that Marriage and Civil Partnership breakdown are covered by the same statutes, Judges will no doubt refer to Divorce case law for guidance.
WHAT DOES DIVORCE CASE LAW TELL US?
There is a distinction between short marriages and medium to long term marriages in the treatment of Capital. However, there is a but, AND ITS A BIG ONE. In cases of seamless cohabitation, i.e. short marriages of 1 to 5 years with a period of cohabitation immediately before, Judges in recent cases have included the period of cohabitation as counting towards assessing the length of the marriage or relationship.
WHAT IMPACT WILL THIS HAVE ON PEOPLE ENTERING CIVIL PARTNERSHIPS?
It is likely that many same sex couples have cohabited for a considerable period of time, given that they have been unable to marry or have a Civil Partnership until recently. They need to be aware that an early breakdown of their formalised relationship may not be treated as a short affair by the Courts. They need to seriously consider the financial implications and the benefit of a Pre-Nuptial/ Pre-Partnership Agreement.
We all know heterosexual couples who lived together quite happily for years, then as soon as they got married, their relationship collapsed. This strange phenomenon could affect homosexual people too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
The Work and Pensions Minister, John Hutton, announced on 24th July 2006 that the Child Support Agency was to be abolished. Why? Because it was too expensive and failing (in other words rubbish) at collecting Child Maintenance from recalcitrant parents.
GREAT. WHAT WILL IT BE REPLACED BY?
A tougher, more streamlined body. A simpler system that will encourage people to make their own arrangements and have tougher measures of enforcement.
Encouragement to Do It Yourself (DIY) includes -
- Stop making parents with care who are on benefits make a claim AND allow them to keep more of the child maintenance they receive before it hits their level of benefits.
- Charge the non resident parent for the new assessment service if the parent with care has to make a claim. Given that it's a readily available, easily calculable, set formula linked to the non resident parent's net income I suggest the charge should be £10,000.00!!!!!!!!
New enforcement plans include -
- Removal of passports
- Use of curfews
- Name and shame. My favorite (see previous post Children- Maintenance July 14th 2006)
The Government's ambition is to have some of it in place by 2008, but the Government also had an ambition once to end Child Poverty and improve the National Health Service!!!!!!!!!!!
The Government will produce a White Paper in the autumn with final, detailed plans.
Both the Old Scheme and the New Scheme will be closed down and everyone will have to make a claim on the New, New Scheme, at the same time ensuring that no claims are lost and no children suffer financial hardship. Right!!!!!!!!!!! Does anyone remember what happened when the new Tax Credits System was introduced? Does anyone remember the chaos over the Criminal Records Checks for teachers? Does anyone remember decimalisation?
Sunday, September 10, 2006
There are 2 differences between getting married and living together:
- A wedding
- Legal rights and obligations
For some people the wedding is the most important bit, and we've all been to some great dos where no expense was spared but the couple in question have got nothing in common, not even sudoku!
The change in the law to allow same sex couples to have a wedding and the legal rights and obligations of marriage, in a Civil Ceremony, has created equal rights for homosexual couples. We can't call it marriage though, because it would upset some religious people, and looking at the state of the world, a lot of them are upset enough already!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
BUT WHAT OF THE COHABITEES?
Many people are calling for a change in the law to introduce similar rights and obligations to those couples who choose to live together, but who choose not to formalise their relationship. The Government is considering introducing laws to impose legal obligations on cohabiting couples, for example, if they had children or lived together for at least 2 years. I would advice caution here for the following reasons:
- Some people choose not to get married, not just because they don't want to pay for a wedding but because they don't want to encumber themselves with the legal obligations that marriage entails. Their reaction to any legal commitment by default will be to live apart. Typically, the more wealthy male will still buy a house on his own, but the unemployed female and 2 kids will join the housing queue. She and the kids will probably stay with him 5 nights a week, but now she will have her own house and either work at Tescos 16 hours a week to qualify for working tax and child tax credits, or she will go on benefits.
- It might upset some religious people!
This is not so uncommon, indeed there are plaques in many kitchens testifying such. Who gets the dog can become an insolvable problem. When separation looms the custody battle over the dog can cause huge problems.
A dog is a chattel, a possession, a good, a thing you buy, the same as a car or a pair of shoes.
SO WHO'S IS IT?
- Who bought it?
- Who for?
- What with?
Possession is 9/10ths of the law, but not 100%. If you can't evidence that the dog was bought by you, or was an outright gift to you, then you may have to part with it.
WHAT IF IT'S A GENUINE MATRIMONIAL ASSET?
Some judges, in unreported cases, have contrived to introduce a system of Residence and Contact. In a similar way to the Court's approach to children. The dog lives with one ex partner and the other has visitation rights, but this is unusual.
If you can't work out who the dog belongs to you have 3 choices:
- Negotiate. After all some people pay £1000's of pounds for medical treatment for their dog. What is your dog really worth to you?
- Settle. Let him/her have it.
- Stay together for another 15 years of misery, maximum, the dog may die sooner than that!
Saturday, September 02, 2006
HOW DOES DIVORCE AFFECT CHILDREN?
That depends on how their parents behave. No child is unaffected by their parents' divorce, and all children carry a secret wish that their parents will get back together, even 50 year old off spring like to see their divorced parents in the same room and being congenial! The pain is far reaching but some people doggedly refuse to end the battle. Apparently a fight breaks out at 1 in 8 weddings, and I bet a lot of these are caused by the divorced parents of the bride. I was at a wedding once where the groom's parents were both remarried and had been for years, but his mother refused to be in any photographs with his father. How selfish is that? Unsurprisingly the said groom has now emigrated to Australia!
HOW CAN I HELP MY CHILDREN COPE WITH THE DIVORCE?
- Encourage your child to express his/her grief, as long as the methods chosen are legal and cause no harm to others.
- Allow your child to criticise you. If you choose to end the marriage you will be blamed, even if you were regularly beaten by your spouse. Children cling to what they know, even those who are abused by their parents, so it is hardly surprising that they long for their parents to remain a unit.
- Do not criticise the other parent, there are plenty of other people who may relish hearing how awful he/she is but your children will be devastated, it's a certain way to knock their self esteem, second only to calling them an idiot or shouting that you wished they had never been born!
- Do not use your child as a messenger. If you can't bear to talk to your separated spouse then use a lawyer or an adult. Plus, children typically don't listen to boring instructions when they are on the way out the door.
- Do not pump your child for information about the other parent, they will feel disloyal either way. If your child chooses to tell you that daddy's new girlfriend is much prettier than you fine, but don't ask the question.
- Don't trick your children by introducing them to your new partner too soon and pretending this is a platonic friend. They will be hurt when they find out the truth, especially if they liked your new "friend".
-Try to let your children see you being civil to each other. Even if that only extends to an insincere "hello, how are you?" your children will feel so much better than being dropped off at the end of the road because mum, or worse, mum's new husband hates dad!
- Think about the future. Do you want to be an embarrassment to your children at their wedding? At the birth of your first grandchild?
READY TO COOPERATE?
A great website to help parents is www.uptoparents.org
A WORD ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Be cautious in your dealings with your ex partner if he/she is abusive to you or the children. Children's physical safety is paramount and comes before their emotional well being for obvious reasons.