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Greene & Greene is a long established firm of solicitors based in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Our lawyers advise individuals and businesses based all over the UK.

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Entries in Family Law (33)

Wednesday
May162018

Stand by your man?

  1. The Respondent prioritised his work over home life and was often inflexible in making time available for the family, regularly missing family holidays and events.
  2. The Respondent did not provide the Petitioner with love, attention or affection and was not supporting of her role as a homemaker and mother.
  3. The Respondent suffered from mood swings, which caused frequent arguments.
  4. The Respondent was unpleasant and disparaging about the Petitioner, both to her and their family and friends.

Are these examples of one person behaving in such a way that the other cannot reasonably be expected to continue living with them?

Until the case of Owens v Owens, first heard in 2016, most divorce lawyers would have said this was sufficient.

English law does not recognise so called “no fault divorce” until parties have been separated for 2 years and only then if they both consent. Otherwise, it is necessary to wait for 5 years to divorce without blaming the other party.

Often one party has to rely upon the other party’s unreasonable behaviour in order to begin divorce proceedings straightaway.

English family lawyers have for many years advised their clients to draft allegations of unreasonable behaviour as mildly as possible so as to avoid creating further animosity, especially where there are children involved.

Mr Owens objected to his wife’s divorce petition based upon his unreasonable behaviour and maintained that the marriage had not irretrievably broken down. At the initial hearing the Judge agreed with Mr Owens. He held that the allegations made by the wife were “at best flimsy” and they were “all at most minor altercations of a kind to be expected in a marriage”.

Mrs Owens appealed arguing, amongst other reasons, that the Judge’s decision was wrong as he had failed to assess her subjective view of the husband’s behaviour and the cumulative effect upon her of that behaviour.

The case came before the Court of Appeal in 2017. The appeal was unsuccessful. The Judges, however, made clear their dissatisfaction with the current legal position. In the words of Lady Justice Hallett: “try as I might, I cannot find a legitimate basis for challenging the judge’s conclusions”.  She continued: “I very much regret that our decision will leave the wife in a very unhappy situation…On any view, the marriage is over”.

Mrs Owens’ appeal from this decision will be heard by the Supreme Court on 17th May 2018. 

Resolution, an organisation representing 6,500 solicitors and other professionals involved with family law issues, has been given permission to intervene in the appeal before the Supreme Court to raise further support for making no fault divorce available to divorcing couples.

The results of a study by Professor Liz Trinder at the University of Exeter, which was funded by The Nuffield Foundation, found that divorce petitions are often not accurate descriptions of why a marriage breaks down. In addition, the use of fault may trigger, or exacerbate, parental conflict, which has a negative impact upon children. The study also found no support for the common argument that allocating fault may help to protect marriages because having to give a reason makes people think twice about separating.

All members of the family team at Greene & Greene are Resolution members and support the introduction of no fault divorce.

It remains to be seen whether Mrs Owens will be successful in her appeal, but either way the case will create further publicity and put pressure on the Government to consider the introduction of “no fault divorce”.

For further advice following a relationship breakdown please contact Melanie Pilmer, solicitor in the Family Team at Greene & Greene on 01284 717418 or melaniepilmer@greene-greene.com.

For more information on the services offered by Greene & Greene Solicitors please visit www.greene-greene.com and follow on Twitter @GreeneGreeneLaw.

Friday
Jan192018

Introducing Stuart Hughes as our new Managing Partner

We are pleased to announced the appointment of Stuart Hughes as our new Managing Partner, in the 125th year of the firm.

Stuart joined Greene & Greene in July 2012 and is a specialist family lawyer and Head of the Family & Matrimonial Department. Stuart has over 20 years of experience specialising in Family Law and is well regarded for his ability to handle all aspects of relationship breakdown, divorce, separation, finances and disputes concerning children. He is an accredited Family Law specialist, member of Resolution, Mediator and Collaborative Lawyer.

“I am very much looking forward to my additional role at Greene & Greene and would like to thank Simon Ratcliffe, who has done an excellent job as Managing Partner for the past three years. Thanks also to my fellow partners for their support and their vote of confidence.  We have just begun our 125th anniversary celebrations, having originally been established in Bury St Edmunds in 1893, and the team of 80 lawyers and support staff have big plans for the year ahead.  This is an exciting time for the whole firm.”

Simon Ratcliffe, will continue in his role as the Head of Greene & Greene’s leading Company Commercial team, specialising in the acquisition, disposal and reorganisation of businesses.  The team advised upon transactions with a total aggregate value of circa £1bn during 2017.

For further information please telephone Jools Windermere on 01284 717430, visit www.greene-greene.com and follow @greenegreenelaw.

Thursday
Jul272017

Marriage: A Partnership of Equals?

 

In 2006, the House of Lords introduced the equal sharing principle in the joint appeal of Miller -v- Miller and MacFarlane -v- MacFarlane.  The Court described marriage as being a “partnership of equals”

Earlier this year, the Court of Appeal decision in  Work -v- Gray referred to the sharing principle as being “firmly embedded” and confirmed that the “ordinary consequence of its application will be the equal division of matrimonial property”.

However, in the recent case of Sharp -v- Sharp, the Court of Appeal decided that perhaps this was taking the sharing principle too far.  Mr and Mrs Sharp were in their early 40s and had no children.  Their relationship, including 18 months of living together before their marriage, lasted 6 years.

Mrs Sharp argued that the sharing principle should be relaxed in respect of their matrimonial assets. This was because  of their short, childless, dual career marriage and the way in which they had organised their financial affairs.

Throughout their relationship and marriage, Mr and Mrs Sharp shared household utility bills and divided restaurant bills equally. Mr Sharp had not been aware of bonuses received by Mrs Sharp and she had gifted him three cars.

The Court of Appeal agreed with Mrs Sharp that this situation fell within the realms of a very small amount of cases where it was appropriate for the equal sharing principle to be disregarded for their matrimonial assets.

The Court has always had the ability to exclude or depart from equal sharing of non-matrimonial assets, such as those owned by one party before the marriage or received by inheritance or gift, the general approach has been that matrimonial assets would be shared, and where they were sufficient to meet each parties’ needs, those matrimonial assets would be shared equally.

It appears that following the outcome of this case,  Courts will look more closely at how couples have organised their financial affairs in short to medium term marriages.  In a limited number of cases,  the way in which couples organise  their finances may influence the outcome of financial aspects of their divorce.

To misquote George Orwell, this may lead to an assumption that all marriages are equal, but some marriages are more equal than others.

For further advice following a relationship breakdown please contact Melanie Pilmer, solicitor in the Family Team at Greene & Greene on 01284 717 418 or melaniepilmer@greene-greene.com.

For more information on the services offered by Greene & Greene Solicitors please visit www.greene-greene.com and follow on Twitter @GreeneGreeneLaw.

Wednesday
Apr192017

The hidden cost of Divorce

If you are separating, issues about tax may not be high on your list of concerns.  Your priority may be whether you can keep your home or, if your home is to be sold, whether you will have enough money to buy somewhere else. However, tax issues could have a significant effect upon your assets and should not be ignored.

Capital Gains Tax

This can be an issue, particularly if you have a number of properties.  We frequently see couples who wish to wait until they have been separated for two years before divorcing.  That can of course be an amicable way of dissolving the marriage, but you need to be aware of potential tax pitfalls.

Transfers between husbands and wives in the tax year of separation can happen on a “no gain no loss” basis, meaning there will be no Capital Gains Tax payable.  This may be difficult to achieve if your separation occurs close to the end of the tax year. 

If transfers of properties, other than the former matrimonial home, do not take place within the tax year of separation then Capital Gains Tax may be payable by the person disposing of their interest to their spouse.  This could lead to a considerable reduction in the assets available to be divided between you.

In relation to the matrimonial home, Main Residence Relief may be available if one party transfers their share to the other, but the disposal must take place within 18 months of the property ceasing to be the other party’s main residence. After that time there are further restrictions if the transfer is to avoid a charge to Capital Gains Tax.

Stamp Duty Land Tax

Once again, there can be issues that you may not have considered, particularly if you intend to wait for a period of time before divorcing.

For example, a couple may separate and the wife may remain living in the matrimonial home, perhaps with the children.  The husband may be in a position to buy his own property and want to do so, rather than paying rent until the time that financial matters are finally resolved.

The husband needs to be aware that he would be acquiring a second property and the purchase of that property is likely to be subject to an additional 3% Stamp Duty Land Tax charge.  On the purchase of a property for £500,000 this would result in Stamp Duty Land Tax of £30,000 rather than £15,000 that would have been payable if the additional charge had not arisen.

It may be possible to reclaim that additional tax payment if that property then becomes the buyer’s main residence within a 3 year period.  However, as can be seen, it will cause a significant increase to the up-front costs involved.

You also need to be aware that a Stamp Duty Land Tax charge applies to owning more than one property whether those properties are located in the UK or worldwide.  Any holiday home owned by you may also cause difficulties.

If you require any further advice regarding divorce or separation please contact Stuart Hughes (stuarthughes@greene-greene.com or call direct on 01284-717493)

The Family Law Department has considerable experience in dealing with cases involving tax issues and are assisted by specialist tax Solicitor Natalie Stoter (nataliestoter@greene-greene.com 01284- 717462)

For more information on the services offered by Greene & Greene Solicitors please visit www.greene-greene.com and follow on Twitter @GreeneGreeneLaw.

Monday
Jan162017

Top Tips on Separation

The breakdown of a relationship is never easy, especially from a legal point of view. If you are thinking about separating from your partner, our “top tips” can help make the process a little less stressful…

Sort out your finances

Money can cause all sorts of problems during a relationship, let alone after separation. Get your finances in order early on to avoid unnecessary angst.  

If you have joint bank accounts or credit cards consider whether these should be closed or cancelled. If you intend to keep using them you will need to agree how much money can be spent and who will be responsible for paying any debt. You should also consider restricting any overdraft facilities.

If you have a more complicated financial situation it may be sensible to seek advice from an accountant. They can provide advice on tax consequences following the transfer of property or company assets.

Consider the needs of the children

Arrangements for child care including when and where the children will spend time with each parent should be discussed and agreed particularly if you are about to separate..

You will need to consider how joint decisions about children will be made in the future. A parenting plan could be drawn up (see www.splittingup-putkidsfirst.org.uk).   This can be as detailed as required and can also include issues such as how and when the children would be introduced to any new partners. 

Ideally the amount and frequency of Child Support payments should be agreed as in default an application to the CMS for a Child Maintenance Service assessment may be necessary.  If there are no children or if Child Support payments are insufficient to cover one party’s financial needs then thought should be given to any additional support that may be needed by way of Interim Spousal Maintenance. 

Think about getting help

A lot of people are reluctant to consider getting help, but counselling can often be very helpful in coping with the stress of relationship breakdown.

If you think it could help to try and get the relationship back on track thought should be given seeing a marriage counsellor. If the relationship is at an end then a family therapist, family consultant or counsellor could help work through issues surrounding the separation and communication.

Work out sensible living arrangements

Will both parties still be living in the house together?  Sometimes this will be a necessity.  Consider any practical steps that can be taken to make this easier.  Alternatively, if one person intends to leave then who will that be and where will they go?  Importantly, consider how two households would be funded.

Update your Wills

Consider whether the terms of your will are still applicable post-separation. You may want to remove certain beneficiaries. You should also consider whether any death in service benefits under any pension provision need to be amended.

Seek legal advice early on

We deal with things like this every day and have considerable experience in these matters. We are committed to providing constructive dispute resolution options and sensible advice. Seeking legal advice early on can help avoid problems down the line.

If you require any advice about separation contact Melanie Pilmer (melaniepilmer@greene-greene.com, telephone 01284 717418) or another member of the Family Team at Greene & Greene for an initial discussion.   For more information on the services offered by Greene & Greene please visit www.greene-greene.com and follow Twitter @GreeneGreeneLaw.

Thursday
Apr212016

2016: Year of the Prenup

The Wedding season is almost upon us and we are told the average wedding now costs £20,500. 

The Family Team at Greene & Greene has seen a significant increase in couples seeking Prenuptial Agreements.  There are often practical reasons why having a Nuptial Agreement in place make sense, such as:

  1. if one or both of the couple already have property or other material assets; 
  2. if one or both of the couple have received or will receive inheritance;
  3. if one or both of the couple have been previously married and divorced and want to ensure wealth is passed to their children; and
  4. if younger couples are being encouraged to enter into a Nuptial Agreement by their parents to protect wealth within the family. 

As the law currently stands the court should follow a Prenuptial Agreement that is freely entered into by the couple with a full appreciation of its implications provided it is fundamentally fair.  Accordingly, anyone signing a Prenuptial Agreement should expect the court to hold them to its terms. 

Like an insurance policy, hopefully it is something that you will not need to refer to, but latest figures suggest that 42% of marriages end in divorce. 

It is best to plan a Prenuptial Agreement months in advance of the wedding.  However if you are near to the wedding date or you are already married it is not too late because it is possible to enter into a Postnuptial Agreement (one that is signed after the marriage).

For further advice on Nuptial Agreements please contact Melanie Pilmer a solicitor in the Greene & Greene Family Team on 01284 717 418 or melaniepilmer@greene-greene.com. To find out more about Greene & Greene please view www.greene-greene.com and follow @greenegreenelaw on Twitter.