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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.

We regularly attract new clients who have been using firms in London, but now receive a more cost efficient and more personal service from us here in Bury St Edmunds.

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Entries in Marriage (10)

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.

Thursday
Feb182016

Family Court Error Could Be Costly

There have been reports in the press regarding a calculator error in a Court form that is used where a Financial Order is made in divorce, nullity, dissolution or judicial separation proceedings.  The Court Service has indicated that the error in “Form E” that is obtained online from the Court Service may have affected cases where forms were submitted to the Court between April 2011 and January 2012 and also April 2014 and December 2015.

Greene & Greene use a bespoke forms package so this error will not impact on cases where Greene & Greene have prepared Form E on behalf of a client.  We also check that the form calculates correctly before submitting it to Court.

If you feel that your case may have been impacted by the online Court form error (either because you or the other party used the form provided by the Court Service) you could potentially apply to the Court to vary all or part of the Financial Order or have it set aside and a new Court Order made.

If you require advice on whether or not your case is affected please do not hesitate to contact Juliet Harvey (julietharvey@greene-greene.com, telephone 01284 717448) or a member of the Family Team. For more updates from Greene & Greene please follow us on twitter @greenegreenelaw and LinkedIn at linkedin.com/company/greene-&-greene.

Thursday
Oct152015

Fraud and Non-Disclosure in Divorce: “Back to the Future?”

Marty McFly left 1985 and travelled to 2015 in the film Back to the Future 2.  What does this have to do with fraud and non-disclosure?  Well the Supreme Court also recently “travelled back to 1985”.

Judgment was handed down on 14 October 2015 in the conjoined appeals at the Supreme Court of the cases of Sharland v Sharland and Gohil v Gohil.  In both cases the Court of Appeal had declined to overturn previous decisions despite evidence of fraud and deliberate non-disclosure.

Mr and Mrs Sharland had reached an agreement during the final hearing in their case. Mrs Sharland then later discovered that Mr Sharland had been making arrangements to float his company on the New York Stock Exchange. This was despite Mr Sharland’s evidence to the Court that it was most unlikely a sale or floatation would happen in less than 3 years. Having discovered this information Mrs Sharland appealed. The Court of Appeal said that whilst Mr Sharland’s evidence was seriously misleading and dishonest the non-disclosure was not significant enough for the Court to have arrived at a different outcome.

The Supreme Court has allowed Mrs Sharland’s appeal and the case will return for a further hearing.  As a result of Mr Sharland’s non-disclosure the previous agreement does not stand and Mrs Sharland may yet receive further funds from her husband.

In arriving at its decision the Court repeated the position first established back in 1985 in a case Livesey (formerly Jenkins) v Jenkins that the duty remains with the disclosing party to provide full and frank disclosure to the Court.

Mr and Mrs Gohil settled their case and entered into a consent order. The order included a recital that Mrs Gohil believed her husband had not provided full and frank disclosure of his financial circumstances. Mr Gohil had disclosed he was in debt totaling £311,512, but he was later convicted for money laundering and fraud valued at over $57 million. The Supreme Court allowed Mrs Gohil’s appeal and returned her case for further hearing.

So the message is clear, if you lie about or misrepresent your assets and fail to make “full financial disclosure” then the Court may overturn an agreement reached. Non-disclosers beware!

The Family Team at Greene & Greene have a wealth of experience in advising in relation to the financial aspects of divorce and separation.  All members of the team are trained Collaborative Lawyers.  Greene & Greene also offer a Family Mediation Service and the team has significant experience in drafting Nuptial Agreements.  For further information contact Melanie Pilmer on 01284 717 418 or melaniepilmer@greene-greene.com.  To find out more about Greene & Greene go to www.greene-greene.com and follow @greenegreenelaw. 

Wednesday
Jul292015

In Divorce “Fair” Doesn’t Always Mean “Equal”

“Sharing is sometimes more demanding than giving” - Mary Catherine Bateson

It is a common assumption that within a divorce the capital assets, such as the house, savings and investments, will be divided equally.

Most of you may be surprised to hear about the recent case involving Essam Aly and his wife Enas, where she was awarded 100% of the capital assets.  The case has been reported as a legal first.

Courts depart from equality every single day on the basis of need.  Sometimes this unequal division is due to varying contributions to the marriage or the fact that they have brought different value assets into the marriage. 

In this case the unequal division was due to the husband’s failure to support his wife and two children after he moved to Bahrain in 2012.  The Judge took the view that Mrs Aly could not rely upon her husband for future provision for her and their children and awarded her 100% of the capital assets to reflect that Mr Aly would retain all of his income and was unlikely to provide any on-going support to his wife and children. 

Although the circumstances are rare, with Mr Aly being based in Bahrain and outside of the reach of the court’s usual enforcement process, this case should be seen as a warning to those seeking to avoid their responsibilities on a breakdown of the marriage.

The Family Team at Greene & Greene have a wealth of experience in advising in relation to the financial aspects of divorce and separation.  All members of the team are trained Collaborative Lawyers.  Greene & Greene also offer a Family Mediation Service and the team has significant experience in drafting Nuptial Agreements.  For further information contact Melanie Pilmer on 01284 717 418 or melaniepilmer@greene-greene.com.  To find out more about Greene & Greene go to www.greene-greene.com and follow @greenegreenelaw.

Wednesday
Mar112015

Fool if you think it's over...

In 1981 Mr Vince and Miss Wyatt married. He was 20 and she was 22. Neither had any assets or income.

They separated in 1984 and Miss Wyatt claimed benefits. Mr Vince began living in an old ambulance. The divorce was finalised in 1992.

Mr Vince built a small wind turbine from recycled materials to generate electricity for his caravan. From this humble start he went on to establish Ecotricity – a company now worth many millions of pounds.

Miss Wyatt made an application for financial support from Mr Vince in 2011. The court and solicitors’ files could not be located (having been lost or destroyed) and so it was unclear whether Miss Wyatt had made any claims for financial provision at the point of divorce or indeed whether those claims had been already dealt with or dismissed.

Mr Vince sought dismissal of Miss Wyatt’s application due to it having been a short marriage of around three years, because they had been separated for over two decades and because if Miss Wyatt had made a claim at the point of separation it would have been dismissed as there were no assets available for distribution.

The Court of Appeal allowed Mr Vince’s application to strike out Miss Wyatt’s claim saying in relation to Mr Vince: “He is not her insurer against life’s eventualities”. Miss Wyatt appealed.

The Supreme Court heard the case in December 2014 and judgment was handed down on 11th March 2015. Allowing Miss Wyatt’s appeal, the Supreme Court Justices said that she had “a real prospect of comparatively modest success” in respect of her financial claim, notwithstanding the passing of over 20 years since the divorce.

Mr Vince and Miss Wyatt have incurred legal costs of hundreds of thousands of pounds and the Supreme Court has indicated that whilst Miss Wyatt’s application “faces formidable difficulties” it is likely she will receive some provision from Mr Vince – possibly sufficient to securely house herself and three of her adult children.

All of this could have been avoided had the financial aspects of the divorce been properly dealt with at the time of the divorce by the parties entering into a clean break order.

For further advice on how to protect your assets following a relationship breakdown, please contact Melanie Pilmer, a solicitor in the Greene & Greene family team, on 01284 717418 or melaniepilmer@greene-greene.com. Follow us on Twitter @greenegreenelaw.

Friday
Feb062015

Bury St Edmunds – The New ‘Divorce Capital of the World’?

Up until very recently, London was known as ‘the divorce capital of the world’ due to the perception that its Courts offer more generous settlements for wives in high-value separation, as well as the speed of justice. However, Bury St Edmunds is to move into the spotlight as the Ministry of Justice has chosen the town as the Divorce Centre for London and the South East, taking over from local Courts processing divorces themselves.

Triton House in the heart of Bury St Edmunds will be the venue for the new Divorce Centre. Currently undergoing extensive refurbishment, the building is of sufficient size to be able to offer greater scope to improve the service delivered to Court users. The impact upon Bury St Edmunds is bound to be positive, with an increased staff requirement and a higher profile for its legal sector. Triton House was deemed to be the most cost-attractive option in London and the South East to the MoJ and is expected to be ready for occupation in March 2015.

Some local commentators have stated “local Courts are groaning at the seams” and “the number of unrepresented litigants will make it difficult for the Court to deal with the influx of hearings”. Juliet Harvey, a lawyer in the Family team at Greene & Greene, as well as Chair of the Cambridge & West Suffolk area of Resolution, disagrees. The creation of a regional Divorce Centre will not affect Court hearings because the new Centre is only due to handle Divorce Petitions and associated paperwork, not matters relating to children or finances. Juliet says: “The vast majority of divorce proceedings, being separate to financial proceedings on divorce or proceedings relating to children, are uncontested and the need for parties to attend Court hearings regarding divorce is rare, so it is largely immaterial where paperwork is processed.”

Centralised Processing Centres are not new within the Court Service and centralisation of divorce processing should not lead to any dilution in service for lawyers or those going through divorce.

Follow Greene & Greene via Twitter @greenegreenelaw.