What’s in a childs name? Your family holiday could be riding on it

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The main holiday season is fast approaching and for the first time in a couple of years, many people will be taking their children off to sunnier climes.

As well as packing the usual beachwear, sun cream and passports (do check they are still valid and have the required time left on them!), it could be necessary to take a little extra paperwork along for those people whose surname is different to their child’s.

A different surname might arise for a host of reasons, such as a divorce and subsequent name change, keeping a maiden name on marriage or re-marriage, or having a child with a double-barrelled surname.

If a child, who is coming on holiday with an adult, does have a different surname, it’s important to be aware of the pitfalls of not having sufficient paperwork to show that the child is perfectly entitled to be on holiday with that person.

As well as the child’s passport, taking a paper trail to prove who their parents are is vital.  This includes the child’s birth certificate, as well as the parent’s, and if they have changed their surname upon divorce, the change of name deed and a copy of the final order (old decree nisi) is also necessary. Bringing along an expired passport, which proves the name change could also be helpful.

Obtaining the written consent of the other parent or anyone who has parental responsibility for the child is another wise move. A properly drawn up consent form, or if that’s not possible, a letter from the other parent, confirming their full contact details, that they are the parent of the child and that they have given consent for the holiday, along with their signature, should suffice.

Having an awareness of the questions that might be asked at the immigration desk is important, as it allows a level of preparation between parent and child. They might be asked the identity of the other parent, for example.

Consent is not legally required by the other parent if the holiday is for less than 28 days and a Child Arrangements Court order is already in place to confirm the child lives with the parent taking them on holiday, but it is always better to have it, rather than run the risk.

If the other parent won’t agree to the holiday, it’s not too late, speaking to a family lawyer about obtaining an order from the court is an option.

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Helen works with clients to ensure that they are sensitively guided through the complex area of family and relationship breakdown.

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No-Fault Divorce -
Here's what you need to know

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No-fault divorce becomes legislation on Wednesday 6 April 2022

Despite the long awaited Act for “no-fault” divorce being passed in June 2020, it is finally becoming legislation on Wednesday 6 April 2022. It has taken years of discussion to reach this point, providing significant changes to the way couples apply for a legal separation.

This landmark legislation, formally called the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 will allow married couples to divorce without assigning blame. Up until this point, couples had to have been separated for at least two years, or have to blame the other spouse for the breakdown of the marriage, which increases the animosity.

England and Wales have been a step behind many other countries when it comes to divorce with many opting for a more progressive approach. At present, one spouse must issue divorce proceedings against the other, potentially creating unnecessary animosity which can often lead to the divorce being contested by the other spouse.

Under the no-fault divorce system, couples will also be able to apply for divorce jointly which will hopefully lessen the chance of blame creeping into the equation. It will not be possible to contest a divorce, putting an end to traumatic situations such as the Owens v Owens case.

Cases such as Owens v Owens are rare. Removing the option to contest a divorce is a vital step forward, stopping people from being trapped in a marriage that they no longer want to be part of.

A statutory timeframe has been included in the new legislation, meaning that a divorce cannot be finalised in less than 20 weeks. Under current law, it is possible to conclude a divorce in a shorter time frame than this, however, it's rare for this to happen in less than four months.

It is important to remember though that complexities can arise that can add significant time to the process, such as financial claims that require negotiation, or concerns around child custody.

What terminology has changed as part of no-fault divorce?

Divorce terminology is also changing too, bringing the process into the 21st century. Making each element of divorce as clear as possible will reduce confusion and help people to understand the process they’re embarking on a little easier.

Previous terminology New terminology Description
Petition Application
Petitioner Applicant
Decree Nisi Conditional Order The order by a court of law stating the date on which the marriage will end
Decree Absolute Final Order The legal document that ends a marriage
(Judicial) Separation Decree (Judicial) Separation Order An order which confirms the parties to a marriage or civil partnership are separated
Decree of Nullity Nullity of marriage order A declaration of the court that the marriage is null and void

How will no-fault divorce work?

The announcement means that couples will no longer have to agree to be separated for two years, or have proof of their partner being at fault, in order to file for divorce. Only one person needs to desire the divorce, and their spouse will not be able to refuse the application.

Being able to apply for a no-fault divorce will spare couples the emotional stress and strain of finding blame for an unreasonable behaviour petition or when they can’t, or don’t want to, wait two years to divorce on the grounds of separation or five years if they do not have the consent of the other spouse.

It should be noted that under the new law, the statutory timeframe means that a divorce cannot be concluded in less than 26 weeks. Although it is possible for this to be shorter under the current law, it is still unusual for it to be less than four months, not including the time taken to resolve financial claims. As a result, the overall timeframe of the new system will be largely in line with the existing one. Plus, a fixed timeframe allows parties to reflect on whether the decision to end the marriage is the right one.

What caused the delay?

Following the tireless campaigning of family lawyers, the government has spent a significant amount of time over the past few years trying to make the divorce process simpler.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act receiving Royal Assent was a real breakthrough moment, with many hoping no-fault divorce would come into play by early 2021 at the latest. However, following delays, the act has now come into force on 6 April 2022. This was to allow time to become familiar with the new process, and for any necessary, IT changes to be made to HMCTS’s online divorce systems so that new process works as intended and is fit for purpose.

No-fault divorces will take a huge amount of anxiety away from the process, benefitting a significant number of people.

How we guide you through the divorce process

The introduction of no-fault divorce is one of the most significant changes in family law in the last 50 years. Ending a marriage is a monumental decision, and that won’t change. It’s important to remember that the actions you take in the early stages can set the tone for everything that follows.

If you’re about to start divorce proceedings, or currently going through the separation process, then speak to one of our divorce lawyers. We’re here to guide you through the maze of emotions and legal responsibilities, every step of the way.

You can also read our step by step guide on how to get a divorce. Find out more here >>.

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Helen works with clients to ensure that they are sensitively guided through the complex area of family and relationship breakdown.

Our family team is ranked as a Top Tier Firm in the Legal 500 2021 edition.

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Birmingham law firm’s family team bolstered with specialist partner appointment

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Leading full service law firm Shakespeare Martineau has welcomed new partner Aasha Choudhary to its family team in Birmingham.

Aasha specialises in high-value, complex financial matters, often with significant international elements, including assets abroad, jurisdiction disputes and third-party interveners. She also has a deep knowledge of wealth protection work, children matters, pre- and post-nups, and separation and cohabitation agreements.

With more than 13 years’ qualified experience, Aasha has joined Shakespeare Martineau after eight years at Mills & Reeve, where she worked her way up from associate to principal associate. Prior to this, she spent three years as a solicitor at George Green LLP and almost four years at Challinors.

Over the years, she has supported clients with significant wealth, including a high-profile pre-nuptial agreement covering assets worth £1.45 billion.

Aasha said: “I am thrilled to have joined Shakespeare Martineau at such an exciting time. I was drawn to the firm’s culture, nurturing environment and strong values, which focus on empowerment and unity – supporting each person to play to their strengths and allowing them to reach their full potential.

“The family team is well-established and well-respected, and the firm is on the crest of a wave – I am looking forward to being part of its growth journey and I am pleased to be bringing my experience to Shakespeare Martineau, helping to achieve the best possible outcomes for my clients.

Aasha will primarily be based at the firm’s Birmingham office hub but will be working with clients nationally.

She said: “I am excited to be working alongside the upcoming talent we have here at Shakespeare Martineau. My training and the support I received at the start of my career has made me the lawyer I am today, so I am always wanting to give back and share my knowledge with the next generation. I love watching trainees flourish.

“Family law has always been my passion. It is a distress purchase, so the satisfaction of seeing someone who starts the process following a relationship breakdown – typically in fragile place – become the person they are at the end of the journey is extremely rewarding.

Aasha’s appointment is the latest in a string of new partner hires as part of the firm’s growth strategy, broadening its footprint both north and south.

Victoria Tester, partner and life and business managing director at Shakespeare Martineau, said: “We are delighted to welcome Aasha to the firm. She has excellent experience advising on high-value and complex cases following relationship breakdowns, often involving multiple parties, businesses, trusts and foreign assets. Her knowledge will be a real asset to our already strong family team as we look to cement our reputation in the West Midlands.

Shakespeare Martineau – which was recognised as Family Law Firm of the Year in the Midlands and Wales in the LexisNexis Family Law Awards 2020 – is proactively seeking talented people to join the firm on its growth journey, including mergers, team recruitment and lateral hires nationally.

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Victoria sits on our Main Board and is responsible for our Life & Business, business unit.

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Music Royalties – ensuring the drums keep beating

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12 Days of Christmas - Day 12: Drummers drumming

The right to receive royalties from music, as for many other types of intellectual property rights, can be inherited as part of a person’s estate.

When a musician dies, the beneficiaries of their estate either named in their will or, if they do not have one, the beneficiaries determined by the rules of intestacy, will be able to receive the royalties throughout the period of copyright. This right currently lasts 70 years from the creator’s date of death.

As copyright has such a long term it is possible that rights to receive royalties can pass down through several generations. Where the intellectual property is of significant value, this can be directed to structures such as trusts during a creator’s lifetime or on their death to ensure that it is carefully managed by appropriate trustees for the benefit of a person’s whole family. Alternatively, a person with valuable intellectual property might consider appointing a literary executor with particular expertise in the relevant area, separately to the other executors of their estate.

People tend to focus on tangible and financial possessions when making their wills and can accidentally overlook valuable intellectual property such as copyrights, trademarks, designs, Artist’s Resale Rights or patents. This intangible property is often forgotten or not clearly and fully dealt with as part of someone’s estate planning.

If you have any intellectual property of significant value, it is important to get advice on the proper drafting of your will to ensure that all facets of the piece of original work or creation will be passed in line with your wishes on your death.

For example, although an item such as a painting may hold some value, it can be the case that the greater value is the intellectual property surrounding the painting. As such, intellectual property rights should be clearly defined and included in any gift of personal items where it is the owner’s intention that they pass with the physical item itself.

There can be several different intellectual property rights associated with a particular creation which can make dealing with these assets complicated. For example, copyright in a sound recording (lasting 50 years from when the sound recording was made if unpublished or 70 years from being made public within that period) exists separately from the works and performances included in that sound recording.

Having a properly drafted will that deals with your intellectual property can not only give peace of mind to the creator but also help prevent disputes after a person’s death as to the scope of any gifts in which intellectual property exists.

Another issue that can arise in respect of intellectual property is that people often do not keep good records of their creations, especially in an era where creations are often stored or created in the digital space. Therefore it is a good idea to keep a record of all works you have created and lists of any relevant experts or contacts who your executors will need to deal with after your death in respect of the works you have created.

Focusing attention on who will inherit your royalties can ensure your family continue the beat to the sound of your drum after you have died.

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As a specialist private client solicitor Virginia begins by making sure she understands the dynamic of her clients’ lives and then advises on all aspects of wills, trusts, probate law and inheritance tax planning.

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It can be difficult to envisage a time when you’re not there to provide for your family. However, we are here to guide and support you with preparing a will so your wealth is protected for your loved ones into the future.

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Pipe to your own tune

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12 Days of Christmas - Day 11: Piper piping

Navigating your independence after a divorce or a separation is such a difficult concept for so many people, especially if they have become used to following their own ‘pied piper’ during a relationship.

You may not have realised it at the time, but when you’ve been with your partner for so many years, you can often lose your own identity and slowly change your lifestyle to fit in with theirs. It’s only when the relationship breaks down that you may come to realise that you’ve been constantly seeking your partner’s guidance or approval for so much of what you do. Their opinion has mattered so much to you that you’ve lived your life around it and lost a part of ‘you’.

When a relationship ends, your ex-partner’s opinion won’t matter any longer, you don’t need their approval and you can ignore the criticism. Do what you want to do - as long as it’s legal.

This is an ideal opportunity to find your freedom and embrace your single status. You can make new friends, find a new hobby, join a gym, change your job, volunteer.

You can sing your own tune and let the pipers play elsewhere.

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Matt works with individuals and their families to help them negotiate the many pitfalls they can encounter when planning for their future by providing pragmatic, bespoke advice.

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Setting up a charity – a legacy for those with Inherited and earned wealth alike

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The recently published CAF UK Giving Report 2021 revealed that although the number of people giving to charities decreased in the last year, those that did were more generous. And there was a particular increase in the size of charitable donations amongst older adults.   

As people with significant personal wealth get older and start to think about their legacies, as well as taking care of their own families, it appears that many look to provide assistance to those less well-off.  

One of the ways that those with substantial wealth look to do this is through the setting up of a charity, either via their will on death, or during their lifetime.  

Why set up a charity?

While a person may decide to leave individual gifts to charities under their wills or make regular gifts during their lifetime, those with more substantial wealth may instead choose to set up a grant-making charity. This creates an ongoing legacy and ensures funds are managed to provide financial assistance to causes particularly close to their hearts for years to come.   

Setting up a charity can have a number of tax advantages too, both for the individual and the charity. Most of the income and capital gains of a charity are tax-free and charities can also claim back the Income Tax that has been deducted from donations through the Gift Aid scheme.  

From an estate planning point of view, gifts to UK charities on a person’s death can be appealing as they are free of Inheritance Tax. On top of this, if 10% of a person’s assets on their death are left to charities, the rest of the estate can qualify for a reduced rate of Inheritance Tax. This can, in certain circumstances, reduce the overall Inheritance Tax payable on a person’s death. 

Setting up a structure to give back to worthy causes can be fairly straightforward through the creation of a charitable trust. However, those considering this should take advice on the most suitable structure given their circumstances, the kind of activities the charitable will be undertaking, and the assets the charity will hold. 

The small print

It is important to remember that most charities other than the very smallest will need to be registered with the Charity Commission in order to be recognised by HMRC and gain the tax advantages that come with charitable status.  Those setting up a charity need to be aware of the requirements and conditions of registration from the outset when preparing their governing document and deciding on their objectives.  

Although running a charity can be very rewarding, it is important that the administration and reporting requirements are fully complied with and the charity is properly managed.  

If this is the route you would like to explore to ensure that your wealth is leaping into action for those less fortunate, the team can advise and assist with the setup and ongoing running of a charity. This will ensure that all taxation and reporting requirements are fully met with, allowing those that run the charity to get on with the work of benefitting worthy organisations and individuals leaving those charitable trustees leaping for joy! 

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As head of our contentious probate team, Andrew handles a wide variety of disputes for local, national and international clients. He has particular expertise in dealing with disputes regarding high value and complex estates, often including cross-border elements.

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Leaving money to charity in your will can ensure your chosen charity beneficiaries reap the rewards of your hard work, while you benefit from the financial incentives too. We can advise you on the best way to structure and approach your charitable affairs.

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Financial settlements – never a one size fits all

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12 Days of Christmas - Day 9: Nine ladies dancing

Every single family will have their own unique, different set of circumstances and these varied circumstances are always in evidence when family lawyers are looking at resolving financial claims for a separating couple. No two cases are ever the same in terms of a couples financial assets; property, savings, pensions, businesses, income, liabilities and so on.

Family lawyers must assess each case on its own facts, considering how those particular circumstances sit against the factors outlined in section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. These statutory factors are not equally weighted across all cases (although needs of any children and the parties will always be the priority factor). In some cases, the length of the marriage is relevant, perhaps the health of one of the parties, or one parties contributions to the matrimonial wealth.

The point is there is no magic formula to produce the “correct” outcome, which is why it is so important to take early and ongoing advice from a family law specialist when separating.

If you are fearful your partner may “waltz” away with the assets, leaving you in a tight spot, get in touch so we can “(American) smooth” away your concerns.

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Anne has over 30 years’ experience in protecting clients’ wealth through wills and trust structures. She will always go the extra mile to ensure they and their family’s objectives are achieved as tax efficiently as possible.

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From drafting your will to advising you how to structure your finances in the most tax efficient way, we aim to be your personal tax partner for life, ensuring we can design a plan that is exactly right for you and your family to protect your personal wealth.

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Utilising Agricultural Property Relief

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12 Days of Christmas - Day 8: Maids a milking

What is Agricultural Property Relief?

Agricultural Property Relief (APR) is a form of tax relief that allows you to claim relief on land that can be used for agricultural purposes, (crops or livestock) and associated buildings such as barns, outbuildings and houses used in connection with the land. 

How does APR work?

To receive APR, the land or buildings must have been owned for at least two years prior to transfer. There is one exception to this rule - if the asset is inherited from a spouse and they too have owned it for less than two years, this scenario is added to that of the late spouse. If the combined period of ownership exceeds two years then APR relief should be available.  If the owner does not occupy the property (land or buildings) which is the case usually with a Farm Business Tenancy) they need to have owned it for seven years in order to qualify for APR. 

What qualifies for Agricultural Property Relief?

Typically, APR is available for: 

  • Land used for crops or livestock 
  • Farmhouses are included as long as they have been used as a base for operations and not just a house.
  • Cottages that have been lived in by someone/family working on the land and are under a tenancy agreement. 

APR is not available for: 

  • Livestock
  • Machinery and farming equipment
  • Harvested crops
  • Derelict buildings/ outbuildings on land 
How much APR is available?

Depending on how the property is owned, relief is due at either 50% or 100%. 

Agricultural Property Relief is a powerful form of tax relief and all options should be explored as it can provide relief of up to 100% after you pass away. If your assets qualify for APR there’s no reason why your maids-a-milking shouldn’t be able to continue to do so following your death. 

As with all areas of taxation, however, Agriculture Property Relief is a complex area and expert advice should be sought on estate planning. 

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Peter has specialised in farms and rural land since doing his articles at Burges Salmon. He has worked in the Midlands for the last 25 years, advising on all aspects of rural property and farm partnerships.

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In a world where agricultural profit margins are being squeezed, yet land values have climbed rapidly, the financial stakes of rural business are high. We don’t just act on instruction, we provide solutions that exceed your every expectation.

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How to cope with family tensions over Christmas

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12 Days of Christmas - Day 7: Seven swans a-swimming

Retailers and marketers would have you believe that Christmas is a time of year we all look forward too – precious time off work, Christmas parties, giving and receiving gifts, the perfect Christmas with family  - many of whom you do not see often at all.

Settling down to spend Christmas day together can be stressful and often doesn’t go to plan.  So how can you survive the day?  Here’s a few tips to help you through

  • Be mindful of what you say

    Show respect towards your family and expect the same in return. Often tensions can arise because of brutal honesty or unsolicited advice. Consider your words carefully before you open your mouth and don’t say anything you would not like said to you.

  • Be realistic

    If rifts exist already, they are not going to go away for Christmas day. Keep conversation light and hope that everyone finishes the day as happily as they can.

  • Let it go

    This time of year can be stressful and someone will know what buttons to press to get a reaction so pick your battles wisely and perhaps save them for another day.

  • Your guest list

    Playing the role of referee at Christmas is not good for the mind or soul, so scale it down this year and spread it out.  You don’t need to see everyone on one day.  Different relatives on different days makes for a calmer Christmas.

  • Focus on you

    At a time of year when time is precious and there is the opportunity to take a little time off hopefully, remember that you do not to do it ALL.  It can help to delegate jobs on Christmas Day, that can include asking for help with food prep, washing up, assistance with childcare etc.

    It can all seem a little overwhelming so focus on what makes you happy – and make plans accordingly.  If there is an expectation (as there often is), make sure you have those conversations early so people know what is (and is not) happening. 

    Also remember the basics of self care, like good sleep, fresh air, plenty of water, and all of this will help with the inevitable excesses.

At a time of year when it can all get a bit frantic and you feel a bit like you are paddling for your life, remember the seven swans a swimming and try to slow down and glide through the festive season. You will come out the other side feeling calmer and ready for the new year.

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Utilising Business Property Relief

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12 Days of Christmas - Day 6: Six geese a laying

What is Business Property Relief?

Business Property Relief (BPR) is a form of tax relief that allows you to claim relief on any business assets owned, which can include shares in a qualifying business.

How does BPR work?

If you are a business owner or have an interest in a business, your estate, upon your death, may be entitled to claim relief from Inheritance Tax (IHT).  This form of tax relief reduces the value of a business or business assets in the calculation of any inheritance liability.

To receive BPR, the business or business assets must have been owned for at least two years prior to death. There is one exception to this rule - if the asset is inherited from a spouse and they too have owned it for less than two years this scenario is added to that of your late spouse. If the combined period of ownership exceeds two years, then BPR relief should be available.

What businesses qualify for Business Property Relief?

Typically, BPR is available for:

  • A qualifying trading business or an interest in one
  • Shares in an unlisted qualifying company, including a minority holding
  • Shares in a qualifying AIM listed company

How much BPR is available?

Depending on the type of business, 50% or 100% relief is available.

Business Property Relief is a powerful form of tax relief and all options should be explored as it can provide relief of up to 100% after you pass away. You should ensure your goose that lays the golden egg can continue to do so for the benefit of your family following your death.

As with all areas of taxation, however, Business Property Relief is a complex area and expert advice should be sought on estate planning.

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Can I keep my engagement and wedding rings?

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12 Days of Christmas - Day 5: Five gold rings

When a couple goes through a divorce, the process of separating out the assets in the marriage can cover the basics, like the family home, savings, and pensions. 

But when it comes to household contents (also known as ‘chattels’) this is an area that is best dealt with directly between the parties as costs can quickly escalate when this issue is negotiated through solicitors. However, when high-value jewellery is involved, these items can cause conflict. 

Wedding and engagement rings, in particular, can hold both monetary and emotional value, and the giver of those rings may believe that they are entitled to half the value, or even to have them returned. 

In law, the giving of a ring is presumed to be a gift, and therefore it does not have to be returned. There may be an argument if an engagement is broken off, that the ring was given on the condition that it should be returned if the marriage did not take place. However, even though unfair, the recipient is not obliged to return it. 

Despite this, if the ring is of very significant value, this figure may be taken into account as part of the overall settlement. 

So, whether you have just the one or five gold rings from previous marriages, chances are they are yours to keep! 

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A pre-nup is not just for the rich and famous

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12 Days of Christmas - Day 2: A pre-nup is not just for the rich and famous

It is common knowledge that two turtle doves are the symbol of love and friendship.  

At Christmas time, many lovebirds decide to take the next step in their relationship and pop the big question. This is an extremely exciting time for couples and so it comes as no surprise that the more pragmatic things tend to get overlooked. For example, if you are entering a marriage with all of the wealth and your future spouse has very little in comparison, neglecting to have a pre-nuptial agreement is one crucial wedding item that could end up costing you thousands if not hundreds of thousands (or in some cases) millions of pounds! 

Imagine working hard all of your life, accumulating a sizeable pension, a nice home and substantial savings and then picture having to split all of that 50:50 with a cheating ex-spouse. It does not bear thinking about, but sadly this is the reality for many people who enter into marriage without taking the necessary precautionary steps to protect their wealth prior to the big day.  

Sure, a pre-nuptial agreement may not be the most romantic thing on the wedding “to-do” list, but it is something that will pay dividends later down the line, in the unfortunate event the marriage were to irretrievably break down and two turtle doves become single. 

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Looking after yourself at Christmas

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12 Days of Christmas - Day 1: A partridge in a pear tree

For many of us, Christmas is a time for family celebrations – to relax, unwind, and spend our days enjoying the festivities along with a mince pie and a glass of something delicious.

But for others, Christmas is not the joyous time of year that marketing campaigns would have you believe.

Perhaps you’re going through a divorce, been recently widowed, have strained family relations or are spending the holidays alone. Or perhaps you don’t celebrate Christmas due to your religion

There are many different ways to spend your time during the festive period that don’t necessarily fit the traditional mould.

Let’s take a look at some alternative ways to spend Christmas:

Volunteer

Not everyone is having a great time at Christmas for all sorts of reasons.

That’s why volunteering can be so rewarding over the Christmas period. Not only is it beneficial for the person you’re helping, but is also a valuable use of your time and can help your wellbeing, too.

Here are a few different things you can do:

  • Deliver food parcels
  • Help at a soup kitchen
  • Organise donations at a shelter

For an extensive list of volunteering opportunities in your area, visit Do IT | Connecting people to do good things

Take yourself somewhere memorable

Christmas doesn’t have to mean staying in.  Draw up a list of quirky places you’ve never visited before. Most places indoors are closed, but there are many fascinating places of interest, like this art sculpture in the Northwest.

Join an online party or event

If you can’t leave the house for any reason, you can join a virtual party instead. There are plenty to choose from – just do a quick search online.

If you’re feeling in the mood for some Christmas-themed entertainment, you can join a virtual Panto online to take you back to your youth. Or why not try a virtual Carol service? There are plenty to choose from this year.

Become a house-sitter

Just like Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz in The Holiday, you can use the festive break to house sit for someone else. It doesn’t cost a penny, and you can go and stay somewhere else.

You can either just house sit or pet sit, so you’ll be looking after a cute kitten or some adorable friendly dogs. Or perhaps, just a couple of monsteras or cheese plants.

For house sitting opportunities, visit House Sitting | TrustedHousesitters.com.

Plan your perfect day

Although the media tells us that Christmas is a time for family and connection, in truth it can be whatever you want it to be. Instead, why not make the most of this time?

Plan out your perfect day to the hour– what you will eat, what you will watch, how you will take care of yourself. Remember to add in time for pampering and self care too. Gather together some of the funniest comedy shows you have, arm yourself with some delicious food and drink, and get cosy on the sofa.

Reframe the narrative

Just because it might seem like everyone around you is spending time with other people, it doesn’t mean they are necessarily having a great time – it could be the opposite.

Think about how you can view the day in a different way instead – as an opportunity to relax or to eat food you enjoy. The day is completely yours so why not become the partridge in your very own pear tree!

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Here are some top tips to hopefully make this difficult time a little easier:

• Try and agree the arrangements for the children in advance:

This will reduce the chances of an argument in front of the children on Christmas Day when handover or collection times can’t be agreed upon.

• Don’t have a ‘present competition’

Share the children’s Christmas list with the ex-partner and agree on who will buy what. It’s never a good idea to try and “out-present” the other parent. This will only lead to more arguments and could end up causing the children a significant amount of distress.

• Do not bring the children into an adult dispute 

Children don’t want to hear their parents speaking in a derogatory manner about each other. It’s really important for parents not to criticize or argue with each other in front of the children, if at all possible.

• Let the children take presents from one home to another

Insisting that the children can only play with their toys at one home will only serve to highlight the parental conflict to them.

• Suggest alternating the years:

Switching every year who gets to spend time with the children could be a good way of minimising arguments. If children aren’t coming on Christmas Day this year, why not celebrate on a different day and still do all the traditional festive activities that they love? They will certainly not complain about celebrating Christmas twice – double the presents and double the pigs in blankets!

For more information about navigating the complexities of a divorce or agreeing children arrangements, contact Stephanie Kyriacou on 0116 257 4401 or another member of the family team.

For advice or guidance on any other commercial or legal issue, a member of our team can walk you through everything. Click here to discuss.

Why business owners should have an up-to-date will

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Making sure you have an up-to-date will

Having an up-to-date will in place is the only way that you can guarantee that your wishes are carried out on your death.  Dying without a will means your estate will pass in accordance with the intestacy rules. And iyou are a business owner and this happens it could have massive implications for your business and your family.   

What having a will in place means for your family

There are several scenarios to consider: 

  • What happens if your business assets are inherited by your spouse, civil partner, or other family members who are not “in the business” and know nothing about it or, worse perhaps, do not have the knowledge or skills to run it. Your business which you have spent years building could be damaged following your death and it may no longer be able to continue providing for your family into the future. 
  • Consider whether your business partners could work with your spouse, civil partner or other family members. Would they be prepared to bring them up to speed with the business or would they have the means to buy them out? 
  • If your business is run as a partnership, the death of a partner who has no will in place could lead to the business being dissolved automatically if there is no partnership agreement drawn up either. Regardless of the surviving partners’ wishes, they would need to sell off the business and its underlying assets. 

Having an appropriately drafted will in place could mean that the most suitable people can continue to run the business and family can still benefit from the value of the business. 

If your family have no desire to inherit the business, your will can stipulate that your business partners inherit the same and the cash value is inherited by family instead. 

It is important that, where possible, Business Property Relief (BPR) is available to your personal representatives in order to exempt the business assets from Inheritance Tax (IHT) and crystallise this relief as soon as possible ideally having had the position agreed by HMRC following your death. 

To do this, it may be necessary to pass your business assets into a trust structure. A trust, unlike a surviving spouse or civil partner, is a non-exempt beneficiary for IHT purposes and as such, BPR would be claimed by your Personal Representatives to ensure that no IHT is payable still. 

Other options for your will

Your surviving spouse, civil partner or family can benefit from the business assets while they remain in the trust but the value of the business assets is outside of their own estates. Alternatively, your family could purchase the business assets from the trust using assets they have inherited from your estate swapping BPR assets in the trust for cash (which then falls out of their estate). Once they have owned the business assets for two years they will then again potentially qualify for BPR on their own deaths.  

Be aware, however, that even if you have a will that deals with business assets, there should still be a shareholders agreement or partnership agreement in place and all business partners should be aware of what happens when one of them dies. 

Consider putting in place a cross option agreement if you leave your business assets to anyone other than your business partners as this will enable the surviving business partners to purchase the business assets from your family under the terms of a shareholders agreement or partnership agreement. 

There is a lot to consider and many options available and it is essential that you get the right advice to ensure the survival of your business, and the best outcome for your employees and your family.

 

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Going through a divorce? The Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media

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Going through a divorce

When going through a divorce, it can be easy to be tempted to post about how we’re feeling on social media. After all, social media is part of our lives and in its best form it can be a wonderful tool to connect, inform, and entertain people.  However, it also has the opportunity to cause harm, distress and hurt and be used in a vindictive, spiteful and unhealthy way. Divorce can be an incredibly emotional time for both parties involved and their families – so don’t make it any harder than it needs to be.

Here are few Dos and Don’ts of using social media, especially during divorce proceedings. Remember much of this information will be available to a court and could have a bearing on any outcome.

Do's: What to do on social media during a divorce

  • DO change your passwords

    Be sure to take ownership of any social media accounts eg Facebook, Instagram etc.  Do also change the passwords of your email accounts.  Remember, whether the split is amicable or not, you do not want your partner to have access to accounts that could contain sensitive information. 

  • The same goes for bank accounts, credit cards, music streaming services etc.  There have been occasions where these have been used and manipulated in divorce proceedings.

  • Even if you know your partner’s passwords, do not log into their accounts. Everyone has a right to privacy and you could be in breach by doing this.  Unauthorised access to your partner’s computer may be breach of the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

  • DO check, and if necessary change your privacy settings:

    Make sure that if you do post, however innocently, only your friends list sees it and you cannot be tagged into any posts without your permission.

  • This applies to all social media so minimise the risk on all platforms. If you work in the same organisation as your partner, also check your company’s social media policy.

  • DO turn off any location tracking features on apps you may use:

    It is a ‘feature’ of more apps than you might realise.  This could cause an embarrassing and hurtful meeting or unfortunately, in more sinister circumstances, can provide your partner with your exact location from a stalking / abuse perspective. 

  • If you are a victim of domestic abuse and continue to feel vulnerable, you can change your mobile number to avoid receiving nuisance calls or messages from them, but beware that many apps acc ess the contacts from your phone or email address.  So block their number.

  • DO follow people and organisations that can offer help and support:

    Seeing how people have come through this crisis can be motivating and beneficial. There are lots of organisations and charities who can offer free guidance and support too.

Dont's: What not to do on social media during a divorce

  • Don’t bad mouth your partner online:

    Tempting as it might be – do not bad mouth your partner online, especially if children are involved.  Remember children could read and learn more than you’d like them to and be hurt or distressed by it. 

  • This is also the case with wider family too.   Remind friends and family not to post negative comments about your partner online. It can also play a big part when looking to come to an agreement with your partner.  An upset partner can make things very difficult, drawn out and expensive.

  • Don’t share any personal data you have about your partner:

    As you may breach data protection laws.  This includes intimate and sensitive details of the relationship.

  • Don’t chat about court proceedings, children or financial information:

    By doing so you could be in breach of legislation which could be classed as a serious offence AND anything you share online can and could be used against you by the other party. 

  • Don’t post pictures of children you share online:

    This is a very emotive issue and one that comes up time and time again in proceedings. Parents often have polar opposite views on how, when and if this should happen.  

  • Send any photos directly, not on a public platform, especially if you are aware of your partner’s objections.  Posting pictures without consent can have data protection implications and affect a person’s right to a private life.  Err on the side of caution.

  • Don’t be tempted to share a new romance on line:

    Thrilling as it may be, be discreet and remember that if the shoe was on the other foot, how hurtful it would be to read/see this.

  • More seriously, if proceedings have not yet started adultery could now be cited as a reason on the petition.  Any pictures of you and your new beau together could evidence possible habitation and have a big effect on any financial settlements and child arrangements.

  • Don’t be tempted to stalk, follow or trail your partner:

    This can be exhausting, upsetting and often fruitless.  Social media can be all-consuming, particularly if you are the injured party.  Give yourself some time to rest and recover.

Remember – keeping things amicable is almost always the best route but if your inner calling bird is getting the better of you….take a deep breath and move away from the keyboard.
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Dipika provides clear advice from the outset.  She is particularly adept in understanding the emotional complexities in matrimonial disputes and the impact this will have on reaching resolutions.

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Our Autumn Edition of Life Times is Out Now

We bring you the autumn edition of Life Times magazine - a round-up of insightful and informative content.

From looking at how to access the First Homes scheme, to resolving relationship disputes out of court, and Inheritance – A gift or a curse? The autumn issue is packed full of useful tips and information.

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What To Expect from Your Conveyancer When Buying A House

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Buying A House - Conveyancer Tips

The Seven Important Steps to Buying a House

Step 1: Instruct a conveyancer

Your conveyancer (solicitor) plays a very important part in your buying process. It can be a stressful and exciting time, but your solicitor will be able to answer all your questions and guide you through the process. 

Step 2: Confirm instructions to your conveyancer and pay search fees

Having instructed your conveyancer, you will need to provide full details and pay search fees.  Searches are the enquiries made to find out information about the property you are buying.  Searches will include: local authority, water and property and environmental.  It can take a couple of weeks for the searches to be completed. 

Step 3: Have your funding in place, i.e. your mortgage, if one is required 

Make sure you have your finances in place.  Eg have a mortgage offer in place, have investigated Help to Buy, First Homes or any other type of loan you may be using.  Having the finance in place and ready to go will speed up the whole process. 

Start to make enquiries if you are using a removals company and compare quotations. 

Step 4: Your conveyancer / solicitor will report all the findings back to you.

A good conveyancer will stay in constant communication with you, to report their findings once they have completed the necessary steps, such as; 

  • Received and reviewed your contract
  • Reviewed/completed the searches

Once you are happy with all the findings and any discrepancies/issues have been discussed you will be asked to sign your sales contracts and mortgage if applicable. 

Step 5: Agree a date for completion with your conveyancer

Once your documents have been signed and your deposit is paid to your solicitor / conveyancer, you will be asked to confirm a date for completion. Your completion date is essentially your moving day and this must be agreed on by all parties involved in the process.  

Step 6: Contracts can now be exchanged 

Once contracts are exchanged, it is vital that you understand that you are now committed to buying the property. Once contracts have been exchanged with your seller, the property is yours and if you fail to pay, the seller can take legal action and it can be a very costly situation.  

Please take time to run through your paperwork one more time before contracts are exchanged.   

Step 7: Completion Day!

The buying process is now complete and the property is yours.  This is the day you can officially take ownership of your keys and begin the process of moving into your new home. 

Congratulations! 

How long can it take to buy a house?

The buying process from instruction of a solicitor (conveyancer) to completion takes on average 8-12 weeks.  This can be dependent on your circumstances – ie if you are a first time buyer or if you have a property to sell, how long the buying chain is etc. 

How to choose a solicitor/conveyancer

Do your research, ask for recommendations, talk to your estate agent and find someone you trust.  Some estate agents may have an established relationship with a particular solicitor/conveyancer – but you are under no obligation to go with this firm. 

Get quotes and compare costs.  Compare conveyancing fees with a couple of companies to ensure you are paying a fair rate  

You can only instruct a conveyancer once you have agreed the sale of your home / purchase of your new home but do the research and make your decision so that this does not hold up the process.    

 

Residential Conveyancing

Our Residential Property team is a dedicated team of over 50 experts across all of our office locations in the UK.

They provide a specialist service to clients who are looking to sell or buy their own home or are looking to invest in residential properties and begin or expand their existing property portfolio.

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Government Announces Adult Social Care Reforms

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Social Care Reforms

The Government announced last week that, from October 2023, there will be changes made to the Social Care system. These changes will affect how much you will need to pay towards your care in the future. These changes are currently proceeding through Parliament.

The current average cost in England of a stay in a residential home is £600 per week, with nursing care costing on average £800 per week.

What is the current system?

Currently, if the value of your capital assets is above £23,250 then your care fees will need to be fully self-funded, and you will not receive any financial support from the Local Authority, subject to certain limited disregarded items in certain circumstances.

If the value of your capital assets are between, £14,250 and £23,250, then you will get some financial help from the Local Authority.

If your assets are less than £14,250, then you must continue paying from your income, subject to a ‘protected’ lower amount, but you will not need to contribute from your capital. The Local Authority will pay the remainder.

Your Local Authority will do a ‘means test’ to work out how much you will need to contribute from your capital towards the cost of your care.

What are the new changes?

MPs voted this week by a sizeable majority to approve the following changes to the Social Care system.

  • If the value of your capital assets is above £100,000 then you will need to fully self-fund your care.
  • If the value of your capital assets is between £20,000 and £100,000, then you will need to contribute to a percentage of the fees, based on your income and savings, but you can request financial support from the Local Authority on a means-tested basis.
  • If the value of your capital assets is below £20,000 then you will not have to use your capital to pay for your care, although you will still need to contribute from your income, subject to a ‘protected’ lower amount.

The Government also announced that people will not be made to pay more than £86,000 (a lifetime cumulative amount) in care costs. Whilst, on the face of it, this change may be welcomed by many who worry about spending their life savings on care fees, and needing to sell their homes to fund their care costs, this cap does not include the costs of accommodation and food – only personal care. However, care costs paid whilst at home will count towards this total lifetime amount.

This change will only benefit those starting care from October 2023. If you are already paying for your care, then you will not benefit from the new changes.

Can I protect my savings for my family?

There is no definitive answer to this question. It is important to consider your aims and objectives, and your personal and family circumstances. We can advise and support you about the payment of care fees and the relevant disregards. Learn more about this and the matters mentioned above, or to review any existing steps or structures you may have taken or tried to put in place in this area, by getting in touch with our private client team.

These changes will not affect the Deprivation of Capital Rules or the Continuing Healthcare Funding entitlement to Nursing Care (not residential costs or food) for those who are assessed as needing nursing care which is a NHS responsibility.

 

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Lauren helps individuals put plans in place for the future by means of Wills, Powers of Attorney, and other estate Planning.

With our adaptable and creative approach, we ensure your family’s interests are always protected in troubled times. We know that no two families are the same and we take the time to understand the intricacies and sensitivities of the situations that you face.

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What does no-fault divorce mean for Asian marriages?

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This post examines the new no-fault divorce legislation in the UK, how it will work, and what this might mean for Asian marriages. Read on for expert insights from Monica Gai, associate at Shakespeare Martineau.

The new no-fault divorce legislation

It was recently confirmed that the UK’s new no-fault divorce legislation (the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill) will come into force in April 2022. The long-awaited changes aim to reduce the impact that allegations of blame can have on a couple and any children involved in the process.

There are many legal professionals who feel that the current divorce law is outdated and there have been calls for no-fault divorce for a while, particularly following the Owens v Owens case in 2018. Fortunately, the new Bill was passed in June 2020.

While the institution of marriage remains significant for many, it is particularly sacred within Asian communities, with separation often bringing a significant amount of shame and resentment. So, what will the new no-fault divorce legislation mean for those wishing to divorce amicably?

How will no-fault divorce work?

The announcement regaring no-fault divorce means that couples will no longer have to agree to be separated for two years, or have proof of their partner being at fault, in order to file for divorce. To apply for divorce, one party to the marriage will simply have to state that it has irretrievably broken down. Only one person needs to desire the divorce, and their spouse will not be able to refuse the application.

Being able to apply for a no-fault divorce will spare couples the emotional stress and strain of finding blame for an unreasonable behaviour petition or when they can’t, or don’t want to, wait two years to divorce on the grounds of separation or five years if they do not have the consent of the other spouse.

It should be noted that under the new no-fault divorce law, the statutory timeframe means that a divorce cannot be concluded in less than 26 weeks. Although it is possible for this to be shorter under the current law, it is still unusual for it to be less than four months, not including the time taken to resolve financial claims. As a result, the overall timeframe of the new system will be largely in line with the existing one. Plus, a fixed timeframe allows parties to reflect on whether the decision to end the marriage is the right one.

Understanding the new no-fault divorce law

The new no-fault divorce law will allow one spouse or joint couple, to make a statement of irretrievable breakdown, legally removing the element of blame. The ability for one spouse to contest a divorce if the other wants one, will also be removed.

Most importantly, it will introduce a 20-week period between the initial petition stage and when the court grants the provisional decree of divorce (the ‘decree nisi’). This will provide a period of reflection, allowing couples to cooperate and plan for their futures. Many regard this as one of the most beneficial developments of the no-fault divorce legislation.

Grounds for divorce and the no-fault divorce legislation

There is only one legal ground for divorce in the UK: that the marriage must have irretrievably broken down. At present, to support a statement of the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage, the person applying for the divorce must prove one of the five facts e.g. adultery, unreasonable behaviour, two years separation or desertion (2 or 5 years).

When the new no-fault divorce law comes into effect, separating couples will no longer have to rely on these five facts – instead, one of the parties to the divorce need only state that their marriage has irretrievably broken down. This represents a shift towards trusting the judgement of those involved in a divorce.

What does no-fault divorce mean for Asian communities?

The desire to end some Asian marriages may stem from cultural differences, which under current law, does not count as one of the five reasons for divorce and would be rejected by the court. As a result, an accusation of unreasonable behaviour will be required, potentially exacerbating an already stressful situation. In Asian cultures where there is often a high level of blame to begin with, further distress could make the situation even more difficult for the parties involved.

Fortunately, the new no-fault divorce law will remove any need for blame. Rather than having to accuse their partner based on one of the five facts, one would simply need to state that the relationship has broken down irretrievably under the no-fault divorce legislation. Although there may still be some level of stigma associated with this in some Asian communities, there will be no need to make an accusation of adultery or unreasonable behaviour (which could otherwise cause further reputational damage for those involved).

Seeking expert advice

The effects of divorce are often felt across families and the wider community, so the new no-fault divorce legislation will be a welcome change for the many Asian couples that wish to separate amicably.

However, until then, it is important that couples understand the current divorce laws, how the process is expected to change, and what the new rules might mean for them.

Seeking professional advice can help to make the process smoother and allows couples to stay focused on ensuring the best future for all involved.

Get in touch to find out how our  family law team can help.

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To vaccinate or not to vaccinate – that is the question…

Updated 14 September 2021 

Following a pivotal clinical trial earlier this year, the Pfizer vaccine gained European regulatory approval for use on children aged 12 to 15.  The chief medical officers of all four nations have now recommended extending it in a one job form to those children 12 – 15yrs of age.  

Although the news is largely positive, from a family perspective, a spike in parental disputes is likely. 

As family lawyers, at the beginning of the pandemic we saw a significant number of cases relating to children disputes, where COVID was a real obstacle for separated parents who were sharing care of children. For example, if one parent was living with their elderly parents, there would inevitably be worry about a child moving between households and transmitting the virus. Or a child would maybe have symptoms, meaning the self-isolation period would prevent them from seeing the other parent. 

With the vaccine roll-out for children now added into the mix, there’s likely to be an influx of disputes between parents who cannot agree on whether to vaccinate their children or not. 

Disagreements too between separated families about holiday arrangements are also set to increase as international travel begins to open up. 

However, with the right approach, most of these issues can be dealt with so that there is a mutually agreed resolution. 

 

Do I need to vaccinate my child to travel? 

Issues around vaccinating children aren’t new but, with a vaccine being a prerequisite for travel at the moment for adults, it’s more likely to become a hotly debated topic. 

 

What if my ex and I can’t agree on whether to vaccinate our child? 

If the parents can’t agree, then one of them can make an application to the court for a Specific Issue order, so the court will have the final say. This is sometimes unpalatable, given that effectively a decision about one’s own child is given to the state to make. 

There is, however, specific case law in this area, which the courts adopt for guidance. In the case of M V H (Children represented by their Children’s guardian) [2020] EWFC 93, the judgment of the case makes it clear that in instances where parents disagree on vaccinating their children, the court is likely to view that the vaccination is in the child’s best interest and make an order in favour of the child receiving the vaccine, if it is approved for children/on the NHS vaccination schedule. 

It was also noted in the non-legally binding comments from the judge that if the COVID vaccine is approved for use in children (which it now has), then the court is likely to view it as being in the child’s best interest also. 

 

Do I have to let my child go abroad with my ex-partner if I don’t want to? 

Issues around holiday arrangements are rising. If one parent wants to consider a holiday abroad, the other parent may be reticent about the child having COVID tests. 

If one parent has a child arrangements order stating that the child lives with them then they can take that child abroad for up to 28 days without requiring permission from the other parent (this is of course unless the court says otherwise). 

However, if both parents have parental responsibility, then both must give their consent before a child goes on holiday. 

If the other parent does not give their express permission, then an application will need to be made to the court for an order for leave to remove the child from the jurisdiction. 

 

How can we reach an agreement? 

Early communication is always the best first option, but reaching an agreement isn’t always easy. With the right approach, most of these issues can be dealt with so that there is a mutually agreed resolution and without involving the courts. 

Seeking professional advice can be helpful too, or consider using alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation to allow both parents to have their say in a controlled environment. The very last resort is court action. 

As life continues to slowly move back to normal, being vaccinated is a requirement to do some ‘normal’ things, such as travel, so we may see more of these disputes arise. 

How we can help you

If you would like any further information or advice on the areas discussed in this article, please do not hesitate to contact Nikki Aston or another member of the family team in your local office.

Our family team is ranked as a Top Tier Firm in the Legal 500 2021 edition.

Our updated guide to recovery and resilience covers everything you need to navigate your way out of lockdown, unlock your potential and make way for a brighter future. Further advice in relation to COVID-19 can be found on our dedicated coronavirus resource hub.  

From inspirational SHMA Talks to informative webinars, we also have lots of educational and entertaining content for life and business. Visit SHMA® ON DEMAND.

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Immigration expert joins Shakespeare Martineau

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Law firm Shakespeare Martineau is growing its Lincoln presence and boosting its immigration legal offering with the appointment of Calum Hanrahan.

Calum, who joins as a solicitor, has more than six years’ experience in immigration law, working with individuals, families and businesses.

Specialising in personal immigration planning, which will be a new service offering for Shakespeare Martineau, Calum has helped many people successfully apply for British citizenship, as well as apply for visas for individuals, spouses and children, including working with those who have previously had applications refused.

Calum’s appointment follows a raft of new hires for Shakespeare Martineau in Lincoln, including the recent appointment of employment expert and partner Helen Molloy.

Calum said:

Calum_Hanrahan-circle
Having spent my entire career working in Lincolnshire, it’s an area close to my heart. Despite being such a large county it has a really close-knit community feel to it, where relationships mean a lot.

“I’m excited to bring a new service to the firm and work with the wider team, across corporate, employment and family law. Being able to tap into the expertise of hundreds of lawyers across our UK offices, as well as non-UK jurisdictional expertise through Multilaw membership, means that we really do bring something different to the local Lincolnshire market.

“I’ve been so impressed with the culture at Shakespeare Martineau and the ambitions it has and looks forward to raising our profile in Lincolnshire and the East Midlands.

Michael Squirrell, corporate partner at the Shakespeare Martineau Lincoln office, said: “Calum’s appointment adds another valuable string to our bow. For a long time our immigration team has specialised in supporting businesses; Calum brings another dimension to this, being able to deal with family immigration, including human rights immigration and applications for British citizenship.

“Not only are we expanding our service offering, but we also continue our investment in the Lincolnshire market, a region in which we see a lot of potential and have built a lot of traction since our opening in January.

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Michael is a corporate and commercial lawyer with particular passions for digital & tech, intellectual property and advising charities.

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Your summer guide to recovery and resilience in COVID-19

Your updated summer guide to recovery and resilience

As the UK takes its first steps to ease the current national restrictions and looks forward to an increase in economic activity and recovery it is vital that businesses are prepared in every aspect.

To support businesses and people navigate their way out of the last year and the current national restrictions, unlock their potential and drive for a brighter future, we have updated our guide to recovery and resilience.

From financial considerations, employees, leadership and premises, to supply chain implications, health and safety and protecting your private wealth, our guide highlights what organisations and individuals should consider when moving from survival to recovery to thrive.

Financial considerations

Whether a large corporate with a highly structured board, an SME or an owner-managed business, the financial viability of a business is key to its future success.   However, as the thoughts turn to the roadmap out of lockdown once again, and what the future may look like, businesses that have got through the last year should consider a range of measures to enable them to cope with what is likely be a recession for some industry sectors of the UK. Prudent business owners will be well aware of the predictions and while there will be a bounce back it may take some time for confidence and stability to return from customers and suppliers.

Your employees

Managing a workforce of any size can have its challenges, let alone one that is recovering from a global crisis. Many businesses will have furloughed employees or made the difficult decision to make a number of their workforce redundant. For those businesses that haven’t, it’s highly likely they will still face having to make difficult choices, albeit further down the line.

The knock-on effects of the COVID-19 outbreak have changed the way employers engage with and effectively manage, their employees. The processes, policies and guidelines that worked previously may no longer be fit for purpose for your business, or for your workforce, in the new working landscape. With the rollout of the COVID vaccine facilitating the gradual return of employees back into the physical workplace, this in itself will bring a host of new opportunities and challenges.

Buildings, workspaces and leases

As the world and economy move forward out of lockdown, owners and investors of real estate as well as occupying tenants will have to consider the adjustments they now need to make whilst the restrictions around social distancing continue.
They will need to find new ways of working and inevitably different ways to use their space over the coming months and, at the same time, consider how to manage the cost of premises in these changed circumstances.

Suppliers and supply chain

Many businesses have struggled to comply with their contractual obligations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and may have been forced to rethink their supply chains. A focus in recent years on minimising costs, reducing inventories and maximising asset utilisation has often resulted in a reduced ability to cope with disruption. Whilst the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented in modern times, disruption to the global economy is an increasing risk, whether due to political events such as Brexit, US-China trade tensions, or climate change.

Private wealth, family businesses and family

The effects of COVID-19 will undoubtedly have a huge impact on our economy for years to come, with many businesses collapsing under the strain and the level of unemployment set to rise significantly. However, what is less widely reported on is the effect it is having and will continue to have, on families and personal wealth. We’ve already seen that the pandemic has led to an increase in people looking at how they may pass on their wealth to the next generation –and even more so for those that own family businesses.

Compliance – Health and safety

Employers have clear duties under existing health and safety legislation. Obligations to comply with health and safety at work, and to manage and control workplace risks, includes protecting workers and others from the risk of COVID-19 infection in the workplace. That duty is to do everything “reasonably practicable” to manage these risks. The onus of demonstrating that everything reasonably practicable has been done falls to the employer. The best way to demonstrate compliance with the law is usually to follow government and industry-led guidance wherever possible.

Leadership

Strong leadership is a cocktail of authenticity, collaboration, passion, compassion, and a great deal of bravery. We all know the best results occur when we are pushed out of our comfort zones and the ingredients are shaken up, and COVID-19 has done exactly that. With government guidance signalling the UK’s route out of current national restrictions, the time for positive leadership is now. It’s time to take control of what we can and create an environment with enough certainty where people can feel safe enough to flourish centre stage.

We are here to help

The team here at Shakespeare Martineau remain committed to supporting our clients and our communities throughout these challenging times, with

the depth of experience, collaborative ethos and the creative know-how to lead positively to the future.  We are able to offer advice and solutions on a range of subjects for life and business - from employment and general business matters, through to director’s responsibilities, insolvency, restructuring, funding and disputes to issues affecting family businesses, personal wealth planning and family law. Do contact us on 03300 240 333

 

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Guides & Advice

Five myths about marriage and divorce

January typically sees a spike in divorce enquiries for many solicitors – and 2021 is expected to be no different, with the additional stresses and strains COVID-19 has placed on couples and families.

But did you know there are several myths surrounding civil partnerships, marriage and divorce? In this post, family lawyers Jane Charlton and Stephanie Kyriacou explore five divorce myths, answering some of the frequently asked divorce questions from couples across the country. They cover a range of questions on divorce issues, from the division of assets to the ‘remarriage trap’.

 

1. Can I get divorced if we have just drifted apart?

Falling out of love and drifting apart is not itself legal grounds for divorce, however, looking deeper into the reasons may show that one party’s behaviour has actually been the cause and therefore a divorce could proceed. Until the ‘no-fault divorce’ is available (expected Autumn 2021) you will have to prove your marriage has irretrievably broken down due to one of the five ‘divorce facts’: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, or separation of at least two years or in some cases five years.  The divorce process generally takes between six and nine months but can take longer if financial matters still need to be agreed upon.

Read our frequently asked questions on divorce and separation.

Our handy guide on how to get a divorce also breaks down the process of getting a divorce into seven easy steps.

 

2. Will my partner get 50% of our assets, even if they have cheated?

In England, the courts will always start with a 50/50 split of assets. But there are a number of instances where this may not be the case, such as the length of the marriage/civil partnership, large sums of inheritance or money generated after separation and sometimes generated pre-marriage and whether there are children. Fault – such as one partner cheating – has no bearing on the division of assets.

 

3. Do I have to give my engagement ring back if we split?

This is a particularly common divorce question we encounter. If you break up with your partner, you may feel a moral obligation to return the ring - however, unless it can be proved that the ring was given conditionally, the law states that it is an absolute gift, meaning you do not have to return it to your ex.

 

4. Do I need to appoint a solicitor?

While it is possible to get a divorce without the support of a solicitor, you may run the risk of missing important legal loopholes, such as the ‘remarriage trap’. Put simply; if you remarry without a claim for a financial order you may be barred from seeking maintenance and other financial claims. You may also find yourself out of pocket down the line. Without full legal severance, it is possible that an ex-partner could chase you for a share of funds you may accrue later in life – whether that be a pension pot, inheritance or even a lottery win!

 

5.We’re not married, but we’ve been together years – will I get 50%?

There is no such thing as a ‘common law wife/partner’. Cohabiting couples frequently believe that living with somebody for a prolonged period of time leads to certain legal rights such as a share of property owned by one party – it does not. If you choose not to marry then do consider a living together agreement to protect your best interests.

We’re here to help

This post has explored five common questions on divorce issues, helping to debunk some of the divorce myths we come across when talking to clients. Going through a divorce or separation can be one of the most stressful periods in your life and highly emotional. No matter where you are on your journey, our team of family law experts can help guide you through the maze of emotional and legal responsibilities.

For advice and support contact Jane Charlton or complete our enquiry form and we’ll call you back to arrange a free, 20 minutes no-obligation confidential consultation at a time to suit you.

How can we help?

Our expert lawyers are ready to help you with a wide range of legal services, use the search below or call us on: 0330 024 0333

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Surrogacy | Legal advice when having a child via a surrogate

Surrogacy is often thought of as a choice only available to wealthy individuals. However, in stark contrast to other countries such as the USA, commercial surrogacy is illegal in the UK and must be managed privately by the couples and individuals concerned.

It’s a big decision

There are specialist groups out there which do provide support, advice and networking opportunities for prospective parents looking to navigate this route.

After matching with a surrogate, transparent and frank communication is the cornerstone of any arrangement. This ensures that all parties are n the same page. From discussing the type of birth to the kind of surrogacy, fostering strong relationships is crucial in the short and long term.

The legal process in surrogacy

Although surrogacy is often seen as an altruistic act, intended parents still need to consider the legal challenges which can arise when choosing this route to start a family.

It is important a surrogacy agreement is prepared to document all the aspects the intended parents and surrogate have agreed upon. As with everything on the path to surrogacy, the parents and surrogate must be in constant and precise alignment. If the help of a surrogacy organisation, such as Surrogacy UK, has been enlisted, they will usually be on hand to offer help and guidance.

Leading up to the birth it is essential that wider issues such as wills and life insurance should also be considered. Practically, it’s vital for intended parents and their surrogate to discuss birth plans and surrogacy policies with the hospital, doula, or midwife.

What happens after a surrogate gives birth?

Following the birth the intended parents can apply for a parental order. This is a bespoke order, specific to surrogacy, and has the effect of transferring the surrogate’s parental rights (and if they are married, their spouses’) to the new legal parents. The process is similar to many other legal processes in that the intended parents will need to make a formal application to court.

The intended parents must meet several specific criteria if they are to succeed in their application. This can range from one of the parents having a genetic connection with the baby, through to evidencing the surrogate’s consent to the application. The application must be made within six months of the birth of the baby.

Despite there occasionally being unforeseen hurdles, such as delays in applications, the courts guiding principle is to achieve what is best for the baby.

The court will also appoint a parental order reporter to examine if the parents meet the criteria and to report to the court with that analysis. Taking early legal advice will help this process go smoothly for all involved, ensuring any hurdles are navigated, and leaving the parents to enjoy life with their new child.

Watch our free webinar on the essential legal advice you need when having a child using a surrogate

We’re here to support and protect your family

Our fertility and surrogacy lawyers have extensive experience in handling the intricacies of fertility law, particularly in relation to getting parental orders.

We will work with you from start to finish to ensure your growing family is protected. For guidance and support on the challenges ahead contact Katherine Marshall in our family team.

Our family team is ranked as a Top Tier Firm in the Legal 500 2021 edition.

From inspirational SHMA Talks to informative webinars, we also have lots of educational and entertaining content for life and business. Visit SHMA® ON DEMAND.

Our free legal helpline also offers bespoke guidance on a range of subjects, with a team of experts on hand for any queries relating to personal and family matters. Available from 10am-12pm Monday to Friday, call 0800 689 4064.

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The impact of Brexit on divorce and family law

The family law legal system in the UK has increasingly become an international one - over the last few years alone we have seen an increase in cases involving international family law issues and cross-border disputes.

It is now not unusual for families to live in different countries and/or own properties abroad alongside multinational businesses. There are also many children that are part of families who frequently travel between, and live in, more than one country.

So how will Brexit affect the global nature of the way in which many families live and work? We highlight some of the key areas where Brexit is likely to have an impact.

Will Brexit affect my divorce?
The pre-Brexit situation

The question of which country a divorce may be issued in was governed by a Council Regulation called Brussels II. This meant that there was often a race to the court under what is known as the lis pendens rule. This is a rule that the first party to issue proceedings at court, secures the jurisdiction of the court in that particular country. Urgent advice and action was often needed to find out the best place for proceedings and then to issue quickly.

Divorces issued on or before 31 December 2020 will continue to follow these rules and the divorce will be recognised according to the Brussels II regulation.

Divorce after Brexit

The lis pendens rule is now replaced by a forum conveniens rule, which previously applied to all other non-EU countries. This essentially means that a court may decline to deal with a divorce if it appears more appropriate or convenient for a different country to deal with it. It is anticipated that this may well lead to more protracted and costly disputes regarding which EU country should issue the divorce if the parties cannot agree.

Another area which has been impacted by the Brexit deal is the jurisdictional grounds to bring a divorce. A petitioner can only start divorce proceedings in England and Wales if the English court has jurisdiction to deal with those proceedings. The removal of Brussels II has now changed the definition of the jurisdiction in the divorce petition and these discreet technical points may well have a big impact on future divorce applications.

Read more about the divorce process and how we can help you.

The impact of Brexit on children law
The pre-Brexit situation

The Brussels II regulation also provided consistency in international family law disputes e.g. by recognising parental responsibility across EU member states and regulating the rules around child protection and child abduction in the EU.

How have things changed after Brexit?

It remains to be seen how this will impact on future international children disputes.  What we can say it that it is likely to lead to more cross-border disputes which could potentially be very complicated.

Parenting through a divorce or separation is not easy, regardless of jurisdiction. Read more about how we can guide you through the process and ensure the welfare of your children remain the top priority.

In addition to the above, there are many other changes within family law including areas such as maintenance agreements. As with all legal matters, however, our experience has shown that costs can be reduced and litigation less protracted if legal advice is sought at an early stage.

Read more about our international family law expertise.

No doubt we will find in the coming months that there are likely to be some cases that fall through the cracks, as there will undoubtedly be some gaps in the law that the Brexit deal has not covered. Therefore the true impact of Brexit on divorce and family law still remains to be seen.

We continue to monitor the key updates and our team of family lawyers are on hand to advise you with any international family law query that you may have.

How we can support you

We have wide experience of all types of jurisdiction cases and regularly work alongside lawyers in other countries to secure the best outcome for you and your family. For advice and support contact Monica Ghai or complete our enquiry form and we’ll call you back to arrange a free, 20 minutes no-obligation confidential consultation at a time to suit you.

From inspirational SHMA Talks to informative webinars, we also have lots of educational and entertaining content for life and business. Visit SHMA® ON DEMAND.

Our free legal helpline offers bespoke guidance on a range of subjects, from employment and general business matters through to director’s responsibilities, insolvency, restructuring, funding and disputes. We also have a team of experts on hand for any queries on family and private matters too. Available from 10am-12pm Monday to Friday, call 0800 689 4064.

How can we help?

Our expert lawyers are ready to help you with a wide range of legal services, use the search below or call us on: 0330 024 0333

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Our most popular blogs from 2020

2020 was a year full of newsworthy moments, with each twist and turn impacting businesses and individuals in different and challenging ways.

Throughout this unusual time, we’ve been here to break down the news and offer guidance, via both our services and our expert blogs and insights.

During such an unstable period, where the situation changed from one day to the next, we created a useful bank of information to help answer your questions and concerns.

Expert insights

We kept on top of the news agenda, providing you with blogs that unravelled the latest government guidance and gave insight from our teams on the most talked about issues at the time.

Here are the blogs that you found most helpful in 2020:

UKVI launches new IDV app

At the end of March 2020, the UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) suspended all services to protect their staff and applicants. However, this led to a backlog of visa applications at UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).

As the UK immigration system gradually reopened, the UKVCAS and UKVI worked together to develop the Identity Verification (IDV) app, which is still in use today.

The app is free to use for those who are eligible and requires applicants to submit their information to the UKVI by taking a photograph of themselves and their travel documents and uploading them via their smartphone.

For employers, this means they won’t be left in limbo about the immigration status of their employees during the pandemic.

Watch our 20 minute webinar on the practical implications of the UK’s new immigration system when recruiting overseas workers

Get in touch with our business immigration team for more information.

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