Deciding to separate from a partner is a significant step to take for most people. As well as making the most urgent decisions about who is going to live where, who will pay for what and who will spend time with the children – there are a number of additional matters which might need your prompt attention and which are not always immediately obvious. The financial decision to separate your finances may take some time and patience to resolve with your former partner but there are some steps that you can take to protect your position in the meantime.
If you share a joint bank account with your former partner you will need to consider how this account is used and who will need access to the funds in that account. Whilst the account remains in your joint names you will generally both be liable to pay back any overdraft on the account. Due to the joint and several liability clauses on most bank accounts even if your former partner overdraws this account spending all of the money on themselves you will both be liable to pay back the full balance to the bank. Legally there is no rule that you are responsible for half each when repaying an overdraft on a joint account. The bank could pursue either of you for all or part of the amount owed.
Ideally, any joint account should be closed as soon as practicable to limit any ongoing liability each of you may have for the other person’s debt. Where this is not practical it is recommended that you should reach a clear agreement between you as to what each of you can draw from the account pending reaching an overall settlement.
In circumstances where your partner will not consent to the closing of a joint account, and you are anxious as to what steps they may take which might affect you financially, it is a good idea to speak to your bank to explain the position. In some circumstances the bank will agree to “freeze” the account until a formal agreement is reached. This usually means that the account cannot be used by either of you and this can be useful to prevent one party from drawing out funds or making an overdraft worse.
If you have savings in joint names you need to be clear as to who can draw out the funds. If you are not sure check with your bank to find out if both of you need to sign for any withdrawals or if one of you may do so alone. If only one signature is required (as is the case with most joint bank accounts), either of you could withdraw all of the money in the account without the other’s further agreement. You may agree to leave the funds in a joint account if there is a good level of trust between you and you agree that these funds should not be removed by either of you without the other’s prior consent. If you need access to the funds agreeing with your former partner the withdrawal from these funds in advance is usually the best option to avoid conflict, even if legally you can remove funds from the account without that consent.
When one partner moves out of the family home they need to consider if their name is on any of the bills for the family home. An agreement will need to be reached as to who is paying the outgoings on the family home pending any long-term financial settlement. If it is agreed that the partner remaining in the family home will be responsible for the outgoings, the bills will need to be transferred into that partner’s sole name with the water, gas and electricity provider.
The person(s) who signed the initial agreement with the supplier will remain legally responsible to discharge the bill in contract, even if they no longer live in the property. If the bills are to be transferred to the remaining partner’s sole name this is usually easily achieved by giving notice to the utility supplier to terminate your agreement with them and the remaining partner can then take over responsibility for the bills.
This can apply to gas, electricity, telephone, broadband, television and cable services as well as a TV licence, repair and maintenance contracts, subscriptions and payments for the buildings and contents insurance. It can also affect payments for the mortgage and any additional payments such as life insurance or endowment policy payments. We recommend that you go through the statements for your credit card and bank accounts to identify payments that may need to be transferred.
Where your separation means that one former partner remains living in the family home as the only adult they may also be able to claim a discount on their council tax bill.
When one party moves out of the family home each former partner will then usually be considered by the Benefits Agency as living in separate households and as a result, they will then be assessed separately for any entitlement to state benefits. In some circumstances, this may result in one or both parties’ entitlement to benefits changing and we recommend that this is a good time to reassess your potential entitlement to state benefits and to make any claims as soon as possible as these are often not backdated.
If the children of the family are living with you after separation hopefully, it will be possible for you to reach agreement with your former partner as to the amount of maintenance they will pay to help support the children. Jurisdiction to determine what maintenance a parent should pay in financial support would usually be determined by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS), by reference to their gross annual income, the number of children and the number of nights they spend with the non primary carer. There is an online assessment calculator which is available for everyone to use to allow a calculation of liability to be carried out and the use of this can assist in agreement being reached. If not an application to the CMS can be made and they will then carry out any necessary assessment. Further details on this issue can be found elsewhere on this website.
If any relevant child maintenance provision has been determined and the financial provision for the spouse who has primary care of the children is still insufficient for them to meet their reasonable outgoings, it is possible in some circumstances for them to make a claim for maintenance for themselves against the other spouse. This is only possible however when the parties have been married. No right of maintenance arises if the former partners were not married (save in relation to child maintenance above).
A claim for spousal maintenance will only be successful if the spouse applying can show a clear need for the additional support, that they are mitigating their claim by claiming any benefits or making use of their own earning capacity, if any, and if the spouse being asked to pay can afford to do so. Spousal maintenance is a balance between the amount one spouse may reasonably need and the amount the other can reasonably afford to pay.
If you own property jointly with your former partner you will need to establish if you hold the property as ‘joint tenants’ or as ‘tenants in common’. We can quickly undertake a search at the land registry for you if you are not sure on this point to confirm the position.
If you hold the property as tenants in common in the event of your death your interest in the property will not automatically pass to your former partner. In these circumstances your interest in the property would pass in accordance with the terms in your will or if you have not made a will under the intestacy rules to your next of kin. If, however, you are still married to your former partner they will usually still be your next of kin and may still inherit through entitlement under the intestacy rules. We recommend in those circumstances that you make a will, setting out who you would want to inherit your interest in the joint property on your death.
If you hold the property as joint tenants, your interest will automatically pass to your co-owner in the event of your death. This is how the majority of couples who purchase property will hold their interest in the property. If you do not want your former partner to inherit your share of the property it is possible to ‘sever the joint tenancy’ to make it a tenancy in common. Your share can then pass by way of your will or the intestacy rules. You will also need to make a new will if you are still married to your former partner.
Severing the joint tenancy to make it a tenancy in common is straightforward. It involves serving a short notice on your co-owner(s) and then registering your severance notice at the Land Registry.
If you have lived with your former partner in a property owned in their sole name and you are concerned that they may sell this property once you separate it is possible for you to register a notice against the property if you have been married during your occupation of the property. This notice in practice makes it difficult for the property to be sold without you becoming aware as it protects your right to occupy the property whilst you are still married. This is a simple process that requires you to file an application form at the land registry. The land registry will then send a notice to the owner of the property advising them that the rights have been protected. This notice will usually last until the divorce is finalised.
When you separate it is important that you review your will. You will need to consider whether, due to your change in circumstances, the will you have in place now still meets what you would wish to happen in the event of your death. If you do not have a will in place your estate would be dealt with under the intestacy rules and for most estates this would mean that the majority if not all of the assets would pass to the deceased partner’s next of kin. If you are still married this will often mean that your estranged spouse will still benefit. We recommend therefore that you remake your will or write one as soon as possible after you separate to ensure that your estate passes to the beneficiaries whom you choose.
If you have children you are also able to specify who you would wish to be a guardian for your children in the event of your death, although this would not usually come into force whilst the children’s other parent is still living.
Change of Name
If you wish to change your name when you separate you can legally do so simply by using your new name. Many organisations however require evidence of your change of name before they will amend your details on bank accounts, passports, insurance policies etc. We can prepare a change of name deed for you as evidence of your change of name should you need this. This is a straightforward process.
Talk to Tollers
If you are considering separation and would like further advice… Talk to tollers on 01604 258558, our experienced family team is on hand to guide you through and facilitate you.
For the last 50 years or so, in order for a couple to obtain a divorce, English law stipulated that it had to be “someone’s fault”. One party either had to have committed adultery or one party’s behaviour had to have been so bad that the other party simply could no longer tolerate it, in order to end their marriage, without having been separated for at least 2 years. If neither of those reasons (or “facts” as they were more properly described) applied, then a party could rely on the fact that they had been separated from their spouse for 2 or more years, with the other party giving their consent to the divorce, or that their spouse had “deserted” them for 2 years or that they had lived apart for 5 years.
From today, 6th April 2022, all of that changed. It no longer has to be one party’s “fault” that the marriage has broken down. The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 now provides that you no longer need to blame your spouse, or anyone else for that matter, if your marriage fails. You can now pursue a divorce based on what we now call “no-fault”.
The aim of the new law is to reduce the conflict and acrimony so many couples faced when trying to obtain a divorce under the old law. The new law now means that it will not matter who is to blame for the end of the marriage and actually introduces the novel idea that spouses can end their marriage jointly.
So, what are the new rules:
- There is some new terminology:
- A divorce petition becomes “an Application”
- The Petitioner becomes the “Applicant” for a sole application. If it is a joint application, then the parties are known as “Applicant 1” and “Applicant 2”
- The Decree Nisi becomes the “Conditional Order”
- The Decree Absolute becomes the “Final Order”
- Defended proceedings become “Disputed” proceedings
- Blame no longer needs to be applied to one party, so all that is now required is a statement confirming that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, i.e. that it is beyond repair. This is all that is needed to satisfy the Court that a party should be entitled to a divorce.
- There will now be a minimum 26-week timeframe for the completion of the divorce, which means that. a divorce should be capable of being finalised in six months. The six-month time frame runs from the date the Court issues the Application, not when the parties separated nor when paperwork is sent to the Respondent.
- Under the new law, it will only be possible to contest the divorce in very limited circumstances such as fraud, procedural non-compliance, jurisdiction or validity of the marriage. If this applies, then the proceedings become “disputed”.
- The Application can now be sent to the other party via email if the Court is asked to do so.
How will the new law work in practice?
The “Conditional Order” (formerly the “Decree Nisi”) can be applied for 20 weeks from the date the Application is issued by the Court, providing the Respondent is aware of the proceedings and the paperwork has been sent to them.
Once 6 weeks and 1 day have elapsed from the date of the Conditional Order, the Applicant can apply for the Final Order (formerly the “Decree Absolute”) which confirms that the marriage has been formally ended and the parties are divorced.
If you need more than 6 months to complete the divorce then this is still allowed. Likewise, if a divorce is required quickly, the process can be expedited on an application to the Court with supporting evidence for a judge to consider.
The court fee for a divorce remains at £593, with help with the fee still in place for those who require it and who are eligible for assistance.
An order requiring the other party to pay the other’s costs will only now be possible if an additional formal application is made to the Court and unless the applicant qualifies for help with court fees, a further court fee is paid.
What happens to a divorce issued prior to 6th April 2022?
Any divorce issued by the Court on or before 5th April 2022 will continue under the old law, so a Decree Nisi and a Decree Absolute will still be issued. Any Application issued by the Court after 6th April 2022 will proceed under the new law.
If you or anyone you know requires any assistance with pursuing a divorce… talk to Tollers on 01604 258558, our experienced team can guide you through the process and also provide advice regarding any issues you may have with your matrimonial finances or disputes over your children.
Child Law | Tollers Solicitors – Family Law
Understanding why and how to enforce a child arrangements order – the order that sets out with whom a child is to live, spend time with or otherwise have contact with, is dependent on the individual facts relating to each case and you should take specialist advice about your own particular circumstances.
Agreement, order or undertaking?
Not all of the terms set out in a child arrangements order are actual orders of the court. The order will have different sections to it and may include some agreements, undertakings and\or orders. You first need to establish which part of the order is being breached.
‘Agreements’ are not orders of the court and will not be enforceable. However, if they are not being followed, this may be a reason to apply to vary the order. Agreements are normally set out in the first part of the order, commonly under the heading ‘Recitals’
‘Undertakings’ are formal promises to the court and can be enforced by the court if they are broken. They will clearly state they are undertakings and there must be a warning about the consequences of breaching them. If an undertaking is not being followed you can make an application for the offending party to be committed to prison or to be fined for contempt of court. This is called a committal application, it is complex and the correct procedures must be followed, as it has serious implications.
The actual court ‘order’ will be set out under the words ‘the court orders that’ or ‘by consent the court orders that’. To be enforceable the child arrangements order must have a warning notice on the front of the order setting out the consequences of breaching it. To be enforceable it is not enough for the order to just state that there will be contact between a child and a party, it needs to require a party to do a specific action eg to make the child available for contact or to facilitate contact.
Application to enforce child arrangements order
When making an application to enforce a child arrangements order the court will take into account the welfare of the child, who is the subject of the order. The court will then consider whether the offending party has been served with the order, whether the order has been breached and whether there is a reasonable excuse for the breach. If they are satisfied it has been served and find that it has been breached without reasonable excuse, then the court will go on to consider whether making an enforcement order is necessary to ensure compliance of the order. It will also consider whether the proposed enforcement order is proportionate to the seriousness of the breach.
The court will normally ask both parties to prepare witness statements setting out their version of events and they will hold a hearing to determine whether or not ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ the order has been breached as alleged and whether or not there was a reasonable excuse. A reasonable excuse could, for example, be where the child suddenly falls ill and is taken to the doctors instead of contact. The court will not enforce an order, if there is a reasonable excuse
If an order is being breached then the court can make orders to ensure compliance in the future. It may be that the court changes the terms of the order to ensure it can be complied with rather than taking any punitive steps to enforce it. For example, it may make a prohibited steps order to prevent a party collecting the child from school on the days the other party is due to have them. Such an order could be shared with the school who can then prevent the child being handed over to the offending party. If such an order would resolve the issue of non-compliance, then consideration should be given as to whether the application should be for a prohibited steps order and/or an enforcement application.
The court can punish someone for breaching a court order. They can be imprisoned, fined, ordered to do unpaid work or to pay compensation for financial loss. The courts are often reluctant to send people to prison as this could impact on the child, but they have made such orders where it has been necessary. The court can also change where the child lives if they feel that the offending party is unable to promote a relationship with the other party to the point it is causing emotional harm to the child.
It becomes harder for the court to enforce the order if a parent has alienated a child to the extent the child does not want to see the other parent. The difficulty then is that the party who is not complying with the order, will argue that the child is not wanting to go and to force them to do so will cause harm. This could form part of their argument that they have a reasonable excuse for breaching the order. The correct course of action for them, in this case, would be to apply to vary the order but this situation requires a lot of unraveling by the court to get to the bottom of things. If you are in this situation, it is better to appoint a solicitor at the earliest opportunity. It is very important that delay is avoided, which could compound the problems. The court can make various orders in these cases for example, appointing a guardian, ordering supervised contact to assess the relationship between the child and the other party or ordering the child to attend therapy\counselling.
The majority of people comply with court orders and the court expects compliance. In the minority of cases where people do not comply, they are normally persuaded to do so when faced with the consequences of non-compliance.
If you make a successful application to enforce an order you can ask the court to make an order that your legal costs are repaid to you by the offending party. However, this equally means that if you are unsuccessful with your application the other party can ask for their legal costs to be paid by you. It is therefore always advisable to get legal advice at an early stage if you are considering making an enforcement application or you are defending one.
Fixed fee appointments
At Tollers we offer a fixed fee appointment with a family law solicitor for £100 plus VAT. We can give you tailored advice on your specific circumstances, an understanding of what you should do next and the benefits and risks of your next steps.
To arrange an appointment with one of our family law solicitors at our Northampton, Corby, Oakham, Milton Keynes or Stevenage office…Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558 our team is on hand to guide you through.
Child Law at Tollers…
When divorce proceedings have been initiated by one spouse, the couple should look to resolve their finances at the same time. For many families, their main asset is the Family Home, although this is not always the case. It should be noted that the Family Home should be looked at in conjunction with all other assets including but not limited to: holiday homes, other properties, land, shares, savings, investments, pensions and businesses. Pensions in particular, should not be overlooked, as they too can often be the most valuable assets the parties own.
What do the court look at when deciding what orders to make?
The court has a duty to consider all the circumstances of the case and to take into account a range of specific statutory factors set out in s25(2) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973:-
- The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each of the parties has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future, including in the case of earning capacity any increase in that capacity which it would in the opinion of the court be reasonable to expect a party to the marriage to take steps to acquire;
- The financial needs, obligations and responsibilities that each of the parties has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
- The standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage;
- The age of each party and the duration of the marriage;
- Any physical or mental disability of either of the parties to the marriage;
- The contributions which each of the parties has made or is likely in the foreseeable future to make to the welfare of the family, including any contribution by looking after the home or caring for the family;
- The conduct of each of the parties, if that conduct is such that it would in the opinion of the court be inequitable to disregard it.
However, if the couple have children, the court’s overriding consideration is the welfare of any minor children of the family. The court will wish to ensure that the children of the family are adequately housed during their minority with one or both parents. It is not always possible for both spouses to be rehoused with the matrimonial assets available, so the court will look to ensure the spouse with whom the children are to live the majority of the time can house themselves adequately in the first instance.
What Orders can the court make in relation to the Family Home?
The court has a wide range of judicial discretion when determining the appropriate division of matrimonial assets but the following are the most common options available to the court in relation to the Family Home and any other properties which the parties might own.
- Sale of the property
- Transfer of the property into the sole name of one spouse, whilst the other spouse receives a lump sum or retains other assets
- Transfer of the property into the sole name of one spouse, with the other having a deferred interest in the property, which they will receive on certain events in the future eg, the youngest child completing their full time secondary education or attaining the age of 18 years. This type of order is made, where there is insufficient money for both parties to rehouse immediately and if the Family Home were sold, their children’s needs for housing would not be met.
Wherever possible, the court will seek to sever the financial ties between
spouses, so that they end their financial interdependence towards each other. If this can be achieved by way of the sale of the Family Home or transfer of the Family Home into one spouse’s sole name, this is the preferred outcome. However, in some cases, it may not be possible to do so immediately due to the lack of financial resources for one party. In these circumstances, it is likely that a transfer of the Family Home will be made to one spouse, with the other having a deferred interest in the property. This type of order is known as a ‘Mesher Order’ or ‘Charge Back Order’.
What share will I receive from the Family Home?
The court will look at the spouses’ financial circumstances on a case-by-case basis. As a starting point, assets accrued during the course of the marriage are divided equally including the Family Home irrespective of whether it is in the sole name of one spouse or in their joint names.
If both spouses are able to rehouse themselves and any children appropriately with an equal share of assets, the court will be unlikely to move away from equality. This will also be the case if one spouse has to wait until a later date (e.g. until the youngest child attains the age of 18 under a Mesher Order) to realise their interest in the Family Home.
However, if the needs of a spouse and any children cannot be met by an equal division of the net proceeds of sale from the Family Home and other capital assets, an unequal division is likely to be appropriate. In these cases, the needs of that spouse are likely to dictate how the house will be
To assess each spouse’s need for housing, the court will consider how much it will cost for them to each buy a suitable property. Both parties will provide 4 or 5 property particulars of properties they say would 1) be suitable for themselves to live in and 2) be suitable for the other spouse to live in. The court will then consider how much each party is able to raise on mortgage. Thereafter, it can work out how much each party needs by way of deposit from the sale proceeds of the Family Home and other capital assets, to purchase a suitable property. Often cases turn on whether a party needs e.g. £X to purchase a suitable property or whether they need £X plus or minus £50,000.
Unfortunately, there is no set formula to determine how the Family Home and other assets should be shared on divorce and each case will turn on its own facts. For more information and advice about the specifics of your matter, please contact one of our specialist family law solicitors on 01604 258558.
Have a question, check out our Family Law FAQs.
The campaign for a no-fault divorce process has been running for over 30 years and at long last, it will hopefully come into force in Autumn 2021. The Government has recognised the current law does not reflect modern relationships and, in June last year, they passed the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020. The Court Service is currently working to create regulations to put the new Act into practice.
The new system will allow for one or both of the parties to make a ‘statement of irretrievable breakdown’. This is simply a statement that at least one party believes the marriage has broken down irretrievably. This statement will be taken by the Court as conclusive evidence that the marriage has broken down and is all that is required and it cannot be contested. Previously, only one party had to be the petitioner and the other had to be the respondent. Within the new law it will also be possible for both parties to submit a joint statement of irretrievable breakdown enabling a truly amicable divorce for the first time. If they both do this it is not necessary to attend any court hearings in relation to the divorce itself and it can all be dealt with online.
The laws on the dissolution of civil partnerships will be amended on the same principles at the same time.
Until the new arrangements are put in place the current law will continue to apply. Currently to commence divorce proceedings in England and Wales, it is necessary to prove that the marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down’. This is satisfied by proving one of 5 Facts:
- One party has committed adultery and the other party finds it intolerable to live with them;
- One party has behaved in such a way that the other party cannot reasonably be expected to live with them;
- The parties have been separated for 2 years and both parties consent to the divorce;
- One party has deserted the other for a period of 2 years or more;
- The parties have been separated for 5 years.
This current legal structure for divorce can leave couples trying to fit their circumstances into the one of available categories, as it is not possible to obtain a divorce without making an allegation of fault, unless the parties have been separated for at least 2 years. This can unnecessarily heighten tensions between a separating couple and lead to more bitterness. It can also have an ongoing impact on the resolution of additional issues relating to finances or children
Previously there was concern that divorce should not be too easy, as it would lead to more couples getting divorced. However, evidence from countries where they have already reformed their divorce legislation does not support this.
What does this mean moving forward?
The introduction of no-fault divorce regulations does not mean that the process of divorce will automatically be faster and indeed the couple should have time to properly reflect on the ending of their marriage. There is going to be a minimum period of 20 weeks between the filing of the initial application for the divorce and the Conditional Order (currently known as the Decree Nisi) and a further 6 weeks between the making of the Conditional Order and the Final Order (currently known as the Decree Absolute). This means it will take a minimum of 6 months to complete the process.
The new divorce laws will not affect arrangements for children issues or financial settlements and It is advisable that the parties take advice before applying for the Final Order, if they have not yet resolved financial matters, particularly if there are pensions. It is also hoped that by taking the blame out of the divorce process, it will encourage a more constructive approach to resolving these arrangements, as these negotiations can be being discussed and resolved, whilst the divorce is progressing in the background.
If you have any questions regarding the new no-fault divorce laws and how these may affect you…Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558. Our highly experienced Family lawyers are on hand to provide the latest advice and guidance.
Making arrangements for children when parents separate can be difficult enough, but this can be made even more complicated when old terminology is used. There are lots of terms that may still be mentioned, when looking at what you need to put in place in regard to your children. Below we outline how these arrangements have changed and what you need to have in place now should you separate.
Custody and Access Orders
Before the Children Act 1989, if the court was being asked to make an order in relation to which parent a child was going to live with, this was known as a ‘Custody Order’. An order which set out which parent a child was going to visit, was known as an ‘Access order’. These orders no longer exist because any children who had these orders in their favour are now over 18 years of age and so they will have expired. However, these terms are often still used on television and in the media.
Residence and contact orders
In 1989 the Children Act replaced a ‘Custody Order’ with the term ‘Residence Order’. This order sets out who a child will live with and could be made:
- In favour of a single named person (also known as a sole residence order).
- Jointly in favour of two (or more) persons who live in the same household together, such as a mother and a step-father (also known as a joint residence order).
- In favour of two (or more) persons who live in different households (also known as a shared residence order).
At the same time an ‘Access Order’ was renamed as a ‘Contact Order’. This order set out the time a child spent with another person who they were not residing with This could include:
- Staying contact (i.e. staying at their address overnight and during holiday periods).
- Visiting contact (i.e. visiting the other parent for a day, for tea).
- Indirect contact (i.e. telephone and video calls, sending letters, cards and presents).
Both Residence Orders and Contact Orders, which were made before 22 April 2014, still exist and will continue to be valid orders which are enforceable through the court.
Child Arrangements Orders
Following investigations about the impact of orders on parents and children, it became apparent to the court that by describing the arrangements for the children in these terms some parents were using the orders to control the other parent in a way which was considered not to be beneficial for the children.
This resulted in Residence and Contact Orders being replaced by a single order called a ‘Child Arrangements Order’ on 22 April 2014. Since then any application which is made to the court will be for this one order which regulates:
- Who a child will live with, spend time with or otherwise have contact with.
- When a child is to live, spend time with or otherwise have contact with any other person.
Our experienced family team advise clients on the options available to then as parents. For more information regarding applying for a ‘Child Arrangement Order’ or any other matter relating to the welfare and rights of your children…talk to Tollers on 01604 258558. The team are here to work with you to achieve the best possible outcome.
On 29th April 2021 the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 was granted Royal Assent and became law.
The aim is to ensure that domestic abuse is properly understood and that it is considered unacceptable behaviour that will be challenged in the Courts and in the minds of the public.
The new Act supports the view that domestic abuse can take many forms. The legal definition now incorporates a range of abuses beyond physical violence, including emotional, coercive or controlling behaviour and economic abuse. The abuse can be behaviour consisting of a single incident or a course of conduct.
The new Act will also provide further protection to the millions of people who experience domestic abuse, as well as strengthen measures to tackle perpetrators.
Here are some of the ways the Act will help victims:
- Create a new offence of non-fatal strangulation.
- Extend the controlling or coercive behaviour offence to cover post separation abuse.
- Extend the “revenge porn” offence to cover the threat to disclose intimate images with the intention to cause distress.
- Place a duty on Local Authorities in England to provide support to victims of domestic abuse and their children in refuges and other safe accommodation.
- Provide that all eligible homes victims of domestic abuse automatically have “priority need” for homelessness assistance.
- Stop vexatious family proceedings that can further traumatic victims by clarifying the circumstances in which a Court may make a Barring Order under s.91.14 of the Children Act 1989.
The Police will also be given new powers including Domestic Abuse Protection Notices providing victims with immediate protection from abusers, while Courts will be able to hand out new Domestic Abuse Protection Orders to help prevent offending by forcing perpetrators to take steps to change their behaviour, including seeking mental health support or drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
One of the more important new protections and support that will be available for victims of abuse, under the Domestic abuse act, will be to ensure that abusers will no longer be allowed to directly cross-examine their victims in the Family and Civil Courts, giving victims better access to special measures in the courtroom to help prevent intimidation such as protective screens and giving evidence via video-link.
Following the impact of the pandemic, especially for those suffering domestic abuse, the new Act which has been long awaited, is very much needed. The family courts especially will now be able to provide stronger protections for victims and local councils will be forced to fund support in safe accommodation.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with issues of domestic abuse… Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558. Our experienced team are on hand to guide you through the process of obtaining orders through the courts on an urgent basis and provide you with the support you need to ensure your safety.
Landmark Domestic Abuse Bill receives Royal Assent – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
On 24th March 2020, the Home Office published guidance for visa applicants in the UK, visa applicants outside of the UK and British nationals overseas who need to apply for a passport affected by travel restrictions associated with the coronavirus.
The key points include:
Applicants is in the UK with leave expiring between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020
The visa will be extended to 31 May 2020 if the applicant is unable to leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation relating to COVID-19.
The applicant will be required to update their records with the Coronavirus immigration team in the event the visa is expiring and there were no plans for them to stay in the UK.
Applying to stay in the UK long-term
Applications can be made from the UK to switch to a long-term UK visa until 31 May 2020. This includes applications that would usually be made for a visa from the home country of the applicant.
The applicant will need to meet the requirements of the route they are applying for and pay the UK application fee. This includes those whose leave has already been automatically extended to 31 March 2020.
The terms of the leave will remain the same until the application is decided.
Application and Service Centres in the UK
UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centres (UKVCAS) and Service and Support Centres (SSCs) are temporarily closed because of COVID-19.
Applicants cannot book an appointment.
If an appointment has already been made
The applicant will be contacted to be informed that it has been cancelled. The applicant will be advised when they can book a new appointment.
The applicant’s immigration status in the UK will not change as a result of the appointment being re-arranged/cancelled.
Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa and the business
There is no longer a requirement to employ at least 2 people for 12 consecutive months each. The 12 month period that is required to employ someone can be made up of multiple employees across different months.
The period of the employees being furloughed will not count towards the 12 month period.
If the staff have not been employed for 12 months in total by the time the visa expires, a temporary extension to stay will be provided to meet the requirement.
Doctor, nurses or paramedics working for the NHS
The visa will be automatically extended by one year if it is due to expire before 1 October 2020. Family members with a visa due to expire before 1 October 2020 will also have their visa extended.
The extension is free and the applicant will not have to pay the immigration health surcharge.
The applicant does not need to apply, the Home Office will contact NHS employers to identify the staff that are eligible for this extension.
Changes to the current restrictions on the number of hours of work or volunteering
There is no longer a limit on the number of hours of work or volunteering each week if the applicant works for the NHS as a doctor, nurse or a paramedic and the applicant is a:
- tier 4 student
- tier 2 worker and the NHS job is a second job
- visiting academic researcher
- holder of a short-term visa and are permitted to volunteer
Pre-registration nurse in the UK
The deadline to sit the Occupational Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) has been extended to 31 December 2020.
Applicants outside the UK
All UK Visa Application Centres (VACs) are closed.
If the applicant has an appointment and the VAC is now closed, the applicant will be contacted with cancellation confirmation.
English Testing Centres are also affected.
For updates to the status of VACs in your country please contact the Toller’s immigration team.
Documents of the applicants
Due to worldwide border, travel and public health restrictions it may not be possible for the return of the passports at this time.
Should the applicant require the return of the passport, they must contact the visa application centre where the application was logged, to see if courier return is available in their location.
British nationals abroad who need to apply for a passport
If VAC is closed in the area, then an application for a British passport cannot be made. For urgent matters an application for an emergency travel document can be made.
Global Talent, Start-up or Innovator visa
If the endorsement from an endorsing body has expired because the applicant has not been able to travel to the UK, they may still be eligible for a visa. The application should be made as planned and the Home Office will consider all applications on a case by case basis.
If you require any specific advice or support regarding Visa’s, temporary UK Residency or on any other immigration matter …Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558 to arrange an initial telephone or video consultation with Tollers Immigration Expert Minara Hannan or email firstname.lastname@example.org
On 15th July 2018, Minara Hannan attended the Northampton Bangladeshi Association Summer Fair.
Talking about the event Minara said: “It has been an absolute pleasure to attend the Northampton Bangladeshi Association Summer Fair with my Daughter. I have been looking forward to attending the event to meet local people. Having worked with local Charity Organisations previously, I felt it was important to raise awareness of the legal services I am able to offer to the local Bangladeshi community.”
Minara had a wonderful day, and the weather was great too. NBA staff were very accommodating and supportive. The day was thoroughly entertaining with live music, lots of activities for the adults and the children, and delicious homemade food was available too from a variety of stalls.
Through the support of the NBA staff, Minara was able to offer free immigration advice on the day. She thoroughly enjoyed meeting individual community members and dealing with their immigration enquiries, as well as family matters. Some of the community members explained how difficult it is for them to travel out of town in order to seek guidance on simple matters such as obtaining a travel visa. They were delighted to learn such services are now available locally, and in the language they speak including Bengali, Hindi and Urdu.
It was apparent from the conversations with people at the event that the local community are using out of town services for matters relating to immigration and family for cultural and linguistic barrier reasons. Minara hopes being involved in the event helped people to realise, such services are now available from their local law firm; Tollers Solicitors. In addition, bilingual Solicitors are also available to assist clients on a one to one basis.
Having the opportunity of meeting the local people directly at the event, and after having discussions with other valuable community leaders such as Anjona Roy from Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council and Mr Latif and his team who are from the NBA management committee, gave Minara valuable insight into the needs and the difficulties of the local community with regards to accessing legal advice and guidance.
In light of this, it was made know to the community through the event that Minara would be delighted to accommodate enquiries relating to Immigration and Family matters either at the NBA centre or at any other confidential place, at a time suitable to them.
Being an experienced Immigration and Family Solicitor Minara specialises in the following immigration matters:
- Visitors Visa
- Staying in the UK on a visa after a divorce
- Leave to remain
- Obtaining settlement via the parent route
- Switching to a work visa
- Over stayers and other ways of staying as a legal resident of UK
- Domestic violence route
- Asylum and refugees
- Bail applications and deportation
- Spouse Visa
- Article 8 and Private life
- Best interest of children
And much more……
Having had such an amazing day, Minara is now looking forward to the next NBA community event.
To speak to Minara about a Family Law or Immigration Matter she can be contacted on 01908 396230.
In the long-anticipated judgement of Owens v Owens , the Supreme Court dismissed Mrs Owens’ petition to divorce her husband Mr Owens. Although with reluctance, the majority ruled that Mrs Owens had failed to prove the marriage had irretrievably broken down.
Mrs Owens married her husband in 1978. The decision now means (despite confirming that the marriage had become loveless and desperately unhappy), she will have to wait until 2020 in order to divorce him without consent. Although on the face of it this seems unfair, with Mr Owens contesting the divorce both he and Mrs Owens by law must live apart for five years in order for the divorce to be accepted. Therefore, having filed the initial divorce in 2015 without consent from Mr Owens the divorce won’t be accepted until 2020.
Mrs Owens argued that the courts interpretation of section 1(2)(b) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 was incorrect. This section provides that a spouse can obtain a divorce upon irretrievable breakdown of the marriage if the other party has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with them.
Much of Mrs Owens petition regarded appropriate anodyne terms not uncommon in modern divorce proceedings. These included claims that ‘Mr Owens had prioritised his work over their life at home; that his treatment of her had lacked love or affection’ or that he had at times been disparaging to her in public. In total there were 27 allegations provided all of which were defended by Mr Owens, who explained that he felt they still had a “few years” to enjoy together.
What happened in court?
The court in the first instance refused the petition. Judge Robin Toulson QC explaining that Mrs Owens’ allegations were “minor” and “to be expected in Marriage.”
Court of Appeal
Not at all happy with the decision, Mrs Owens took the case to the Court of Appeal. Giving the leading judgement, Sir James Munby upheld Judge Toulson’s decision and dismissed the appeal. He explained that Judge Toulson was correct in his ruling that the marriage had not in law irretrievably broken down. He did however pass comment on the state of the current law explaining that unhappiness should in future be grounds for divorce.
Following on from Judge Toulson’s concerns in the Court of Appeal, the decision to dismiss the appeal although unanimous generated “uneasy feelings” amongst the Supreme Court panel. Lord Wilson said, he was “reluctantly persuaded” to dismiss the appeal on the basis that he had to follow law enacted by parliament.
What does this mean?
The current law in England and Wales states that in order to divorce within the first two years after separation grounds of adultery or unreasonable behaviour must be proven.
After two years of separation and if both parties are in agreement a divorce will be allowed. However, this is not the case if one party disagrees with the divorce. In this circumstance the petitioner must wait five years until they can divorce without the other party’s consent.
Arguably, the decision in Owens v Owens  is not a reflection of most divorce proceedings. Lord Wilson explains that of the 114,000 petitions for divorce filed in England and Wales in 2016 only 17 amounted to a contested hearing in court.
However, the backlash from Owens v Owens  will be felt across the family law community. The concern is that the decision puts pressure on couples to intensify allegations of unreasonable behaviour to ensure the divorce is accepted by the courts. This in turn increases animosity amongst couples further establishing a divorce system based around fault and blame.
With cases such as Owens v Owens , the level of animosity created during a fully defended divorce would strongly suggest that the marriage has well and truly broken down. However, as Lady Hale explains it is not for the courts “to change the law laid down by Parliament” and although the decision can be criticised it is the courts role to implement the law not change it.
The future of this area of law therefore falls to parliament, though in light of Brexit it is hard to say how much of a priority this will be.
If you are considering a divorce and would like to discuss your specific circumstances, Talk to Tollers. Our team of Family Solicitors are friendly and empathetic and will help you through this difficult time. Our team can be contacted on 01604 258558 or email email@example.com