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.”

The Event

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:

 

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 [2018], 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?

First Instance

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.

Supreme Court

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 [2018] 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 [2018] 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 [2018], 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 talk@tollers.co.uk

Just got engaged and planning your wedding? Congratulations! We know there is a lot to think about when planning for the biggest day in your life so far and we have set out below some guidance to help make the big day run smoothly and your life together more secure.

Contracts and terms and conditions

As you will quickly learn, weddings are expensive and, more likely than not  you will  be required to pay large deposits to secure bookings with your suppliers, for example with your venue. It is vital that you ensure you have a contract in place with each supplier you engage and that you read the terms and conditions that apply to you before you sign any documents and pay the deposit. Having something in writing will ensure that both you and the supplier are clear on the terms agreed which will help avoid any disputes later down the line.

Payments

You should also keep a record of a payment schedule to ensure that you pay various suppliers on time. If you miss payments, the supplier may have the option in their terms and conditions to terminate the contract or suspend their services until they receive payment from you.

Deposits and cancellation rights

As you will be paying big deposits you should check whether the terms and conditions allow you to cancel the contract. You may want to do this if you change your mind about a supplier or you may need to in the event of any unforeseen circumstances such as the death of a family member.

If you have signed the contract away from the supplier’s premises (e.g. online) you are afforded some rights under the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 (“Regulations”). The Regulations give consumers a ‘cooling off period’ which is the right to cancel the contract within 14 days (usually from the date of the conclusion of the contract) without giving any reason or incurring any costs. The supplier is also required to give you certain information before you sign the contract, such as their full details and how you can contact them, the prices of the goods/services, their complaint handling policy etc. If the supplier does not provide you with this information, then your right to cancel may be extended to 12 months from the date the contract was signed.

If the contracts are actually signed at the supplier’s premises, you will not have the cooling off period granted by the Regulations but you should still check what the cancellation provisions state as you may need to cancel the contract. Most suppliers will want to recover most of the deposit or a percentage of the full price as compensation for their loss. The closer the date you cancel the contract to the date of your wedding, the more likely you will be required to pay a bigger sum to the supplier. However, suppliers have to be careful and ensure that any sums they retain actually reflects their reasonable loss. If the provisions are considered as a ‘penalty’ under common law, the clause will be unenforceable. We can review the terms and conditions for you and provide you with advice.

Faulty goods/services and dispute management

Once you have booked the goods/services you should follow up in writing with the supplier for every new or amended terms agreed over the phone. This will help avoid any confusion and protect your interests in the event of any disputes.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 (“CRA”) gives consumers additional rights in respect of faulty goods or services provided by traders (i.e. photographers, venue suppliers etc).

With regard to any goods you purchase (e.g. table centre pieces, decorations, stationery), the CRA says goods must be as described, fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality. During the expected lifespan of the goods you are entitled to the following:

With regards to services you book (e.g. musicians/DJ):

Writing a will

It’s not the most romantic thing to think about but a Will is an important legal document that gives you the opportunity to set out your wishes and determine how your assets (or estate) will be dealt with when you die. If you already have a will in place, you do need to review this after or before your marriage as marriage will automatically revoke an existing will unless that will has been made expressly in contemplation of your impending marriage. Our Trusts and Estates team who would be more than happy to answer any queries you have and to prepare a will for you.

Moving house

Where are you both going to live? You may decide to move homes before or shortly after your wedding. You will need to think how you wish to own the property with your partner. Again, not the most romantic thing to think about but you may need to consider what you wish to happen on the death of you or your partner or in the event of a relationship breakdown.

You may own the property either as joint tenants or as tenants in common. Under a joint tenancy arrangement, you and your partner would own the property jointly and in equal shares and upon the death of one party, the property will automatically vest in the survivor. In this scenario there is no share capable of being left in the will. However, you will need a will to determine what will happen to the property in the event that you both die.

As tenants in common, you and your partner would take distinct fixed shares in the value of the property. This will usually be equal shares unless you specify unequal shares, for example to reflect contributions to the purchase price. Upon the death of one party, the survivor would retain their own share in the property whilst the share of deceased would pass according to their will or pursuant to intestacy rules if there was no will.

Moving homes can be a stressful time especially whilst planning your wedding. Our conveyancing team can advise you of your options and support you through the process so that it runs as smoothly as possible.

We wish you good luck in your planning but if you would like more information about the issues above or any queries you may have, Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558.

There are very few of us who get married with the intention of getting divorced. However, life can be unpredictable. If your situation at home reaches a stage where you are thinking about divorce, it can help to know the process of divorce and what to expect. In England and Wales, to be able to get a divorce you must have had a legally recognised marriage, been married for at least a year, and live or be domiciled in England or Wales.

There are 3 main stages to divorcing your spouse;

Filing a Petition for Divorce

This is where you apply to the court for permission to end your marriage and give your reasons for deciding to do so.

Apply for a Decree Nisi

This is an order by the court stating when the marriage will end unless a good reason is produced not to end the marriage.

Apply for a Decree Absolute

This legally ends your marriage and the Petitioner can apply for it 6 weeks after you receive your Decree Nisi.

When arranging a divorce matters become much easier if both you and your spouse are in agreement about: the reasons for the divorce, the arrangements for your children spending time with each parent and the division of any property, possessions and finances. If these things can be agreed, the process and paperwork should be relatively straight forward.

If these things cannot be agreed upon, mediation is a good way to reach these agreements with your spouse.

When filing for divorce, you must give the court a valid reason for doing so. You will be asked to state that the marriage has irretrievably broken down due to one of the following reasons;

Adultery

When sexual relations take place with a person outside the marriage. It is still adultery, if it takes place after you have separated. This may not be given as grounds for divorce if you continued to live with your spouse for 6 months after finding out.

Unreasonable Behaviour

This may include, but is not limited to, physical violence, drunkenness and drug-taking, verbal abuse and refusal to contribute financially to the household.

Desertion

When your husband or wife has left you without your agreement, without good reason to end your relationship, for more than 2 years within the last 2.5 years. This can be difficult to prove and it is generally better to rely on one of the other facts.

2 Year Separation

When you have lived apart for 2 years and both parties agree to the divorce, this must be agreed in writing.

5 Year Separation

When you have lived apart for 5 years, this is usually enough to be granted a divorce even if your spouse does not agree to it.

If you are facing the oftentimes difficulties of divorce and are unsure of where to start, talk to a member of the Tollers Family Law team on 01908 396230 we are here to help you every step of the way.

As reported on by the Law Society, in a recent hearing the Court of Appeal has ruled that the harsh evidence tests victims of domestic violence must undergo in order to qualify for family law legal aid are unlawful.

The ruling comes a year after the High Court rejected a legal challenge from the charity Rights of Women.

Emma Scott, director of Rights of Women, said:

‘For nearly three years we have known that the strict evidence requirements for legal aid have cut too many women off from the very family law remedies that could keep them and their children safe. Today’s judgement is important recognition of women’s real-life experiences of domestic violence and means that more women affected by violence will have access to advice and representation in the family courts.

‘The Court of Appeal has accepted our arguments that the fear of a perpetrator does not disappear after two years and recognised that forms of violence, such as financial abuse, are almost impossible for women to evidence. We look forward to working with the Ministry of Justice on amendments to the regulations to ensure that women affected by all forms of domestic violence are able to get legal aid.’

1.2 million women experience domestic violence every year. Since the introduction 3 years ago of the domestic violence evidence criteria Rights of Women has been monitoring the ability of women affected by violence to access family law legal aid.  In a survey conducted by Rights of Women:  – more than 50% of women said they took no legal action as a direct result of not being eligible for legal aid.

If you have been effected by the issues raised within this article and suffer domestic abuse we strongly advise you seek advice. Tollers do not offer legal aid but we do have a friendly and emphatic team that can help with any aspect of family law.

One of the most helpful online resources can be found on the Citizen’s Advice website.

What is a pre-nuptial Agreement?

If you are planning to marry or enter into a civil partnership you might wish to consider entering into a pre-nuptial agreement. This is a document which sets out what you and your future spouse or civil partner would want to happen to your assets in the event of a separation in the future.

Who should enter into a pre-nup?

Anyone who is planning to enter into a marriage or civil partnership can enter into a pre-nuptial agreement, although they are most widely used in cases where one or both parties has pre-acquired assets which they would wish to protect in the future. This may particularly be the case if either party has a child or children from a previous marriage or relationship for whom they would wish to protect any pre-acquired wealth.

What sort of things should be included?

A pre-nuptial agreement can deal with all sorts of financial issues that might arise upon divorce and we will discuss your particular circumstances with you before any agreement is prepared. However as a general guide you might wish to consider the following key points:

  1. What will happen to pre-accrued assets and those accrued during the marriage itself?
  2. What will happen to the family home?  Who will live there and how will any proceeds be divided if the marriage should fail?
  3. What will happen in the event of significant changes of circumstances during the course of the marriage, for example, the birth of children? The pre-nuptial agreement will normally provide for the agreement to be reviewed periodically and upon the occurrence of such significant events.
  4. How will any children and/or step children be provided for

Are pre-nups legally binding?

Historically pre-nuptial agreements have not been legally binding in England and Wales. However, whilst this is still generally the position, there was a significant case in 2010 in which it was decided that the court should give effect to a pre-nuptial agreement provided that it had been freely entered into by each party and that they each had a full appreciation of its implications, unless in all of the circumstances of the particular case it would not be fair to hold the parties to their agreement.

Then, in 2012, the Law Commission gave consideration to the issue of pre-nuptial agreements and recommended that legislation be enacted to introduce what would be called ‘qualifying nuptial agreements’. To be a ‘Qualifying Nuptial Agreement’ the contract entered into by the parties would need to meet certain criteria, as set out below:

  1. The agreement must be freely entered into by each party;
  2. The agreement must contain a statement signed by both parties stating that they understand that this is a qualifying nuptial agreement and that it will remove the court’s power to make  financial provision upon a divorce, unless the agreement leaves either party without provision to meet their needs.
  3. The agreement should be entered into no less than 28 days before the wedding or civil partnership to ensure that each party has had time to consider the effect of the same and has not felt under pressure to enter into the agreement.
  4. Both parties must have received full disclosure of the other’s financial situation before entering into the agreement.
  5. Both parties must have received legal advice at the time that the agreement was formed.

Whilst no legislation making qualifying  nuptial agreements legally binding has been introduced as yet, it does seems clear from the Law Commission’s recommendations that there is a move towards a situation where pre-nuptial agreements, provided that all the necessary criteria have been met, can be persuasive in determining how a couples assets will be dealt with upon divorce.

For further advice regarding pre-nuptial agreements please contact one of our family law specialists on 01604 258788

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