At Next Law we have expertise in all areas of family law, including: Separation and Divorce, Child Law, Cohabitation, Prenuptial Agreements
The breakdown of your family is one of the most stressful and upsetting experiences that an individual can go through. The impact can be far reaching and long lasting. At Next Law we offer empathetic, balanced and practical advice on all areas of family law. We appreciate that contacting a solicitor to find out where you stand in a sensitive family issue is not easy. But, we are here to make that first step as easy as it possibly can be. We are here to listen to you, counsel you and fight for you.
At Next Law we have expertise in all areas of family law, including:
- Separation and Divorce
- Child Law
- Prenuptial Agreements
Trust us to be there with you and guide you through this anxious time to achieve the best outcome for you and your family.
Separation and Divorce
When a relationship or marriage breaks down it is difficult for all involved. Emotions are undoubtedly running high. We appreciate that there will be a great number of uncertainties in relation to where you stand on financial matters, your children and your home, that will only add to the stress of the situation. It is important that you contact an expert who can advise you on your rights and provide you with a course of action that will help you move forward through this difficult time.
For most, the first step in dealing with the fall out of a relationship breakdown is to reach an agreement upon the division of the family assets and, if applicable, arrangements in relation to your children. This agreement requires to be put in a legal format termed a Minute of Agreement which is a legally binding contract between you and your spouse, or partner. Every circumstance is unique and in some situations the division of the family assets is not straightforward. Therefore it is importance to obtain advice on all aspects of your separation.
It is also, essential to take legal advice before signing any Agreement. If you have not consulted a solicitor from the outset then we cannot emphasise enough the importance of consulting one before signing an Agreement. You may find that what has been set out in the Agreement is not legally correct, or fair and reasonable in the circumstances. It can be incredibly difficult, although not impossible, to set aside an Agreement if independent legal advice had not been sought (and in other narrow circumstances) before signing. To do so, however, will involve the Courts and will be costly.
In some cases an agreement cannot be reached and the Courts will need to be involved to make the ultimate decision on the division of the family assets and arrangements for the children. Not only does this come at a financial cost, but also an emotional cost. Court actions are adversarial in nature and as such can have a very detrimental effect on any relationship you and your spouse, or partner, have in the future. Bear in mind that if you have children, you will need to maintain a certain level of contact between each other until the children are at least 16. We always strive to avoid resorting to Court, but have many years of experience of dealing with actions in Court.
At Next Law we will always treat you with thoughtfulness and understanding. But, be assured we will also always provide you with balanced and pragmatic advice and make clear the advantages, and disadvantages, of any recommended course of action in order that you can reach an informed decision. Relationships are complicated, even more so when they come to an end. Our many years of experience means that you can trust that we will endeavour to help you to come to terms with the end of your relationship, and put you in the best possible position to move forward in your new independent life.
Only the Courts can dissolve a marriage. This is what happens when a Court grants a divorce. A divorce can be straightforward and reasonably inexpensive, or complicated and costly. It all depends upon whether you have a Minute of Agreement in place (or have reached agreement in relation to finances) and whether there are any children of your marriage under the age of 16 years.
The ideal scenario is that upon separation you and your spouse were able to enter into a Minute of Agreement. Within such an Agreement there will be provision for raising an action of divorce. It would detail when the action can be raised, who would raise it and who would pay the various costs. If there is an Agreement in place, or if you have been able to reach an agreement yourselves that you are happy with, and there are no children involved under the age 16 years, then a simplified procedure can be used. In all other circumstances a full court action requires to be raised.
If there is an Agreement in place, or you have been able to reach agreement on the finances and arrangement for the children yourselves, then the court action will be relatively straightforward. This process is, however, more costly than the simplified procedure. The most costly action is one where you have not been able to reach an Agreement and the Court is being asked to decide upon the division of assets, or division of assets and arrangements for the children. In some circumstances taking your issues directly to court is the right course of action to reach a resolution. We are here to ensure that you are comfortable in making that decision and are prepared for taking it to its conclusion.
At Next Law we have significant experience in dealing with the various actions of divorce. Our aim, from separation to the dissolution of your marriage, is to reach the best possible outcome for you. We understand that the costs of reaching that outcome can be an additional worry at a very stressful and difficult time. Therefore, at Next Law we ensure that you are fully advised on the costs of any suggested option and will keep you informed of any changes to the anticipated costs as your case progresses. In some circumstances we are even able to offer a fixed fee for our services. In all cases we are here to provide expert advice and guidance to allow you to move on with your life after the breakdown of your relationship with as little worry and stress as possible.
Your children are always the priority when deciding upon going through with a separation. Sometimes separation is inevitable. How children are affected by the breakdown of a relationship is always a huge concern for parents. Most worrying for parents is understanding their rights in relation to their children. Where they stand legally and what steps they may need to take to ensure that those rights are implemented with as little distress caused to the children as possible.
Every family unit is unique with different needs. When a couple separate it is important to ensure that the needs of the children take priority when agreeing or negotiating how arrangements will work going forward. It is difficult to come to terms with the idea that your daily routine with your children is going to change, sometimes dramatically. But, it is also important to realise that it is what is best for the children that is important and what the Courts will have as their paramount concern if it comes to that. Any arrangement that you come to needs to be engineered to ensure that it is not only in the best interest of the children, you and your spouse (or partner), but also that is possible at a practical level.
At Next Law we have dealt with a broad spectrum of child related issues. We are here to discuss any concerns you may have. Whether you are finding out where you would stand in the event of separation, already have an agreement in place that you need help changing, or are newly separated and looking to put something in place that will give you and your children the much needed certainty going forward. Our team will work with you to ensure the best resolution is found for you and your family.
Cohabitation is the (rather unromantic) legal term given to a couple who are living together as if married. You and your partner are called cohabitees and, since a change of law in 2006, this affords you certain rights upon separation, or if your partner dies. A number of criteria are taken into consideration when determining if a couple are cohabitees. It is important to take legal advice as soon as possible to determine whether you could be categorised as a cohabitee as there are time limits, depending on the circumstances, within which to make a claim.
It is unfortunately necessary in terms of the legislation to make a claim. These rights, unlike married couples, are not automatic. In the case of separation a cohabitee requires to show that they have suffered an economic disadvantage as a result of the separation AND the other party has obtained an economic advantage as a result of the separation. This claim must be made to the Courts within twelve months of separation if the parties are unable to reach an agreement and enter a Minute of Agreement before then.
In the case of the death of a partner the cohabitant is entitled to make a claim if there was no Will. A cohabitant is not able to claim more than a spouse would have been entitled to, and it must be raised within six months of the death of their partner. This is a very narrow window of opportunity and so it is important to consult a solicitor as soon as possible to ensure that the time limit is not missed.
Bearing all of the above in mind, you may wish to consider a Cohabitation Agreement to protect you and your partner’s assets in the event that things do not go as planned. They can be very useful where you have children from a former relationship, you are being gifted money or receiving an inheritance, you already own a property that your partner is moving into, or you are buying a house together and contributing more than your partner towards the deposit. A Cohabitation Agreement is a legally binding contract which will detail what happens to your assets in the event of your relationship breaking down or if one of you should die.
Next Law can advise you in relation to all aspects of cohabitation. We understand that the breakdown of a relationship, whether you were married or not, is never easy. The loss of a long term partner is just as heartbreaking. Our team appreciates that your anxiety is, if anything, greater as a cohabitant, because the law (although it has come a long way) still does not afford you the same certainty as that of married couples. We are here to provide you reassurance and expert advice that will guide you through that inevitable apprehensive and uncertain time.
Prenuptial Agreements are, as the title suggests, a legally binding Agreement that couples enter into prior to marriage. They regulate not only the assets already owned by each individual but can also determine how future assets are to be divided in the event of separation, divorce or death. Where the Prenuptial Agreement offers peace of mind is that what is agreed, provided it is fair and reasonable at the time it was entered into, does not need to follow what is dictated by legislation in relation to the division of matrimonial property or rules on succession. Prenuptial Agreements that follow this requirement are enforceable by the Courts.
The costs of separation and divorce can be very high. What constitutes matrimonial property can change over the period of marriage and something that was yours before marriage can suddenly become part of the pot to be divided. The guiding principal of the legislation in relation to separation and divorce is fairness. This means that the Courts do have a large amount of discretion when determining a case and as a result in some cases the outcome can be uncertain. A correctly drafted Prenuptial Agreement can avoid all of this.
To be certain that your Prenuptial Agreement is one that can be enforced by the Courts it is sensible to have this drafted correctly, by a solicitor. Our team at Next Law have many years experience in drafting such Agreements and ensuring that what has been agreed would meet the fair and reasonable test. Everyone’s circumstances are different and as such we ensure that we prepare an Agreement to suit your particular needs. A Prenuptial Agreement may never be needed. But is it not better to be safe than sorry. Let us help give you peace of mind that if the worse should happen you have something in place that will minimise the stress and cost to you.