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Posts by: Nicola Barrow

No-fault divorces being introduced this April

This entry was posted in Family Law, For you on by .

The law surrounding divorce and separation for married couples and couples in a civil partnership is set to change this April, with no-fault divorces made available from 6th April 2022. 

Whereas the law currently requires one spouse to lay blame on the other in order to obtain a divorce, usually on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour or adultery, the new law will enable couples to make a joint application, removing the requirement to give a reason for the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. 

Having been debated over since 2019, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 is set to be the biggest reform of divorce law in the last fifty years, and is designed to enable couples who have reached a mutual decision regarding the end of their marriage to achieve a positive uncoupling rather than engaging in difficult and often stressful legal conflict, which can cause significant issues particularly where children are involved. 

 

What are the changes being made with no-fault divorces? 

 

Removal of blame 

A no-fault divorce will allow couples to separate on mutual terms without the need to cast blame solely onto one party, offering a more civilised and dignified divorce process. 

Under the new laws, a couple will be granted a divorce by stating that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, without the need to cite adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion as the reason, and without having to be separated for at least two years. 

 

Joint applications for divorce 

Under current laws, in order to obtain a divorce one person has to issue divorce proceedings against the other, stating a reason for the breakdown of the marriage. With the reform, a couple will be able to make an application jointly on the basis of reaching a mutual decision regarding the breakdown of the marriage. 

 

Updated terminology 

Widespread opinion indicates that some of the terminology currently used in the divorce process is outdated. As a result, the reform will also introduce new terminology that’s easier to understand. The person applying for the divorce will become the ‘applicant’ rather than the ‘petitioner’, the ‘decree nisi’ will become the ‘conditional order’, and the ‘decree absolute’ will be renamed the ‘final order’. 

 

Contesting no longer an option 

As things currently stand, one person in the partnership is required to submit a divorce petition, which provides reasons behind their request to legally separate, and their spouse is given the option to contest this. With the new no-fault divorce system, contesting a divorce petition will no longer be an option.

 

How long will a no-fault divorce take? 

An application for no-fault divorce can be submitted jointly or by one spouse. For many, the concern has been that the new reforms will make divorce a quicker and easier option for couples than trying to save the marriage. In order to counter these concerns, there will be a minimum of 20 weeks between issuing proceedings and reaching the first stage of the divorce in order to allow for reflection on the decision and the possibility of reconciliation. 

 

What are the current laws for divorce in England and Wales? 

At present, if a couple wishes to legally divorce, they must make an application to the court which demonstrates their reasons for doing so, with the aim being to convince the court that the marriage has irreparably broken down. 

Broadly, the reasons considered for grounds for divorce fit into four categories: 

 

Adultery 

If you spouse has been unfaithful to you and has engaged in sexual activity with another person, this can be valid grounds for divorce. 

 

Unreasonable behaviour 

Unreasonable behaviour is cited as the most common grounds for divorce in England and Wales, with 51% of all divorce applications from husbands and 36% of all applications from wives stating unreasonable behaviour as the reason. 

Examples of unreasonable behaviour can range from the minor to the major and/or criminal, however the most common examples of unreasonable behaviour used in divorce proceedings are: 

  • Domestic abuse and physical violence 
  • Lack of sexual activity between spouses 
  • Family disputes 
  • Inappropriate relationship with another, or infidelity 
  • Debt or financial recklessness 
  • Verbal abuse, shouting, belittling, or threatening behaviour 
  • Obsessive behaviours, including obsessive hobbies 
  • Lack of socialising together 
  • Excessive drunkenness and/or substance abuse 
  • Lack of support 

 

Desertion 

Desertion can be stated as a reason for divorce in instances where one person has deserted the other without explanation, and has been absent for two years or longer. 

 

Separation 

Separation can be used as a reason for divorce after the couple has been separated for two years, provided both people agree to the divorce, or after five years if not. 

 

DRN’s divorce services 

Experienced divorce solicitors in Lancashire 

If you are facing family or matrimonial difficulties, our team of dedicated solicitors can help you with getting your life back on track. Providing expert, straightforward and practical advice, all of the family solicitors in our team are fully qualified and committed to handling every case with sensitivity and professionalism. 

 

Fixed-fee divorce packages 

Experiencing matrimonial difficulties can cause a great deal of stress, and often the last thing our clients need is the additional worry of the cost of legal support. At DRN, we aim to deliver our services with transparency, which is why we offer fixed-fee packages for a number of separation scenarios. 

 

For further information about the services we offer for couples looking to divorce, please contact our offices on 01282 433241. 

 

 

How to Handle Child Custody Arrangements

This entry was posted in Family Law, For you on by .

Making the decision to divorce or separate can lead to a difficult time for all involved, particularly if the relationship has not ended amicably, and situations where children are involved can be even more stressful and emotionally demanding. 

AT DRN, our experienced Family Law solicitors are committed to supporting you through your divorce or separation, helping you to focus on the best steps to take to protect your child’s best interests. 

 

How to decide which parent will receive custody of the child 

Settling on the decision of which parent the child will live with is often the first step in making arrangements for a child following separation or divorce. Previously referred to as child custody or residence, the process has been relabelled in recent years as ‘child arrangements’. 

In many cases, the issue of custody is often resolved privately between the parents, however if this is not possible, there are steps you can take to ensure you achieve the result best suited for your child’s needs. 

Neither parent has automatic right to custody following separation. If an agreement cannot be reached through private discussion, you may wish to request the intervention of the court to help with settling the matter of custody. 

Whether you seek to reach an agreement inside or outside of the court, there are a number of key factors which should (and will) be taken into consideration, including: 

  • The child’s own wishes 
  • The physical, emotional and educational needs of the child 
  • The child’s age, gender, circumstances, and any other relevant detail 
  • Any risk of harm the child may face in living with either parent
  • The capability of each parent to take care of the child and support their needs (separate from the question of who will provide financial support for the child) 

With the above factors in mind, custody will usually be granted to the parent who has taken on the majority of care-taking responsibilities for the child. 

Typically, the other parent will then be required to make regular child maintenance payments so that the child may receive adequate financial support. 

 

Can both parents share custody? 

Whilst shared custody is a possibility, it is a less common arrangement as the disruption caused by the child having to regularly move between two homes is considered unideal.

In instances where there are two or more children involved, it is possible for one sibling to live with one parent and the other(s) to live with the other parent, however this is considered to be an unusual arrangement. 

 

What are the rights and responsibilities of the non-resident parent? 

Unless there are exceptional circumstances preventing contact, the parent with whom the child does not live will be entitled to regular visits or correspondence with the child. This right is waived only in cases where the parent may pose a threat to the child, or in instances where an older child has expressed their wishes not to maintain contact with the other parent. 

Contact arrangements can be made to include weekly or fortnightly contact, overnight stays, contact on special occasions, and annual holidays and trips away, but the priority should always be placed on serving the best interests of the child. 

In any case, both parents will continue to have parental responsibility for the child, meaning that while the parent the child lives with will be responsible for the day-to-day decision-making, both parents have a right to be involved in any major decisions. For this reason, it is always advisable that both parents seek to remain on good terms with their former partner/spouse. 

 

What is a child arrangements order? 

If you have been unable to reach an agreement privately, or if you are now concerned that the other parent is not fulfilling their responsibilities in accordance with a prior agreement, there is the option for you to apply to the court for a child arrangements order. This order usually lasts until the child is 16 years old (or 18 in exceptional cases).

Child arrangements orders are often sought in instances where the resident parent is disrupting or refusing the other parent’s contact with the child, or where child custody and contact rights have not already been established and agreed upon from the offset.

There are also two other types of court application available to a parent – a specific issue order and a prohibited steps order. 

You might wish to make an application for a specific issue order if both you and your ex-partner cannot come to an agreement on an important decision, such as where the child should be educated. 

A prohibited steps order is used to prevent a particular action, such as your child being moved to a different part of the country (or abroad) where it will be difficult for you to maintain contact, or your former partner changing the child’s surname after remarrying. 

 

Our Children Matters Services 

Our Family Department is headed by Nicola Barrow, an expert Family Law solicitor with over 20 years of experience in handling a wide variety of claims relating to Children Act matters

Acting with the utmost discretion and sensitivity to your situation, our team will work on your behalf, liaising with courts and the other party, to help you achieve the best possible outcome for your child. 

For a free and confidential discussion about your circumstances, please contact Nicola on 01282 433241. 

 

 

 

No-fault divorces set to come into effect

This entry was posted in Family Law, For you, News on by .

The Government announced back in spring 2019 that divorce laws in England and Wales were set to change, with the possibility for couples to seek a no-fault divorce, thereby mitigating the need to lay blame on either party when separating. 

Originally set to be implemented in autumn 2021, there has been a delay in seeing these reforms go live, but the Government has now indicated that we should see them come into effect in April 2022. 

 

What are the current laws for divorce in England and Wales? 

At present, if a couple wishes to legally divorce, they must make an application to the court which demonstrates their reasons for doing so, with the aim to convince the court that the marriage had irreparably broken down. 

There may be a number of reasons behind your decision to separate, but broadly speaking, these deciding factors should fit into one of four main categories: 

 

Adultery 

If your spouse has been unfaithful to you and has engaged in sexual activity with another person, this can be valid grounds for divorce. 

 

Unreasonable behaviour 

Unreasonable behaviour is cited as the most common grounds for divorce in England and Wales, with 51% of all divorce applications from husbands and 36% of all applications from wives stating unreasonable behaviour as the reason. 

Examples of unreasonable behaviour can range from the minor to the major and/or criminal, however the most common examples of unreasonable behaviour used in divorce proceedings are: 

  • Domestic abuse and physical violence 
  • Lack of sexual activity between spouses 
  • Family disputes 
  • Inappropriate relationship with another, or infidelity 
  • Debt or financial recklessness 
  • Verbal abuse, shouting, belittling, or threatening behaviour 
  • Obsessive behaviours (including obsessive hobbies) 
  • Lack of socialising together 
  • Excessive drunkenness and/or substance abuse
  • Lack of support

 

Desertion 

Desertion can be stated as a reason for divorce in instances where one person has deserted the other without explanation, and has been absent for two years or longer. 

 

Separation 

Separation can be used as a reason for divorce after the couple has been separated for two years, provided both people agree to the divorce, or after five years if not. 

 

How will no-fault divorces work? 

The move to introduce no-fault divorces will allow couples to seek to separate on mutual terms without casting blame solely onto one party, offering a more civilised and dignified divorce process. 

Under the new laws, a couple will be granted a divorce by stating that the marriage has broken down, without the need to cite one of the four reasons as stated above (which is currently required).

With this, several key changes will come into effect, including: 

 

Joint applications for divorce will be allowed 

Under current laws, in order to obtain a divorce one person has to issue divorce proceedings against the other, stating one of the four reasons previously mentioned. Under the new system, a couple will be able to make an application jointly, without having to cite adultery, unreasonable behaviour, etc. as a reason for their decision. 

 

There will be a minimum of 20 weeks between the application being made and the divorce becoming final 

This minimum timeframe has been introduced to provide couples seeking to separate with a ‘period of reflection’, to allow for the opportunity to work through their differences before fully committing to a divorce. The timeframe has been introduced in response to concerns that the new laws would make divorce a quicker and simpler option for couples than trying to save their marriage perhaps would be. 

 

There will no longer be an option to contest a divorce 

As things currently stand, one person in the partnership is required to submit a divorce petition, which provides reasons behind their request to legally separate, and their spouse has the option to contest this. When the new no-fault divorce system comes into effect in autumn 2022, this will no longer be an option. 

 

Our Divorce Services 

Experienced Family Law and Divorce Solicitors in Lancashire 

If you are facing family or matrimonial difficulties, our team of dedicated solicitors can help you with getting your life back on track. Providing expert, straightforward and practical advice, all of the family solicitors in our team are fully qualified and committed to handling every case with sensitivity and professionalism. 

Fixed-fee Divorce Package 

Experiencing matrimonial difficulties can cause a great deal of stress, and often the last thing our clients need is the additional worry of the cost of any legal fees. At DRN, we aim to deliver our services with transparency, which is why we offer fixed-fee packages for a number of separation scenarios. 

For further information about the services we offer for couples looking to divorce, please contact our offices on 01282 433241. 

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

This entry was posted in Abuse Claims, For you, News on by .

Since the outbreak of Coronavirus and the nationwide lockdown that ensued, we’ve all been greatly encouraged to spend more time at home. However, for many, home is not the safest place. 

During the lockdown, the National Domestic Abuse Helpline saw a 25% increase in calls from those suffering in abusive situations in the home, and, sadly, this figure has remained high. 

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month; a time dedicated to unifying those across the world who have been victims of domestic violence. Anyone can become a victim of domestic abuse, which is why raising awareness is so crucial. 

With many now spending more time in the home, either due to Government restrictions, shielding, or encouragement from their employer, being able to recognise the signs of abusive behaviour and speak out, or support those experiencing abuse, is more important than ever. 

 

What is domestic abuse? 

A common misconception about domestic abuse is that the term refers only to the harm that is physically suffered. 

It’s important to remember that abuse does not always relate to physical violence or harm; abusive behaviours can take a number of different forms. 

Domestic abuse causes harm whether physical or verbal, and ‘coercive control’ refers to all of the non-physical methods an abuser may use to intimidate, harm, punish, frighten, humiliate or threaten a partner. 

Our article on coercive control provides further information on the signs of non-violent abusive behaviours. 

 

I’m a victim of domestic abuse – where can I turn for help? 

You can contact the 24-hour freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0800 2000 247. 

If you’re in immediate danger, dial 999 and make a report to the police. If you are in a situation where it could be unsafe for you to speak on the phone, dial 999 and press 55 on your keypad when prompted, and do not hang up. 

 

At DRN, we operate an expert legal service for victims of domestic abuse. When working with a DRN solicitor, you can expect to receive continual support throughout your case. If you’d like to speak confidentially with a member of our team, please contact us on 01282 433241 and we will be more than happy to provide further information on the options that are available to you. 

 

UK Moves to Allow for No-Fault Divorce

This entry was posted in Family Law, For you, News on by .

Proposed legislation to remove fault from either partner when a couple seeks to divorce has been passed through the House of Commons, but it isn’t likely to come into effect until Autumn 2021.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill was passed by parliament members in the House of Commons back in June this year and will be presented in the House of Lords for amendments to be considered. However, Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland has warned that the bill’s reforms will not come into force on Royal assent because “time needs to be allowed for careful implementation.”

The news is welcomed by family lawyers across the UK, the majority of whom agree with a statement made by the Law Society that ‘no-fault’ divorce will bring divorce law into the 21st century, allowing for couples to seek to separate on mutual terms without casting blame solely onto one party, and therefore providing a more civilised and dignified divorce process.

 

DRN Divorce Services

Experienced Family Law and Divorce Solicitors in Burnley

If you are facing family or matrimonial difficulties, our team of dedicated solicitors can help you to get your life back on track. Providing expert, straightforward and practical advice, all of the family solicitors in our team are fully qualified and committed to handling every case with sensitivity and professionalism.

Fixed Fee Divorce Packages

Experiencing matrimonial difficulties can cause a great deal of stress, and often the last thing our clients need is the additional worry of the cost of any legal fees. At DRN, we aim to deliver our services with transparency, which is why we offer fixed fee packages for a number of separation scenarios.

For further information about the services we offer for couple looking to divorce, please contact our offices on 01282 433241. You can also read our article, Five Steps to Obtaining a Divorce, to find out more about the processes involved.

 

 

 

What is Coercive Control?

This entry was posted in Abuse Claims, For you on by .

Last year, we saw the law surrounding domestic abuse change, when further clauses were introduced which make coercive control illegal, in an effort to provide further protection for domestic abuse victims.

This move has not only enabled domestic abuse sufferers to seek justice for non-violent abusive behaviour, but it has also increased awareness of a range of domestic abuse issues, shining a light on abusive behaviours that some may not have been previously aware of by recognising that abuse can take a number of different forms.

So, what is coercive control? How can coercive control be identified, and what is the best thing to do if you find yourself in a situation where you feel frightened, threatened or intimidated by your partner?

 

What is coercive control?

A common misconception about domestic abuse is that the term refers only to the harm that is physically suffered. Domestic abuse causes harm whether physical or verbal, and ‘coercive control’ refers to all of the non-physical methods an abuser may use to intimidate, harm, punish, frighten, humiliate or threaten a partner.

Coercive control is a pattern of assault or abuse whereby the abuser seeks to deprive a partner of their independence, exploiting them and isolating them from friends, family and external support networks.

 

Signs of coercive control

The new laws now enforced in England and Wales extend the definition of domestic abuse to non-physical control over a partner, and the amendments have now made the following actions illegal:

 

Sharing sexually explicit images of a partner

The new laws recognise ‘revenge porn’, and make it illegal for someone to share intimate photographs of you, whether that be online or in any other form.

 

Restricting a partner’s access to finances

Preventing you from accessing any forms of finance is illegal, even if you earn a lower salary than your partner does.

 

Deliberately harming a partner’s self-esteem

If your partner persistently mocks you, puts you down, calls you names and intentionally damages your self-esteem, you are entitled to seek legal action against them under the new laws.

 

Cutting a partner off from friends, family, and external support

It is unallowed by law for your partner to seek to isolate you from friends, family, or external support networks. This behaviour is common in many domestic abuse cases, and usually involves the abuser controlling where their partner can travel and who they can see or speak to (in person, online, via text or over the phone). Restricting access to friends and family can leave a domestic abuse victim vulnerable and isolated, making them dependent solely on their abuser.

 

Intimidating behaviour towards a partner

Assault doesn’t have to be physical for it to be intimidating – often even the threat of assault is enough to cause anxiety. Intimidating behaviour is seen when a partner uses their size to exude a sense of power, makes verbal threats of physical violence, or breaks things around the house.

 

Making threats to reveal private information about a partner

Your partner could be breaking the law if they persistently and repeatedly make threats to reveal personal or private information about you. This could be information about your health, sexual orientation, or any other matter which you would prefer to be kept private.

 

Monitoring or tracking a partner’s location

In the digital age, there are a number of online communication tools, apps and spyware which can be used to track your location. However, it is now illegal under the new legislation for your partner to track your location in an effort to control your movements and behaviour.

 

Jealous behaviour

If your partner persistently makes accusations that you have been unfaithful, presents extreme signs of jealousy or acts possessively towards you, all of these behaviours are covered under the new legislation.

 

Controlling behaviour

Enforcing a strict set of rules, regulating your everyday behaviour, restricting the people you see, and controlling where you go and what you wear are all forms of abusive behaviour which are now covered in the laws surrounding domestic abuse.

 

What should I do if I feel I am in an abusive relationship?

Contact the 24-hour freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0800 2000 247.

If you feel you are in immediate danger, you should dial 999 and make a report to the police. If you are in a situation where is may be unsafe for you to speak on the phone, dial 999 and press 55 on your keypad when prompted, and do not hang up.

 

At DRN, our solicitors prioritise clients’ emotional wellbeing, handling every case with utmost discretion, professionalism and sensitivity. When working with a DRN solicitor, you can expect to receive continual support throughout your case.

If you’d like to speak with a member of our team, contact us on 01282 433241 and we will be more than happy to provide further information on the options that are available to you.

Five Steps to Obtaining a Divorce

This entry was posted in Family Law, For you on by .

How do I get a divorce?

Whether you’ve drifted apart, been separated for years, or your relationship has been met with more recent complications, there are many reasons why a couple might feel obligated to end their marriage to one another.

Whilst getting a divorce can often be a stressful and difficult time for those involved, the process of applying for and obtaining your divorce doesn’t have to be. Enlisting the help of expert solicitors at DRN will ensure that your divorce proceedings are carried out with efficiency and professionalism, and we always endeavour to make the overall process as stress-free as possible.

 

The five steps to getting divorced  

 

Finding your grounds for divorce

When applying for a divorce, you must always provide a reason for making your request. The reasons behind why you would like your marriage to end are multiple, however, they broadly fit into two main categories.

 

Adultery

If your spouse has been unfaithful to you and has engaged in sexual activity with another person, this can be valid grounds for divorce.

 

Unreasonable behaviour

Unreasonable behaviour is cited as the most common grounds for divorce in England and Wales, with 51% of all applications from husbands and 36% of all applications from wives stating unreasonable behaviour as the reason.

Examples of unreasonable behaviour can range from the minor to the major and/or criminal. The most common examples of unreasonable behaviour used in divorce proceedings are:

Domestic abuse and physical violence

Lack of sexual activity between spouses

Family disputes

Inappropriate relationship with another/infidelity

Debt or financial recklessness

Verbal abuse, shouting, belittling or threatening behaviour

Obsessive behaviours (including obsessive hobbies)

Lack of socialising together

Excessive drunkenness and/or substance abuse

Lack of support

 

The expert solicitors at DRN will be on hand to provide support and guidance throughout your divorce application and will be able to advise which grounds for divorce are the best to choose in your situation.

 

Filing a divorce petition

The next step will involve your solicitor making an application to the court on your behalf to gain permission for you to divorce your spouse. Your application will outline the reasons behind the breakdown of your marriage and the reasons for why you would like for it to be over.

Upon receipt of the documents, the court will send a copy of your petition to your spouse, which they will then need to respond to in order for proceedings to move forward.

 

The Acknowledgement of Service

After your spouse has responded to the divorce petitions, your completed divorce application will be sent to the court for approval. Once it has been checked over by court staff, if all paperwork is correct it will be stamped and returned, along with an individual case number.

 

Decree nisi

Once all of the details outlined in the divorce have been agreed upon between you and your spouse, you will be issued with a decree nisi. The decree nisi is a legal document which confirms that there is no good reason why the marital contract cannot be terminated.

The judge will set a nisi pronouncement date, allowing you to move onto the final step of obtaining your divorce.

  

Decree absolute 

Six weeks after the pronouncement of decree nisi, you will then be eligible to apply for a decree absolute. Upon receipt of the decree absolute, your divorce will be finalised and you and your spouse will no longer be married.

 

How long will my divorce take?

The length of time it takes from making your divorce application to receiving your decree nisi and decree absolute can vary, and any unexpected complications experienced along the way can cause delays.

The DRN team work hard to ensure that all divorce proceedings are carried out and completed in as little time as possible.

  

How much does a divorce cost?

Experiencing issues within your family life can be stressful enough without the added worry of how you are going to be able to cover the fees of getting your divorce proceedings resolved.

 

At DRN, we offer a range of fixed fee packages and flexible payment plans, providing affordable solutions for many of our legal services.

Our fees may also be financed by legal aid. Contact us to find out if you could be eligible.

Call us today on 01282 433241 to talk us through your situation and find out more about our family dispute and divorce services.

 

COVID-19 – Increased Support for Domestic Abuse Victims

This entry was posted in Abuse Claims, Community, Crime, Family Law, For you, News on by .

For most of us, #StayHome is a message promoting safety, designed to encourage all to help stop the spread of the Coronavirus by limiting contact with others and restricting access to social spaces. However, for victims of domestic abuse, the #StayHome mantra may not carry a message of safety.

Since the UK-wide lockdown was enforced at the end of March in response to the rapid spread of the Coronavirus, the National Domestic Abuse Helpline has seen a 25% increase in calls from those suffering in abusive situations in the home.

In response, the Home Office has launched a new campaign to help with the provision of additional support for victims of domestic abuse, granting an extra £2million in funds for the domestic abuse services.

These additional funds have been put into place in an effort to boost and strengthen services provided via helplines and online support as a matter of urgency, allowing those who are vulnerable to abuse to access the support they need, even during periods when it may be difficult for them to communicate on the phone.

The move follows Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcement of a £750million package for charities during the pandemic, and is tied with the #YouAreNotAlone campaign, which will encourage communities to share their support and solidarity with domestic abuse victims in this particularly difficult time by displaying an emblem of a heart embossed in the palm of a hand in their window, and sharing the symbol on social media platforms. Social media adverts providing information on ways victims can seek help are also set to be launched.

 

How can I seek help as a victim of domestic abuse during the Coronavirus lockdown?

 

  • Contact the 24-hour freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0800 2000 247
  • If in immediate danger, dial 999 and make a report to the police. If you are in a situation where it could be unsafe for you to speak on the phone, dial 999 and press 55 on your keypad when prompted, and do not hang up.

At DRN, we operate an expert legal service for victims of domestic abuse. When working with a DRN solicitor, you can expect to receive continual support throughout your case. If you’d like to talk to a member of our team, please contact us on 01282 433241 and we will be more than happy to provide further information on the options that are available to you.

 

 

COVID-19 – The Impact on Child Matters

This entry was posted in Family Law, For you, News on by .

Amidst the current crisis of the coronavirus pandemic, parents whose children are subjected to Children Arrangements Orders, issued by the Family Court, may be concerned about their ability to meet the arrangements outlined by those Orders, and their impact on the health and wellbeing of the child(ren).

(It is important to note that parental responsibility lies with the parents, and not with the court, at any given time).

 

What is the Government advice on caring for children from separated homes during the coronavirus pandemic?

On 23rd March 2020, the UK Government issued advice for all citizens to stay at home as much as possible, and only to leave the home for essential shopping, restricted daily exercise, medical needs, or for key workers to complete essential travel to work.

The Government also addressed questions raised by those raising a child between two households:

“Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.”

In these troubling times, parents are expected to take safe measures and make sensible decisions with regards to the care of their child/children. It is also advisable for both parents to evaluate which household is safest for the child to spend the majority of their time in, and to acknowledge that this could lead to a temporary change in the child’s primary carer. For example, the if the child’s current primary carer is a key worker, parents may wish to switch responsibility of the child’s care to the second parent as a temporary measure. This, however, can only be done if both parents can arrive at a mutual agreement for such an arrangement.

 

Does my child have to visit his/her other parent during the pandemic?

The decision to move the child between the households of both parents is a decision for the parents, and the parents alone, to make. Parents are advised to assess their circumstances, including the child’s health and wellbeing, the risk of exposure to the virus should the child be moved between homes, and the presence of anyone recognised as vulnerable in either household, and make a sensible decision accordingly.

In light of the current situation with regards to COVID-19, some parents may reach a mutual agreement to temporarily adopt arrangements alternative to those outlined in the Court Order for the care of their child, or make slight amendments/variations. If such arrangements are mutually agreed upon by both parents, this is fine to do. If changes are to be made, it is advisable for both parents to document this agreement in the form of a written note, email or text message. Not only will this allow both parties to outline their understanding of what has been agreed, reducing the risk of miscommunication, but this will also act as proof of the agreement should you face complications at any point later down the line.

If parents cannot come to an agreement on varied terms, but one parent is sufficiently concerned that complying to the arrangements set out in the Court Order would be acting against Government safety advice and putting the child and the rest of the family at risk, the concerned parent may choose to exercise their parental responsibility and provide an alternative living/care arrangement which they consider to be safer, and they would be within their right to do so.

 

I am losing out on contact with my child due to COVID-19. What can I do?

If a child does not get to spend time with their parent as is set down in the official agreement for the care of the child, the courts will expect both parents to make alternative arrangements which allow either parent to maintain regular contact with their child, within the new “Stay at Home” Government guidelines. This contact can be carried out remotely via Skype, Zoom, Whatsapp, Facetime, or another online messaging platform, if this is the arrangement all parties, including the child, are comfortable with.

 

The circumstances for the care of a child from a separated home during the coronavirus outbreak will vary between families. Please seek further advice from one of DRN’s expert legal professionals if you have any questions more specific to your situation. Contact our Family department on 01282 433241 or email info@drnlaw.co.uk

 

 

Where Can Domestic Violence Victims Turn During COVID-19?

This entry was posted in Abuse Claims, Family Law, For you on by .

The reach of the COVID-19 health crisis is global, impacting businesses and placing enormous strain on governments everywhere.

The outbreak is also placing enormous strain on families worldwide. And with pressures mounting as a result of concerns about job insecurity and financial instability, combined with the fact that the Government has advised us all to stay at home and self-isolate, we have unfortunately seen a sharp rise in the number of domestic abuse cases in the UK.

What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse refers to a wide range of behaviours, which can include physical abuse, emotional abuse and gaslighting, sexual abuse, financial abuse, harassment, and coercive control. Usually these behaviours are carried out by one person in a relationship and are implemented in order to intimidate and manipulate the other partner.

With social restrictions currently put into place due to the coronavirus outbreak, victims of domestic abuse are put at greater risk of danger, as they are currently facing lockdown with their aggressor and may be worried about how they can reach out for help during this difficult time.

 

What can I do?

1) Call 999 if you are imminent danger, and key in 55 if you are unable to speak. The police have a system in place which will enable them to get help out to you if you are in a dangerous situation. Police action could lead to arrest, bail conditions, orders and, ultimately, prison.

2) Seek the advice of a family solicitor. Nicola Barrow of DRN Solicitors is extremely experienced in this field and is associated with a charity that deals with domestic violence.

 

The courts are still open and URGENT applications can be made for NON MOLESTATION ORDERS and OCCUPATION ORDERS.

A Non Molestation order is an order that prohibits the abusive partner from using or threatening violence, harassment or intimidation, or instructing anyone else to do so. It can prevent the abuser from contacting you directly or indirectly, and it can also include provisions which prevent the abuser from being allowed to visit your home or place of work. The orders can also be put into place to protect children. Breach of the order is a criminal offence and can result in the abuser being committed to prison.

An Occupation Order gives you rights of occupation and allows the court to make an order requiring that the abusive partner allows you to live in the property if they have previously evicted you. It could also provide for the abusive partner to be made to leave the property and deny them the right to come back for a period of time. Breach of the order is a contempt of court and a power of arrest can be applied. This would mean the police could arrest and bring the abusive partner before a judge sitting in the Family Court. 

I’m in a dangerous situation and worried about my child. What should I do? 

It is also important to recognise the impact of domestic abuse on any children in the property. Parents have a duty to act in the best interests of their child, and domestic abuse hugely affects children, whether as a result of them witnessing it, or because they are directly subjected to it. If you are worried about your current situation and the impact it is having on your child(ren), orders can also be sought for their protection, as well as your own.

 

Having worked with victims of abuse for several years, the team at DRN understand the difficult nature of such cases and can assure you that your case will be handled with compassion and sensitivity at all times. Our solicitors will be on hand to provide support, guidance and legal advice throughout the process, and are committed to prioritising the needs and wishes of clients, always seeking an outcome that is beneficial for you. 

For more information, please contact Nicola Barrow, Head of our Family Department, on 01282 433241, or via email at nb@drnlaw.co.uk. 

Child Arrangement Issues Explained

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The breakdown of a relationship is always a difficult experience, particularly when there are children to think about. You only want what’s best for them, but amidst the fallout, wires can become crossed and it’s not always the case that both parents see eye to eye.

At DRN, we have a dedicated team of experts in family and children matters, who have set out some advice below for those struggling with child arrangements.

 

What are child arrangements?

Child arrangements were previously referred to by the courts as “contact arrangements”. When a relationship breaks down, the parents involved will need to reach an agreement on the arrangements for their child, including which parent the child will live with and how often the other parent will spend time with the child.

‘Direct arrangements’ between a parent and child refers to any time spent face-to-face, and can include during the daytime or overnight.

‘Indirect arrangements’ is the term used for any occurrences where the parent might keep in touch with the child without physically visiting them. This can include engaging in telephone conversations, email or written letter exchanges or the sending of gifts.

 

Who is entitled to spend time with a child?

Contrary to popular belief, having parental responsibility and/or being named on a child’s birth certificate does not give an automatic right to spend time with a child. Any arrangements should be agreed on the terms of what is best for the child, not the parent, or any other person.

In cases of separation, the parent the child lives with can usually make arrangements for time which the other parent should spend time with their child. Any arrangements should usually only be restricted in instances where it is felt necessary to safeguard the child.

Agreements can be outlined for any person who maintains a close relationship with the child, including grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, and close friends.

In most cases, both parents are able to reach an amicable agreement and arrange time on terms which suit both parties. However, if this is not the case, it may become necessary to seek legal advice, and the expert solicitors at DRN can help.

 

What if my child is not picked up or brought home on time?

Both parents should try to stick to the agreed times for pick-up and drop-off to the best of their ability, although some understanding on either part should be given for delays caused by public transport, traffic or emergency.

 

The parent of my child has not made a maintenance payment – are they still entitled to contact?

Issues relating to child maintenance and issues related to child arrangements are seen as entirely separate from one another in the eyes of the law. For this reason, you will not be justified in refusing the non-resident parent time with their child on the basis that they have not paid maintenance for the child.

 

I need further advice – what should I do next?

With an understanding of all policies and procedures involved, your DRN solicitor will be able to provide sound advice and guidance throughout the process of settling your child arrangement issues, along with expert legal representation and an entirely confidential and reliable service. Get in touch today for more information about our services and find out how we can help you to achieve a favourable outcome.

New Operation Encompass scheme will help police protect children

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A charity-based scheme has been launched in Lancashire to link schools with the Police to help protect children from domestic abuse.

Operation Encompass initially launched in a number of locations across the UK in 2011 as a trial, and has proven so effective that it is now being rolled out throughout the country. The scheme enables schools and Police to partner up, creating a more effective means of communication between them.

Confidential and Secure

The scheme ensures that key information passed on from school to Police or vice-versa about domestic abuse incidents is only shared with designated staff members under the strictest confidence – no details are widely shared in order to protect the children it is serving. This enables the immediate and discrete recognition of the child’s situation by an individual named as the “Key Adult”, ensuring a secure and sympathetic environment is provided and the broader effects of abuse are addressed.

The aim of this information sharing process is to ensure that every child involved in any domestic abuse-related incidents receives the appropriate on-going support they need, and to make sure that existing safeguarding measures are being effectively provided. Operation Encompass will function alongside any police investigations.

What will Operation Encompass set out to do?

Operation Encompass is essentially an early information sharing partnership. What the scheme will set out to do in Lancashire will be to enable Police to work with schools to give children who have experienced an incident – even indirectly – the support they need. This begins prior to the next school day, ensuring plans are in place for when the child arrives in the morning and so that the Key Adult can discuss with the child what they need and how they would like to be supported.

Why was Operation Encompass launched in Lancashire?

Experiencing domestic abuse is harmful to children; it is often referred to as an Adverse Childhood Experience and can lead to emotional, physical and psychological harm, as well as potentially creating long-lasting issues such as the development of depression, stress, anxiety and other psychological issues.

In Lancashire and across the country, Operation Encompass aims to reduce the negative effects of domestic abuse on children by making it simpler and easier for immediate support to be provided.

On the Operation Encompass website, they state their goal as simply: “Making a child’s day better and giving them a better tomorrow.

Coordinating the scheme for Lancashire Police is Detective Superintendent Joanne McHugh, who said: “We know that there are damaging, long-term effects for children who live in homes where domestic abuse takes place. They are often the ‘hidden’ victims and their voices don’t always get heard.”

“We also know that the police are generally not called after one domestic abuse incident – in fact, statistics show on average we aren’t made aware until several incidents have already taken place, many of which may have been witnessed by children. This is why it is imperative that we seize every opportunity to make sure those children are offered the necessary support.”

“At Lancashire Police, our primary aim is to keep our residents safe and feeling safe, and we hope this shows our commitment to doing just that. Op Encompass is a very simple but very effective scheme which will help safeguard some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.”

Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw also added: “We know that over 90% of domestic violence incidents are witnessed by children so I am really pleased to see Operation Encompass rolled out across Lancashire.

For more information about our family law solicitors, or to talk to a member of our family law and children matters team in confidence, please call 01282 433 241.

Domestic Abuse Against Men Rises Sharply – Our Advice

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Domestic abuse victims’ charity ManKind has revealed that less than 1% of refuge beds in the UK are available to men – and reported cases of domestic abuse towards men from their spouse has risen sharply over the past seven years.

Double the Number of Cases

According to a report by the BBC, Police in England and Wales recorded 149,248 incidents of domestic abuse towards men in 2017 – more than double the number reported in 2012. A headline news story has thrown this shocking statistic into sharp focus, after a midwife was accused of murdering her husband after subjecting him to years of abuse.

In the BBC’s report, Senior psychology lecturer at Cumbria University Elizabeth Bates said that there are many reasons why men are less likely to ask for help if they are being abused. These can include feelings of confusion or even shame, and a sense that support services are not aimed at men but rather target women first and foremost.

Losing Custody

Another strong reason why many men say they cannot or would not seek support or help in order to leave an abusive spouse is due to custodial arrangements for their children.

There is an incorrect but widely-held belief that by leaving his spouse, a man has given up his right to take care of his children. This is absolutely not so. Legally, as a father, a man has just as much of a right to see his children as their mother. Should the mother be deemed unfit to care for her children – as many abusive spouses are – as the childrens’ closest parent a father will usually even be given custody of his children (depending on life situation, suitability and other factors.)

In other words, feeling committed to stay in an abusive relationship simply to see your children is not wise and could leave you in danger that you could avoid. Leaving an abusive relationship does not mean choosing between your children and your personal quality of life and happiness.

Reasons men feel they have to stay with an abusive partner:

  • Fear of violence
  • Fear of losing access to their children
  • Confusion
  • Shame
  • Denial
  • Lack of support network and/or services

Spousal abuse is punishable by law and can lead to custodial sentences, and our family lawyers can help to support you throughout the legal process from start to finish.

How DRN Can Help

At DRN, our family solicitors are friendly, approachable and have many years’ experience in dealing sensitively with cases such as domestic violence, emotional abuse and difficult separations. We can help you pursue a custody case, and even put you in touch with local services to help take you out of the situation and support you on your road to a new life.

We are here to help and support you, with the top legal guidance you need to find your way. If you would like to talk to one of our empathetic solicitors in complete confidence, please call 01282 433 241 or email us using the contact form. We deal with all enquiries personally and in total confidentiality.

Controlling & Coercive Behaviour… Seek Expert Advice

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The relatively new offence of controlling and coercive behaviour, is being prosecuted more and more before the courts. Recent high profile documentaries have ensured, the offence is a regular topic for debate.

When is the offence committed? Nick Dearing, a solicitor of over twenty years experience, explains ” The prosecution must prove that the defendant; repeatedly or continuously engaged in behaviour towards another person; that behaviour was controlling or coercive; at the time of the behaviour, the defendant and the other person were personally connected; and that behaviour had a serious effect on the other person. Further, the defendant knew or ought to have known that the behaviour would have a serious effect on that other person.”

“These cases are dealt with seriously by the courts and rightly so. It is therefore important, an accused obtains expert legal advice. Cases can span over large periods of time and the issues are often complex, of a sensitive nature and the behaviour alleged may be disputed. It is a defence if in engaging in the behaviour resulting in prosecution, the accused believed they were acting in the other person’s best interests and their behaviour was reasonable in all of the circumstances.”

If you want to speak to a member of our criminal department please do not hesitate to contact us.

How To Make Arrangements For Your Children (Formerly Child Custody Arrangements)

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Staying together isn’t possible for every family. Even though it’s a difficult situation, sometimes separating is necessary in order for everyone to live happily, sometimes parents have never lived together.

At DRN, our clients are often separated parents and want to do the right thing by their children, and our family solicitors are trained to give advice on child arrangements that is practical and straightforward. Our guidance comes from years of experience in family law, and our family solicitors work sensitively with separated families and their children to make sure the best possible agreement is reached.

To agree, whether in person or through a mediator, on the arrangements for your child can seem an impossible task, but we are here to help.

The Courts and family solicitors now refer to what used to be known as “child custody” as “child arrangements”. These arrangements are a broad description of how your child spends their time with you and the rest of their family.

What are Child Arrangements?

The details for where the children live, and if not living with both parents, also setting out the time they spend with the other parent (which is often referred to as contact.)

Children can enjoy spending time with a parent in person, by telephone, social media, letter or any other method which is reasonable and allows the child and parent to stay in ‘contact’.

Each child and family will have different needs depending on their own circumstances, including but not limited to the children’s ages, needs, wishes and feelings.

Contact can take place in different forms and will vary with each family. Contact can be for short periods of time for example during the day, or cover long periods of time over a number of days and possibly weeks. It can take place in a variety of venues. A lot of children do stay overnight with the parent with whom they do not ‘live’ on a regular basis.

Agreeing child arrangements

A lot of separated parents are able to reach a mutual agreement about the arrangements for their child and are able to vary the arrangements as the child’s needs change. Other parents cannot for various reasons and do need specialist advice and assistance.

If you would like help in reaching suitable arrangements for your child, then our family solicitors can help. Our solicitors can advise you on the most appropriate method to try to achieve an outcome.

This may be by way of one of our solicitors negotiating on your behalf, setting out your position and the reasons why, if an agreement is reached by drafting an agreement setting out the arrangements which are to be put in place.

Legal aid is available, but only in limited circumstances.

Mediation

You may be advised to attempt mediation with a view to resolving any disagreements. Family mediators are trained professionals, who help you discuss any issues, let you both have your say and try to help reach an agreement. Mediation can work, even where the parties initially have very differing views.

Mediation is not appropriate in situations where there has been any form of domestic abuse.

The mediator will assess whether the case is suitable for mediation.

Legal aid is available to assist with the costs of mediation where one or both parties are on a low income.

Applying to the court

If solicitor negotiation and mediation are not successful or are unsuitable then an application to court may be necessary. Court applications should only be made when all other options are unsuitable or have failed. Court proceedings can take time and be costly, and you may end up in a situation where the court has made a decision that you do not want.

The court whether a bench of magistrates or judge will encourage you to reach an agreement, if you cannot agree then the court will determine what if any evidence is required and how the case will proceed. The court will then make a decision about what the arrangements for your child should be to live with and spend time with you and the other parent. In deciding the arrangements, the court will decide what they believe the best interests of your child to be.

If you would like any advice or assistance on arrangements for your child then please contact one of our family solicitors at DRN on 01282 433241 or enquiries@drnlaw.co.uk 

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