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Posts by: Nicola Barrow

New Operation Encompass scheme will help police protect children

This entry was posted in Abuse Claims, Family Law and tagged , , , on by .

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

This entry was posted in Crime, For you and tagged , on by .

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 

Child Cruelty Offences in the North West “almost double”

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Figures from the NSPCC – the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children – have revealed that child cruelty and neglect offences have almost doubled over the last five years.

This shocking announcement means that since 2012, the number of recorded offences against children rose from 120 to 153 in 2017/2018. According to Blackburn with Darwen Council children’s boss Maureen Bateson, the rising number of cases is partly driven by increasing levels of poverty in the area, especially because of cuts to council grants and benefits.

The NSPCC’s chief executive Peter Wanless said that he felt it was unclear why the number of child cruelty offences had risen so sharply. One explanation he posed could be the increase in public awareness around child neglect and child cruelty, causing an increase in reports and subsequent charges and arrests. In a recent statement he said:

“Whatever the reasons for the increase in child neglect, there is something we can all do about it now. We need to be aware of vulnerable children and be ready to report it to the NSPCC or the authorities if we are concerned for their safety or wellbeing.”

Suspect Child Cruelty or Neglect? Here’s What To Do:

If you suspect that a child you know or care for is being treated cruelly or with neglect, here is what the NSPCC recommend as the best course of action.

  • Talk to the child in a non-confrontational way
  • Keep note of your concerns to see if there is a pattern
  • Talk to the child’s teacher, health visitor or other caregiver
  • Talk through your concerns with a trained NSPCC team member on 0808 800 5000

If you are unsure what to do, call the NSPCC who will be able to refer you to the relevant child services officers or the police. In the North West, recent reports to the police have included extreme cases of when a parent or carer deliberately neglected, assaulted, abandoned or exposed their child to serious harm.

Reporting child cruelty or neglect can be done anonymously. The welfare of the child is everyone’s top priority, and their home situation and support network is taken into consideration before any action is taken.

Victims of Historical Child Abuse

At DRN, we have an expert team of empathetic child abuse lawyers available for consultation and legal advice in Burnley, Ramsbottom and Colne. Our team has years of experience in representing vulnerable people, including children. We have also represented adult individuals in cases of historical child abuse, which helped to gain closure for those affected.

Defending Against Child Neglect and Child Cruelty Cases

In some cases, there is no evidence to support the notion that a child has been neglected to treated cruelly by an individual, despite allegations of either being reported by another person. Being wrongly accused of neglect is a devastating blow, and can affect your life, career and even your family and relationships with others.

Our team of experienced defence lawyers and abuse solicitors in Lancashire can deal with your case sympathetically, carefully and without judgement, offering practical support, enabling you to overcome unfair or erroneous allegations, clear your name and continue with your life.

If you would like to speak to a member of the DRN team confidentially about a child abuse, child cruelty or neglect case, or you would like some legal advice on how to begin or continue a case, please contact us today on 01282 433 241.

Spike In Divorce Applications This Festive Period

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Thousands of unhappy couples throughout the UK made positive steps towards finalising a divorce or formal separation over the festive period by using the government’s online service.

Since its introduction, the online divorce application service on gov.uk has been used to file more than 23,000 applications for divorce – with thirteen being made on Christmas Day!

The festive period is a peak time for divorce applications for a number of reasons. The stress of providing a joyful Christmas for loved ones when you’re unhappy or feeling under pressure can force tensions to the surface. For many, the end of the year acts as a benchmark, and reaching the 25th December can mean plans to divorce that had been shelved are finally put into place. The new year can be a busy time for divorce lawyers too – separating is a new year’s resolution for many unhappy couples.

Splitting up amicably is, of course, the ideal outcome for any couple. There is never an ideal time to apply for divorce, but on the positive side, the sooner the wheels are now in motion the better. You can then begin to plan for a clean break to begin a new chapter of your life.

Thinking positively about divorce

Once you have decided between yourselves that a separation and/or divorce is necessary, you have made the biggest step. From now on, our team of family solicitors and divorce lawyers can support and guide you through the process from start to finish, enabling you to make decisions that are financially sound and keep the security of your family as a priority.

Staying together for the sake of the children is often cited as the biggest mistake our divorcing clients made in the years preceding their divorce. The truth is, if you are unhappy in your marriage for any reason, staying together reduces your quality of life and upsets the balance and happiness of your family.

The positives of divorce might seem well-hidden, but it can be the best decision with the best outcomes for you, your estranged partner and your family. As well as relieving the stress that may have built up over time thinking about your relationship problems, an amicable divorce offers you the opportunity to remain on good terms, rather than having your relationship deteriorate further by struggling through a loveless marriage. A divorce will set out clearly how your joint finances will be split, leaving no room for contention. It will also take into account your children, and enable you to make solid plans so that both of you can see them fairly – something that can be made difficult in an unofficial arrangement.

If you feel you are stuck in a loveless marriage or both feel you aren’t happy in your current situation, get in touch with DRN’s expert sympathetic and understanding solicitors today. We speak to people every day about divorce proceedings; if you are thinking about it yourself then you aren’t alone and we can help.

How to Arrange Child Contact and Custody this Christmas

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Christmas is a time for family get-togethers, fun, laughter and creating happy memories. Arranging contact with your children at this festive time of year is, of course, your number one priority. It can seem a difficult or daunting process, but there is plenty you can do to arrange custody of your child or children over Christmas and New Year, and the DRN team are here to help and advise you.

Despite what you may have heard, there is no legal provision for Christmas contact arrangements, and both parents are advised to come to an agreement between themselves. Courts will only intervene when this has proved fruitless – particularly in cases where communication has broken down.

It’s important to remember that the Courts are usually only concerned with emergencies over Christmas, and the number of Christmas contact cases brought forward are often overwhelming for the Courts to deal with in a timely fashion. Unless there is an urgent issue about the safety of a child, the Courts will generally not become involved in new cases about a child’s arrangements during the Christmas period.

In order to resolve your Christmas contact or custody arrangements, the quickest and most efficient way is to come to an agreement with your estranged partner. To help, here are the DRN family law team’s top tips for arranging Christmas contact, with a focus on the welfare and happiness of your children.

 

Ask Your Children What They Would Like To Do This Christmas

A study by Simpson Millar in 2014 revealed that just 13% of parents include their child or children in the decision-making process when deciding who should have custody over Christmas.

If your child is old enough, try speaking with them about their wishes. Knowing what your child or children want this Christmas and New Year will help you to discuss arrangements calmly, and work out a plan that puts them first. For your own sake, knowing their wishes also helps to alleviate any fears you might have, and mediate any arguments that might arise.

 

Agree on Ground-Rules While You Plan Christmas Contact

One of the main causes of disagreements between separated parents over the Christmas holidays relates to routines being changed, and a sense of “competition” being instated.

It’s understandable that you will want to treat your children to everything they want this Christmas. Being seen to be “one upping” the other parent, on the other hand, can cause animosity, and can cause problems for your child once the festive season is over.

If you can discuss the care of your child together, alone or with a mediator, so much the better. Talk through rules to stick to and you’ll save a lot of future aggravation.

Things to consider setting ground-rules on during the Christmas period:

  • Bedtimes and curfews
  • Limiting certain foods – especially sweets, fast food and sugary drinks
  • Internet usage
  • Upper limit to present costs

 

Decide Christmas Plans Early

While it might still feel too early to discuss Christmas, planning your child’s care and custody over the Christmas period is better off planned well in advance. As well as putting your mind at ease that everything is agreed, your child or children will feel better knowing that there is a secure plan in place. That way, everyone can concentrate on looking forward to Christmas.

 

Try to Relax No Matter The Outcome

There is a possibility that your child may want to spend Christmas with their other parent, or that it’s your ex-partner’s turn to host Christmas with their family.

While this can seem like the worst case scenario, particularly if you no longer have a working amicable relationship with your child’s other parent, it doesn’t have to be a terrible outcome. The truth is, if you are in the position to discuss having your child stay with your ex, it is highly unlikely that they will allow your child to come to any harm. It’s also worth remembering that spending a short time with people you don’t like will not leave your child with any lasting ill effects.

Trying to control what happens during their time away will cause you to stress and this in turn will upset your children. Instead, focus on planning a second Christmas for them to spend with you and your family, and show them how much you love them before and after their visit.

Remember: this is about your child and what’s best for them.

 

Present a United Front

Whether you secured custody during Christmas or not this year, it is very important to present a united front to your children no matter what.

Your children look up to both of you as role models, and seeing you upset with each other will affect how much they enjoy Christmas. Whenever possible, it’s a good idea to make it seem like the pair of you came to the agreement together based on what’s best for your child. This way, they’ll feel included in the decision and believe that both of you have their best interests at heart.

Christmas as a separated family can be tough, but by communicating you can reduce the stress and make sure everyone enjoys Christmas. For more information about our Family Law Team and how we can help with your particular custody case, please visit our Children Matters page or call us on 01282 433 241 to speak to an expert today.

What is Shared Parenting?

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Shared parenting is when a child is able to spend time with both parents. With both parents actively involved in all aspects of raising the child.

The time immediately following a divorce or separation can be hard on all concerned. With the parents no doubt feeling differing levels of anger, sadness, frustration, and uncertainty. The children will be left feeling uncertain, anxious, and in most cases upset at the thought of their parents not being together anymore.

Shared parenting provides some certainty to help families through this tough time, in terms of what happens right away and into the future. Shared parenting arrangements are designed to be in place throughout childhood, with the ability for them to be adapted over time as the children grow up, to make sure it always best serves the need of the child.

That’s an important point here – the needs of the child. Working together, and sharing parenting of the child will make sure the child’s needs always come first. It recognises the importance of the child having the influence of both a mother and a father.

Shared parenting should not adhere to old-fashioned stereotypes. The father won’t be seen as the bread winner, and the parent who sees the child during leisure time only. Equally, the mother won’t be responsible for everything else.

 

What can shared care cover?

The following aspects should be considered:

 

Money

The responsibility of each parent can be made clear. Decide who will pay for the day-to-day care, holidays, school trips, clothing etc. All aspects of the child’s needs should be considered.

 

Education

Which schools the child attends and the type of education they receive needs to be decided. Will the child go to public or private school? If private, who will pay the fees? How will the child get to school and back every day?

 

Housing

The living arrangements need to be agreed upon. How many days and on which days will the child live with each parent?

The location of each parent also needs to be considered. It may be that one or both parents want to move to a new location following a separation to be nearer to their family or friends, or place of work. How this impacts the child needs to be considered. Some legal restrictions might need to be agreed on to ensure the agreement can be fulfilled by both parties.

The decisions made here will also impact other areas of the child’s life. Which schools they can attend, and which doctor they can be registered with might be impacted, making this an extremely important consideration.

 

Healthcare

Parents need to decide on the type of healthcare the child will get. Should they opt for private healthcare over the NHS, it needs to be decided which parent will be responsible for arranging and funding this.

 

Emotional wellbeing

Shared parent recognises the child needs the love and attention from both their mother and father to thrive. Along with losing stereotypes, any arrangements can make sure that the child has access to both parents freely as they grow up.

It is also important that the child is protected from any fallout following the divorce or separation. This extends beyond the two parents. If extended family or friends are having emotional problems following the divorce, arrangements need to be made to make sure the needs of the child are safeguarded.

 

Religion

This might not be relevant for all families. But for those from religious backgrounds, particularly if the parents have different beliefs, it is important to consider the child’s religious education and the expectations you have for them.

 

Other important decisions

Throughout a child’s life there will be many important decisions to make. Some might come around every few years; such as which secondary school the child attends, and what options they choose.

Others might be much more frequent, such as what to do about the child being bullied, or what they can do in their leisure time.

Good arrangements for shared parenting will outline who is responsible for certain decisions. Should parents decide that these decisions should be made together, it is a good idea to agree on a process that can be referred to when required.

 

How to get your arrangement in place

At DRN, we are experts in family law. Our experienced team have encountered a wide range of circumstances and helped families from all backgrounds come to workable arrangements.

Whether you would like us to draft an agreement for you, or just provide you with some guidance and assurance when doing your own, our friendly team are here for you. Just call us on 01282 433 241 for an initial conversation.

We can also help to determine if shared parenting is right for you at this time. It’s not uncommon following divorce for communication to break down. In this situation family mediation could be the answer initially.

No matter what situation you find yourself in, we will always be empathetic to your unique circumstances and here for you through this challenging time.

Call us today on 01282 433 241. We can help you move forward and make sure that your children are taken care of, now and into the future.

Dividing Money and Property When a Relationship Ends

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When your relationship breaks down irrevocably, you need to decide what is going to happen with your money and property. You and your ex-partner can choose what you want to do in most circumstances, however, different rules apply if the relationship was abusive, or social services are involved. There are numerous steps that you can take to settle how your assets are split. Here we have a look at your options and the processes involved.

 

Forming an agreement with your ex-partner

Should you and your ex-partner be able to decide on your own what happens, it makes sense to get a financial agreement in place, drafted by a solicitor. A solicitor will make your agreement legally binding. If you don’t take this step a court will not be able to enforce it.

A solicitor will draft a consent order and ask the court to approve it for you; this is the process that makes it a legal document. The agreement will detail exactly how money and property are to be divided. Savings, investments, and child maintenance details may also be included. If you go down this route, there is usually no court proceedings that you will need to attend.

Call us if you have come to an agreement and need our assistance making it legally binding. Our Family Team can be reached on 01282 433 241.

 

Mediation

If you can’t agree on your own, the next option available to you is mediation.

A mediator is an impartial voice that can help you and your ex-partner come to an agreement. Mediation is not counselling, their goal is to help foster an agreement, and to ensure that mediation is the correct course of action for you. Regardless of whether mediation works for you or not, you will still require legal advice after the process. If it helps you come to an agreement, you will require a consent order as detailed above.

Should mediation not result in an agreement, we can outline further options available to you. We will work with you to get a resolution, out of court if possible. In some cases though, proceeding to court is the most suitable course of action. We can advise based on your unique circumstances.

 

Court

If it is not possible or appropriate to come to an agreement out of court, for example in an abusive relationship, you will need to apply for a ‘financial order’ from the court. If you want to take this route, you will usually need to have attended a mediation meeting first.

You can apply to the court once divorce proceedings are underway, before the decree absolute is issued, and the divorce finalised. Or, in the case of a civil partnership, the final order.

 

Further advice

As stated, it is prudent for you to get legal advice regardless of your circumstances and how you choose to proceed. This is especially important should your case need the intervention of the court, as the processes and the paperwork get increasingly complex.

Contact our Family Team on 01282 433 241 to discuss your circumstances.

 

Don’t Let a Relationship Breakdown Affect Your Christmas

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Christmas is a wonderful time of year for most people, but it can also be very challenging for others.

Not everyone has a family, and many are going through trying times of grief at this time of year. Grief due to the loss of a loved one, or because of an irrevocable relationship breakdown.

When difficulties happen so close to Christmas, it can be even more upsetting and stressful than normal, as there are a lot of things to sort out over the holidays…

Who will have the children on Christmas Eve, Christmas morning, and for Christmas dinner? Who will have to forfeit time with their children against their will? Furthermore, what will the situation be in the new year? Will the Christmas period prove to be a time of solace, or will it create even more problems that will have to be dealt with in the future?

If you are suffering from a relationship breakdown this Christmas, know that you are not alone. And whilst that doesn’t make it any easier to comprehend, knowing your legal rights and having someone to fight your corner can make the entire process easier to navigate.

There are two key things that may need your attention – firstly, your rights in terms of access to the children, and secondly, handling any formal dissolution of marriage.

We are not suggesting that you pursue any legal action at this time of year, unless the welfare of your children is in jeopardy. However, it might make you feel more at ease over Christmas if we have a quick talk with you beforehand so that you have a clearer picture of the situation.

Of course, in your situation your problems may just be a bump in the road, and Christmas might be just the tonic you need to get family life back on track. Give yourself the time this Christmas to truly understand where your heart is. Sometimes, a step back from life, and giving yourself some time to relax and reflect, can give you the clarity of mind that you need.

If your relationship has broken down beyond repair and you’re struggling to get access to your children, you do have options…

Initially, you should try to contact your ex-partner directly. If communication has broken down completely, write them a letter requesting that they re-instate access. Send this recorded and keep your proof of postage. Also keep a copy of the letter for your records. The letter should detail your request, be dated, and signed.

With Christmas fast approaching hopefully this will resolve your problem. If it doesn’t, you may have to pursue legal action in the new year, this blog post will detail more of your options in this instance – Denied access to your children? Here’s what you can do.

If you are married and don’t have children, or if the relationship breakdown has been on good terms, we can speak to you about your requirements for dissolution of marriage whenever is convenient for you.

No matter your situation this Christmas, should you require any legal advice at all, we’ll be here for you. You can call the office as always, on 01282 433 241.

We wish you a Happy Christmas, and we hope that whatever the festive season brings you, it comes with times of joy and happiness.

Denied Access to Your Children? Here’s What You Can Do

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Firstly, understand that you are not alone. While this can be an extremely distressing experience, working with our experts can make it a short-lived one. Thousands of people have been through what you’re going through and achieved a positive outcome. Furthermore, we have a strong track record of helping estranged families come to a workable resolution.

The welfare of the children is the top priority for the courts, so much so, that they have a specific checklist which they use to determine what is in the best interests of the child. In most cases the courts will grant access, although in some circumstances the access may come with certain restrictions.

Going to court isn’t always necessary however. Initially, you should try to contact your ex-partner directly. If communication has broken down completely, write them a letter requesting that they re-instate access. Send this recorded and keep your proof of postage. Also keep a copy of the letter for your records. The letter should detail your request, be dated and signed.

Should this approach not yield a response in a reasonable timeframe, then you may have no alternative but to take legal action. Sometimes, after the breakdown of a relationship, children can unfortunately be used as weapons. This may be to cause you pain, or it could be a ploy to bargain harder during any impending divorce proceedings.

In a lot of cases time can heal the wounds. Your ex-partner may opt to re-instate access after they have had time to digest the new situation, and rationally consider the child’s welfare, rather than just their own feelings.

Should this not manifest in your situation, legal action will be necessary to force re-instatement of access. We can help with the proceedings that need to be issued for a court to determine the outcome.

This would usually involve applying for a Contact Order. Contact Orders are legally binding, dictating the access rights of each parent. If the directions within the Contact Order aren’t followed by either parent, an appeal can be made to the court. The parent refusing access at this point, can be liable for further legal action – including being held in contempt of court.

Rather than taking further legal action at this point, mediation may be a viable alternative – a less stressful and informal way of coming to a resolution. If you do consider taking further legal action, you need to consider how this could impact the child – should your ex end up in serious trouble as a result. If they were penalised with a heavy fine or in some circumstances, a jail term, the children may suffer as a result.

Whatever your individual circumstances, the Family team at DRN are here for you and your family. With a sympathetic ear and decades of experience, we will work with you every step of the way, until a solution is found that benefits all parties. Give us a call today on 01282 433 241, to have an initial chat.

Taking a Child Abroad With a Different Surname? Be Prepared

This entry was posted in Family Law on by .

It isn’t uncommon for people travelling with children with a different surname to be asked to prove the children’s identity and why they are travelling together at border controls.

Maybe your children have a different surname to you, or perhaps the children are travelling with grandparents or other relatives with different surnames.

If this could affect you this summer, here is what you need to know…

 

Why Do I Need to Prove Anything?

The controls are in place in certain countries to protect against child abduction and smuggling. The controls at most borders are getting tighter so we strongly advise that you pay close attention to what you need to do, well before you travel.

 

What Do I Need to Do?

1) Give yourself plenty of time, if possible

Book your holidays well in advance if you can. Not only will this give you more time to research and get together the paperwork you need, you might also get a better deal on your family holiday!

2) Ask Your Airline

The Airlines, as well as border control, will have their own policies so always check with your airline if they need any additional documentation in order for you to travel.

3) Check With the Relevant Embassy

What applies in Britain will differ to the requirements of other nations. Always check the requirements of each country that you will be travelling to or through.

What Documents Will I be Asked For?

This will depend on the individual countries you are visiting and may include one or more of the following:

A) Consent Letter

To be on the safe side we would suggest that you always get a consent letter from the child’s father stating that they are happy for the child to travel with you. Include your details, the dates and details of travel, their consent and passport details. Also get this signed, dated and witnessed.

B) Birth, marriage and divorce certificates

Generally, you will need to take the child’s birth certificate, either the original or a certified copy from a Notary Public – we can help you with that.

Also, take any marriage and divorce certificates to further prove the child’s identity and your relation to them.

C) Double check you have everyone’s passports!

 


 

If you are having trouble getting access to the documents that you require for the country you are travelling to, don’t panic. You are not alone and there are some common problems that we often see….

For example, the father of your children may have unfortunately passed away or they may not be contactable to obtain consent.

In the case of the death of the father, the death certificate in most cases should be sufficient along with the child’s’ birth certificate. If however, they cannot be contacted and you both have custody then you may need to apply to the court for consent.

Other more complicated problems can arise, which depending on their nature could cause some emotional distress, if you are concerned about your own travel plans please get in touch with our resident family expert Nicola Barron, who will be pleased to advise you. You can contact Nicola Barrow on 01282 433 241.

Should you require a Notary Public signature on any documents after checking with the relevant embassy, again please contact us.

Remember, these laws are in place to protect you and your children and if you follow the advice here the process should be very straightforward. It is always advisable to research your own position well before you travel to avoid any last minute complications.

Happy holidays!

Summer holiday childcare arrangements for separated parents

This entry was posted in Family Law on by .

The school summer holidays may suit the smaller members of the family but for separated parents they can be a struggle – they don’t have to be.

When the kids break up for several weeks, for some separated parents this can mean an annual revisit of resentment, conflict and heartache.

Child access and child care arrangements during the holidays can be a thorny issue, especially during the long break from normal routines.

But the disruption and difficulty can be minimised, even for recently separated parents, by following a few simple steps.

1. Make a plan early

Children can be sensitive to problems between parents and making them feel at ease will help limit how your issues affect them
An effective way to do this is to ensure children know where they will be and for how long, even if it’s tough to compromise.

Even if the summer holidays don’t involve going away, emphasise the positives of seeing different friends and relations when they are with each parent.

 

2. Commit to dates

As obvious as this sounds, it can make a huge difference in terms of removing uncertainty and false expectation on all sides.

It’s even worth going through a calendar or planner for extra precision to remove doubt and ambiguity – it’ll be a huge relief when an agreement is made.

Aim to be ‘businesslike’ and fair as possible to reduce tensions – everyone’s number one priority is the happiness and wellbeing of children.

Don’t take the opportunity to address any perceived injustices in access arrangements.

 

3. Be open with children

It’s normal for the transitional period of separation to be unsettling for many children.

Talking about the idea of staying away can ease this and make them feel happier.

Discuss their likes and dislikes and make sure they can take familiar toys and clothes with them, so everywhere feels a little bit like home.

 

4. Remain considerate

Compromising with an ex-partner can be difficult but even small, thoughtful concessions can help reduce stress for you and your children.

Exchange details of any travel plans and while you’re away, arrange opportunities for your children to contact their absent parent.

If appropriate, encourage your ex-partner to plan some nice activities for themselves, so they stay happy and occupied.

 

5. Consider mediation

Even with the best intentions of all parties, it can be a struggle to affirm agreements – in such cases, professional support can help.

Seek a family law specialist, sensitive to the emotional and practical strains of negotiating with a remote or uncommunicative ex over summer plans.

 

If you’d like to speak to an experienced family law expert, call Nicola Barrow on 01282 433 241 for a free and confidential discussion of your needs.

How will changes to domestic abuse guidelines affect me?

This entry was posted in Family Law on by .

New guidelines on intimidation and domestic abuse offences have been proposed and published by the Sentencing Council.

These have been updated to include government recommendations on unpleasant, coercive or antisocial behaviour towards a partner or spouse.

Social media networks have enabled domestic abuse perpetrators to inflict more contemporary and creative methods of humiliation and punishment.

Until now, the law has been slow to reflect the significant and far-reaching distress that such behaviour can cause.

What is classed as intimidation or abuse?

Intimidation offences now include:

  • – Harassment and/or stalking
  • – Misuse of private sexual images (often referred to as revenge porn)
  • – Controlling or coercive behaviour and threats to kill

Domestic abuse guidelines have also been extended to include offences that can take on a more severe context when they occur in a ‘home’ environment.

Any of the following can profoundly affect not only victims of abuse but their families too:

  • – Assault
  • – Sexual offences
  • – Criminal damage

What do I do next?

As well as updating legal recommendations to reflect today’s society, these guidelines also aim to address inconsistencies in sentencing.

The seriousness of such offences has been highlighted as greater than in non-domestic incidents.

This is due to their often prolonged and traumatic nature, for victims and witnesses (particularly children) and any resulting grave outcomes.

Commenting on the newly published guidelines, domestic legal specialist Caroline Aaron said:

‘Of course we welcome the updated recommendations from the Sentencing Council, both as professionals – but more importantly, as people.

‘Everyone – male, female, young and old, should be able to feel safe in their own home, community or online.

‘These new guidelines are a step in the right direction to help people get better access to the protection they need.’

If you feel any of the above issues may affect you or someone you know, you can view the Sentencing Council’s public consultation on their website.

If you’re concerned about inappropriate behaviour in your relationship and would like impartial and confidential legal advice, speak to one of our specialists.

And if you’ve been a victim of intimidation or domestic abuse and are concerned for your safety, please report it to the police immediately on 101.

5 new law changes that could affect your family

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

This year has seen several UK law developments that may have a direct effect on you and your family.

The following five examples are ones you may already be aware of but if you’re unsure how they’ll impact on you and your loved ones, read on.

  1. Minimum wage increase

This was one we knew was coming – the national living wage changes every April, the only uncertain part is by how much and who for.

For those aged 25 and over, a 30p increase to £7.50 per hour will come into effect, with a ten pence rise for 21-24-year-olds, to £7.05.

For under-18s, a rise from £4.00 to £4.05 will apply, while apprentices in training will receive £3.50, up from £3.40.

  1. Tougher smoking laws

In a bid to discourage ‘beginner’ smoking, the Government has introduced restrictions on various items, to protect younger people.

From May, cigarettes will no longer be available in packs of ten and rolling tobacco will be sold in packs weighing no less than 30grammes.

And menthol cigarettes – traditionally seen as a ‘way in’ to smoking – will be banned completely by May 2020, with the ‘phasing out’ starting soon.

  1. Car tax changes

Under the Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) set out by George Osborne when he was chancellor, changes to car tax will apply from April onwards.

Only completely zero-emission vehicles will now be exempt, meaning even if your low emission petrol or diesel car is previously tax-free, a new one won’t be.

For cars with emissions, fees will be calculated based on CO2 in the first year of tax, then by type of vehicle in subsequent years.

It won’t affect vehicles registered before April but will definitely be something bear in mind the next time you come to buy a family car.

The full breakdown of vehicle tax changes is listed at gov.uk.

  1. Changes to free childcare

Good news for many parents but a worry for some local authorities when plans were announced – free childcare will be doubled for eligible 3-4-year-olds.

Starting in September, the current term-time allowance of 15 hours will be increased to 30 for families who qualify.

The aim of the changes is to enable more parents to be able to start (or return to) work without being hamstrung by crippling childcare charges.

  1. Child tax credit

Tax Credit and Universal Credit support will be limited to two children, with no inclusion for further children born after the 6th of April unless exceptions apply.

And families started after April 2017 will no longer qualify for Family Tax Credits, nor will the ‘first child’ element apply in the equivalent Universal Credit setup.

Various permutations will apply to individual circumstances, some relating to efforts made by parents to seek work.

More information on new UK law changes

If you’d like more specialist or in-depth information on any recent changes to the law in UK, contact a member of our team, who will be happy to help.

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