5 traps to look out for in a Separation Agreement

A Separation Agreement is a signed document between couples who do not wish to live together any longer. The document is designed for couples who do not wish to legally end their marriage or civil partnership. Therefore, the document is not classed as a divorce; rather it is a legally binding agreement that can be used as evidence to establish the terms of a future divorce petition.

The Separation Agreement sets out responsibilities that need to be considered including financial arrangements, property and arrangements for any children involved.

The Separation Agreement is vital as it governs the responsibilities of both parties after the divorce. This form of separation is favoured by many couples wishing to end their marriage or partnership because it is easier for both parties to understand what has been agreed and what is expected of one another. Once legally finalised, the agreement is between you and your previous partner. As the document is legally binding, it means the both parties can sue each other if they breach the agreement.  Couples who wish to separate are highly recommended to agree to a written agreement as it reduces the risk of disputes in the future. The Separation Agreement helps couples avoid going to court to settle any disputes in the future.

Below are 5 common considerations that get neglected in the agreement which are vital to include:

Child Visitation

While most Separation Agreements schedule normal visitation  on a daily basis, some couples forget to form agreements on special holidays throughout the year, for example Christmas/ New Year, birthdays, Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. To avoid disputes during these holidays in the future, which may cause distress for the children, it is important to include a visitation schedule for special holidays that each party agrees on.

Incorporation and Merger

Understand the ‘Incorporation and Merger’ clause of the Separation Agreement. If the document fails to merge into the judgement of divorce, the agreement will be an independent contract making it more difficult to modify in the future.  In the agreement, you have the option to merge some provisions, but not all of them. It is recommended that you consult a solicitor to advise you on which provisions to merge and which ones to leave.

Health Insurance

It is important to outline in the contract which party is responsible for covering health insurance. Many families get coverage through one spouse’s employer, which covers the entire family, however after a divorce , the spouse with family health insurance coverage can no longer cover the dependent spouse. Each party will need to come to some arrangement and decide who will cover the insurance costs.  In the agreement you need to outline who is responsible, what type of insurance you are covering and how long the coverage will be paid for.

Child Expenses

While agreements outline child support payments such as child benefits, parents often forget to consider other costs which fall outside of the normal child support payments.  In the contract it is recommended that you establish what costs both parties are responsible for. For example, costs that may be shared between each party are education costs, medical care, school trips, hobbies and extracurricular activities. This is one of the biggest disputes that arise between each party once the contract has been finalised, so it is vital that you consider other expenses before you sign.

Signing on the dotted line

Separation Agreements may have specific responsibilities that may be difficult to change once finalised. Therefore, it is important to consult a divorce solicitor before signing. A divorce solicitor will be able to tell you what your rights are, and will be able to notice any blips in the agreement that they believe to be unfair or legally incorrect. Consulting a solicitor may save you time and money in the future, should you wish to try and alter or appeal the agreement.

For professional legal advice on Separation Agreements, visit http://www.bbc-law.co.uk

DIY Divorce could be the answer if you do it correctly

Divorce isn’t a subject which people tend to want to discuss very openly, but there comes a time when individuals have to make important decisions about how to live the rest of their lives. Getting a quick, smooth and painless divorce is preferable to a messy contested divorce case which could drag on for a long time and cost a lot of money.

Fortunately, if partners can reach agreement on a number of important issues then the divorce can be brought to an amicable end with relatively little expense, thanks to uncontested online divorce services.

The types of things which separating partners need to talk about might include custody of children, division of property, child support payments, other financial issues and even custody of pets of livestock. If they can reach agreements about these assets and responsibilities then it might be possible to get an uncontested online divorce at a fraction of the cost of the lawyer/solicitor route. Reaching agreement about these things in advance of getting divorce increases the chance of it being conducted in a civilised way.

Online divorce services are becoming increasingly popular, as couples look for a way to reduce the costs involved. Online divorce websites will supply paperwork and documentation which will then be completed by both parties. The most important part of this documentation will concern children or any other dependents. This could be related to custody or maintenance. Getting these documents in order is essential for securing a swift divorce.

There are some circumstances in which uncontested divorces are not suitable, such as when domestic violence is involved or one party doesn’t feel free to negotiate with their partner. Unless partners can discuss and negotiate with each other, uncontested divorces are impossible. Where agreement on these important matters cannot be reached, the services of divorce lawyers and solicitors may be useful. They can mediate communications and ensure that rational, reasonable negotiations take place.

It’s hard to put a price on divorce, as it depends on a wide range of different issues and the couple’s ability to reach agreement on them. An increasing number of people are choosing to take control of their divorce; by using online divorce services. Online Divorce websites can provide the paperwork and advice which helps couples to get a divorce quickly and smoothly. Once the Decree Absolute is issued the divorce is final and both parties can move forward and begin living the single life.

What To Look For When Seeking a Family Lawyer

What To Look For When Seeking a Family Lawyer

If you’ve never been through the legal process before, realizing the amount of time, effort, and stress that go into it can be more than daunting.  Hiring a lawyer alone is intimidating; how can you determine a good lawyer from a bad one if you’ve never had to hire one before?  Below you’ll find the qualities you should look for when seeking the right lawyer for your family law case.

Background Information on the Practice of Law
There’s a misconception that a lawyer is a lawyer, in the sense that they all have the same knowledge and practice law.  However, this is simply not the case.  There are three types of lawyers you’ll come across on your lawyer search.  Specialized lawyers are those whose practice is specialized in a specific type of law, such as personal injury law.   General lawyers, i.e. lawyers that practice a broader area of law, might practice personal injury law and business law simultaneously.  Then there are Referral lawyers.  These lawyers may be either specialized or general lawyers, but they advertise as if they practice various types of law.  When clients come to them in a specialty outside of their practice area, which is typical due to referral lawyers affinity to advertise a broad range of specialties, referral lawyers then refer the client to another attorney.  The reason they do this is because referral lawyers get a percentage of the lawyer fees for all cases they refer out.  For instance, Lawyer A refers a client to Lawyer B.  When Lawyer B wins the case, Lawyer B must forfeit a percentage of his/her fees from the case.  So, put bluntly, referral lawyers get paid for doing absolutely nothing in a case they’ve referred to another lawyer.

Qualities You Want in a Family Lawyer
You should look for three factors when determining if a lawyer is right for your divorce, separation, will, children’s rights or divorce settlement legal needs.

First, you should look for a lawyer who has experience handling family law cases.  You will want to avoid “referral lawyers” as the fees they take can deter the lawyers they refer your case to from actually taking it; lawyers, like any professional, are in it for the money and if they have to forfeit percentage of their winnings on a case that already isn’t worth that much, they aren’t going to take it.  You should seek out lawyers who have a long history of experience with family law cases and who have been successful with such cases.  While a general attorney might have a lot of experience with family law cases, you should generally look for a lawyer who specializes in family law as he/she is the more likely to be adept to the legal procedures of such a case.

And do not rely on lawyer rating sites, like Super Lawyers, AVVO, and Best Lawyers to give you reliable information on a lawyer’s success rate and the like.  These sites’ “rankings” are determined by how much a lawyer is willing to pay and the information on the lawyers is not generally verified by the lawyers themselves.  For example, attorney John Smith might be stated as a family lawyer on a lawyer ranking site when in fact he is a slip and fall lawyer.  You don’t want a personal injury lawyer handling your family law case, do you?  It would be like having an accountant acting as your stock market investment advisor; it’s simply the wrong specialist handling the wrong specialty.

Second, you need a lawyer who is capable of giving your case the time and attention it deserves.  And third, you need a lawyer with knowledge about your case type.  General lawyers handle many different types of cases, which means they must have a vast working knowledge of different laws and law procedures.  For instance, a general lawyer handling a business law case, a personal injury case, and a criminal case will need to know the necessary laws for each of those law specialties as well as the procedures required by each.  That’s a lot of work and knowledge that a single person must endure and retain.  A general lawyer may be less knowledgeable about your case type and less able to spend time on your case because he/she is handling so many different types of cases.

Amber Paley is a guest post and article writer bringing to us what qualities one should look for when seeking a family lawyer.  Outraged by the prevalence of elder neglect in the U.S., Amber spends much of her professional life writing education articles to help those affected another’s negligible care find good nursing home abuse attorneys.

20 of the best: family law blogs and news from the past week – March/April 2012

Below are 20 of the best family law blogs and news posts from around the web in the past week. If you have published or found a useful family law-related post that hasn’t been spotted, please do add a link to the comments section below.

Wanted: family justice narratives – Lucy Reed in the Guardian

Editor of the Pink Tape family law blog, Lucy Reed invites readers to share their experiences of working in the family justice system.

‘No good arguments against no fault divorce’, top judge says – Telegraph

Renewed calls for “no fault divorce” from Britain’s leading family law judge, Sir Nicholas Wall.

Launch of Family Law arbitration scheme marked by IFLA event – Family Law Week

On Monday 26 March 2012 the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators (IFLA) marked the launch of the new Family Law Arbitration Scheme.

Other blogs on the family law arbitration scheme:-

Family Law Arbitration in the UK – womeninlaw.com

Russell-Cooke welcomes the new Family Law Arbitration Scheme (26/03/12) – News – Russell-Cooke

Knights in shining armour? Family law arbitration rides to the rescue | jonesmyers blog

Lawrence v Gallagher [2012] EWCA Civ 394 – Family Law Week

The Court of Appeal has ruled in Lawrence v Gallagher that the division of assets in a civil partnership ‘divorce’ should be treated in a similar way to those in a heterosexual divorce.

More blogs on Lawrence v Gallagher:

Lawrence v Gallagher: Judicial creations should not be elevated to the status of s.25 criteria – Family Lore

Divorce principles to apply to civil partnership breakup – FLB

Court of Appeal cuts civil partnership ‘divorce’ settlement- Gregorian Emerson

Fifty years in family law: Staffordshire University Conference – Marilyn Stowe Blog

Marilyn visited the Staffordshire University Law School’s Annual Family Law Conference this weekend and produces a comprehensive account of the event.

New Rules for Families? – Cotswold Family Law

Discussion and comment on The Family Justice Review (“FJR”).

New family laws are divorced from reality – Tehelka

Flavia Agnes takes a look at India’s family laws in this opinion piece, noting that moves to make divorces easier may look good on paper but may end up giving a raw deal to women who are not financially independent.

Surge in demand for domestic abuse advice during Old Firm match – CBC Blog

Shelter Scotland has reported a sharp rise in the number of visits to its website from women looking for help and advice on domestic abuse following its recent Facebook advertising campaign.

Conflict and violence in families – Austin Lafferty

National charity, 4Children, has recently published the results of its research into conflict and violence in families.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want – Marshall Chambers

A lesson for litigants: answers provided by the Court may not be the answers desired by the litigant; or any of the litigants!

Rise in international child flee cases – Pannone Family Law Blog

There has been a significant rise in child abduction cases in England and Wales, as per a Report out this week by Lord Justice Thorpe, chief of the Office of the Head of International Family Justice.

Family Lore: Grubb v Grubb: “To be involved in ancillary relief litigation is a dire prospect for any husband or wife”

The report of Grubb v Grubb [2012] EWCA Civ 398, published on Bailii this week may be brief but it is not without interest. Family Lore comments.

Jennifer Brandt: Your First Meeting With A Divorce Lawyer

‘Getting a divorce is never a fun experience, but picking the right lawyer will help you cope with the process while getting a fair and equitable result’ says Jennifer Brandt. Her tips are blogged at the Huffington Post.

Mega-rich divorcees in court squabble over loose change | News.com.au

One from Australia: Having split the family’s $151,037,015 wealth with his ex-wife, a businessman realised he had overpaid and went to the Family Court to get his money back.

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How to Divorce: The Divorce Process Explained

Below is a guest blawg post on how to divorce, explaining the divorce process. Please note that the terms are relevant to the laws of England and Wales. If you’d like to submit a guest family law blog post, please get in touch through the contact form.

Deciding to pursue a divorce can be a daunting challenge, fraught with a range of perils. There are a lot of things to consider, such how the divorce process works, what you’re entitled to and who gets the rights to any children you may have.

In order to get a divorce, you will have to undertake a range of steps in order to come to an agreement with your partner. These include your reasons for divorce, which of you will take care of the children and how you’ll split up your money, property and possessions.

One of the first ports when considering a divorce is hiring legal help. You may consider hiring divorce solicitors in Kent, or wherever you are based, who will act on your behalf in divorce proceedings.

The good news is that if you and your spouse agree on these points then the divorce process can be completed in as quickly as 4 months. If not, then divorce proceedings can drag on for much longer.

There are four formal stages to divorce in the UK:

  1. Establishing the grounds for divorce
  2. Filing a divorce petition
  3. Applying for ‘decree nisi’
  4. Getting a decree absolute

You can only divorce under UK law if your marriage has ‘irretrievably’ broken down and you have been married for a least a year. You will be required to prove this to the court by relaying the ‘facts’ of why your marriage has ended. These facts can include reasons such as adultery, unreasonable behaviour and desertion.

To start divorce proceedings you will need to fill out three copies of a D8 form, also known as a ‘divorce petition’. You will also have to pay a fee of £340, but you could be entitled to a discount if you have a low income or are on benefits. Once the forms are completed, you will need to send them to the court.

A notice of divorce will then eventually be served to your husband/wife. Your partner can then choose to either accept or argue against the divorce. If your spouse chooses to fight against the divorce then proceedings can be delayed significantly. If no agreement can be made then this is where divorce solicitors will step in to negotiate with your partner to try to reach an agreement.

Once you both agree on the divorce you can then apply for a ‘decree nisi’ – a document from the court which says that it can’t see any reason why you can’t divorce. A judge will consider whether there is enough evidence to allow the divorce to proceed and review all your paperwork, such as any arrangements you’re proposing for your children.

If the judge gives permission for the divorce to continue then you are able to apply for a ‘decree absolute’ 6 weeks after you have been issued with your decree nisi. Once you have the decree absolute, you are officially divorced.

The Divorce Process: Family Law Information

The Divorce Process

Divorce is the legal process through which two people end their marriage and the legal status that it provides. It is usually an extremely emotional time for the parties involved and also for their children, if they have any. The best way to make your divorce process as smooth as possible is to find a solicitor who you can trust and work comfortably with.

It is important that both parties understand their legal position on divorce and know exactly to what they are entitled. A divorce solicitor can make sure finances and property are properly distributed and arrangements are made for children, leaving no room for disagreements.

Petitioning for divorce

In order to begin the process of divorce one party to the marriage must present a petition for divorce on the grounds that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. It is important to note that the parties must have been married for at least a year before they are able to make such a petition.

Whether the marriage is broken down irretrievably is not simply a matter of opinion, and there is legislation stating that at least one of five factors must be present before any court will make a ruling that the marriage has in fact broken down irretrievably. These five grounds for divorce are as follows: unreasonable behaviour, adultery, living apart for two years and both parties consent to the divorce, living apart for five years, and desertion.

Acknowledgment of service

A copy of the petition must be sent to the other party along with a statement of arrangements for the children (if applicable) and an acknowledgment of service. The respondent must inform the petitioner in the acknowledgment of service whether they will be contesting the divorce. The acknowledgment of service is therefore an extremely important document as it shows the court that the other party is aware of the petition. If the other party refuses to return the acknowledgment of service you may have to arrange for a process server or bailiff to serve the document and make an affidavit stating that they have done so.

Decree nisi

If the court is satisfied that there are valid grounds for divorce it may well grant what is known as a decree nisi. A decree nisi will generally be granted when a divorce is not being contested and there are valid grounds for divorce. The party who made the petition must then apply to have the decree made absolute which they cannot do until at least six weeks and one day from the date of the decree nisi.

Decree absolute

The decree absolute is what actually ends the marriage, as opposed to the decree nisi which merely declares there are satisfactory grounds. Once the decree absolute has been pronounced the marriage has officially ended and usually the parties will begin ancillary relief proceedings: the name given for deciding how the matrimonial assets should be split.

Ancillary relief proceedings

The ancillary relief proceedings are often fiercely contested as a judge will rule on who should have what from the matrimonial assets. The ancillary relief process can be quite long and usually involves three trips to court.

  • A first appointment in which a judge outlines his position and ensures appropriate disclosure has taken place.
  • A financial dispute resolution hearing in which a judge (a different judge from who will be in attendance at the final hearing) will give an indication of what he would order in the hope the parties then settle on similar terms and avoid a final hearing.
  • A final hearing in which an order will be made.

With the potential for several court visits, it is in both parties’ interests to try to facilitate an early settlement to avoid significant legal costs.

My Spouse and I are looking to separate, however we do not wish to go through with the whole divorce procedure just yet, is there another way we can separate without going through this?

In Divorce Law the term divorce means that a marriage has been irretrievably broken down. It may be that in your situation this is not the case and you are not looking for a final decision but rather an agreement not to carry out your marital obligations or to benefit from your marriage in any way until you make a decision whether to officially divorce or not.

If this is the case you should write a separation agreement. A separation agreement is not a divorce; it is merely an order of court which dissolves the obligations or benefits brought on by a marriage. In such cases you and your spouse will agree beforehand about any financial agreements, the children and the planned divorce. This agreement is binding on you and your spouse until the divorce commences during which time the courts will make an order confirming the terms of the separation agreement.

If you are seeking to carry out a separation agreement, it is advisable that both you and your spouse employ the services if a divorce lawyer or family solicitor before agreeing to any of the terms you intend to set out in the agreement. The separation agreement identifies the parties to the agreement and confirms that both you and your spouse have received legal advice on the matter. Both parties will then agree in the separation agreement that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and that they are planning their divorce.

It is prudent at this stage to get legal advice on your division of your matrimonial assets, such as your finances and child support. This will make it easier for you to carry out an uncontested divorce when you wish to go through with the procedure. It should be noted however that a court may change your separation agreement if it considers it to be unreasonable or, in the case of a child, if it is not in the child’s best interests.

For further legal advice on divorce and separation agreements, you are advised to speak to a divorce solicitor or family law solicitor. They can answer your questions and help you to get through this difficult time.

My spouse and I are looking to divorce but are worried about the costs involved in the process, is there any help we can get on this matter?

The result of a divorce or separation is that two households will often have to exist on the same amount of money as one did previously. This is unfortunately made worse by the costs that will flow from your divorce. There are three main ways in which you can reduce on your legal costs in this procedure.

The first method would be to attempt to carry out the divorce informally, known as informal separation. If you and your partner are married, you can separate by such an informal arrangement. If you and your partner agree, you can also make arrangements about children, money, housing and other property without going to court. However, any informal arrangement made when you separate may affect future decisions if you do ever go to court. You should be aware that a court may change an arrangement you and your spouse made if it considers it to be unreasonable or, in the case of a child, not in their best interests.

Another method that can be employed to reduce legal costs is through what is known as a separation agreement. This is a written agreement between you and your spouse when you intend to stop living together. It sets out how you wish to sort out financial arrangements, property, and arrangements for the children. It is advisable to consult a divorce solicitor when drawing up a separation agreement, but you should work out in advance the general areas you want to cover. This will help to reduce your legal costs.

A final method that may be used in such circumstances would be for you to utilize the services of Legal Help. Legal Help allows people with a low income to get free legal advice and help from a specialist divorce solicitor or an experienced legal adviser. The solicitor or adviser must have a contract with the Legal Services Commission (LSC) to be able to provide Legal Help. You should be aware that in such cases the divorce solicitor will only be able to help you with legal advice and not with the drafting or endorsement of any legal documents.