Family Mediation Week (17-21 January 2022) 

Sorting out family issues brings with it a unique set of challenges. The most significant barrier to a successful conclusion is that emotions run high, and bridges can be burned in a matter of minutes by the ‘wrong thing’ being said at the wrong time. Escalating a family dispute to the courts is not only expensive, but it feels impersonal, stressful, and sometimes invasive. This is why people look for alternatives to heading to court. And this is why family mediation is so important and so successful.

Family Mediation Week runs from the 17th to the 21st of January 2022. It is designed to highlight the role of mediation rather than litigation. Its purpose is to raise awareness of the process, what it involves, and how our trained mediators at OGR Stock Denton can help you work towards a successful solution.

What is family mediation?

Sometimes, it needs a fresh pair of eyes to see a way through a tangled family dispute. This is where professionally trained family mediators can help. These independent and highly experienced mediators help families work out the most practical, fair and balanced solutions to various issues, including child access and finances after separation.

What’s so crucial about mediation is that it gives people the chance to sort out volatile issues without the need to take them through the courts. Mediation focuses on finding a solution that works for everyone without ever losing sight of vital issues such as fairness and the needs of the children. It’s a flexible, fluid process that can even be carried out virtually if you prefer. 

Getting things moving

The first step is a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting, or MIAM. This lasts for about an hour and allows you to explain the issues to your mediator fully. They’ll also be able to give you a full explanation of the process and answer any questions you may have. At the end of the meeting, your mediator will tell you whether your case is suitable for mediation and what the next step is. They’ll also be able to refer you to other services that may help you and your family through the process.

How much does this cost?

Different mediation services will have different charging structures.  You should enquire when making an appointment.  It is far cheaper than going to Court!  Currently there is a voucher scheme applicable to mediations regarding children’s issues that will pay up to £500 toward the cost of mediation.  In addition if you are financially eligible for legal aid some services will offer this.  At OGR Stock Denton we are able to offer the voucher scheme, but do not offer legal aid.  Your mediator will be able to tell you exactly what to expect during your initial MIAM and throughout the process.

Bear in mind that you can withdraw from the process at any time. If you decide to do so, your mediator will advise you on the next steps.

Is it compulsory?

If you’re planning to take a case to court, whether over finances, or matters concerning children, then in most cases you will need to attend a MIAM beforehand. This demonstrates to the courts that all parties have at least tried to resolve the situation through mediation before escalating it. Only accredited mediators (certified as accredited by the Family Mediation Council) can sign a court form confirming that you have tried to resolve the process through mediation.

OGR Stock Denton’s family mediation team

At OGR Stock Denton, we believe that mediation is one of the most powerful tools in resolving family disputes successfully and with as little stress to the individuals as possible. That’s why we’ve put so much effort into expanding our team of accredited mediators. Peter Martin is a highly respected mediator with over 30 years’ experience. He has believed for many years that mediation allows couples to approach emotive issues in a rational and clear-sighted way. With the help of a neutral yet experienced mediator, we can reach a mutually satisfactory resolution far more quickly.

The mediation team is now expanded and our latest team member is Holly Covington, who has qualified as a mediator. Our head of family, Graeme Fraser, welcomed her into the team, saying: “I am delighted that Holly Covington has developed her skills and knowledge to qualify as a Resolution trained mediator. As more and more of our clients look to resolve matters using out-of-court solutions, Holly is an integral part of our expanding team’s offering of mediation, collaborative law and arbitration for which OGR Stock Denton is a leading provider”.

Holly Covington is equally pleased to be a part of OGR Stock Denton’s Mediation team. “I am very excited to be able to help even more families and separating couples for whom mediation can be such a valuable and empowering process,” she explained. “Now that I am a trained Resolution Mediator and registered with the Family Mediation Council (FMC), I can offer mediation services alongside my colleague Peter Martin which provides clients with the option for co-mediation (with us both). Please do contact us if you would like more information about mediation or to discuss what may work best for you and your family.”

Should you wish to speak to a Family Mediator then please get in touch today by email or call us on 020 8349 0321.

The New Highway Code Rules from 29th January 2022

New Highway Code Rules, aimed at protecting vulnerable road users, are due to come into force on January 29th 2022, if approved by Parliament. A New Road Hierarchy will improve road safety for more vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians, who are most likely to get injured in an accident.

The Hierarchy in order of highest priority will be:

  • Pedestrians
  • Cyclists
  • Horse Riders
  • Motorcyclists
  • Cars/Taxis
  • Vans/Mini Buses
  • Large passenger vehicles/Heavy Goods Vehicles

‘Those in charge of vehicles that can cause the greatest harm in the event of a collision bear the greatest responsibility to take care and reduce the danger they pose to others’.

It will be a car driver’s responsibility to be aware of cyclists, pedestrians, or horse riders.

When a car is turning into a road the driver should stop to let pedestrians cross even if they have not started crossing. This also applies to Motorbike riders, Cyclists and Horse riders.

Cyclists travelling straight ahead at road junctions will now be given priority over drivers who are turning left or changing lanes.

Cyclists will be required to give way to pedestrians on shared-use cycle tracks.

Cyclists are also now advised to ride in the centre of their lane to make themselves more visible on quiet roads and in slow moving traffic, or on the approach to junctions when it would be unsafe for a vehicle to overtake.

At OGR Stock Denton we deal with numerous accidents involving cars turning left at junctions and knocking over cyclists. In such cases the cyclist often sustains serious injuries which are life changing. The new rules are therefore welcomed and it is hoped will result in car drivers taking extra care, particularly when turning into roads at a junction.

We have also seen an increase in the number of accidents involving motorcyclists. We hope the new rules will go some way to reducing these and will avoid serious injuries which often result in substantial physical and financial consequences.

Why being a polite road user can land you in trouble.

Flashing your lights has universally been accepted as a code for allowing someone to have priority or thanking another road user. Some road users of course use a flash of the lights in not such a polite manner but rather as a way of intimidating. Such uses will no longer be permitted. The new code states:

Only flash your headlights to let other road users know that you are there. Do not flash your headlights to convey any other message or intimidate other road users.’

To make an appointment to discuss any aspect of Motoring Law or Road Traffic Offences please send us an email or phone 020 8349 0321.

Top tips for instructing the right family lawyer

Divorce is always difficult, but the aim is to make the process as simple and as painless as possible for everyone. As part of Good Divorce Week, we’ve been looking at how to achieve this from the outset. Once a couple has decided to separate, it’s inevitable that at some point a family lawyer or solicitor will have to be consulted, especially as the process will eventually go through the courts. To make that initial consultation as productive and as easy as possible, here are our top tips for instructing your family lawyer.

What you’ll need to bring to your meeting

You’ll need to provide photographic proof of identity such as a passport or driving licence. You’ll also need an official confirmation of your address, such as a council tax or electricity bill. In fact, it’s worth contacting your lawyer before that initial meeting to check exactly what they’ll need to see. This could include any pre-nuptial agreements, court orders, or any parenting plans you may have drawn up beforehand. The more information you can give them at this early stage, the better. It would be a shame to waste a trip to your family lawyer’s office just because you forgot to bring a single piece of paperwork.

Keeping things confidential

Confidentiality is important at this stage. If you still haven’t told your partner that you’re consulting a family law expert, then it may be wise to avoid making any payments for your session from a joint bank account, for example. You can ask your solicitor at this point to be discreet, and keep your consultations private until you choose to reveal the situation to your partner.

Give your lawyer all the information on those key dates they’ll need

Your family law solicitor will need to establish a timeline of key dates and events, particularly if they involve joint financial concerns or parenting plans. They’ll also need to know about your joint assets such as pensions, overseas assets, savings and stocks and shares portfolios.

Outline what your objectives are from the outset

The initial meeting with your lawyer will determine what your objectives are. By clearly outlining these from the start, your legal advisor will know how to proceed to get the best result for you and your children (if you have any). Don’t just focus on the negatives. You’ll need to tell your legal team about the positives too, so that they can find areas of common consent that could help push the process forward. However, they will also need to know about those areas that may be difficult to resolve, so that they can work on solutions with you and your partner.

Ask questions

You’re inevitably going to have a lot of questions. Make sure that the lines of communication between you and your legal team stay open, and that you can easily access advice and help as and when you need it. The earlier you consult with your team over an issue, the faster they can act to resolve it. Don’t ‘sit’ on a problem because you feel it may be wasting their time (or your money!). 

Get your finances straight

There’s no escaping the fact that divorces cost money. In fact, the average cost of a divorce in the UK in 2021 was around £14,500. Even a ‘good divorce’ (one that’s uncontested and uncomplicated) can still set you back thousands of pounds in legal fees. Talk to your lawyer before you start the process to get a rough idea of how much it may cost you so that you can plan your finances.Me

Leave the door open

Finally, unless there are circumstances that would make a reunion unfeasible, it may be worth instructing your family lawyer to keep the ‘door open’. Reconciliations can and do happen, and if that is on the cards then it’s worth talking to your legal representative to help you make an informed decision about the future. If reconciliation is possible and both parties want to explore that avenue then your lawyer may be able to advise you on how to start the process through professional mediation.

Speak with our team today for an initial discussion. We offer expert advice, great value for money and our services can be provided remotely for your convenience. For more information please email or call us on 020 8349 0321.

OGR Stock Denton takes part in Mitzvah Day

OGR Stock Denton are delighted to announce that the firm will be participating in Mitzvah day this year. 

Mitzvah Day is a day of social action led by members of the Jewish faith, which brings together thousands of people of all faiths and none to make a difference to their local communities. It is the largest multi-faith day of social action in the UK, with 40,000 volunteers contributing more than 150,000 hours of their time in 2016.

It brings together people of all ages, faiths and backgrounds, to volunteer side-by-side and build longstanding, genuine relationships.

Social Action projects make a vital difference to the world around us and can include a wide variety of activities.

This year the firm decided to donate items to a charity called “Separated Child UK”. The Separated Child Foundation offers emotional, social, financial and physical support to separated children and young people in Britain up to the age of 21. They also engage in educational activities that raise awareness of their needs and encourage positive responses to them. Separated children arrive in the UK exhausted, dishevelled, vulnerable and traumatised.

Ben Menahem, Senior Associate at OGR Stock Denton LLP, said: “Mitzvah Day is a wonderful opportunity to bring together people from a diverse range of backgrounds to make a difference for an equally diverse range of people locally.

“I am delighted that we have been able to play a part here at OGR Stock Denton LLP and help make a real difference to some of the most vulnerable members of our local community.

“Here at OGR Stock Denton LLP, we are committed to contributing positively to our local community and I would like to thank our team for their donations.”

OGR Stock Denton LLP is a long-standing supporter of the Mitzvah Day initiative and will continue to support this in the near future.

Family Law Journal – Cohabitation Policy: where are we now?

Partner and Head of the family department, Graeme Fraser has written an article in the Family Law Journal on Cohabitation Policy: where are we now? This article summarises Resolution’s responses to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Rights of Cohabiting Partners and their proposal to reform Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 in response to the Law Commission’s 14th Programme of law reform.

The response to the Inquiry sets out the legislative changes needed to improve rights protection of cohabitants, including a proposed legal definition of cohabitation. The equalities issues raised by the lack of legal protection include relationship-generated disadvantage, the impact of the common law marriage myth on different age groups, and the treatment of religious marriages not recognised in England and Wales.

The article has now been been published on the Family Law website. Read the full article here.

Contentious probate – the rules and how they apply to beneficiaries

Losing a loved one is a painful and difficult process, and sorting out their estate after they’ve gone can be a challenge. If they’ve made a detailed will and everyone is happy with the validity of the will and its contents, then that should make life for those left behind a little easier. Probate should be completed without any hassle, and is usually done and completed within around six months.

However, if a person dies without leaving a will (intestate), or even worse, when a will has been drawn up but is contested by either a beneficiary or someone who thought that they should’ve benefited from the will but didn’t, then the probate process can drag on for months, years, or even come to a complete stop.

What grounds are there for challenging a will?

While contentious probate is something that everyone wants to avoid, there are certain situations where contesting a will is legitimate. These include:

  • A will that hasn’t been executed correctly by the executor according to the law
  • The mental capacity or capability of the person making the will is in doubt (as is often the case with dementia sufferers)
  • The distribution of the estate doesn’t provide enough for any dependents (most often spouses and children) who may face financial hardship as a result.
  • When there’s suspicion that the deceased was forced or coerced into changing a will against their wishes
  • A will that has been fraudulently changed by a third party
  • A will where the distribution of the estate is contested by one or more beneficiaries, or by someone who expected to be included in the will but has been left out.
  • A will that beneficiaries feel has been dealt with in an improper manner

While all of these scenarios could be legitimate grounds to contest a will, there needs to be substantial proof if a will’s clauses are to be overturned by a court.

Who can contest a will?

The main parties who can contest a will are:

  • Direct beneficiaries
  • An individual who was contracting promised something by the deceased but finds they’ve been omitted from the final will.

The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 allows people with a certain relationship to the deceased to bring a claim to contest a will, including:

  • A spouse
  • A former spouse if the deceased has not remarried.
  • A partner who lived with the deceased for at least 2 years immediately before the death.
  • A child (direct descendent)
  • Any individual supported financially (partly or totally) by the deceased.

How is a will contested?

Surprisingly, most contested wills do not end up in the courts, and are usually solved as a result of mediation and negotiation through professional family law solicitors. If the process cannot be resolved then it may result in formal court proceedings, where the will is examined by a judge. Their ruling is final.

If you are planning to contest a will then it’s vital that you seek professional guidance as soon as possible. If you’re in the other camp and are forced to defend a contested will against someone who is challenging the validity of the contents, then again, it’s important to get expert legal advice from a family and probate law specialist.

Speak with our team today for an initial discussion. We offer expert advice, great value for money and our services can be provided remotely for your convenience. For more information please email or call us on 020 8349 0321.

OGR Stock Denton takes part in the London Legal Walk

OGR Stock Denton managed to raise over £500 after taking part in the London Legal Walk earlier this week.

The 11-strong OGR Stock Denton team comprised of, Rob Talbot, Olawale Adenusi, Nqobile Dlamini, Gemma Barnhurst, Peter Martin, Tanaaz Malik, Tanvi Tondwalkar, Noa Mozes, Mia Mawdsley, Aisling Hayward and Merjan Salim, joined the Lord Chief Justice and thousands of legal professionals for the 10 kilometre walk through central London on 18th October 2021.

Partner, Robert Rosenberg said: “I’m delighted that we’ve been able to raise so much for a very deserving cause and especially to be amongst the top firms in terms of funds raised per walker.

“Here at OGR Stock Denton, we’re committed to making a difference to our local community and taking part in the Walk is a great way to help make a difference to people’s lives.”

Anyone wishing to sponsor the firm can do so until 30th November 2021 via this link – https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/OGRStockDenton21

MyHMCTS makes divorce financial remedies much easier

For years, financial remedies legal processing has involved long, drawn-out processes that tied up the legal system and caused heartache for couples who simply wanted their relationships to come to a fair conclusion. However, as reported in the Law Gazette this month, that’s all changed. Family law solicitors up and down the country have welcomed the introduction of HM Courts & Tribunals mandatory digital portal, which is already slashing the time it takes to process financial issues in a divorce from three months to as little as seven days.

Previously, contested financial remedy cases were taking an average of 77 days to reach their conclusion. However, creating the digital portal has sliced through the paperwork and made it faster and easier for family law solicitors and their clients to get the result they want, even if a case is referred to a judge more than once.

Now, rather than filling in the notoriously complicated D8 form, divorce applications go through the MyHMCTS online portal. The exceptions to this changeover are civil partnership dissolutions, judicial separation and nullity.

Hailed as a success by family law solicitors

Since the portal became an option in 2018, more than 150,000 divorce applications have been processed. The system has been deemed to be such a success that as of 4th October, paper applications will come to an end and everything will be done digitally. The system, which was introduced as part of the government’s courts reform programme, has been hailed as a success by family law solicitors across the country.

The digital system has also cut down dramatically on the number of returns, with only 1% of online applications requiring amends, compared to around 20% of paper submissions. Overall, HMCTS has enabled the courts to finalise divorces in around 20 weeks on average, compared to the previous 60 weeks for paper applications. This makes a huge difference to couples who simply want to get on with their lives and don’t want to be stuck in the limbo of divorce for over a year.

A couple of stumbles along the way

For a government-backed digital system, the problems have reasonably manageable. The system hasn’t been all plain sailing, and there have been a few issues along the way. The Law Gazette also reported the fact that the system cannot handle a Notice of Change if an individual decides to transfer responsibility to a legal representative after initiating the process as a petitioner litigant. In this instance, the case needs to transfer back to the old paper method, which could delay the process considerably.

Divorce solicitors are recommending that couples who may anticipate conflict when it comes to the divorce process should go through legal counsel from the outset to avoid this issue. For others, the availability of the portal means that while couples are sorting out the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the process online, divorce solicitors can focus on the financial arrangements, which are often the most complex (and apart from child access) the most important aspect of a separation.

Solicitors offering financial remedies legal advice are using the portal as a matter of routine, and apart from the issue surrounding the Notice of Change, it appears to be working remarkably well. The HMCTS portal is also being activated to take on a range of other processes as well as divorce and financial remedy including probate, immigration and asylum appeals and family law. Anticipation is that it will streamline the legal process, allowing solicitors to provide clients with a more personalised and focused service in the long run.

If you’re going through a divorce and need financial remedies legal advice, talk to one of our expert team in confidence today. We offer a full service including access to the best divorce solicitors in the region and are here to help you get the resolution you want. For more information please email or phone 020 8349 0321.

Power of Attorney – what is it and why do you need it?

We all want to believe that life will be reasonably easy, with minimal bumps along the way. However, the truth is that as we get older, illness or even an accident can render us incapable of making our own decisions. If that happens then it’s vital that you’ve thought a step ahead and put in place a Power of Attorney to take care of your decisions on your behalf.

If your ability to make your own choices is taken away from you as a result of dementia, long-term conditions such as motor neurone disease, or a traumatic head injury, then it’s reassuring to know that your affairs will be looked after by someone of your choosing, and in the manner that you would want. This is what Power of Attorney is all about. It’s about ensuring that while you still have the ability to choose, you can put in place a safety net that will protect you once you are no longer able to make your own decisions.

Why do you need to choose someone with Power of Attorney?

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease affects around one in 12 of the UK’s population. It’s not just a condition that’s confined to the over-75s – there are thousands of cases every year of what is termed as ‘early-onset dementia’, which can strike people in their 50s. Degenerative diseases such as Motor Neurone Disease, although rare, affect around 5000 people in the UK and can strike at any age. Similarly, severe head trauma as a result of an accident or medical condition such as a progressive brain tumour can affect people of all ages.

Once your ability to make your own decisions about your finances or your well-being and health care has been compromised, it is up to someone else to step up and take on the role on your behalf. To allow them to do this, you have to grant an individual Power of Attorney.

Without this safeguard in place, you’ll have no decision over what happens with regard to your healthcare requirements or financial management. Without a Power of Attorney in place, the role is taken on by your local council, who will decide when and where you receive care, and whether your assets such as your family home could be sold to pay for long-term care.

A lack of a trusted person in the role could also result in your financial affairs being handed over to a stranger to manage. This could seriously impact any inheritance your chosen benefactors could receive, as your assets could be used to pay for your care.

How do you avoid this?

The simplest way to avoid handing your future over to your local council (as well-meaning as they may be), is to arrange well in advance to have someone you trust to take on Power of Attorney on your behalf. This can be easily arranged with Power of Attorney solicitors, who will be able to provide you with expert legal advice on the process from start to finish. The charity Age UK also have extensive information on how to arrange a Power of Attorney for older people.

It’s quick and easy to do. Simply book an appointment with one of our experienced private client lawyers in London, who will sit down and go through the paperwork with you. You can contact the Office of the Public Guardian to get the relevant forms and information pack, and while you can technically complete it all online yourself, our top tip is to get expert legal advice before you sign the documents to ensure you’ve completed them correctly. This could prevent any legal challenges later on.

You’ll need to get your LPA (Lasting Power of Attorney) documents signed by a certificate provider, who can confirm that you haven’t been coerced or pressurised into signing the document. The document is then registered with the Office of the Public Guardian for a small fee, and within around nine weeks the status of your chosen Power of Attorney representative will be recognised and fully registered.

It’s simple, it’s straightforward, and it’s an essential process that could protect both you and your loved ones should the worst happen.

If you would like to talk in confidence to an expert about arranging a Power of Attorney document, please email or phone 020 8349 0321.

North London family lawyers shortlisted for LexisNexis Family Law Award

Head of Family Team, Graeme Fraser, has been shortlisted in the Partner of the Year category at the LexisNexis Family Law Awards 2021, while Associate Solicitor, Holly Covington, has been shortlisted in the Young Solicitor of the Year category.

Graeme is a well-respected figure amongst family lawyers, having served in senior committee positions with Resolution, including as current Chair of the Cohabitation Committee, and having recently been appointed to the Family Procedure Rule Committee (FPRC).

He is a past winner of the Family Law Commentator of the Year category at the Family Law Awards and his team was also shortlisted the Family Law Firm of the Year category at the 2020 awards

Meanwhile, up-and-coming Family Solicitor, Holly Covington, was nominated for the Young Solicitor of Year accolade, having impressed since joining the firm in September 2019. Since then, Holly, who qualified in November 2018, has handled complex matters usually reserved for much more experienced lawyers, winning praise from colleagues and senior members of the bar alike.

She also volunteers for the charity, Rights of Women, on the Family Law Advice Line.

Graeme Fraser said: “Family law touches on the fundamental elements of our clients’ lives, finances and identities in ways that few other areas of law do. It is vital that we deliver the best possible service to each and every client, taking every opportunity to reduce unnecessary conflict where possible.

“Holly has really impressed over the last two years. Not only does her technical skill belie her experience, but she has also demonstrated impressive dedication to clients and, particularly to improving outcomes for women in the family justice system.

“I am delighted to have been shortlisted and it is great to see Holly shortlisted too.”

Holly added: “It is wonderful to have been shortlisted and to have been recognised in this way by the judges.

“Our firm is strongly dedicated to its clients and this has allowed me to make a real difference over the last two years.”

The winners of the Family Law Awards 2021 will be announced at a ceremony in London on 24 November 2021.