Webinar – Divorce and financial planning

OGR Stock Denton LLP would like to invite you to join our live webinar – Divorce and financial planning

12.30pm, Friday 23rd 2021

Zoom webinars

Join our live webinar on divorce and financial planning, where our family law experts look at the practical evaluation and structuring of financial settlements on divorce. By reference to case scenarios, provision for meeting needs during middle life and retirement is explored through mortgage capacity evaluation; funding options; pension sharing; and cash flow modelling.

Hosted by Graeme Fraser, Head of Family OGR Stock Denton LLP, with guest speakers Claire Heppenstall, Barrister at 1 GC Family Chambers, and Helen Howcroft, Chartered Financial Planner at Equanimity IFA.

If you would like to join this webinar, please register here.

Webinar – Cohabitation TOLATA property disputes and the Dispute Resolution Toolkit

OGR Stock Denton LLP would like to invite you to join our live webinar – Cohabitation TOLATA property disputes and the Dispute Resolution Toolkit

4.30pm, Thursday 8th April 2021

Zoom webinars

Join our live webinar, where our family law experts use case studies to analyse the benefits and drawbacks for our clients of Dispute Resolution in solving problems of Cohabitation TOLATA property disputes.

TOLATA litigation in the context of cohabitation claims can be risky, uncertain and expensive both financially and emotionally.  The COVID19 pandemic has encouraged professionals to move towards Dispute Resolution, including mediation, early neutral evaluation, private FDRs and arbitration, as an alternative method to litigation. This webinar will explore how these methods can be utilised in Cohabitation TOLATA property disputes.

Hosted by Graeme Fraser, Partner and Head of Family team at OGR Stock Denton LLP, and guest speaker Elizabeth Darlington, Barrister at 1GC | Family Law

If you would like to join this webinar, please email Ali Kabani:

akabani@ogrstockdenton.com

 020 8349 5514

Webinar – Covid and divorce, 12 months on…

OGR Stock Denton LLP would like to invite you to join our live webinar – Covid and divorce, 12 months on…

4.30pm, Thursday 11th March 2021

Zoom webinars

Join our live interactive discussion, where our experts reflect on the past 12 months and consider the issues for family lawyers as we come out of the second UK lockdown.

Topics covered in this webinar include:

  • What are new clients reporting in terms of separation and divorce due to lockdown issues
  • Reported case law during COVID-19
  • What will never be the same for divorce lawyers again post lockdown
  • What could improve when we are out of lockdown
  • Professional practice points and the future outlook for divorce lawyers

Hosted by Graeme Fraser, Partner and Head of Family team at OGR Stock Denton LLP, and guest speaker Max Lewis, Barrister and Arbitrator at 29 Bedford Row Chambers.

If you would like to join this webinar, please email Ali Kabani:

akabani@ogrstockdenton.com

 020 8349 5514

Webinar – How secure is the Bank of Mum and Dad?

OGR Stock Denton LLP would like to invite you to join our live webinar – How secure is the Bank of Mum and Dad?

1.00pm, Tuesday 2nd March 2021

Zoom webinars

With the introduction of the Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) holiday in England & Wales there has been a surge of applicants borrowing money from their parents to purchase either their first and second home

This webinar will look at the legal and tax implications of parents lending money to their children to purchase a home, particularly where spouses and cohabitees are involved, including some recent case examples of how we helped clients in similar situations.

If you would like to join this webinar, please email Ali Kabani:

akabani@ogrstockdenton.com

 020 8349 5514

Government to bring forward an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill

The Government is bringing forward an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill inserting a new clause that would ensure that victims of domestic abuse are automatically eligible for access to special measures in family proceedings without the need for any determination of the victim’s vulnerability

This includes a new clause  given the Court the power to give a direction prohibiting cross-examination in person.

The direction will be given where such cross examination is likely to diminish the quality of the victim’s evidence or would cause significant distress to the witness

The court would have the power to appoint a legal representative to conduct cross examination on behalf of the perpetrator with payment made from central funds.

Further guidance is awaited.

This news is welcome. For too long, victims have been subject to cross examination by perpetrators. Currently, the Judge has limited powers only to prevent direct questioning, but this has the effect of making the process longer and more difficult.

The family courts make decision with lifelong consequences for children and it is essential that evidence is given that ensure a safe, lasting and satisfactory outcome for the child to ensure justice is done for all involved.

Graeme Fraser, Partner & Head of Family comments as follows:

This is welcome news, particularly at a time when domestic abuse has manifestly increased as a result of the Covid19 disruption and lockdown. We hope that these measures can be brought into force imminently so that justice can be done to all those affected.

 For information and advice in relation to domestic abuse issues, please contact the OGR Stock Denton Family Team.

Reflections on divorce and financial remedies after lockdown

Last week we hosted a webinar with guest speaker Max Lewis of 29 Bedford Row, where we discussed financial remedies on divorce and the future for family practitioners after lockdown which Graeme summarises for readers in this update.

The financial impact of the lockdown could lead to a spike in marriage rates, as well as divorce rates. We should not read too much into a surge in divorce filing in Wuhan immediately after lockdown. This is because remote filing is not possible in Wuhan and therefore the filing that took place on the first day resulted from the 3 month wait to leave the house. It is also believed that marital preservation is an immediate response to mortal threat which relaxes once the threat is less acute. People refrain from making major life changes under conditions of extreme stress, uncertainty and threat.

The impact of the lockdown may mean that those who were planning further children to delay. Once the lockdown has ended, there will be a return to social life, and the opportunities for marital infidelity. However, because Covid-19 will be in the community after lockdown ends, there will continue to be much uncertainty.

In order to reopen new cases, there must have been new events since the order which invalidate the basis or fundamental assumption on which the order was made, the events should have occurred within a relatively short time of the order being made, mainly not more than a few months, and the application should be made promptly (Barder). The turning point for the lockdown would appear to have been 22 February, when a dozen Italian towns in Northern Italy closed schools and businesses, so the time frame remains short perhaps back to the Summer of 2019.

Differences in value can arise however through “natural process of price fluctuation” which however dramatic can still fall within this principle (Cornick). This means that “what has soared may plunge and what has plunged may soar again”(Myerson) to the extent that shares that are not liquidated may mean that losses are not crystallised.

Where a settlement provides for a clean break, the Court retains complete jurisdiction until the order is put into effect (Thwaite). If there is some significant change in circumstances since the order was made, the Court may have jurisdiction to adjust a final order (L v L). Where any such revision is made, it should reflect the underlying and original intention of the parties (US v SR)

However, the assessment of assets must be those available at trial (Cowan) and this is the usual rule unless serious injustice would be demonstrated (FZ v SZ). It is entirely predictable that company or property valuers, be they accountants or surveyors, will soon be saying soon that it is quite impossible to put any meaningful figure on the value.

Applications for variation under S31 seem very likely, particularly in relation to income orders. Where orders for sale are being varied, that is likely to relate as much to the  process of the sale rather than the distribution of the sale proceeds.

Traditionally, the approach towards variation was to look at everything de novo (Lewis v Lewis) but the modern approach means that a light touch review is used where appropriate (Morris v Morris).

Issues likely to arise in future cases include earning capacity. Some sectors are more vulnerable than others as we emerge from lockdown. There may be arguments about schools and the payment of school fees. Can schools afford to continue if parents don’t pay fees? This is likely to further encourage use of term orders. Remote mediation seems a greater possibility in the sense that the couple need not be in the same room.

The early signs are that there are downsides to remote litigation, for example, being unable to look people in the eyes. The use of remote litigation is likely to be here to stay for directions appointment. Some of the technology has been a great success including electronic bundles, which may lead to greater e-disclosure and better use of document management software.

For future information or if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us.

Government funding for victims of domestic abuse

The government announces this week that it will pledge £76 million of funding to help support the victims of domestic abuse, a decision that has been welcomed by many including myself as a family solicitor. Whilst this is welcome start, it has been long overdue and comes at a time were many have been forced to adhere to lockdown measures and isolate with their abusive partner.

Government resources and funding for those suffering domestic abuse has been scarce, long overdue and insufficient for far too long now. It is a shame that it has taken the pandemic to shed light on the prevalence of domestic abuse and the fact that it occurs across all kinds of households and within many different familial relationships. I very much hope the Government maintains its support and focus on this issue once lockdown measures are eased but domestic abuse continues throughout our communities. It is important to note that whilst domestic abuse is overwhelmingly perpetrated against women and girls, it can also affect men and there have been a growing number of domestic abuse cases to illustrate this.

Those experiencing domestic abuse should know that they are not alone and they have a number of options available to them, during this pandemic and beyond it. Their safety, and those of any children, is the paramount consideration. I as a family solicitor understand that sensitive situations like this are complex and therefore require a tailored approach depending on the circumstances of each case.

We are here and able to assist you with legal advice that is best for you and your family.

Reducing conflict for child arrangements during the lockdown

There are unprecedented pressures on family law professionals, parents, and the Family Court.  Rather than throwing up our hands in horror, family lawyers have opportunities now to reduce conflict when negotiating child arrangements for separated families.

The CoVid19 Outbreak has created a significant increase in confusion and distress for parents. Family lawyers have received multiple enquiries about where children should stay, amid complaints that neither children are being returned nor being made available to spend time or live with the other parent. The social distancing measures are challenging enough for children who face disruption to their education, health and care arrangements, without the added burden of parental conflict.

On 24th March, Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division, clarified that while children under 18 can be moved between their parent’s homes under the government guidance issued alongside the Stay at Home rules, this did not mean children must be moved between homes. If in agreement, parents could informally vary an order during the lockdown. However, if there is disagreement and one parent is concerned, that parent may exercise their parental responsibility and unilaterally vary the arrangement to one they consider is safe. Parental responsibility “rests with the child’s parents and not with the court”. The Family Court will only be able to look at the position retrospectively in deciding whether each parent acted reasonably.

The Remote Access Family Court announcement on 23 March, just prior to the Prime Minister’s lockdown announcement, purported “to continue substantially the full operation of the family justice system… notwithstanding the COVID-19 pandemic”. But following the above McFarlane guidance, HMCTS issued its Civil Court listing priorities on 1st April which emphasised that only priority work must be done. The upshot of all this, and my experience so far, is that many Family Court hearings are being postponed.

Child arrangements processes are in any event being steered away from court. On 2 April, The Private Law Working Group (PWLG) recommended a “radical system change for the benefit of future generations”. Sir Andrew McFarlane called for public education about the effects of parental conflict and professional support for families other than lawyers or judges so that courts should be seen as the last port of call when disputes arise.

None of these measures by themselves will prevent parents in dispute being positioned or hostile during the lockdown.  What can be done? There are useful approaches that can be taken now, that reduce adult conflict and ameliorate the pressures created by the lockdown and beyond.

Firstly, the CAFCASS guidance issued on 20th March provides helpful tips for co-parenting. These include:  maintaining a sense of routine for children, including meal and bed times; maintaining the child’s usual routine of spending time with each parent; complying with a Child Arrangements Order unless it would put the child or others at risk; and communicating clearly and honestly with the other parent if one parent is unable to maintain the child’s routine due to illness, self-isolation and non-availability of people who ordinarily support the child’s contact.

Secondly, there are a multitude of family law dispute resolution processes available where parents feel unable to negotiate without help. These include not only the established practices of mediation, collaborative law and arbitration, but newer methods such as parenting co-ordination. A therapeutic approach can be especially beneficial in resolving child arrangement disputes.

Finally, I am hopeful the collaborative approach needed to reduce confrontation and conflict between parents during the lockdown, because of the limited availability of the Family Court, may prove a lasting and kinder way to achieve better outcomes for the children of separating families.