Finchley solicitor named ‘Family Law Commentator of the Year’ at prestigious ceremony

A Finchley-based solicitor has been named ‘Family Law Commentator of the Year’ at a prestigious ceremony.

Graeme Fraser, a Partner at OGR Stock Denton LLP, received the accolade at the Family Law Awards on Wednesday 28 November 2019.

The award follows a rigorous judging process, which saw Graeme shortlisted, followed by an online poll of family law professionals.

Graeme’s comments on family law issues featured across the national media over the past 12 months, including in The Times, The Guardian, The Evening Standard, The Huffington Post and Channel Five News.

Family law matters have been widely covered in the news this year. The Government recently committed to extending civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples following a landmark Supreme Court hearing and several prominent cases have raised questions about the UK’s divorce laws.

Graeme said: “I feel deeply honoured to have won the Family Law Commentator of the Year Award at the Family Law Awards. I would like to thank Sam King QC for nominating me and everyone who voted for me.”

“I am committed to raising awareness amongst the public of family law matters which affect the lives of millions of families up and down the country.

“In particular, many cohabitants can find themselves in perilous situations and at risk of destitution in the event of their relationships breaking down. The law needs to be updated to reflect 21st century society and I will be continuing to campaign on these issues.”

Graeme is Chair of the Cohabitation Committee of family law organisation, Resolution and is an active campaigner for the rights of cohabitants.

Lawyer’s top ten tips for divorcing well

A leading Family Lawyer has set out his top ten tips for couples looking to divorce or separate well and his further top ten tips to stop children becoming casualties of divorce to mark Good Divorce Week (26 – 30 November), which is organised by Resolution, the family law organisation.

Peter Martin, a Partner at Finchley-based OGR Stock Denton LLP who has more than 40 years’ experience in Family Law, prepared the tips to help couples think about how to mitigate the effects of their separation.

Amongst Peter’s suggestions are “reactive decision are usually bad ones”, “try to be rational and objective” and “don’t listen to your friends.”

Peter said: “Having dealt with divorce cases for more than four decades, I have learnt that how one starts the process can dictate the whole tenor of the future of your divorce or separation.

“Certain characteristics repeatedly stand out as leading to what might be termed as ‘constructive’ divorces, which allow divorcees to begin the next chapters of their lives, and ‘destructive’ divorces, which lead only to further pain and suffering. Too often, it is children who suffer most.

“My top ten tips are intended to help people achieve ‘constructive’ good divorces and to avoid the pain and suffering, particularly experienced by children, of a ‘destructive’ divorce.

“I hope these tips will help families emerge from the process of divorce with minimal suffering and ready to start the next chapter in their lives.”

TOP TIPS FOR DIVORCING OR SEPARATING WELL

As a divorce lawyer – now more accurately called a Family Lawyer – of more than 40 years experience I have learnt that how one starts the process can dictate the whole tenor of the future of your divorce or separation.

So here are my top ten tips for an amicable divorce and my tips for trying to protect the children:

 

  1. Reactive decisions are usually bad ones. If you are feeling hurt or have just discovered your partner with someone else don’t take any legal actions until the red mist has gone from your eyes.

 

  1. Try to be rational and objective. Going through a separation is highly emotional, but try to put that emotion to one side and sit down around a table with a neutral party with the aim of making sensible decisions.  Remember that you loved the other person once.  There must have been a reason – focus on this not the hurt.

 

  1. Decide on your priorities. More often than not one of the biggest priorities is to move on with your life with your dignity intact. The more amicable the divorce the quicker it will be over, leaving you to get on with the next chapter of your life.  It is also a lot cheaper.

 

  1. Be nice for the sake of the kids. If you have children then it is only in the most exceptional circumstances that it is not in the children’s interests for their parents to get on with each other and remain friendly, even if they are separated or divorced.

 

  1. Go to a good family lawyer. Find a family specialist committed to working out solutions as amicably as possible and in a way that will preserve your relationship with your spouse.  If you can, use mediation or collaborative family law.

 

  1. Expect a big change in your lifestyle. Your life is going to change dramatically, it is the surprise of this that can often lead to resentment and breed conflict. Your partner’s life will be changing too and they will be having the same problems adjusting as you are. Yes really.

 

  1. Don’t do it the celebrity way. Every week there seems to be another celebrity couple fighting out a dirty divorce in the media. You don’t have to fight dirty to get the best result – in fact, in reality, judges will frown upon it when making their settlement.

 

  1. Don’t listen to your friends. Turn to them for emotional support but remember that every marriage is different and every divorce is different.  Just because friends think it is a good idea, doesn’t mean it is.

 

  1. Be the bigger person. Even if your nearly ex is trying to play dirty, don’t rise to the bait. It is easier said than done, but I often hear from people who years later regret that they allowed themselves to get lowered to that level.

 

  1. Think about divorce before you get married. Think about what your situation will be if things don’t work out and how you think the other person is likely to behave in those circumstances as well. Consider a prenuptial agreement. Realism does not have to be anti-romantic.

 

 

North London property lawyer says Supreme Court decision will affect many more landlords following change in the law

A north London-based property lawyer has said that a recent Supreme Court decision will affect many more landlords following a change in the law that widens the definition of ‘house of multiple occupation’ (HMO) to take in two as well as three-storey houses.

Zahra Himani, a Property Solicitor and Senior Associate at Finchley-based law firm OGR Stock Denton LLP, said that the Supreme Court decision in Nottingham City Council v Parr and another will become increasingly relevant under the new rules.

The case concerned whether a property with a bedroom that the local council deemed to be too small to comply with the HMO rules could receive an HMO licence on that basis that it was let to students who are likely to make greater use of shared facilities than other tenants.

The Supreme Court found in favour of the landlord and ruled that the room in question could only be let to a student.

Under the new rules, which came into effect this month, any house let to five or more unrelated people who share the same facilities, will require a licence costing £1,235.

Commenting on the Supreme Court decision, Zahra Himani said: “This is an interesting judgment as it gives us an indication of the type of debate that will become commonplace now that HMO licences are required for more properties.

“There will be arguments that certain properties that were not previously within the HMO rules and which now require HMO licences might be unsuitable, which could cause strain on the already tense housing situation.

“The judgement confirms that licences can be granted with certain conditions which would permit these properties to remain as HMOs and, therefore, there seems to be a nod towards moving away from a simple tick-box exercise.

“However, it remains to be seen whether this levels the playing field for landlords or whether it disadvantages tenants who are living in unsuitable properties and will continue to have to do so.”

Failing to comply with the HMO rules can be very costly for landlords found not to be compliant, with a fine of up to £30,000 applying to every property found to be in breach of the rules.

Civil partnerships to be extended to opposite-sex couples

Theresa May has announced today that heterosexual couples in England and Wales will now be able to choose whether to enter into a civil partnership rather than get married.

The intention is to provide greater security for unmarried couples and their families to address the “imbalance” that allows same-sex couples to enter into both civil partnerships or get married.

A consultation will now follow on the technical details but Equalities Minister Penny Mordaunt promised that the change in the law would happen “as swiftly as possible”

Graeme Fraser, Partner at North London firm OGR Stock Denton commented as follows:

“Today’s news means that modern family types outside marriage for heterosexual couples are being recognised by the State. Tax advantages, pension rights and welfare benefits previously provided only to married couples will now be extended to those heterosexual couples choosing to enter into civil partnerships rather than marriage.

“This is not a panacea for the millions of couples who choose not to have their relationship formalised by the state. While civil partnerships work well when both parties are in an equally committed long-term relationship, it can never cater for relationships where one party is more committed than the other and one partner is left financially and legally vulnerable when the relationship breaks down.

“I express concern that the ideal of formalised relationships for all may be seen as an opportunity to remove cohabitation from the political agenda despite the vulnerability that will continue to exist for many.

“It is vitally important for basic protections to be extended to unmarried couples and new legislation would offer the perfect opportunity to achieve this. This would herald real change to the lives of all who choose not to marry.”

Divorce Law to be reformed – consultation announced

No Fault divorce is edging closer to happening following publication by the Ministry of Justice of its consultation “Reducing family conflict” to reform the legal requirements on divorce.  The consultation runs from 15th September until 10 December.

The Government proposes to reform the divorce process to shift the focus from blame and recrimination to supporting adults to better focus on making arrangement for their own and their children’s future. To deliver this, the Government proposes to remove the requirement to allege “fault” by removing the need to justify the reason for the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and the ability of a spouse to contest the divorce. The conclusion by one spouse that the marriage is over would be respected. The intention is to also prevent the divorce process itself from enabling an abusive spouse to exercise coercive control over the other.

The consultation seeks views on (a) how best to reduce family conflict and strengthen family responsibility; (b) the length of the divorce process and the period couples should have to reflect on the decision to divorce and to make arrangements for the future where divorce is inevitable;  and (c) whether provision should be made to enable a couple to jointly request a divorce where this is a shared and considered decision.

The Government also acknowledges that any future change on how the court can make financial orders should be founded on a revised legal process in which the potential for conflict has been minimised.

Graeme Fraser, Partner at North London firm OGR Stock Denton LLP comments:

“The announcement of this consultation is a welcome step towards No Fault divorce but this change needs to take place sooner rather than later.

Family lawyers have long known the stress and upset caused to families by having to set out details of unreasonable behaviour.  This would be removed by the proposed new law.

Enabling couples to get out of an unhappy and loveless relationship without attributing blame provides them with the opportunity to lead independent lives at the appropriate time once the relationship has irreversibly ended.

It is pleasing that the Government has finally taken heed of the need to reform divorce law which once taken will be a positive step towards the overall modernisation of our family laws.  It is vital that the Government legislates quickly as soon as the consultation ends”

Divorce poised to become less confrontational

Details of a Government consultation on no-fault divorce have just emerged which should improve the process of divorce going forwards.

David Gauke, the justice secretary is expected to launch the consultation shortly. He previously acknowledged that the argument for reforming divorce is “strong”

Under current law, to obtain a divorce either spouse must prove fault through adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, or if both spouses agree after two years of separation. If there is no consent or evidence of fault, the applicant must wait until the couple have been living apart for five years.

It is estimated that two thirds of divorcing couples use one of the fault grounds, and family lawyers have long understood that this commonly increases acrimony for the family during an already stressful time.

The issue came to the fore in July when the Supreme Court ruled that in her case, 68 year old Tini Owens could not divorce her husband until a period of five years’ separation had elapsed in 2020, thus trapping her in an unhappy loveless marriage.

Graeme Fraser, Partner at North London firm OGR Stock Denton LLP is a member of Resolution’s Family Law Reform Group, which is spearheading the campaign to modernise family law. He comments:

“This news could prove to be the catalyst for long overdue divorce law reform in England and Wales. Removing blame from the process would hugely assist couples in their attempts to resolve matters avoiding needless conflict and damage to family relationships. The government urgently needs to introduce measures to improve the divorce process and modernise family law”.

The experienced and specialist Family Law team at OGR Stock Denton LLP can deal rapidly with all queries in relation to separation and divorce in order to resolve matters as effectively and efficiently as possible.

North London family lawyer shortlisted as industry Commentator of the Year

Graeme Fraser, a Partner at Finchley law firm OGR Stock Denton Solicitors, has been named as a finalist at this year’s Family Law Awards for his role as a key commentator for the specialist area of law.

Having appeared recently on both BBC local radio and Channel 5 News to share his expertise on cohabitation, Graeme has become a regular speaker on family law matters, often representing both his firm and Resolution – the national organisation of family law specialists – as the Chair of its Cohabitation Committee.

Thanks to his position in the complex field of Family Law, judges at the awards were quick to recognise his prominence as a regular commentator providing sound bites for national newspaper titles and comments to legal journals, such as the Law Gazette, which is why they have shortlisted him for the prestigious national title.

However, now the experienced solicitor is calling on clients, colleagues, peers and the public to vote for him to win later this year.

Speaking about his success and the upcoming public vote, Graeme said: “I am extremely privileged to be in this position and I am delighted that the judges have decided to select me for the shortlist.

“In the last year, I have been very fortunate to have my views and knowledge shared by a variety of publications, which I hope has proved beneficial to my fellow lawyers and the public alike.”

He said that cohabitation and the issues surrounding the rights of unmarried couples living together continued to be a hot topic, adding that with family dynamics changing it was likely to remain a contentious issue that interests a wide range of publications in the years to come.

“I am hoping that with the support of my colleagues and members of the public who have benefited from my expertise I will be able to garner enough votes to take the title home,” added Graeme.

Graeme will find out if he has won the award at a ceremony due to be held at The Ballroom South Bank on 28 November 2018.

To sample some of Graeme’s recent comments to the press and where they have been covered, please visit https://www.ogrstockdenton.com/library/

In order to cast your vote for Graeme, you can also visit www.familylawawards.com/ehome/familylawawards2018/vote

Civil Partnership case goes to Supreme Court

Rebecca Steinfield and Charles Keidan take their case today to the Supreme Court to secure the same legal recognition as same-sex civil partners without getting married.

In February last year, the Court of Appeal agreed that the couple are being treated differently because of their sexual orientation, which impacts on their private and family life. This was to allow the government time to evaluate whether to extend civil partnerships to all. The Queen’s Speech following last year’s General Election did not include any indication that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 would be amended to extend civil partnerships to all.

Earlier this year, the issue of extended rights for unmarried couples was debated in the House of Commons and passed to the next stage through Parliament. During that debate, the government was allowed to amend the bill to review the operation of civil partnerships. Further evidence about the demand and need for civil partnerships is likely to be available by July 2018.

Graeme Fraser, partner at Finchley-based OGR Stock Denton comments as follows: “I anticipate that the Supreme Court will rule that the current law is discriminatory so long as civil partnership remains as an option only for same-sex couples.

“This does not, however, mean that new legislation will be quickly introduced since policymakers may consider alternative options, including the abolition of civil partnerships altogether, with marriage retained as the formal recognition of both opposite-sex and same-sex unions.

“The government will likely await the outcome of their review into the operation of civil partnerships expected this Summer in any event before making any final decision regarding new legislation.

“A change in the law extending civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples would allow those that opt for them similar financial security to marriage thereby extending their choice as to how they formalise their relationships.

“Parliament should, however, first address as a matter of priority, the more pressing issue of introducing specific family law remedies to protect vulnerable cohabitants, many of whom are often women with children left with no financial security because their partners who are in a stronger financial position will not or cannot marry them or enter into civil partnerships.

“Until then, for the estimated 3.3 million cohabiting, obtaining legal advice can help them decide arrangements that are right for them and their children if the couple separate or one of them are left bereaved”

Finchley lawyers help families understand how to preserve wealth and protect assets on divorce

Lawyers from Finchley-based law firm OGR Stock Denton LLP offered clients and contacts the lowdown on how to preserve family wealth and assets on divorce.

At a seminar on Monday 16th April essential information was provided as to how inheritances and other family wealth arising outside of a marriage can be preserved on divorce.

Max Lewis, a Barrister at 29 Bedford Row Chambers with Peter Martin and Graeme Fraser, Partners in the Family Law Team at OGR Stock Denton LLP, offered practical guidance and insider tips on how to most efficiently strike the balance between long-term financial planning and the potential consequences of divorce.

The speakers discussed the latest legal developments and, how litigation can be avoided by proper advance planning, strategies to adopt when negotiating these matters, and alternatives to traditional litigation.

Graeme Fraser said: “Wealth and estate planning is an increasingly significant area of family law. Issues concerning wider family wealth commonly arise, and this seminar dealt with what can be done before, during and after a marriage.

“One of the most important aspects of the discussion was around the importance of early planning. As house prices remain at such high levels, increasing numbers of young people need help to buy at precisely the moment that they are entering into what may be a first long-term cohabiting relationship and ultimately a marriage.

“We also discussed the significance of prenuptial agreements and their benefits, relative to well thought-out trusts and other structures, as well as the importance for the family of aving appropriately framed wills in place.

“Perhaps the most important point that those in attendance took away from the event was that where planning has not taken place at an early stage, it can be easy for the wider family to be drawn into a conflict with the ‘other’ spouse at precisely the moment tensions are at their peak.”

OGR Stock Denton LLP regularly holds seminars and events on matters of interest to clients, contacts and professional colleagues.

Finchley lawyers pick up the chopsticks to treat insurance brokers to an evening of sushi making

A Finchley-based law firm has welcomed a leading firm of insurance brokers to its offices for a culinary-themed evening.

Members of the team at OGR Stock Denton LLP welcomed colleagues from Ashley Page Insurance Brokers to join them for an evening of sushi making on Thursday 22 March 2018.

The aim of the event was to develop the close working relationship between the two firms, which benefits clients by giving access to a much wider range of expertise.

Professionals from the firms joined together in preparing the Japanese bite-sized dishes that traditionally comprise raw fish, rice and vegetables.

Richard Denton, Managing Partner at OGR Stock Denton LLP, said: “We value the working relationship we have built with our professional colleagues at Ashley Page, which ultimately benefits our clients through more efficient access to specialist advice and assistance.

“This was an entertaining evening, which was an opportunity for members of our teams to get together in a relaxed an informal setting.

“The sushi they created was delicious and the chopsticks were well-exercised by the end of the evening, with everyone keen to tuck into our own culinary creations.”

The team at OGR Stock Denton LLP regularly welcomes professional colleagues to its offices as part of its efforts to create ever-closer working relationships for the benefit of its clients.

Just last week, the firm welcomed colleagues from Glazers Chartered Accountants to their offices to take part in an evening of ice-sculpting.