Middletons provide the following Family Legal Services:

 

Children

Issues concerning children are sometimes difficult and stressful but if parents can reach arrangements for the family amicably the risk of harm to their children is significantly reduced.

Middletons Family Lawyers have extensive experience in dealing with disagreements which arise concerning children and we will work with our Clients to try to achieve a resolution by agreement. This may be achieved with the help of mediation or the use of collaborative law skills.

If we are unable to resolve issues in this way, the Court can be asked to assist in one of the following ways :-

  • Family Arrangements Order which will include say where a child should live, who a children is able to see, where and how often
  • Prohibitive Steps Order – this stops someone doing something in relation to a child, such as removing a child from the Court’s jurisdiction to another country
  • Specific Issues Order – this allows the Court to determine a disagreement on a specific point, for example, the change of a child’s surname

The welfare of a child is the Court’s paramount consideration. In reaching a decision the Court will take into account a number of factors detailed in The Children Act 1989.

 

Cohabitation Issues

Same sex relationships may be regulated by the Civil Partnership Act 2004 if the relationship is registered as a partnership.

Unregistered same sex relationships or heterosexual relationships outside marriage place the parties in the legal position as if they are two unrelated individuals. It is essential for people in such relationships to consider entering into a cohabitation agreement which, although not legally binding in a Court, should there be a separation, it will indicate a couple’s intention which could influence a Court’s decision.

The Family Law team at Middletons has experience in drafting and negotiating such agreements.

Collaborative Agreements

Collaborative practice is an alternative way of resolving family law matters including divorce, separation and parenting disputes. It recognises that one size does not fit all and allows for creative and flexible solutions to the legal, emotional and practical problems of a family breakdown.

For the lawyer, collaborative practice means a different way of working. At its simplest, the process is a four way deal between the two Clients and their lawyers in a series of roundtable meetings. Other professionals, including Independent Financial Advisers and Family Therapists, can also be brought into negotiations when needed to provide a holistic service for separating couples.

In the collaborative process, the couple themselves set the agenda – their idea of a good outcome may be quite different from that of a lawyer or a Judge who does not know the family and what makes it tick. Many couples feel that they do not want to run the risk of a Court based solution which does not tie in with their own sense of what is fair. The collaborative approach offers them the chance to put into action the belief that they themselves are the best judge of what is fair for their family.

As the couple and their lawyers make an agreement not to go to Court, there is no fallback option of starting Court proceedings if agreement is not reached.  If they later decide that they want to use the courts, they will have to start again with a new legal team. Because of this, both Clients and their lawyers make a huge investment in arriving at a negotiated outcome which increases the chances of success.

Collaborative lawyers have a relationship with their Clients in which the Client sets the agenda. Clients find that the collaborative approach helps reduce stress by allowing them to do things at their own pace and remain in control of a process which is often seen as alien and intimidating.

Charles Goodbody is a trained Collaborative Family Lawyer and he will encourage Clients to consider collaborative practice as a way of resolving family law matters as well as giving consideration to the traditional Court based route or Family Mediation.

Divorce and Separation

Divorce:

To obtain a divorce you need to present a Petition to the Court after you have been married for one year. The person presenting the Petition must show that their marriage has irretrievably broken down. This irretrievable breakdown has to be supported by one of the following five reasons:-

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion for two years
  • Separation for two years (with the other parties consent)
  • Separation for five years (the consent of the other party is not necessary)

The Petitioner files the Petition with other relevant documents together with a Court fee unless Fee Exemption is applicable.

The Court sends the Petition to the other party who then files an Acknowledgement of Service. If the District Judge is satisfied with the documentation, a Decree Nisi will be granted on application and six weeks later a Decree Absolute can be granted. It is that document which finalises the divorce and should only be applied for once financial issues have been resolved. This procedure has been in place since the Matrimonial Causes Act was past in 1973.

Judicial Separation:

This is dealt with in the same way as divorce proceedings, but at the end of the procedure the couple will not be divorced and there is no Decree Absolute. Within the judicial separation process the Court can deal with financial issues and any other orders that are relevant.

Separation:

There is no formal procedure that a couple have to go through in order to separate. If there is a division of assets on separation it is advisable for parties to enter into a formal Separation Deed to record the agreement reached at the time of the separation.

Domestic Violence & Injunctions:

A Domestic Violence Injunction can be obtained during divorce proceedings or separately.

There are two types of Domestic Violence Injunction :-

  •     Non-Molestation Orders
  •     Occupation Orders

Non-Molestation Orders:

These Orders can be made to protect adults or children from harassment, intimidation or threats of violence from an associated person or someone else instructed by that person to do one or all of those things.

Occupation Orders:

An Occupation Order is an Injunction which relates to property and can determine who is allowed to continue to live in a property in the short term after there has been domestic violence. The Order can exclude a person who owns or has an interest in the property from either part of it or indeed the whole of the property. The Order can also enable a person who has been wrongly excluded or evicted from the property to go back to it.

Property Injunctions:

If you are involved in divorce proceedings and become concerned that your spouse is trying to dispose of valuable property or money to prevent you making a claim against that asset, an emergency application can be made to the Court to prevent the disposal.

Middletons Family Law team has experience in all types of applications involving the orders referred to above.

Financial Resolutions

The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 as amended sets out a list of factors which a Court will take into account when dealing with the financial issues arising on the break down of a marriage or registered civil partnership. Each case is decided on its own facts. The Middletons Family Law team has experience in dealing with the resolution of financial disputes arising on the breakdown of a relationship.

It is essential that you and your spouse give your lawyers full and frank disclosure of all your capital income, pensions and other assets and it is only once all documents are disclosed that the best advice can be given with regard to the division of assets, the sharing of pensions and the provision of maintenance.  It is hoped that a resolution in each case agreement will be reached by negotiation, mediation or the collaborative route which will allow a Consent Order to be submitted to the Court to reflect the terms agreed.

Inheritance & Wills

Inheritance:

Middletons Family Law and Dispute Resolution teams have experience in dealing with Inheritance Act claims, both on behalf of Executors or hopeful beneficiaries.

Wills:

Marriage will render a Will completely null and void unless it has been made in contemplation of the marriage. Divorce will affect the terms of a Will substantially. It is therefore important to consider making a Will at various stages in your life. Second marriages invite different considerations.

Middletons Family Law team work closely with lawyers in the Wills and Probate department to make sure that you receive the best advice in connection with the preparation of a Will, taking into account the needs and requirements of your family as well as the burden of Inheritance Tax.

All Clients are encouraged to make a Will.

Pre-marriage Agreements

Pre-marriage Agreements are becoming increasingly common and English Courts are now recognising the importance of such agreements. Whilst they are not strictly enforceable by Courts in England, they are now being upheld.

Such Agreements are often important for those proposing a second marriage where they have substantial assets and children of an earlier marriage or relationship. In such circumstances the consequences of a possible breakdown of the relationship should be looked at commercially as well as practically by both parties.

Middletons Family Law team has experience in negotiating and drafting such Agreements.

 

 

 

Charles Goodbody
Partner - Head of family and private client

Please Contact
cgoodbody@middletonssolicitors.co.uk

01985 214444

Middletons has a reputation for excellence with offices based in Warminster, Westbury Wiltshire, Andover and Stockbridge, Hampshire. With more than 50 years experience across all areas of corporate and individual law, our team of lawyers provides the highest standard of advice and service.

Speak to one of the team by calling 01985 214444 or email enquiries@middletonssolicitors.co.uk or Make an enquiry

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