on your side

Season’s Greetings…. Part 2

16th November 2015

There are several stress points each year it seems for families, which sadly translate into peaks of work for family lawyers.

Last year I wrote an article for Etc.Magazine on the stresses and strains placed on families at Christmas each year.

The statistics are legion, backing up the fact that season’s greetings often means something very different to the orthodoxy. Christmas really does seem to be the season of excess, both for good and bad.

Christmas and the New Year are tied up with reflection and new beginnings and for many this results in decision making.  Put simply, many new clients tell me in January and mid-February each year that they are simply not prepared to put up with yet another ruined Christmas or New Year for a multiplicity of reasons.

A key question to consider is what to do next, who to draw assistance and support from and what value can be added by those of us who charge.

For most, family assets do not exceed reasonable needs and therefore some compromise in the division and a departure from equality is necessary.

The extent of this is fact dependent, but for most families any financial agreement made within divorce (and these comments apply strictly to those who are married) requires an assessment firstly of the financial resources, then an assessment of the financial needs of the parties and a decision making process to resolve any disagreements.

Most family lawyers now are fully aware of the importance in considering all options at an early stage including mediation, discussions between the parties if that is possible, correspondence between solicitors and as a matter of last resort, going to Court.

Whatever route is travelled, ultimately, it is vital that some input is obtained from a family lawyer at the earliest possible stage.  I have found that many people have a view of fairness or clear idea about what is relevant which does not always tally with the approach taken by the law.

This means that any settlement, whether by agreement or otherwise, is potentially vulnerable as ultimately it is for a judge to decide what is fair.  It is not enough for you and your spouse simply to reach an agreement: if you want this to have binding legal consequences, the agreement must be fair and a court is not a rubber stamp in this process.

There may also be very good reasons for a departure from an equal share, whether that might be for the requirement of a person’s needs or that certain assets are non-marital in nature because they come from outside of the marriage (usually assets acquired before the parties got together or which have been gifted or inherited during the course of the marriage).  Again, it is unlikely that most lay clients will have a clear idea about this works in practice.

Working with a solicitor at an early stage will help manage expectations and enable you to take a realistic view about what you are entitled to.  This may assist you in the process of mediation or if that is not appropriate or breaks down, a solicitor will enable you to progress from the point of separation to the point of conclusion.  Recent cases show that matrimonial claims do not simply go away and that they can come back many years after the parties have separated unless before then they are resolved once and for all.

My New Year’s message to you is seek legal advice from a suitably qualified solicitor at an early stage to enable you to make the best decision for you and your family should you choose to separate from your spouse.

Jim Richards. Solicitor, family department.

Family Law, General, George Ide, News
Please recommend us if you liked this post: