Child Maintenance – Who Pays?

The straightforward answer is the parent who does not live with the child or children pays but what if you share care and spend an equal amount of time with your children?

The Child Maintenance Service deals with all applications for child maintenance which cannot be worked out between the parents by agreement.  There are now fees in place for using the Child Maintenance Service.  Currently, those fees are £20 for the parent with care of the child or children who wishes to apply for child maintenance and once that child maintenance has been assessed against the paying parent he or she will be charged 20% in addition to the child maintenance and the parent with care will have the child maintenance reduced by 4%.

The Child Maintenance Service, therefore, encourages parents to reach a family-based arrangement before making an application.   This can be an informal agreement between the parents where a voluntary amount of child maintenance is decided upon between them and the paying parent pays this sum direct to the parent with care or perhaps, less often, a Court order for maintenance where a circumstance applies that means the Child Maintenance Service is unable to undertake an assessment.

In most cases, such as when both parents and the child or children live in this country the Child Maintenance Service will be the first point of contact before the Courts, or any other organisation, when parents are unable to reach a voluntary family-based arrangement.

As well as assessing the amount of child maintenance to be paid by the paying parent the Child Maintenance Service will, also, take into account shared care of a child or children by their parents.  This means that although one parent may not live with the child or children, that parent has the child or children to stay overnight at least once a week.  Depending on how often there are overnight stays, reductions apply.  Please note, as well, that if there are e.g. 2 children and one child lives with the mother and one child with the father, strictly, there is no child maintenance liability through the Child Maintenance Service even if one parent has significantly more income than the other parent and so this may be where an application to Court by the poorer parent would need to be considered although it is not clear whether the Court would be prepared to act.  For more information about child maintenance connect to the Child Maintenance Service website.

www.gov.uk/child-maintenance/overview

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Have You Considered a Pre-Nuptial Agreement?

Does a pre-nuptial agreement sound cold and clinical?  Do you think pre-nuptial agreements are only for rich and famous people?  Think again.  You may not have millions in the bank but it may still be the sensible option.  Many people are now getting married for the second time, or married later in life and, often, they own their own home and have children from their first marriage or a previous relationship.  Even if the new partner is the love of their life, chances are they will want to leave assets for the children.   Of course, a Will can be made but what happens if the marriage doesn’t work out?  Have you discussed how the assets will be divided in those circumstances?  Having a discussion upfront before the marriage to work out who gets what does not have to be unromantic – there’s no need to have a picture in your mind of your partner holding a piece of paper and making you sign before proceeding with the wedding ceremony!  You might both have concerns about how the assets you bring into the marriage are going to be treated but do not want to be the person who, first, brings up the subject.

It is true that a pre-nuptial agreement is not legally binding at the moment.  However, in the case of Radmacher and Granatino in 2010 the Supreme Court upheld the pre-nuptial agreement in favour of the wife who was the richer partner.  This demonstrates that the Court is prepared to give proper consideration to a pre-nuptial agreement that is entered into by both parties voluntarily.  I predict this is likely to continue to be the case – it is certainly food for thought.

Is Legal Aid Still Available for Family Matters?

Since April 2013 legal aid was cut for many family matters.  If, for example, you want to divorce or to make arrangements for your child or children because you cannot reach an agreement with your ex, legal aid is now only available if there has been domestic abuse.   For more information about domestic abuse I would suggest you check out my blog on the subject.

https://julietlegal.wordpress.com/2015/04/16/are-you-the-vi…domestic-abuse/

If you think you might still qualify for legal aid, you should speak to a solicitor.  The Law Society has a webpage “Find a Solicitor” and the Legal Aid Agency website has a financial eligibility section and will be able to help you work out whether you qualify.

 

http://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk

https://www.gov.uk/legal-aid

Proof of the domestic abuse is required and a legal aid solicitor will be able to advise you on the type of proof that will be accepted by the Legal Aid Agency.  If you are uncertain, I would recommend speaking to a solicitor because we’re, usually, quite friendly and often offer free initial consultations so you can discuss whether you are able to qualify for legal aid without worrying about the fee at the end of the meeting.  If you do not qualify the solicitor may be prepared to discuss an affordable method for you to cover your costs such as an instalment payment plan.

Finally, I should say that while legal aid is not, usually, available for private family matters it is still available if you are the parent and the Social Services become involved with the care of your child or children so, again, you should see a solicitor if you need advice or help.

All You Need to Know about Shared Arrangements for Children

When parents split up, usually, their first thought is how are we going to tell the children.  Why do parents find it difficult?  They know the children are likely to be terribly upset – they love both mummy and daddy and want to live with both of them.  In short, as a parent you do not wish to turn their lives upside down.

When parents can’t agree arrangements for the children between themselves it is now compulsory in most cases to attend family mediation to talk about the arrangements for the children rather than going to Court.  The emphasis is parents having control in the decision-making process.  In fact, even if a parent applies to Court because they are not happy that they are spending enough time with the children, the Court will usually encourage the parents to settle arrangements for the children by agreement, rather than having a Judge who does not know the family, and the children, make the decision.

Even though Court orders relating to the children have not been known as custody and access for many years people still use those terms.  Everybody knows what they mean. When the Children Act came into force the terms custody and access were replaced with residence and contact but many people felt having a “residence” order was better than a “contact” order because a residence order stated which person the children lived with, whilst a contact order set out when they could spend time with the children.

In April 2014, therefore, a new Court order came into force when parents cannot agree arrangements for their children.  This order is called a child arrangements order.  The welfare of the children is still the paramount consideration for the Court but the emphasis is on parents sharing care of their children after they have split up, and there is an encouragement to be child-focused with both parents spending time with the children and being involved in their upbringing.

Obviously, there are many different questions that will be popping into your mind, I imagine, and so if you are not certain how the future looks for you and your children if you are facing separation or divorce at the moment, talk to a family solicitor or perhaps arrange to see a family mediator who will be able to give you more information.  It will not, always, cost you a lot of money to take advice as often initial consultations are free.  You must check when arranging the consultation.

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For more information follow these links to the Court service, CAFCASS, and the Law Society.

http://www.cafcass.gov.uk/leaflets-resources.aspx

https://www.gov.uk/looking-after-children-divorce

http://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk/

 

Are You Getting Divorced?

What route are you going to take if you want a divorce?  There are so many options these days – use a solicitor (and worry about the costs), go to the Court office to obtain the paper forms and do it yourself (and worry whether you’ve filled out the forms correctly), do it on-line (and worry that it will ever get processed).

I would say that if you want to divorce and you have children and you need to make arrangements for them, or a house and you need to know what will happen to it, going to see a solicitor for advice is a very good idea.  Yes, of course, I would say that but it is, also, true. Information is power and it is better to have as much information as possible before making a decision about how you wish to go forward.  After all, this is going to affect the rest of your life.  Many solicitors, including myself, offer a free initial consultation so you can arrange a first advice meeting without worrying that you will leave with a big bill.  You must make certain before arranging the meeting that it will not be charged because not all solicitors offer free advice.

Here’s a link to the Law Society’s website where you will find a list of solicitors in your area.

http://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk/

231853_1533In order to save money you may, also, think you will do the divorce yourself now and leave the money to sort out later because you can’t afford a solicitor and you don’t feel confident to sort out the money yourself, or you may not have any money so you don’t think it’s important.  This may be a false economy.  You may have heard on the news recently of the case of Mr Dale and Mrs Wyatt.  When they divorced they had no money but many years later he is a multi-millionaire facing a financial claim from his ex-wife. It really is important, therefore, to have a clean break, if possible, at the time of the divorce even if you have no money.  If you do that you won’t be looking over your shoulder if you win the lottery or develop the next big thing in business.

Well, see you next week.

Are You the Victim of Domestic Abuse?

Many people think of domestic abuse as physical violence but there does not have to be physical violence for you to suffer from domestic abuse.  As an example, behaviour such as constant threats amounting to psychological control that put you in fear or make you feel afraid for your safety can be regarded as domestic abuse.

You may, therefore, be able to qualify for legal aid to take Court action such as applying for a non-molestation order, often known as an injunction order, to keep the person subjecting you to the abuse away from you.  The Court is, also, able to make an occupation order giving you exclusive occupation of the family home for a period of time.

Often, people feel very worried about taking action because they think it will make matters worse and are scared of the outcome especially if there are children involved.  There are organisations to provide support such as Women’s Aid who can provide refuge accommodation when you have nowhere else to turn.  Women’s Aid, also, help men so both women and men can seek advice.  Also, the police have specially trained police officers working in their domestic violence units, and so you can expect a sympathetic response if you contact the police.

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For more information follow the links below. Please note I have highlighted South Wales Police but you should contact your local police if you need help.

http://www.womensaid.org.uk/landing_page.asp?section=000100010014

http://saferbridgend.org.uk/advice/Domestic-Abuse

If you have concerns talking to someone often helps.  A solicitor is able to advise you on the options open to you and you can decide which, if any, of the options you wish to follow.  Even if you decide not to take any action at the moment,  having the information is always useful.

 http://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk/

Hello

JulietWelcome to my blog.

I am a family solicitor with many years experience and I run the family department at  Shanahans in Cardiff.

http://www.shanahans-law.co.uk

I want to make my blog interesting for you as well as informative.  Feedback (constructive, please!) is, therefore, good.

Every month I plan to let you know recent developments that have occurred in family law, and there are a lot at the moment.

If you think any of my blogs affect you, you are welcome to email me and I will do my best to answer your specific questions.

juliet@shanahans-law.co.uk

Happy reading!