top ten tips

Top 10 tips for working with your family law solicitor

1. Start early

When relationship breakdown it can be one of the most stressful times of your life. If you plan to take legal advice, then plan early so that you can focus on resolving issues. Be calm and focused and hopefully you can achieve a quicker successful resolution.

2. The children should always come first

If there are children involved in the case, then they should always be the priority. Their welfare should be the first thing you consider when you make decisions. They are often the most effected member of the family when it comes to divorce and will remember the experience for the rest of their lives. The Court considers the children’s welfare to be of the up most importance in any case, so consider them first.

3. Be respectful

Family disputes that have gone as far as a solicitor are very difficult and stressful situations to overcome, full of emotion and it can be difficult to be respectful towards those who have hurt you. However, if you are rudeness or abusive behaviour will only deter your ex-partner from negotiating. Revenge can often be self- destructive especially if there are children involved as you may still need to deal with your ex-partner in the future.

4. Be honest

Always be open and honest with your family law solicitor. If you hide information, it will result in increased costs and animosity as well as lengthier disputes. It’s our job to work with the truth to give you the best result we can and during the process everything always comes out so it’s always best to be honest with your solicitor.

5. Think about the long and short term

Don’t just consider the short term but also long-term arrangements. What you arrange for the children now will not likely affect you when they are adults so aim for a result that works both now and in the future for you.

6. Compromise

Agreeing to decisions whether big or small is the only way to reach a settlement. If issues fail to be resolved then you will likely end up in expensive, stressful, and costly Court proceedings. Is it important who gets the fridge? Pick your battles and consider where it is best to exert your energy and spend your legal costs.

7. Think about settlements

Blunt rejection to offers to settle can sometimes make matters worse. Consider all offers carefully. On the most part initial offers will not be acceptable, but it could give you something to work with moving forward. Likewise, don’t accept an offer without fully considering it then you may find yourself worse off. It is a balancing act but consider all offers.

8. Why go to court?

Going to court is an expensive exercise and is often not the best for either party. We will always help you consider all your options and sometime the best option is the wait rather than go straight to court. Equally sometimes you do need to take immediate action. Be considerate of all the options presented to you and consider what is in the best interest of you and your family.

9. Don’t assume that what works for someone else will work for you

Every relationship is different. Everyone has different reasons for breaking up along with different finances and dependants. What has worked for your neighbour may not work for you. There are so many factors to consider that every case is different and so come with an open mind and help us get the right result for you and your family.

10. Look to the future

Don’t focus on the pass and pass actions and blame which can hamper your ability to negotiate with a clear head. Look to the future and focus on life after your case when you can move on. Consider the outcome you want and work towards that rather than trying to punish your ex-partner for the past.

Billionaire Divorce

That well versed saying is true, “Money can’t buy you everything”. Even a billionaire can end up having a failed marriage ending in divorce. Most recently and notable of late is the fallen marriage of Bill and Melinda Gates. The Microsoft tycoon’s divorce is set to be one of the largest in history as the private investigators are called in and rumours of affairs emerge.

The divorce will see Bill and Melinda not only split their vast fortune estimated to be in the region of $124 billion but also the future of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation comes into question. So what’s the story of this famous partnership and how did it come to an end?

Bill and Melinda met at Microsoft, where Bill made his fortune. Melinda Gates started at Microsoft as a marketing manager for multimedia products, such as the Encarta multimedia encyclopedia. They started dating in 1987 and married in 1994. They have three children and live in a mansion overlooking Lake Washington in Seattle.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation began in 2000, and has since become the world’s largest private charitable organisation

Why divorce?

The pair announced,

“After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage,” Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates tweeted on 3 May. “We continue to share a belief in that mission and will continue our work together at the foundation, but we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.”

 Although exact reasons have not been given the Washington superior court did say that

“this marriage is irretrievably broken”.

It was reported in the Wall Street Journal that “on at least a few occasions” Bill Gates had pursued women which worked for him and that Bill gates had an affair 20 years ago which ended amicably. It is believed his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted sex trafficker may also have some part in Melinda’s decision to file for divorce.

What? No Prenup?

One of the biggest revelations to the Gates divorce is that the couple have never had a prenuptial agreement in place. When the couple married in 1994 Bill Gates was the richest man in the US and so the lack of a prenup had come as quite a surprise and could have helped make assets easier and clearer to divide. One thing is for sure, as this celebrity divorce continues down the long and windy road we will see more and more information leaked to the media with secrets from the couples long marriage exposed.

child arrangement order

What is a child arrangement order?

The biggest concern to everyone involved in a divorce or separation is the welfare of the children from the relationship. Sometimes when things cannot be worked out amicably the child’s welfare is decided through the courts. At this point a child arrangement order can come into effect. But what is a child arrangement order?

A Child Arrangements Order is an order that determines who the child or children live and spend time with and who they may have contact with. Child arrangement orders can differ based on each cases personal circumstances of the family but will always look to put the best interests of that particular child first. Child Arrangements Orders are governed by section 8 of the Children Act 1989.

There are many questions that we hear from our clients when it comes to the arrangements for child arrangement orders and so here, we try to clear a few of these common questions up.

What happens if a party breaks the rules of the Child Arrangements Order?

The only way the court can be aware of a breach in a child arrangement order is if a formal application for enforcement is made. The Court will only make an Enforcement Order if it is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that a person has failed to comply with the order.

When making an Enforcement Order, the consequences of breaking the order can be severs ranging from giving the party concerned a warning, fine, community service, or even a prison sentence.

What if all parties agree to depart from the arrangements set out in the Child Arrangements Order?

If everyone involved in the Child Arrangements Order agree the changes, it would not be in breach of the order to depart from its terms. However, the changes to the agreement are not legally binding unless the order is formally updated by the Court. If the informal agreement comes to an end at any point, the parties will have to revert back to the original order.

Can a Child Arrangements Order be changed?

Over time and as the children get older family circumstances and the children’s needs change and the court are well aware of this fact. Therefore, the court allows for applications for variation of an existing Child Arrangements Order as long as it is proven to be in the child’s best interests.

How long is a Child Arrangements Order in force for?

The ‘contact’ element of a child arrangement order will remain legally binding until the child reaches the age of 16 unless stated otherwise in the order. This is in accordance with section 91(10) of the Children Act 1989. At the age of 16 it becomes the child’s responsibility to decide how much contact they would like to have with the parent they do not live with.

The ‘live with’ element of a Child Arrangements Order remains legally binding until the child reaches the age of 18, although the Court rarely enforce this order beyond the age of 16 unless there are exceptional circumstances.

For further information on the complex aspects of child arrangement orders or if you are looking to apply for a Child Arrangements Order then contact us on 01983 632006 or email info@michaelspoors.co.uk for more information.

The difference between pre and post nup agreements

Many of us have heard of a prenuptial agreement, often made popular by the rich and famous who have used pre nups for some astounding outcomes. Take Robert and Shiela Johnson for instance. Robert Johnson, America’s first African-American billionaire and co-founder of BET, settled a divorce with his wife of 30 years to the value of $400 million when their marriage ended in 2002. The prenup made this outcome possible as it was up held in court and Sheila was awarded half of their joint assets, making it one of the biggest divorce settlements in history.

Less people however are aware of a postnuptial agreement. So what’s the difference?

The main difference between a pre and a postnuptial agreement is that if you require a prenup in your relationship then this needs to be implemented before you are legally married. A ‘postnup’ can be added any time after getting married.

Splitting up is the furthest thing from anyone’s mind when they are getting married and so a ‘prenup’ can be a difficult subject to broach as you approach your wedding day. Sadly however 44% of marriages do end in divorce and so if you and your partner regret not thinking about getting a prenuptial agreement before getting married, a postnuptial agreement could be the solution for you.

A postnuptial agreement will document what you and your partner want to happen to your money, property and assets if your marriage or civil partnership did break down and came to an end. Postnuptial agreements are commonly used if you and your partner have married  but wish to set out how your finances will be distributed if you separate. Both a prenuptial and postnuptial agreement could be the deciding factor if your divorce settlement ends up in court as the court will generally stick to the terms of your agreement unless the effect of it would be unfair.

Michael spoors solicitors have years of experience drafting pre and postnuptial agreements so that you can relax and enjoy your relationship without fear of what might happen if the relationship breaks down. So if you are looking to join the likes of Beyonce and Jay-Z or Donald and Ivana Trump and get a pre or postnuptial agreement, then we can give clear and concise advice. Contact us on 01983 632006 or email info@michaelspoors.co.uk for more information.

‘No Fault Divorce’ is coming to the UK

In June 2020 Parliament passed the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 which is now an act of Parliament. It is expected that the new procedures and rules will come into force in the autumn of 2021. The new law will allow for ‘No fault divorce’, but what does this mean?

In becoming law, no fault divorce will replace the current ‘five facts’ or reasons that can be given for request of a divorce, these are;

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion for two years or more by the respondent
  • Separation for two years or more with consent from the respondent
  • Separation for five years or more

No fault divorce will allow for the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage as the sole ground for divorce and will replace the need to specify one of the five facts above as grounds for divorce with a statement of ‘irretrievable breakdown’ and therefore removing any blame from either party.

In addition, the new legislation will:

  • remove the possibility of contesting the divorce
  • introduce an option for a joint application
  • make sure language is in plain English, for example, changing ‘decree nisi’ to conditional order and ‘decree absolute’ to final order

Our Q and A’s on ‘No Fault Divorce’

Will this mean we will see more divorces?

It is likely that we will see an increase in the short term when the reform takes place as some people look to avoid blame in their divorce. We would expect this to rerun to normal levels thereafter.

Does this make divorce quicker?

Unfortunately, the time to divorce process would remain the same and therefore would take just as long

Will it be cheaper?

Although the separation avoids blame and is less contentious there will often still be financial arrangements to be addressed which is often the time-consuming element of a divorce. However, with the no fault divorce we hope to see far more positive and less-expensive outcomes for both parties.

Shopping Around

I have known various clients who consulted a number of solicitors prior to deciding which was the right “fit” for them. I would hope this is standard practice however I doubt that in reality many people do and instead instruct the first lawyer they see. What if though you consult and instruct a
solicitor with whom your other half has already consulted? Will the solicitor still be able to act for you or will he/she be forced to refuse your instruction? If the answer is no, clearly a strategic interview with all of your local solicitors would mean your other half cannot instruct anyone close to
home – a brazen tactic indeed.

In a recent case the High Court considered this issue and determined that eleven different issues arose, the most significant of which are

  1. Imparting information in contemplation of a relationship will suffice to create a duty upon the solicitor to protect the information imparted.
  2. The solicitor must decide whether he can act bearing in mind his professional duties however the court retains the power to prevent him from acting.
  3. There is no absolute rule that a solicitor cannot act in a matter against a former client
  4. The information imparted by one client must be relevant to the other client for a conflict to arise though if the solicitor can show there is no real risk of disclosure of that information the court will not prevent him acting.

In this particular case (ZS v FS [2017] EWHC 2660) a short meeting in which nothing confidential was imparted to the solicitor and only general discussions took place, the court found that no confidential information had been imparted in the first place and so the court did not even go on to consider whether there was a real risk of disclosure. As such the Court did not rule out a solicitor for acting for the other half on a divorce matter following this initial consultation. The case was also marred by what appeared to the court to include strategy and manoeuvring on the part of the husband who was trying to ensure his wife could not instruct particular solicitors.

The High Court has therefore effectively made clear that merely interviewing and consulting with various solicitors with a view to excluding them from representing the other side will no longer be treated as an absolute bar to the solicitor then acting against you. I think the point of the judgement is that genuine disclosure to obtain advice with a view to instructing a solicitor would effectively rule him/her out of acting for your other half. Merely interviewing extensively on a strategic basis however will not.

Covering all areas of family law

The vast majority of firms of solicitors both on the Isle of Wight and further afield provide legal services in many different areas by way of a general law practice. There are only a handful of firms who provide a specialist family law service.

Michael Spoors Solicitors provides clients with the option of instead instructing a specialist who deals only with family law matters. Specialisation allows our solicitors to provide a bespoke service of the highest quality to our clients as we have specific knowledge and experience in this branch of law. We are able to offer clients clear advice that is tailored to their particular situation and our experience of both court and non-court dispute resolution allows us to plan a strategy to deal with the matter from our initial instruction through to resolution. Dealing with cases in this way achieves the best possible outcomes for our clients.

We offer advice on all areas of family law including divorce, dissolution and associated financial matters, private children law and disputes between unmarried partners. We can also provide advice in respect in respect of pre and postnuptial agreements, including drafting a document to protect against disputes arising in the event of a marriage breaking down. We understand that costs are a significant concern for many clients and we will always discuss how to meet costs at the outset.

Some firms offer a free initial consultation to clients who have assets or income above a certain level but we offer every new client a free appointment regardless of their financial position. This provides the opportunity for prospective clients to obtain preliminary advice on their situation and to meet with us and decide whether we are the right firm to deal with their case.

Family Law at its most complex

In a recent case known as X v X from 2016 a High Court Judge made decisions that have puzzled some practitioners. His decisions show that even in most complex of financial disputes arising from divorce a broad-brush approach can be used rather than a full and detailed evaluation with ascribed and sectioned decisions.

In this particular case the couple were in their mid-forties, married for 14 years and had four children all of whom lived with the husband. The wife also suffered from alcoholism.

In terms of assets the parties held approx. £15m to £41m depending upon valuations of a trust and some shares. Quite unusually the value of the shares had massively increased between the date of the judge hearing the case and the date of his decision (approx. £15m more).

At its simplest this case involved arguments relating to a high value company (in which the Husband held a pivotal role), a complex trust, post separation accrual, stellar contributions, premarital assets, post separation endeavour, alcoholism, and unequal contributions post separation and during the marriage. While the case held much by way of assets, there was clearly much also to consider as to the nature, origin and use of assets as well as the needs of children and two parties.

This case is exceptional not just because of the value of the assets involved or their nature, origin or use but also because the judge sought to deal with arguments broadly with a view to doing what he felt was fair to the parties. In this case the Wife received 37.5% of the total assets available as found by the Judge.

The case serves as a reminder that court’s hold a broad discretion in proceedings concerning the distribution of assets following divorce and the parties may have wide ranging and complex arguments whether the assets amount to millions or hundreds of thousands and involve companies, trusts or properties. Expert advice from reputable practitioners is a must in order to obtain the best settlement for.

Who are we

We are a specialist family law practice based on the High Street in Newport. We deal with divorce, financial distribution on divorce, children matters and disputes between unmarried partners in addition to a broad range of other family based matters. Our solicitors have specific knowledge and
experience in this particular branch of law that only comes with specialisation. We have created the largest family specialist law firm on the Isle of Wight because we believe being geared towards this area of law will provide clients with the best service, best outcomes and will therefore allow the firm to excel.

We only tackle family law matters. We set up from the beginning to deal with simple, complex, small scale and large value matters. We have clients who own millions in assets and others who simply want a speedy resolution without complexity and delay. We hope matters can be dealt with through
correspondence, but if not we deal with court work and settlement by other means if necessary.

We have sought out and put in place the best staff, IT systems, service procedures and connections that are honed to provide us with the resources to deal with these types of cases.

So why should you use a specialist? A general practitioner can give broad advice on a range subjects but cannot give the advice and insight that comes with specialisation. We therefore offer more accurate and reliable advice and provide strategy and tactics only a practitioner who deals with
these matters daily can provide. This will almost always result in a better, faster and more workable solution. It is also, for those reasons, less expensive when outcomes are compared.

We offer free initial consultations in order to allow prospective clients to obtain some initial advice on their situation. This provides the opportunity to meet with us and discuss how we can help and what outcome they can expect. We rarely come across a prospective client who chooses to use another practice though we actively encourage people to compare us to other firms.