At Askews Legal LLP, we have specialist Family and Divorce Solicitors and we offer our expertise to a wide range of clients. Regardless of their financial means, we are one of the few firms in the country to offer a full range of funding that includes fixed fee divorces and legal aid.
Our family law team includes members who have secured specialist accreditations for Matrimonial Advice and Resolution aswell as membership on the Law Society’s Children’s Law Panel.
We are one of the few law firms that have the strength in depth to handle every type of case from the most straightforward divorce to distressing situations involving children or complex financial affairs. We have close links with specialist barristers, forensic accountants, independent financial advisors, surveyors, actuaries and counsellors who can, where necessary, provide additional support and assistance.
Areas of specialism
- Children law
- Family dispute resolution
- Separating couples & financial settlements
- Dissolution of civil partnerships
- Domestic abuse, harassment & stalking
For detailed information please see below:
The court will only grant you a divorce if your marriage has irretrievably broken down. Our Divorce Solicitors can advise you on areas such as this. However, for this you must show one of the following:
- Adultery by your husband or wife
- Unreasonable behaviour by your husband or wife
- Desertion for a period of at least two years
- Two years separation, if you both agree to the divorce
- Five years separation, if there is no agreement to the divorce
Our Divorce Solicitors can guide you through the three main stages of divorce:-
- You must submit a divorce petition to the court
Application for decree nisi
- The court will send your divorce papers to your husband/wife and will ask him/her to acknowledge them and whether they agree or disagree to their contents
- Then you may apply for decree nisi
- The court will then consider all of the relevant information and decide whether you can have a divorce. If so, then the court will take the first step in your divorce called pronouncing decree nisi
Decree nisi to absolute
- This is the final stage of the divorce
- You can apply to the Court for your decree absolute, 6 weeks and 1 day after the date that your decree nisi was pronounced
In circumstances where a local authority raises concerns about your care of your child they may:
- make a Section 47 referral to investigate the concerns;
- convene a child protection case conference;
- apply to the Court for an Emergency Protection Order. The local authority will seek an order from the Court allowing them to remove your child from your care and place it into local authority care;
- apply to the Court for a Care Order or Interim Care Order.
In some circumstances, the police can apply for an Emergency Police Protection Order and in other situations you may be asked to place your child into voluntary care (section 20 of the Children Act 1989).
The local authority should only make such applications where there is a significant risk of harm or a likelihood of harm attributable to the care given by the care giver of the child. This is known as the Threshold Criteria. The Court will ask the local authority to show that the threshold has been reached before it will make an order. It is very distressing for a child to be taken into care of the local authority, and is equally distressing for the parent. It is not the type of order a Court will make lightly and the Local Authority should have to produce cogent evidence before a Court will make such an order and in the early stages try to work with the parent or guardian and will put them on notice that they intend to issue Court proceedings to remove a child from the parents’ care. It is essential that, as soon as the local authority become involved with your family, you should seek legal advice and assistance.
Askews Legal LLP can assist you if you are a victim of domestic abuse and violence and sometimes where your child is a victim of domestic violence. We can help you apply to a Court for an Injunction/protective measures.
The Court offers protection to the victims of domestic violence, harassment, pestering or intimidation in circumstances where the perpetrator was associated to them. This could include circumstances where:
- the victim and perpetrator were married, are married, are engaged or have been engaged and civil partners
- they live or used to live together
- they are parents of a child
- an associated person could also include a brother and sister, mother and father or other extended family members who have lived in the same household as the victim
The Court can grant various injunctions and/or protective measures as such as:
- a Non-Molestation Order to prevent violence, threats of violence or harassing and pestering and molesting behaviour
- an Occupation Order
A Non-Molestation Order can be made for a defined period of time or until further order of the Court and the Court will automatically attach powers of arrest.
An Occupation Order will exclude someone from the former family home, zone the family home or prevent an associated person from coming within a specified distance of it. The Court can also attach powers of arrest to an Occupation Order in certain circumstances.
Where injunction Orders are made, the police can make an arrest if they have reasonable cause to suspect that there is a breach of any of the aforementioned orders.
In addition to orders there are Undertakings (Promises to the Court) that can be made to protect a victim.
A person found to be in breach of an injunction order or an undertaking will be guilty of contempt of Court and can be sent to prison. Breaching a non-molestation order is a recordable offence also consequently the perpetrator will have a criminal record.
Family mediation is a way of resolving disputes after separation or during divorce by helping couples to look for their own solutions rather than fight about them in the Courts:-
- Both parties explain their concerns and needs to each other in the presence of a qualified Family Mediator
- The Mediator is impartial, so they are not on anyone’s side
- The Mediator helps both parties, unlike a solicitor appointed to act just for you
- Although the Mediator will suggest ways of solving your problems or help you both to reach an agreement, they will never tell you what to do
- A Mediator is an experienced Family Specialist who can help you reach an agreement, but is impartial so they cannot give anyone advice about what to do, although can provide some legal information to help you
When to use a Mediator?
- Mediation depends on both parties wanting to find solutions not to score points or win arguments, it is entirely voluntary
- For those couples it is a less acrimonious, quicker and much cheaper option than pursuing their differences through the Courts
- In many cases couples take their own independent legal advice before and after they see the Mediator
- In most cases a successful Mediation takes more than one session and you are free to see your own solicitor if you want to for legal advice in between sessions
- If agreement is reached you may need to go back to your own solicitor to help finalise agreement in a binding way
Pre-Nuptial and Post-Nuptual Agreements
Pre-nuptial or pre-marital agreements are becoming increasingly common in the United Kingdom for those couples hoping to avoid the financial complications that often arise when a marriage breaks down. They can be perceived unromantic and pessimistic, although in reality they can reduce the time, expense and acrimony commonly experienced when dealing with a divorce settlement.
Across most of Europe and the World, pre-nuptial agreements are binding. This is not as yet the case in the UK. The reason for this is that the Courts in this country have an absolute discretion to make orders on divorce or dissolution and if the court takes the view that a marital agreement is unfair or does not meet someone’s needs, the Court may decide not to uphold the agreement and may make an alternative order.
The Courts are, however, increasingly aware of the importance of upholding your right to enter into a contract to determine what should happen to your property if your relationship breaks down. The fact that an agreement has been made is a significant factor that the court will take into account and follow unless there is a good reason to deviate from it.
Marital agreements are not simple documents and need to be carefully thought through and drafted. They need to be fair otherwise they will not be upheld so both parties will have to provide full and frank financial disclosure before the agreement is drawn. They will also often involve negotiations and it is therefore a pre-requisite for each party to obtain independent legal advice. There should not be any duress, so the agreement ought to be negotiated and signed in plenty of time before the wedding.
It is important to regularly review a pre-nuptial agreement and therefore even after you have married, you may want to consider a post-nuptial agreement. This is particularly going to be of relevance if children are born or assets change in a way that had not been anticipated.
Child Arrangement Orders
The old concept of contact and residence was replaced and has been known as Child Arrangement Orders since the Children and Family Act 2014 came into force, amending the existing Children Act 1989.
Under the provisions of the Children Act 1989, orders regulating important issues relating to the child’s upbringing and living arrangements can be made.
The Court has the power to make the following orders (known as Section 8 Orders):
- Child Arrangement Orders – This will regulate the arrangements such as where should the children reside and how much contact the non-resident parent should have with the children.
- Prohibited Steps Order – this order prevents a parent or another from acting in a particular matter. For example, from removing the child from the care and control of a primary carer or even from removing the child from the jurisdiction of England and Wales.
- Specific Issue Order – this order is to resolve a particular issue about how a child is to be brought up if the parents cannot agree, ie what religion the child should be brought up in, what school they should attend.
A mother or a father with or without parental responsibility can apply for Section 8 Orders. Anyone else who is not a biological or adoptive parent must seek leave (permission) of the Court to apply, save for grandparents who no longer require permission.
In any dispute over a child, the Courts will refer the matter in the first instance to CAFCASS who will carry out a risk assessment. The Courts will treat the welfare of the child as their paramount consideration hence an order will only be made if it is in the child’s best interests to do so.
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