All posts by Frances Place

Inheritance Act or Will Dispute Mediations

The Inheritance Act 1975 provides a route where someone can make a claim against the deceased’s estate on the basis that the deceased’s Will or intestacy does not make any or sufficient financial provision for them. It is designed to help spouses, children, civil partners, cohabitees and other surviving dependents that have not been provided for sufficiently in the will.

Continue reading Inheritance Act or Will Dispute Mediations

Understanding and Helping Teenagers through Divorce or Separation

In our last post, we talked about how to understand and help younger children through their parent’s separation. In this post, we will look at how to understand and help teenagers through a family break up. Teenagers are already at a difficult stage in their lives, with emotions up and down and the pressures of reaching young adulthood. Continue reading Understanding and Helping Teenagers through Divorce or Separation

Children Under 11 – Understanding their Confusion after Separation

Divorce or separation is a difficult time for everyone involved, including extended family and of course the children. Whatever the age of the children, they will feel a great sense of loss, confusion and uncertainty. Although to a certain extent this can’t be avoided once the decision to go your separate ways has been made; there are many ways that you can make this time of upheaval a much less painful and traumatic experience. We will look at ways to understand and recognise issues for the under 5’s and also children aged between 6 and 11. Continue reading Children Under 11 – Understanding their Confusion after Separation

Grandparents Rights to see their Grandchildren after Parents Separate

One of the things that can be easily overlooked when parents split up, is that the relationship the children have with their grandparents can be disrupted. It may be that one parent no longer wishes the children to have contact with their ex-spouses parents, or perhaps they move a long way away – this can be a very sad and painful situation if all ties are cut for both the children and the grandparents. Continue reading Grandparents Rights to see their Grandchildren after Parents Separate

10 Free Things to do in Bristol this Summer

free things to do in Bristol with ChildrenThe summer holidays are upon us and for most parents this means a lot of juggling of childcare if both parents work. Holiday clubs and activity days are expensive and not really a viable option to cover the whole six week holiday. So, for separated or single parents who have work commitments, the holidays can be really tough. Last year we wrote a blog illustrating a couple of examples of how some separated parents worked out the childcare cover between them, you can read it here. Continue reading 10 Free Things to do in Bristol this Summer

The Challenges of Becoming a Step Mum or Dad – How to Bond with Step Children

After divorce or separation, one of the most challenging things for the children to deal with is when a new partner comes onto the scene. Not only is their world turned upside down by the separation, but any hopes they had of their parents getting back together will be dashed. We posted a while ago about introducing new partners with some suggestions of how it can be done, but here we look at how someone can integrate into family life and become a new step parent.

Continue reading The Challenges of Becoming a Step Mum or Dad – How to Bond with Step Children

Parental Alienation – What is it?

I thought it might be helpful to write about parental alienation, because in some form or another it comes up fairly regularly in mediation.

At its worst parental alienation is the deliberate manipulation of a child by one parent into fear, dislike and hostility of the other parent. It can result in a child refusing to see the other parent.

It often occurs when parents are in dispute about arrangements for their children, and tends to be alleged by the non-resident parent against the resident parent. Continue reading Parental Alienation – What is it?

Tips on how to Prepare for Family Mediation regarding Children’s Arrangements

Family mediation sessions for separating parents are a good way to discuss and resolve arrangements for the children. This could be working out a rota or timetable of when each parent will spend time with the children, how school holidays can be managed between the parents, as well as any financial disputes for maintenance payments. It is important to remember that children will be affected negatively if parents argue and cannot agree on these arrangements. Working with an experienced mediator in a safe and managed way that will avoid the conflict that can often arise between separating couples.

Continue reading Tips on how to Prepare for Family Mediation regarding Children’s Arrangements

Changing Terminology for Children’s Issues after Separation

Custody and Access

In mediation we sometimes hear parents talking about winning ‘custody’ of their children or gaining ‘access’ to them. Nowadays UK lawyers, judges and mediators no longer use these terms, in fact their use is actively discouraged. This is because of a change of emphasis in the law itself.

The 1989 Children Act promoted the use of concepts of ‘parental responsibility’ ‘residence’ and ‘contact.’  The aim was to shift parents from looking at their ‘rights’ to their children to their responsibilities towards them. And by ceasing to think in terms of ‘custody’ and ‘access’ it was hoped to break down the division between each parents’ role – ie the idea that one parent has primary responsibility for the children, and the other merely has ‘access’ to them. Continue reading Changing Terminology for Children’s Issues after Separation

Loyalty Issues and Conflict for Children after Separation

Whatever their age, children find the break up or separation of their parents to be a difficult time emotionally. Many aspects of their lives will have changed, whether it’s where they live, seeing one parent much less or emotional difficulties brought about by upheaval. The speed at which they adapt and recover will very much depend on how the situation is dealt with.

Children can be remarkably resilient and adapt very well to new situations, but as parents who have decided to split up, you need to make this transition as easy for the children as possible. Subtle emotional issues like loyalty confusion might not be easy to predict or to spot particularly if you, as a parent, are very focused on your own feelings of loss from the separation.

Continue reading Loyalty Issues and Conflict for Children after Separation

Family Mediation Week 2016

January is often described as Divorce Month, and the Monday of the first full working week back after the holidays is often referred to as Divorce Day. One national family law firm says referrals in January are usually more than 27% up on an average month. It seems some people make appointments in December, planning to spend one last Christmas together, while others may have had a bad time over the holidays and realised that their relationship is at an end. Continue reading Family Mediation Week 2016

Christmas Presents and Separated Parents

Christmas is a time of year that is usually very family orientated. Family members get together from across the country to spend some quality time together, share in some good cheer and exchange gifts. For families where the parents are separated it can be a difficult time, especially if the relationship is strained and there are difficulties arranging time for both parents to spend time with their children. We wrote a blog about this last year which shares the experience of a first Christmas after separation, it details some ideas of how the time can be divided up. You can read this blog here.

In this blog we wanted to explore more about the issue of gift giving, as this can be complicated for divorced or separated families particularly if the communication has broken down. Continue reading Christmas Presents and Separated Parents

What Makes a Good Mum and Dad

A recent survey from family lawyers group Resolution found that children would prefer their parents to split up if they are unhappy rather than stay together for their sake. 82 % said they would prefer their parents to separate rather than stay together if they do not get on.

This confirms the overriding conclusion from much recent research into how children handle parental separation and conflict. Children can adapt very well to parental separation and changes in living arrangements. What causes them significant long-term problems is prolonged exposure to parental conflict. Continue reading What Makes a Good Mum and Dad

What you Need to Know About National Dispute Resolution Week

This week is National Dispute Resolution Week. The idea of the week is to try to raise awareness of non-confrontational methods of resolving family breakdown – mediation, collaborative law and arbitration.

Resolution, the Association of Family Lawyers who launched the week have conducted a survey which concludes that most people in the UK believe that putting a child’s interests first and avoiding conflict are the top factors to consider when going through a divorce. Four out of five (78%) say that putting children’s interests first would be their first or second most important consideration in a divorce, and 53% would prioritise making the divorce as conflict-free as possible. Continue reading What you Need to Know About National Dispute Resolution Week

Consulting Children of Separating Parents in Mediation

Many of our discussions in Family Mediation are about arrangements for children. At Progressive Mediation we feel that as children grow older their views need to be increasingly taken into account in these discussions. Sometimes parents ask their children directly what they want to happen. Continue reading Consulting Children of Separating Parents in Mediation

Everything you need to know about MIAMs

What is a MIAM?

A MIAM is a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting. Put more simply it’s a chance for you to meet a mediator to tell them about your situation. Between you and the mediator you can work out if mediation might be able to help you in your particular situation.

How much does it cost?

At Progressive Mediation our MIAMs are priced at £40.00, and will determine whether the mediation service we provide works for you.

Continue reading Everything you need to know about MIAMs

How to Share Child Care Over the Summer Holidays

Shared Child Care over the summer holidays

The school summer holidays can strike fear into the heart of any working parent. 6 long weeks with no school or childcare can be a juggling act between parents at the best of times, but for separated parents it can be even harder. The added expense of holiday clubs and other activities can really put a strain on the finances too. So how do separated parents cope with the situation? Here are some examples of how some parents have made arrangements this summer… Continue reading How to Share Child Care Over the Summer Holidays

International Child Abduction – Is Mediation Possible?

Around 500 British children were abducted and taken abroad by one of their parents in 2014. That’s double the number taken ten years ago.

Ease of travel and a growth in cross border relationships have meant that more break-ups result in difficult decisions for separating parents. Continue reading International Child Abduction – Is Mediation Possible?

Budget July 2015 – Changes to Tax Credits

In the budget on July 9th George Osborne announced 9 billion pounds worth of cuts to the tax credit system. Many of the changes are due to come into effect in 2016. Tax credits are hugely important to many separating and divorcing people, so we thought it would be helpful to look at where the cuts are going to fall.

Tax Credit Rates are being frozen for four years. In addition parts of the payments are being scrapped, thresholds are changing to reduce the amount some people can claim and the ‘Child Element’ in tax credits is being limited to two children.

We’ve identified 4 major changes for people currently receiving Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.

What the changes mean is complicated so we’ve included some examples to help clarify.

  1. Income threshold reduction

From April 2016 the income threshold for claiming will go down from £6,420 to £3,850, meaning that far fewer people will be eligible to claim. And anyone earning more than £3,850 will now have their tax credit income reduced.

  1. Taper rates increased

Tax credit income for those earning over the threshold will also be reduced more steeply from April 2016. The taper rate will increase from 41p per pound to 48p per pound. This means once a claimant earns more than the income threshold for tax credits their award will be withdrawn at a rate of 48 pence for every pound earned.

For example someone earning £12 000, working 30 hours, with 2 children.

Old Tax Credit:

£12 000 (wage) – £6 420 (threshold) = £5 580

£5 580 X 41p = £2 287.80

Total possible entitlement (made up of WTC Basic element and WTC 30 hours element) = £2 770

WTC Received: £2 770 – £2 287.80 = £482.20

New Tax Credits (from April 2016):

£12 000 (wage) – £3 850 (threshold) = £8 150

£8 150 X 48p = £3 912

This puts her above the £2 770 possible entitlement for Working Tax Credit so she will not get anything.

Previously claimants’ income could rise without their tax credits being affected by £5,000 a year. This was known as the income rise disregard. That disregard will now be cut to £2,500.

  1. The Basic Family Element of Working Tax Credit will also disappear from April 2017

In the example given above of a single parent of two children, working 30 hours a week for £12 000 she would have got £545 as the Basic Family Element of Working Tax Credit. From April 2017 this will stop. Households who have been in receipt of tax credits with an interruption of less than 6 months will be protected from this change. Children with disabilities will continue to receive the Disabled Child Element or Severely Disable Child Element

  1. Child Element Limited

Child Tax Credit can currently add up to £2,780 a year per child

Parents who have a third child after April 2017 will only be able to claim child tax credits for their first two children. Parents who have been receiving tax credits for 3 or more children before 2017 without interruption will continue to receive tax credits for their children as before.

Tax Credits are due to be replaced by Universal Credit. Transitional arrangements started in 2014. The date for the full switch over was originally supposed to be 2017, but it is likely this will be delayed.

To calculate your eligibility for Tax Credits – go to the calculator on the Turn2us website.

Unmarried Couples and the Law when Separating

Blog updated on the 22nd Nov 2017 – all information is current.

Cohabiting Couples who are separating – What protection do they have under the law?

More than 6 million people in Britain currently live in cohabiting relationships, and this is the fastest growing family type in UK.

There is now growing public pressure to increase protection for unmarried couples who are separating. Next week is Cohabitation Awareness Week (November 27th – 1st December 2017), so we thought this might be a good time to highlight this issue.

At the moment, despite the widespread belief that living together for a period of time, gives some rights, there are actually very few legal rights for unmarried couples, and there is definitely no legal concept of a ‘common law husband’ or ‘common law wife’ in UK law. In fact, it’s possible for a couple to live together for decades, to have children together, and on separation to walk away from the relationship without taking any responsibility for a former partner.

This can have a huge impact, particularly if one of the couple, usually the woman, has taken time out of work to look after children.

So what does this lack of protection this mean for unmarried couples who are separating?

Of course, unmarried couples can separate informally without the intervention of a court of law. However, if agreement cannot be reached between separating partners the court does have power to make orders relating to the care of the children, or a financial settlement.

Dividing Assets – Jointly Owned Property

For unmarried couples when it comes to dividing up capital assets, such as a jointly owned home, in general this will be governed by property law, rather than family law. This means that if a claim doesn’t succeed the losing party may have to pay the other party’s costs. Claims can be made under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (known as ToLATA for short). A court can decide what proportion of the property each partner owns, and whether the property should be sold to release one partner’s share in it.

If the unmarried couple owns a property it is crucially significant whether they own it as Joint Tenants or as Tenants in Common. If the couple owns the property as Joint Tenants they are taken as owning the property equally irrespective of their contributions (i.e. towards deposit or mortgage). On death the property will go to the other party. If the property is owned as Tenants in Common, it is likely that there will be a declaration of trust defining the percentages in which they hold the property – usually based on their contributions to the purchase price. On death people can choose who to leave their part of the property to.

For properties bought after April 1998 the transfer document (TR1) should set out the parties’ interest – i.e. as Joint Tenants, as Tenants in Common in equal shares, or Tenants in Common in unequal shares, and those shares are usually specified. However, in many cases the TR1 will not have been completed. If the property was bought prior to April 1998 you can tell by looking at office copy title entries (available from the Land Registry) how the couple hold their shares. If there is no evidence otherwise the assumption is that they are Joint Tenants in law and that the property should be divided equally between them.

Dividing Assets – Property owned by one partner

If property is owned by one partner, then the other partner has no automatic entitlement to any share of the property, but it may be possible for them to make a case that the they have an interest in it. Ideally this would be in the form of a written agreement. Or if they can prove that they made a financial contribution to the purchase or upkeep of the property, or that there was an understanding between partners that both would have a share in the property if it was sold. A court could therefore decide the unnamed partner had a ‘beneficial interest’ in the property. In rare cases this might mean that they then have the right to live in the home, preventing the named owner from living there, or it might mean them getting a share of the proceeds if the property is sold. Inevitably these cases are very hard to prove, and can be very expensive and time consuming.

Property – Children Involved

The other circumstance when it could be possible for a partner whose name is not on the property deeds to claim an interest in a property is when there are children living in the property. Under Schedule 1 of the Children’s Act 1989 if there are children living in a family home, even if the primary carer’s name isn’t on the property deeds it is possible that court would order a lump sum payment, or the transfer of the property to the primary carer if it was felt to be in the children’s best interests, but it would usually link this to a return of the named partner’s capital when the children grow up.

Property – Rented

If cohabitees have been renting a property together, the tenant with their name on the tenancy agreement will have the most right to stay in the property, although it is possible to convert existing sole tenancies to joint tenancies if the sole tenant and the landlord agree. With a joint tenancy it only takes one person to bring the tenancy to an end, and once it is done the court cannot do anything to get the tenancy back, but a court can make an order stopping either partner from giving up a tenancy. Unmarried partners can also get short-term rights to stay if they apply to court. For council or housing association tenants a court can transfer a tenancy from one partner to another, whether it is a sole or joint tenancy. The court would have to weigh up financial and housing needs and the needs of any children before deciding whether to transfer a tenancy

Pensions

There is usually no entitlement to each other’s pensions for unmarried couples (unless they are already being paid).

Arrangements for Children

When it comes to making arrangements for children, it is important that both parents have ‘Parental Responsibility’.

Parental Responsibility

Both parents are assumed to have on-going financial responsibility for their children whether or not they are living with them. Since December 2003 unmarried fathers who are on their children’s birth certificate automatically have Parental Responsibility for them. This gives them the right to have a say in important decisions about the child’s life – i.e. schooling, religion and education. If the father is not named on the birth certificate and the couple is not married the father can apply for Parental Responsibility on separation. Similarly if the father is named on the birth certificate and the child was born before December 2003 the father would need to apply for Parental Responsibility.

Child Maintenance

This is the one area of law where the rights of unmarried parents are no different from married parents. Unmarried parents have the right to cliam child maintenance and unmarried parents are still liable for claims of Child Maintenance whether or not they have Parental Responsibility.

Spousal Mainteneance

No spousal maintenance is payable between cohabiting couples. However, a court can consider the position of a parent (usually the mother) who is the primary carer of the child and “should have control of a budget that reflects her position and the position of the father, both social and financial.”

How Mediation can Help

In mediation we are often aiming to come up with a Memorandum of Understanding and an Open Financial Statement. For unmarried couples these can then be incorporated into a legally binding Separation Agreement which constitutes a full and final settlement between them.

As you can see the law is particularly complicated for unmarried couples and it can be easy to become involved in costly litigation.

However, in mediation couples can make realistic, practical and fair settlements that do have regard to the law but that can focus on the practical reality of their life and their children’s lives in the future rather than the minutiae of the law.

If you would like further advice on separation when not married; please give us a call on 0117 924 3880.