Do grandparents have legal rights?
Grandparents do not have any automatic right to see their grandchildren. Sadly, when a relationship breaks down one or both sets of grandparents can be pushed out and lose contact with their grandchildren. The family courts however do recognise the invaluable role that grandparents can play in their grandchildren’s lives, especially at a time when their grandchildren are going through a difficult time in terms of the parental separation. Therefore, if a grandparent makes an application to the family court, they may stand a good chance of success in obtaining a child arrangements order that the grandchildren should spend time with them.
Grandparents do not have an automatic right to make an application for a child arrangements order, they will have to apply for permission (leave) and if they make an application the court will consider, amongst other things, their connection with the child and whether the application is in the child’s best interest.
Does my husband have to pay maintenance for me as his ex-wife?
This will depend on the circumstances of your case. Generally speaking, the court does like to try and achieve a clean break i.e. a dismissal of both parties’ claims including for maintenance when a marriage breaks down, however this is not always possible. If for example one party has put their career on hold and brought up the children/run the home, whilst the other party has been able to develop their career and is now earning a high salary, then the stay at home party may well be entitled to spousal maintenance. Unlike child maintenance, there is no formula, the main test is does one party need any money and if so does the other party have the resources i.e. disposable income to pay. If they do not have the resources, then, even if one party needs the money maintenance may not be paid. The court has a variety of powers open to them including giving maintenance for a fixed period of time, or possible joint lives orders. The court can also give nominal maintenance orders which mean that there is no absolute clean break and the party, normally the parent with care of young children, has the ability to apply to the court in the future for maintenance should their circumstances change.
Can I get my partner’s pension in a divorce settlement?
Often the answer to this is yes. Pensions are normally included as assets in divorce financial settlements, and they are often the biggest asset in terms of value. It is important that you get a good understanding of your pension entitlement and the impact of any divorce settlement upon your pension benefits. There is no automatic principle of division, it may depend on how long you have been together compared to how long you have been in the pension scheme. It may depend on whether or not one of you has been out of the working environment bringing up a family and therefore not able to contribute to their own pension. The way the matrimonial pot, including pensions, is divided between you and your partner would be decided either by agreement between the two of you or by the courts and would be based on factors such as the financial needs of each party as well as the length of the marriage.
There are a variety of ways that pensions can be death with, a common way is pension sharing whereby pension funds are divided so that both parties have a separate fund in their respective names. Sometimes there is pension offsetting which can involve one party transferring a proportionally larger share of their liquid assets to one party in return for their pension being left alone. Pensions are a highly complex area of law and frequently advice from actuaries must be taken.
What should I bring to my first meeting about a divorce?
You may want to speak to your solicitor in advance about the information they would like you to bring in, it may be that they have a form they require to you complete. Generally speaking, it is a good idea to have evidence of your identity upon you so your solicitor can verify who you are. You may also want to prepare a short summary, often just one page of A4 is sufficient, giving everyone’s full name, date of births, addresses, contact details and a general paragraph on the background to the situation.
You also need to have made enquiries with a solicitor in advance about how they expect to be paid for their services and to make sure that you have the methods of payment with you.
I want my partner to see our children, what can I do?
Generally speaking, it is in the child(ren)’s best interest to have a positive and ongoing relationship with both of their parents in the event of a separation. However, sometimes one parent chooses to walk away from the child(ren) and there is nothing in the law which can make a parent be involved in a child’s life if they do not want to be. There can be many reasons for this including drug and alcohol misuse and domestic abuse. The impact on the remaining parent and the children can be very difficult to deal with. Children in particular can struggle as they may believe they are responsible for one parent’s absence and children who lose a parent in this way can go through a grieving process. In those circumstances, it will be important to offer the children as much reassurance and support as possible and be prepared to deal with regressive behaviour.
I don’t want my partner to see our children, what can I do?
Generally speaking, it is the right of the child(ren) to have a relationship with both of their parents if the parents’ relationship breaks down. However sometimes it is not in the best interest for of the child(ren) to have contact with one of their parents. This can be for reasons such as domestic abuse, criminal offences, drug and alcohol issues. Stopping a parent from seeing their child is very much a last resort and there are a variety of measures that can be put into place such as the use of a local contact centre, or supervision by social services.
My partner is withholding money from me, what can I do?
A lot will depend on whether the relationship between you and your partner has broken down and if there is going to be a divorce or a separation. If you do not want a divorce/separation, then you should perhaps talk to your partner, or consider using the services of marriage guidance or mediation to try and resolve the matter and come to an amicable solution. If, however the problems are such that you believe a divorce/separation is inevitable, then consideration can be given to obtaining maintenance for you. If you have children together and the children live with you, this may mean that you can get child maintenance for the children from the Child Maintenance Service, or it may be that your partner has an obligation to pay you maintenance known as spousal maintenance. Spousal maintenance however would not be an option if the two of you were not married.
A separation may mean that you are entitled to other benefits in your own right such as child benefit, tax credits etc. You would be best to take fairly urgent legal advice to get guidance on your individual circumstances and the options open to you.
How long will a divorce take?
Provided you have been married for a year you can file for divorce, an uncontested divorce normally takes between four and six months. There may be reasons to delay taking the final stage i.e. the decree absolute for example, until such time as finances have been resolved. The amount of time can vary according to the speed the parties process the paperwork, paperwork delays at the local divorce unit and whether forms have been completed accurately.
What is mediation?
Mediation is best defined as a process whereby you and your former partner sit down with a mediator who is an independent person, often a solicitor/expert in family law, and you and your partner try and reach your own agreement, whether it be with regard to children issues, financial issues or otherwise, with the assistance of the independent mediator rather than have an agreement imposed upon you by the court. The mediator is there to be impartial and does not give advice to either party but just explores the options and provides legal information.
Do I need a solicitor to get a divorce?
Currently, to get a divorce in England and Wales you have to have been married to your partner for at least one year and you have to satisfy the court that your relationship has permanently broken down. You have to have a marriage that is legally recognised in the UK; this can include same sex marriages and marriages that have taken place abroad in accordance with that particular country’s own legal requirements.
You do not need to have a solicitor to obtain a divorce, it is largely a paperwork exercise taking place at the local divorce unit to you. However, solicitors can take a lot of the stress, anxiety and uncertainty out of the situation.
To get a divorce you need to send paperwork to the local divorce unit. Alongside the divorce, you and your partner should try and resolve any arrangements for looking after your children and work out how to divide your money and property. Normally there is no need for either party to attend court in person when dealing with the divorce itself.