Author: Fiona PawseyFiona has been practicing family law for over 12 years initially as a Legal Executive and then subsequently as a solicitor. Fiona is a trained collaborative solicitor, as well as a Resolution Panel Member. She is experienced in advising clients going through divorce or family breakdown, including financial settlements and disputes over children, in particular complex contact and residence issues. In addition to family law Fiona also deals with litigation, property transactions and residential Conveyancing

Divorce and Pets?

A common question asked nowadays on divorce is not about the children but more who gets to keep the dog?

For many families the pet dog is an integral part of family life. So what happens when the marriage breaks down?

Surprisingly the law in England & Wales is that a pet will be treated as an item of personal property such as a piece of furniture, artwork or jewellery. The solution to the dispute can come down to as simple as who paid for the purchase of the pet. This can however seem very unfair where the other person has perhaps spent the majority of their time caring for the said pet.

Often the arguments of the pet can be emotive and lead to the pet being used as a bargaining chip. There is also the financial aspects of a pet (for example vets costs, food etc., and in cases of horses the livery costs etc can be significant). Shared care is rarely seen as practical and a Court is unlikely to be embroiled into an argument over contact. Whilst a party having day to day care over a pet may have some sway often legal ownership will prevail in the majority of cases.

It should be noted however that a recent case in Alaska in January 2017 may pave the way of a change to a welfare based approach to pet ownership similar to that of the care of children. We will need to watch this space to see whether this impacts significantly on English Law.

For further advice or information on this please contact Fiona Pawsey on 01202 877400.

Divorce and Pets?
Coping With a Broken Relationship on Christmas

Coping With a Broken Relationship on Christmas

One of the hardest things for families to cope with is Christmas. It is an emotive time of the year particularly for separated families with young children. Each parent will want to have their children with them on Christmas Day and, as we all know, sometimes that is simply impossible. This can be due to something as simple as logistics of travel depending on the distance, or in the alternative one parents view of “we have always had Christmas with my parents and so the children should be with me”.


When it comes to Christmas and separated families sadly the whole issue of who should have what can become contentious and at this time of year it is not uncommon to see the Court’s lists full of applications for contact for children. Parents need to consider that contact is for the benefit of the child, rather than the parent. It is the child’s right to have a full and good relationship with both parents and the only way that this can happen is if Mum and Dad can communicate constructively and be prepared to compromise. The Court’s position on Christmas and New Year is that it should alternate between the parents and that on the year that one parent has the New Year then they celebrate their Christmas at that point. If you ask a child who they want to spend Christmas with, probably in the first instant they would say with you both. Pragmatically however, as long as they get to see you they don’t really mind and hey they get to celebrate Christmas twice – which to any child is pretty fantastic. What they won’t thank you for is arguing and causing upset (which then makes them potentially have to choose sides).

Conflict between parents is known to significantly impact on children’s abilities to form relationships in the future and this is not what any parent should want for their child. If you are struggling with this then there are many ways forward. The first and most pragmatic is to try to sit down and talk reasonably, being aware that compromise is necessary for your children’s welfare. If you don’t think that would work, then mediation (which is where you and your former partner/spouse can sit down with a trained mediator who will help you to compromise things). The final alternative is to seek help from lawyers and the Court, being very much aware that a Court ultimately may make an order that neither of you will be happy with.

If you need further help and advice then please don’t hesitate to contact our Family Team on 01202 877400 or family@newnham-jordan.co.uk – because your family matters to us and we are here to help.

Relocating with a child – Does the parent need permission?

So you’re thinking about moving. It may be within the UK or abroad. As at March 2017 some 134,000 British citizens* chose to emigrate abroad. However, if you are a family where the parents no longer live together then emigrating is not so easy.

Moving in the UK

If you wish to leave the UK with your child to live abroad on a permanent basis (and are separated from the other parent) you will need the permission of the other parent to do so. If that parent withholds their agreement, then you will have to apply to the Court to obtain permission.

According to Resolution there are currently 1,200 cases a year involving relocation applications. The majority of these are brought by the maternal primary carer.

Things to Consider

When considering any such application the Court have to look at certain principles that have been drawn from case law and legislation in these matters. This includes:

  1. The child’s welfare is paramount;
  2. The Court should consider with which parent the child should live, taking account of plans of each parent as to where the family should live;
  3. No presumption in favour of the applicant parent;
  4. Reasonable proposals of the parent with a residence order wishing to live abroad will carry great weight;
  5. There must be a genuine motivation for the move and not an intention to bring contact between the child/children and the other parent to an end;
  6. The effect of refusal on the parent seeking leave to move and their new family;
  7. The effect upon the child of denial of contact with the other parent (and in some cases the wider family members);
  8. The opportunity for continuing contact with the parent left behind;
  9. The child’s wishes and feelings.

 

What does the above mean? If a child is having regular contact and involvement with the other parent (for example shared care) then the Court are going to be concerned as to the impact of this being terminated (for example, a move to Australia is clearly going to severely restrict contact).

What are the reasons for moving? If they are seeking to “go home” (ie. back to their country of origin where they have family support) then that is a powerful factor for the court to consider as opposed simply a lifestyle choice.

Making a Successful Application

To have a successful application there needs to be a genuine reason for the move and the applicant parent needs to ensure they have conducted the necessary research to ensure they provide detailed information regarding how and where they will live, the support available to them and the child/children (both financially and practically), how contact can be facilitated (including cost and transport) – this is particularly important to ensure that the relationship with the parent left behind is sustained. Failure to do any of these things could lead to a rejection.

For the other parent it is important to highlight and maintain the commitment to contact. If you have been having regular contact that is easy to evidence, if not then you need to be able to show why this has not happened (for instance, is the resident parent preventing this?). Are there any medical issues that may impact upon a child if a move to a less developed country? Each case will turn on its own facts and it is important to carefully scrutinise any application and statement in support carefully.

Hidden Issues

Equally people will often simply move about within the UK to suit themselves without a thought as to the impact upon a separated family. For example, people think that simply moving from say London to Cornwall is fine. A Court however, can be asked to consider the nature of such a move in a similar way to a relocation outside the UK.

The main issues regarding relocation in the UK is whether it is for a genuine reason or whether it is designed to frustrate contact. For example a move from London to Cornwall can make travelling significantly difficult, particularly for a parent reliant on public transport. If the former, then it is likely to be granted but if the latter a Court can make conditions on any residence order to ensure that a move does not take place.

The key thing to all of the above is that the welfare of the child or children is paramount and, to the writer, the most important thing you can do for your child is be able to communicate sensibly. It is often at these times when communication is so important that it is lost with the parents becoming polarised in their positions. Both mediation and more particularly Reunite** (a specialist mediation service for these types of matters) are available to parents to try to help them resolve matters in the best way for their child.

If anything mentioned above affects you and you would like further information, please contact Fiona Pawsey at family@newnham-jordan.co.uk or 01202 877400.

*Migration Watch UK

** http://www.reunite.org/

This article is intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.

Relocating with a child – Does the parent need permission?

What is “Unreasonable Behaviour”?

As a divorce lawyer I am often asked what is “unreasonable behaviour”. When someone in England or Wales is contemplating a divorce they have to consider what reason they will proceed. Under English law a divorce is based on irretrievable breakdown but has to be proved by one of five facts, including amongst other’s “unreasonable behaviour”.

So, what does this mean? Well from a lawyer’s perspective it is both subjective and objective. For the client it is what behaviour they find unreasonable. It can be as simple as feeling there is no communication, no real love or affection from their spouse, perhaps feeling unsupported (even if the spouse would say this is not the case). It can also be specific – if there has been domestic abuse for example.

The benefits of an “unreasonable behaviour” petition is that the person receiving it (known as the Respondent) doesn’t have to accept or admit to the alleged behaviour. They can say they don’t accept or admit it but agree that the marriage has broken down which will allow a divorce to continue.

The objective side to “unreasonable behaviour” is that a District Judge has to be satisfied that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and so he needs to consider the reasons given by the person issuing the petition (the Petitioner) is sufficient to satisfy this test.

Often “unreasonable behaviour” petitions are used because a marriage has broken down but the parties have not been separated a sufficient period to divorce on separation (minimum of 2 years) and sadly at present English Law does not give any other options for a swift no fault divorce.

For a initial consultation about divorce call Fiona Pawsey today on 01202 877400!

Q&A with Fiona Pawsey

 

Hi Fiona, tell us about yourself!

Hello! I’m 47 years old, married with three children, and I’ve been working in law for several years. In the beginning of my career I was a secretary. But, I studied whilst I worked to qualify first as a Fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives and then finally I qualified as a Solicitor.

I see! You must have worked on quite a few cases throughout your career. What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in terms of the professional services that you provide?

There have been a vast number of cases over the years and there are invariably some challenging ones. I’ve found that financial remedy cases can be very challenging for two reasons:

  1. Often there are limited assets and there isn’t enough to meet the needs of both parties fully, particularly where there are young children involved.
  2. It can be hard managing people’s expectations of what can be achieved. What they might think is morally just and what the law can do for them can often be quite different.

 

What has been your most successful case this year?

The highlight of this year has been the successful defence of a challenge by a former husband to overturn a financial settlement made in 2010. My client lived outside the UK which could have made communication and instructions challenging. Despite this, even though we only had the chance to meet the client for the first time at trial, we succeeded in retaining our client’s assets and were awarded costs.

For me, successful cases are when the parties can find a way to compromise and form a resolution that works for them both – especially when there are children to think about.

What’s the secret to your success?

I like to look for solutions. I’m mindful of costs and I try to help my clients look at the wider picture. I always keep in mind, for example:

  • the available assets;
  • the parties’ incomes;
  • capacity for a mortgage;
  • what properties each party could live in.

It’s information like this which helps us find the way forward and reach a successful resolution.

Why family law?

Oddly enough, I fell into law on a Youth Training Scheme (a bit like apprenticeships in those days) and I loved it from day one. The human element in family law is what makes my job interesting as well as the variety of cases. It’s all about giving people time to tell their story and finding a solution to help them move forward at a time when emotions are often high.

Why use Newnham & Jordan Solicitors?

I like to think we give our clients time to make them feel comfortable, especially if there’s something embarrassing they need to talk about. That’s why I don’t set a fixed period of time for a free interview.

I also believe it is important to get people to look at the whole picture (rather than just looking at themselves). To do so helps them to consider ways forward and often presents solutions they may not have previously considered.

What does Fiona Pawsey do outside the office?

I like to spend time with the family. My youngest daughter has just started to get interested in cooking so we have a lot of fun with that. I also enjoy reading – my favourite author at the moment is Patricia Cornwell.

In my spare time, I sing in a local choir. It makes me relax after a stressful day. I enjoy running as well and am an active core group member of Weymouth Parkrun and Weymouth Junior Parkrun.

Any advice for anyone who has a family dispute?

There are several ways you can help yourself:

  • Get information about what assets you have, get information of mortgage capacities that are affordable. Look at the cost of rehousing and how this can work practically. Don’t forget Shared Ownership (Part Buy/Part Rent) as options when looking at finances.
  • Try to keep the lines of communication open. It is hugely important for your children to see that Mum and Dad can communicate. Don’t bring your kids into the argument – the impact on children of being involved in family arguments can be everlasting.
Q&A with Fiona Pawsey