Category: Family law

Q&A with Fiona Pawsey

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.

Family law, finances and needs

Most people contemplating divorce will initially think about when to separate from each other, swiftly followed by a “How am I going to live?”.

As we all know one pot of money which can meet the needs of two people living together in one household is unlikely (in most circumstances) to stretch well to meet two households.

That’s where a good solicitor comes in. Whilst often thoughts are with divorce “I’m going to take everything” or “I’m going to have nothing” the law in fact provides for both parties (regardless of how the marriage ended – although there are some very rare exceptions).

Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 is referred to by lawyers as “The Welfare Checklist” and this is something that the Court has to have regard to when looking at the financial settlement either agreed by a couple (or in the alternative ordered by the Court). This checklist requires all parties to consider the following:

  • Income and earning capacity of both parties;
  • Their needs and obligations (such as care of young children);
  • Standard of living;
  • Age of the parties and length of the marriage;
  • Health needs including disabilities;
  • Contributions by parties;
  • Conduct (in very rare circumstances);
  • Value lost by divorce (usually interests in pensions for example – ie. the loss of a future widow’s pension).

 

It may surprise people to know that the number of cases that go to a final hearing where the judge decides a settlement is in fact very few. The majority of cases will often settle, sometimes with help from a District Judge, with the aid of good and sensible solicitors and good preparation.

So, where do you go from here? The first thing to do is for the parties to exchange financial disclosure. This includes the value of any assets (such as property or savings and pensions), the amount of any debts (such as credit cards and loans). This is important as we need to know what there is before we can help advise how it can be divided between you.

We also advise clients to look at the housing market as to suitable properties for not just themselves but also their spouse. We look at all aspects of housing from, staying in the property and buying the spouse out of their interest, shared ownership (with a housing association), normal purchase of a home or renting.

The options are often limited by the amount of capital available to both parties and may be affected by whether there are children to rehouse with one party. This helps parties to be realistic about what should happen.

To be able to look at housing needs we also need to know your mortgage capacity and that of your spouse. The Court would consider a mortgage capacity to be an asset of sorts in that it assists the decisions on the division of capital from the marriage (i.e. if one spouse has a greater mortgage capacity then this may free up capital to help the other spouse with a lower mortgage capacity to be equally housed).

Pensions are generally shared between spouses on divorce (although where there is greater capital available it may be with agreement that there is an offsetting of pension interest by the payment of a greater share of capital).

As for income, a non-resident parent has a duty in law to pay maintenance for his children. This is based on a percentage of gross income. Parties can either reach agreement or if not then the question of maintenance will go through the Child Maintenance Service (formerly the CSA). For information on calculation of maintenance click here.

Depending in circumstances there may be a liability for maintenance to a spouse. This would be if there are young children or some disability or where there is a shortfall in their income versus their outgoings. If the spouse is in good health then a Court may limit the time for maintenance (for example to enable perhaps a spouse to retrain for employment) as the Courts are required under Section 25A of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 to achieve a clean break at the earliest possible time.

If any of the above affects you, we offer a free initial meeting when we can consider your matter and advise on the way forward. For an appointment please ring the Family Team on 01202 877400 (Ferndown Office) or 01305 470051 (Weymouth Office).

Family law, finances and needs
Finding a Divorce Solicitor

Finding a Divorce Solicitor

 

I was asked a question recently about how to find a Divorce Solicitor? There are of course the obvious answers: Google Search, asking friends, looking on the Law Society or Resolutions “Find a Solicitor”, etc. However, finding the “right” divorce solicitor for you is entirely different. As a woman I would equate it almost to like finding the right pair of shoes … an odd analogy you may think but it’s all about the fit.

When advising on divorce and the subsequent financial settlement we are dealing not just with facts and figures but people’s lives and emotions and these can be a big factor in what they decide. A client recently came to me having obtained their divorce via an online web service. I asked them what had attracted them to the online service – their immediate reply was cost. However, this particular client hadn’t realised that they had only dealt with the divorce and several years after the divorce had been finalised they discovered that their ex-spouse was now pursuing a financial  settlement. The client had believed that this had been dealt with (all for a mere few hundred pounds) – sadly and unsurprisingly this was not the case.

With the aid of an experienced divorce solicitor, like ourselves,  the financial information can be rapidly gathered and we can facilitate the negotiating of a financial settlement on divorce that both parties can live with.  I should be clear that in family law, contrary to popular opinion, it’s not about winning or losing but about meeting needs and sharing.

Often, we find there is simply not enough money to go around and a good divorce solicitor will be able to “think outside the box” and help you explore other solutions. Equally the solicitor should look at meeting the needs of both parties, otherwise how can you persuade your spouse (or indeed the Court) that your proposal is the better one. Mediation is also an option that parties may wish to consider (which enables direct discussion between them). To help mediation work a good divorce solicitor will help with guidance on the provision of financial disclosures needed to enable direct discussions. A mediator can guide you on proposals, provide legal advice as the matter progresses and discuss ideas on the way forward to achieve a fair divorce settlement.   A good divorce solicitor can ultimately help with drafting up the Consent Order to reflect any agreement reached to ensure protection for your future.

At Newnham & Jordan we believe in dealing with divorce and financial settlement holistically and looking at how both parties can move forward.   We believe this approach helps parties to move forward, is practical and puts our client’s in the best position to reach a settlement swiftly with a saving both financially and emotionally.

To speak to us about your options please contact Fiona Pawsey on 01202877400 (Ferndown) or 01305 470051 (Weymouth) or via email on fiona@newnham-jordan.co.uk for a free initial appointment.

Children and Divorce: Helping your child

When you’re getting divorced or separating with your partner and your children don’t know about it, you ask yourself when is a good time to tell them, how do you tell them and what their reaction would be when you tell them.

They will probably react worse than you realise. Some of the questions they’ll be asking themselves are “Why won’t my parents talk to me? Where will I live? Where will I go to school? Is all this my fault?”

It is important that everyone in the family’s voice is heard and allowed to express their feelings as how people feel may vary from person to person. In times of change, remember the ones who are constant in your family’s lives – grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends – can be a strong emotional support.

Children and young people often don’t know how to express their feelings, and as a result can display quite a challenging behaviour at times.

It is important to take time to look past the behaviour to try to find out the underlying cause of their unhappiness, in order to provide them with the help that they need.

How to manage conflict and changes:

  • Communication is of vital importance when sorting out any differences within the family. If your children refuse to talk to you, there may be another adult they can talk to.
  • Try to have a consistent approach and set age appropriate boundaries, but also listen to what your child is saying and how they are feeling.
  • Listen carefully and let the child know you have understood what they have said and know how are they feeling.
  • Let everyone have his/her say and be prepared to compromise if possible.
  • Even though you may not all agree, you can still try to find a way to resolve any disagreements without shouting or smacking. Children can learn a lot from the way conflict is resolved in their family.

The impact of Separation and divorce on children

The impact of divorce and separation on children is a major concern for many parents. Although there’s children who adjust to the circumstances, there are many others who find it very hard.

For those involved, it is vitally important, if possible, that communication between parents is normal for the sake of the child. Sometimes it can be helpful to talk to someone who can act as a mediator in difficult circumstances.

Within all families, whether you are trying to bring up your children with a partner or on your own, good communication is essential whatever the circumstances.

Helping your children:

  • Remember the importance of listening to your children
  • Respect their feelings and keep in mind that they may be different from yours
  • Emphasise that what is happening is not their fault
  • Expect a change in behaviour for a time
  • Reassure them that you haven’t changed your feelings towards them
  • Keep them informed on the current situation
  • Involve them in family decisions but not in arguments
  • Involve outside agencies for additional support and mediation (if appropriate)
  • Inform the school your child studies at about the separation/divorce
  • Find support for yourself as well

 

You can visit www.cafcass.gov.uk for more information on how you can help your child through a divorce.

Children and Divorce: Helping your child
National Marriage Week

National Marriage Week

National Marriage Week

Marriage is a wonderful thing – it’s suggested that a happily married couple live longer! Marriage is said to be a lifelong contract between parties but what happens when things go wrong?

If someone enters into a business contract they have legal advice. That advice looks at both the benefits if it works and what should happen if it fails. Why, then when we are making the biggest commitment of our lives do we not get this advice.

True, some would say it’s unromantic; we’re in love – we don’t need a lawyer; it’s expensive to get legal advice; we’re never going to separate.

Statistics say that 2.8 of 1000 marriages will end in divorce. Divorce can be a costly business both emotionally and financially. When couples are happy together they laugh and say they would look after the other if they split up, but the reality when realising often there is not enough money to start again – particularly when there are children and perhaps one parent has not worked – then the arguments start.

Consider this. I love you enough to consider the worst and to plan for a way forward for us and our family if that were to happen. Yes, there will be a financial cost to both parties, but I can guarantee it will be significantly less than the cost of a messy divorce both financially and emotionally. Indeed, given that most marriage break ups are caused by financial mistrust it could be the very thing to protect your marriage.

If this is a second marriage where a party has assets from a prior marriage, then it’s even more appropriate.

Need advice?  Newnham & Jordan’s family team have over 20 years’ experience in this area. Free initial appointments.

Why not check out the National Marriage Week website.


This article is intended for general information purposes only and  shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. Newnham &  Jordan Solicitors cannot accept  responsibility for  any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in  respect of this  article or any external articles it may refer or link to.


 

Divorce and Capital Gains

Do you have more than one property?

Are you considering separating?

The timing of separation is crucial.

Why, you ask?

The reason is Capital Gains Tax.

If you own a property that you have not lived in then you are no doubt aware that a sale would trigger what is called “Capital Gains Tax”.  This is a tax payable on the gain or rise in the value of the property since its purchase.   However, are you aware that if you separate and later transfer this property to your spouse (or indeed have it transferred to you) there is a potential liability for Capital Gains Tax on the gain in value?

If you transfer the property within the tax year of separation then you are able to claim the spousal exemption.  For example  Mr and Mrs G own two property, the marital home where they live and 5 Block Street which they have always rented out.   They separate and issue a divorce on the 8 April 2014.   Mr and Mrs G agree that Mrs G will stay in the marital home which will be transferred to her and Mr G will move into 5 Block Street which will be transferred to him.    Provided they transfer 5 Block Street before the 4 April 2015 then no Capital Gains Tax will be payable on this property transfer.

If however Mr and Mrs G had separated in September 2013 and had only just reached agreement on financial settlements in May 2014  then both Mr and Mrs G would have a liability to pay Capital Gains Tax on 5 Block Street upon the transfer of the property to Mr G.

Food for thought?   Are you thinking about separating, do you have more than one property – talk to us now for advice on the best time to separate.

See link below to HMRC Website for divorce and CGT.

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/cgt/intro/gifts-inherit-divorce.htm#3

Newnham & Jordan can advise you on all divorce and family related legal matters.

 Call us now on 0845 680 7871

This article is intended for general information purposes only and  shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice.  Newnham &   Jordan Solicitors cannot accept  responsibility for   any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in  respect of this   article or any external articles it may refer or link to.

Divorce and Capital Gains