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.
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!
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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).
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.