Our family solicitors can help you through this troubling time
At Parker Rhodes Hickmotts, our Family and Child Care Department is second-to-none. We specialise in a number of areas and care a great deal about every individual case we deal with.
Our team will listen to you and offer sensible, constructive advice on how to move forward. We will handle your matter with the discretion and sensitivity it deserves. With our meticulous care, exceptional negotiation skills and proven track record, we are confident in achieving the best resolution for you. The Family Team, run by Julie Munday, consists of three experienced Solicitors and an exceptionally experienced member of ILEX. We are members of Resolution, the Children’s Panel and the Advanced Family Law Panel.
We offer a free 30 minute interview and are happy to visit you at home should this be more convenient for you.
Our Family & Child Care Department specialises in:
Parker Rhodes Hickmotts has a great deal of experience and expertise in the area of divorce which enables us to provide sympathetic and practical legal support in order to protect your interests. We offer a free initial interview to discuss your requirements.
In order for you to obtain a divorce, it is necessary for us to help you show the Court your marriage has irretrievably broken down. You may rely on one of the following five factors:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Desertion (after two years)
- Two years separation with consent
- Five years separation
If you require a divorce straight away, you will have to rely on adultery or unreasonable behaviour.
Provided the other party does not contest the divorce, it will take approximately 4 to 6 months for us to obtain your Decree Absolute of divorce. Provided you are both in agreement about everything, including costs, there will be no need for either of you to attend Court. There are some circumstances when it may be appropriate to avoid applying for Decree Absolute, particularly if your spouse has a pension.
We will help you complete the paperwork to proceed with your divorce. You will need to produce your original marriage certificate or a certified copy available from your place of marriage for a small fee. There is a Court fee payable of £550 when your Petition is issued and, provided your matter remains straight forward, we offer a fixed fee of £525.00 plus VAT of £105.00 making a total of £630.00. Therefore, the cost of your divorce will be £1,180.00 inclusive of VAT and Court fee. There are payment plans available to help you manage the cost.
Within divorce proceedings it may be necessary for you to agree matters in relation to your children and also financial issues. We will assist you in dealing with this as quickly as possible.
To make a free initial appointment, please either telephone 01709 511100 to speak to our friendly Family Team or contact us.
If you do proceed with a divorce or alternatively just decide to separate, then it will be necessary to consider how this will affect you financially. It is important for financial issues to be resolved taking into account your individual circumstances and the Law.
Case law has established that assets should be divided equally between parties wherever possible unless the circumstances dictate otherwise. Parker Rhodes Hickmotts’ Family Law Team has the experience to be able to advise you on the financial issues and the best approach to achieve this, and is equipped to guide you through the Court process should this become necessary.
We offer a free initial interview to discuss your requirements.
The best way of sorting out the financial aspect of the divorce is for both of you to provide full details of your financial circumstances, supported by documentary evidence, and to come to an agreement concerning financial matters. The information you need to disclose is as follows:
- P60 for last financial year
- Last three months' wage slips
- Mortgage redemption statement
- Current surrender value for any endowment or other policies
- CETV (Cash equivalent transfer value) for all pensions
- Documentary evidence regarding all debts and loans
- Copy bank statements for last twelve months for all accounts held
- Documentary evidence for any other savings or investments
This agreement can then be confirmed by a Court Order, known as a Consent Order, making it final and binding. The procedure for obtaining such an Order is quite straight forward. It is simply a matter of sending some agreed paperwork to the Court, which then makes the Order without anyone having to attend.
In some cases, it is appropriate for one spouse to pay maintenance to the other, particularly if there has been a long marriage or there is a large difference between the parties’ respective incomes. In those circumstances, maintenance can be payable until either party dies or sometimes for a limited period, with an option for it to be extended at a later date. The Court may also consider it is appropriate to capitalise maintenance. This would mean that the Court may order one party to pay a lump sum in lieu of maintenance, so that the receiving party can invest the capital and receive an income from it in the future.
The level of maintenance payable depends on your individual circumstances. In any event, the Court will always consider whether or not a Maintenance Order should be made at all.
The Court is under a duty to consider a clean break in every case. A clean break is an Order which prevents either party returning in the future to make a claim against the other party in relation to their income, assets, or pension entitlement.
It will be necessary for the Court to consider each party’s pension entitlement and how this should be divided. This area of law is very complicated and requires careful consideration within the context of the other assets of the marriage. The Court is able to deal with the pension using various methods, which are as follows:
- Pension Sharing -One party’s pension fund can be split to enable the other party to receive whatever percentage can be agreed or what the Court feels is appropriate. This percentage is then transferred into the recipient’s own pension fund, either within the existing scheme or to another scheme.
- Attachment -This method is rarely used but is a method whereby one party can claim a percentage of the other party’s pension upon their retirement. This can be unpopular as, should you successfully obtain a percentage, you would no longer be entitled to receive it, should your spouse die.
- Offsetting -This is often used where there are smaller pension funds. Often, it can be agreed one party will receive a larger share of the capital assets to compensate them for the difference in the respective pension funds.
To make a free initial appointment, please either telephone 01709 511100 to speak to our friendly Family Team or contact us.
When dealing with cohabitation disputes there are usually a number of options depending on individual personal circumstances, including whether there is a property or whether the parties have a child together.
Parker Rhodes Hickmotts has significant experience in providing sympathetic but practical advice on cohabitation and offers a free initial interview to discuss your requirements. The options available include:
An Application under Married Women’s Property Act 1882
This sort of application is possible if a couple were engaged and the engagement was terminated within the last three years. The application enables a party to make a claim in relation to a jointly owned home and other property, including the household contents and the engagement ring. However, these days, such an application is unusual.
An Application under the Trust of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996
This application is open to a couple whether or not they were ever engaged. An application can be made to establish an individual’s interest in the property or to order that the property is sold, if it cannot be agreed who is to remain in the property and buy out the other party’s share. It would be appropriate to make this application if the property is held in one party’s sole name and the other party has contributed to the acquisition of the property, either by paying or contributing towards the initial deposit when the property was purchased, or by making direct contributions to the mortgage. Alternatively, it could also be a useful application if one party has carried out significant improvements to a property which increases its value.
An Application under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989
This application can be made so that the property can be transferred from either the joint names or sole name of one of the parties into the other party’s sole name for the benefit of the child of the family. This would enable the parent with care to provide a home for the child of the family until the child is 18 or leaves full time education. Subject to the Court Order, whichever date is set, the party in whose favour the Order was made would have to buy out the other party’s share when they attained the relevant age. Alternatively, the property would have to be sold so that the other party could obtain the value of their share in the property when the child reached the age stated in the Court Order.
The law in relation to cohabitees is complicated and the Courts often struggle to apply family principles as if a couple were married. Certainly, the only applications that can be made, relate to joint property and the contents of the former shared home. Such an application would not relate to income, pension provision or assets in the parties’ sole names, unless it could be shown that one party had made significant financial contributions in terms of land or assets in one party’s sole name.
To make a free initial appointment, please either telephone 01709 511100 to speak to our friendly Family Team or contact us.
Domestic Abuse is a serious problem and sadly can be a very real and traumatic part of a modern relationship. Parker Rhodes Hickmotts has helped people in many cases involving domestic abuse, so if this situation does affect you, please be assured that we will do our utmost to deal with your case as a matter of urgency, to ensure your safety and that of your children.
Domestic abuse includes personal violence, threats, intimidation and harassment. Our Family Law Team is able to provide a sympathetic approach and advise you as to the options best suited to meet your particular needs. As with all our family services, we offer a free initial interview to discuss your requirements.
Legal Aid is still available for victims of domestic abuse, depending on your financial circumstances. If not, we offer competitive fixed fees and there are payment plans available.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, you must contact the Police. They will arrest your partner if they have committed a criminal offence. If you are threatened by your partner and you inform the Police, they may record your complaint and give your partner a warning. If the behaviour then continues, they will be able to arrest your partner under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
This is an Order available from the Civil Court. It will protect you from violence or any other kind of conduct which could be construed as harassment or pestering. The Order, if made, will then be served on the other party by an Enquiry Agent, at which stage it will be effective. If the Order is breached, the other party has committed a criminal offence.
This Order requires the abusive partner to leave the family home and orders that they may not return to the property or go within a set distance of it. Again, if the Order is breached, the other party would be brought before the Court and could be sent to prison for breach of the Order.
The Civil Partnership Act came into force on 5 December 2005 and gave same-sex couples the opportunity to register their relationship legally.
It gave the couples who chose to register a new legal status, that of “civil partner”. They have rights and responsibilities, like married partners, for the following purposes:
- Immigration and Nationality
- Pension benefits
- A duty to provide reasonable maintenance for your civil partner and any children of the family
- Ability to apply for parental responsibility for your civil partner’s child
- Access to fatal accidents compensation
- Protection from domestic violence
Parker Rhodes Hickmotts has experience in advising and guiding people in these areas, and anyone considering entering into a civil partnership should know that supportive help is only a phone call away.
If you are contemplating a civil partnership, you may wish to consider entering into a Pre-Civil Partnership Agreement. This can be compared to a Pre-Nuptial Agreement, which is sometimes entered into prior to a marriage.
If you do enter into a civil partnership, your assets will, in the event of dissolution, be dealt with in accordance with the Law, which may not be favourable to you. Therefore, in order to protect and preserve your own financial position, a Pre-Civil Partnership Agreement may help to do this if your civil partnership breaks down.
Contracts involving financial arrangements may be legally binding if both parties have exchanged full details of their financial circumstances, supported by documentary evidence, and they have both had the benefit of independent legal advice. However, if your civil partnership lasts a number of years or if you have children, the living together agreement may not be upheld.
The process of entering into a Pre-Civil Partnership Agreement may be dealt with through mediation. A Mediator is impartial and can help couples reach an agreement. They will help you to discuss your respective financial circumstances and arrive at a set solution, although they cannot give you legal advice. If you manage to reach an agreement, we can then draw up the Pre-Civil Partnership Agreement on your behalf and advise you on the legalities of it.
Alternatively, you can each appoint your own independent Lawyer to advise you and negotiate on your behalf from the outset. Parker Rhodes Hickmotts would be able to represent one of you in those circumstances.
The cost depends on the kind of contract you wish to enter into and what kind of provision it makes.
Dissolving a Civil Partnership
Registering as civil partners is a serious commitment, as the partnership can only end if it is dissolved, annulled or one of you dies.
The process for dissolution will be Court based. An application for dissolution can only be made after the parties have been in the civil partnership for one year. The person applying for the partnership to be dissolved will have to provide evidence that the civil partnership has broken down irretrievably.
The application for the partnership to be dissolved is in a prescribed form. The form will include evidence of one of the following facts to support the application for dissolution:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Separation for two years, where the other civil partner gives their consent
- Separation for five years
- That the other civil partner has deserted the applicant for two years
If the Court is satisfied on the evidence that the civil partnership has broken down irretrievably, a Dissolution Order will be granted.
Issues Relating to Children
From the 30 December 2005, same-sex couples were able to adopt a child together. In addition, a non-biological civil partner can apply for parental responsibility in respect of their civil partner’s child. If you require further information about this, we can offer a free 30 minute initial discussion during which we can advise you on your options.
We will help you complete the paperwork to proceed with dissolving your civil partnership. You will need to produce your original civil partnership certificate or a certified copy available from your place of marriage for a small fee. There is a Court fee payable of £410 when your Petition is issued and, provided your matter remains straight forward, we offer a fixed fee of £525.00 plus VAT of £105.00 making a total of £630.00. Therefore, the cost of your dissolution will be £1,040.00 inclusive of VAT and Court fee. There are payment plans available to help you manage the cost.
Within dissolution proceedings it may be necessary for you to agree matters in relation to your children and also financial issues. We will assist you in dealing with this as quickly as possible.
A Pre-Nuptial Agreement is a document that sets out to restrict the relief available to a spouse on the breakdown of their marriage.
Such an agreement is unenforceable in the English Courts as it is their policy not to recognise them in the interest of protecting the party in the weakest position, either financially or otherwise. However, you may still choose to enter into an agreement as it may carry some weight with the Court in the event of your separation, as it shows evidence of your long term intention when entering into a marriage.
If your marriage does break down then you need to make sure that your Pre-Nuptial Agreement will carry as much weight as possible with the Court. Parker Rhodes Hickmotts have the experience to help with this.
In order to ensure this happens it is important that both parties exchange full details of their financial circumstances, supported by documentary evidence, prior to entering into the Pre-Nuptial Agreement. Further, it is crucial that you both obtain independent financial advice in relation to the document or, at the very least, have an opportunity to do so. Then, should the marriage break down, you wold be able to produce the Pre-Nuptial Agreement as evidence of your intentions before the marriage. However, should the marriage last a long time or you subsequently have children, the Pre-Nuptial Agreement is unlikely to be upheld.
Parker Rhodes Hickmotts has a great deal of experience in providing practical but sympathetic support relating to children.
We offer a free initial interview to discuss your requirements. The areas that we most often advise on are:
Spending time with your children
If you are unable to reach an agreement regarding the arrangements for your children with your ex-partner, we can help you to apply to the Court for a defined Child Arrangements Order. If no agreement can be reached between you, the Court can make an Order which sets out clearly when either you, or your ex-partner, are to spend time with your children.
Where your children live
A Child Arrangements Order can also be made to determine who your children should live with. The Court will consider a wide range of factors, including standards of accommodation, the children’s daily routine and, in particular, whether you propose to care for them full-time yourself or, if you work full-time, who will care for the children in your absence. Depending on the child’s age, the Court will also ascertain and consider their views, although these will not be determinative. In addition, you need to show the Court that you are working in the children’s best interests and have considered and made plans for their long-term future.
Parental responsibility is a legal expression used to outline the rights, duties and responsibilities which a parent has in relation to his or her child. The following individuals will have parental responsibility:
- A mother
- A biological married father
- A father named on the birth certificate if the child was born after 1 December 2003
There are also circumstances under which a step-parent can acquire parental responsibility. In addition, any person who has a Child Arrangements Order in their favour for a child to live with them automatically acquires parental responsibility.
Any person with parental responsibility for a child has a right regarding all the major issues in a child’s life. Such matters include religious upbringing, medical treatment and education. In addition, it prohibits a person from changing the child’s surname without the other party’s consent or removing the child permanently from this country without the other party’s knowledge or consent. Furthermore, both parties share the same status in relation to attending school opening evenings and obtaining school reports etc.
It is an offence for any parent to take a child under the age of 18 from England and Wales without obtaining the consent of all other persons with parental responsibility. However, if a child is removed without the required consent, an offence has been committed. In cases such as these, the first step is to contact Reunite, an organisation which assists parents whose child has been removed from the jurisdiction.
If matters cannot be agreed, you may wish to consider attending mediation. Indeed this is now compulsory if you wish to make an application to Court. We can refer you to an appropriate mediation company, if you feel this may help you, and advise you on the legalities of any subsequent agreement reached.
We offer various affordable fixed fee packages for matters relating to children, to suit your needs. There are also payment plans available to help you manage the cost.
Grandparents can play a vital role in family life, providing childcare and help with children’s day to day activities. The role of a grandparent can be vital in many ways.
Unfortunately, as a grandparent you are in a very difficult position if there are disputes about children between the parents after separation and divorce.
Contact between children and their grandparents can stop, causing distress to both the child and the grandparents.
The Grandparents’ Association estimates that around one million UK grandparents are denied contact with their grandchildren. The sad truth is that grandparents do not have an automatic legal right to spend time with their grandchildren.
However, the Family Courts do recognise the invaluable role that grandparents have to play in their grandchildren’s lives and it is very rare that the Court would refuse a grandparent the opportunity of spending time with their grandchildren unless there is evidence of abuse or violence.
You are in an even more difficult position if Social Services become involved with your grandchildren. The local authority may have concerns about the care given to your grandchildren by their parents. They may be so concerned that they have started care proceedings in the Family Court.
The local authority has a duty to assess other family members, because for a very young child who is the subject of care proceedings, this may be the only opportunity to keep them within the family, where adoption is the alternative.
If this happens to you, it is vital that you obtain expert advice as soon as you can. A decision about a child’s future has to be made by the Court within 26 weeks, and all assessments of family members need to be done as soon as possible.
Our expert team has experience in sensitively dealing with these issues, which you may face as a grandparent. We will give you full advice on the options available to you and let you know if there is Legal Aid available to assist you. It is vital you obtain advice as soon as possible.
If Social Services become involved with your children, this can be an extremely stressful and worrying time for a parent. We are often asked to act on behalf of parents who are facing difficulties in caring for their children.
If social workers are worried about a child's welfare, they are under a duty to investigate those concerns. It is vital to get expert legal advice as early as possible to help you understand the issues and procedures and how best to deal with the situation, both before and during Court proceedings.
We are here to offer you expert advice and support during a very difficult time. We will be realistic and honest with you, offering straightforward, no-nonsense advice and representation.
We specialise in advising and representing parents, children (either directly or through their Court-appointed Guardian) and other family members in all aspects of child protection work.
If the local authority is worried about your child’s welfare, the first step they should take is to write to you with a 'letter before proceedings' explaining why they think your child is not being looked after properly. It will also tell you to attend a meeting.
At this stage you should contact us for advice. If you are a parent of a child who has received one of these letters, you will automatically qualify for Legal Aid regardless of your income. It is important that you work with your local authority to deal with their concerns. You must show that you understand their concerns and that you are keen to do something about them. This “letter before proceedings” is really a final warning to a parent and it is vital that you do not ignore it.
You will be invited to a meeting to talk about the situation with the social worker, the local authority solicitor and your solicitor. At the meeting, you will talk about how the local authority can support you to change the way you look after your child. If you agree to make some changes, these will be written down in a formal agreement that you and the local authority have to follow. You must keep to any agreement you make at the pre-proceedings meeting and similarly the local authority should keep to any agreements that they make. You will probably be asked to go to review meetings to check you are keeping to the agreement.
If you do not keep to the agreement, or there are still serious or new concerns, the local authority will apply to a court to start care proceedings. You will have to go to the Family Court, possibly several times, until the Court makes its decision about your child's future. Sometimes this will result in the local authority taking action and trying to remove children from the care of their parents. If so, the children could be placed in foster care or even placed for adoption.
If you are a parent involved in care proceedings, you will be entitled to Legal Aid, and this may also be available to other family members. In certain circumstances where family members are not entitled to Legal Aid, the local authority may be willing to fund your legal advice.
Call our support team on 01709 511100
Direct Dial: 01709 388387
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Julie is a specialist in the following areas:
- Representation in Public Law Care Proceedings
- Advice on all aspects of Private Law Children Disputes including Residence and Contact
- Advice about Social Services involvement with children
- Children Act complaints
- Grandparents' Rights
After a varied career in welfare rights advice and adult education and training, Julie qualified as a Solicitor in 2002 after passing the Legal Practice Course at Cardiff University Law School with commendation. She moved to a large high street firm in Sheffield to undertake her training contract and worked there for many years before joining Parker Rhodes Hickmotts in 2013.
In her career as a Solicitor Julie has always specialised in children law especially the representation of parents, children and other relatives in care proceedings before the Court. Julie became a member of the Law Society Children Panel in 2006 and has had conduct of many complex cases in both the County Court and the High Court. Julie is also a member of Resolution.
“Once I’d found the courage to phone, the process was made really easy by Julie Munday.”
“Friendly and approachable, Kept up to date.”
“They put the wishes of the child before anyone else.”