A 90-minute briefing for Counsellors. What were the big surprises?

In November, we hosted a series of briefings for counsellors titled “Getting legal help for relationship break-up has changed.” 

The agenda covered:

  • Recent changes in the law that affect separating couples
  • The inadequacy of the law for cohabiting couples
  • An introduction to mediation

The biggest shock for most Counsellors attending was that cohabiting couples do not have the same rights as married couples. Given the audience reaction to this discussion, we have prepared this short debrief.

Cohabitation

Richard Randall (rrandall@leonardgray.co.uk) talked about the myth of common law marriage. It hasn’t existed since 1753!

6 million plus people cohabit but how many think permanent cohabitation equals marriage? Well, statistically about 40% and at least one of the Counsellors admitted the same at our seminar. It does not. The law is very difficult and unfair.

  1. If you live in a property in your partner’s sole name – you have no automatic right to a share and have to try and prove your partner agreed you would have a share or you contributed towards the purchase of the property – the law is complex and uncertain, costly and time consuming to establish that right.
  1. If your partner dies and has not made a Will, you will not be entitled to any share of his estate or property unless you are a part owner.
  1. Neither party has a legal duty to support the other financially, only the children if any.

You need a Cohabitation Agreement and a Will, and also to consider carefully on a regular basis the legal ownership of any property owned by yourself and partner.  The law is unfair and needs to change but only Parliament can act to change the law. In the meantime, anyone who is not married needs to consider their position extremely carefully.

Leonard Gray has written a free Guide to Cohabitation
which you can download here:

www.leonardgray.co.uk/a-guide-to-cohabitation

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8 good reasons to try mediation

Richard Randall introduced mediation to the audience giving 8 good reasons to try it:

  1. It’s cheaper.
  2. It’s quicker.
  3. You need to be heard. The mediator’s role would be to create a safe environment where this can happen. You may be able to say things which have been difficult to say anywhere else.
  4. You are in control of decisions made in mediation not your solicitor or the judge. Mediation is confidential if you do not reach agreement, this cannot be used against you.
  5. Decisions can be tried out before being finalised which is particularly important in relation to child contact. Mediation can act as a safety net for both to review arrangements.
  6. Agreements made in mediation particularly in relation to children are more likely to last than those imposed by courts. Decisions can be tailored to your unique situation. The court is a blunt instrument in terms of decision-making.
  7. The children benefit hugely from their parents collaborating particularly on parents’ issues. Children suffer if parents are in conflict.
  8. Courts expect people to try mediation before litigation thereby saving enormous sums of money and time and energy much better spent on renewing people’s lives. Even if mediation doesn’t work, there is nothing to lose, and using mediation will in no way affect your legal rights.

Richard further explained that there is still full legal aid for mediation and after a first session of mediation you would be entitled to up to £300 worth of legal advice from your own solicitors (provided they have a legal aid franchise). Mediation looks forward. You cannot change the past but you can affect the future.

If you’re new to mediation, you’ve probably got lots of questions

Read about the experiences of three couples that chose to try mediation:
www.leonardgraymediation.co.uk/case-studies/

See the answers to the most common questions we’re asked by our clients:
www.leonardgraymediation.co.uk/faqs-relationship-break-up/

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Changes to legal-aid

Sarah Orrell (sorrell@leonardgray.co.uk) explained the effect of recent changes in the law whereby as from 1st April 2013, there is no legal aid whatsoever for family law unless there is an element of domestic violence, child abduction or forced marriage.

As a result this firm now offers fixed fees as well as pay as you go schemes to help limit and spread the cost of necessary proceedings.

For full details visit  www.leonardgray.co.uk/how-we-charge/

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We are very pleased to support local Counsellors

Free 15 minute personal seminar

If you missed this briefing and would like further information, or even your free 15 minute personal seminar, we’d be pleased to help.

Free postal copies of our guides

If you would like to offer any of our Guides to your clients, then we are happy to supply a quantity of hard copies for your files. Our Guides include:

  • A Guide to Obtaining a Divorce.
    “Understand the basis of divorce and how it affects you.”
  • A Guide to Divorce & Obtaining Financial Orders.
    “Understand how to obtain a financial order and why they are so important.”
  • A Guide to Wills Following Divorce or Separation.
    “Understand why it might be necessary to review or create a new will, and how to protect your children”.
  • A Guide to Cohabitation.
    “Understand the legal background, how to establish a claim over property, and how to protect yourself financially.”
  • A Guide to Children – Advice for Parents.
    “Understand your new role as a single parent, how best to communicate with your ex-partner, and how to ensure your children are well-adjusted.”
  • A Guide to Children and the Courts.
    “Understand the principles guiding the Court, and what orders are available.”

Free updates like this one

We were asked to provide future briefings about mediation, and the rights of fathers when cohabiters part.  If you would like to hear about these and other subjects, then please do let us have your email address.

For help with any of the above, please contact:

Carol Cunningham
T: 01245 504904
E: ccunningham@leonardgray.co.uk

 

Sarah Orrell
Sarah is a family lawyer with a reputation for clear, straightforward advice. She specialises in divorce, financial settlements, separation and pre-nuptial agreements and cohabitation disputes. Sarah also heads up the Leonard Gray Emergency Services Legal Team.

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