Award winners!

Breeze and Wyles Solicitors Limited is pleased to announce that it has won the 2016 Corporate International Magazine Global Award for ‘Commercial Re-Financing Law Firm of the Year in England’. This follows our awards for ‘Most trusted Corporate Finance Firms of the Year’ 2013.

Breeze and Wyles have invested in growing its Commercial re-financing team and this led to our appointment as one of fourteen firms on Metro-Bank’s Lending and Securities Panel.

Director and Head of Business Services Maria Koureas-Jones comments “It is great that the hard work of our re-financing team, with their focus on excellent client service and turnaround times, is being recognised externally by our clients and peers”.

Should you wish to find out more about our Commercial Re-Financing Team, please do not hesitate to contact us on 01992 558 411 or email our BDM Peter Jones on peter.jones@breezeandwyles.co.uk

 


New Year’s Resolution

As family solicitors, we often receive an increase in divorce instructions from clients in the first few weeks of the New Year.

It is the unfortunate case that parties have often spent so much time with one another in close proximity over the Christmas period that tempers are at breaking point and as a result they decide they no longer wish to continue with their marriage. Another reason parties may delay matters until after the Christmas break is the effect a divorce may have on any children and parties are therefore willing to put in the effort to spend ‘one last Christmas’ together as a family before instigating divorce proceedings.

It is now the case that divorce is simply a ‘paperwork exercise’ and it is relatively straightforward to obtain a divorce provided the marriage has irretrievably broken down and the Applicant, i.e. the party starting the process, can show one of the five facts of divorce which are 1) 5 years separation 2) two years separation with the other party’s consent 3) desertion by one party 4) adultery or 5) unreasonable behaviour.

In the case of two years separation with consent and adultery it is necessary that the other party cooperates and agrees to the divorce based on that fact. It is often the case that emotions are high and the other party does not want to agree to a divorce or admit their alleged adultery. In those circumstances the most appropriate fact for divorce would be the other party’s unreasonable behaviour in which the Applicant will provide 4-5 examples of such behaviour.

The first stage of the divorce process is to send the divorce petition to the Court together with the Court fee and original marriage certificate. Provided the Court is happy with the content of the petition, the Court will then issue the petition to the other side together with an acknowledgement of service. It is then necessary for the other party to sign and return the acknowledgement of service to the Court to confirm they have received the petition. At that stage the Applicant will be invited to apply for Decree Nisi and the Court will then provide a certificate of entitlement confirming the date on which the Decree Nisi will be pronounced. Once the Decree Nisi has been pronounced, the parties must wait a minimum period of 6 weeks and 1 day before being able to apply for the final stage of the divorce, the Decree Absolute. The period in between Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute is provided in case either party changes their mind or if there is any other reason not to grant the final divorce.

It is important to note that the divorce process is completely separate from financial matters. If an agreement can be reached between the parties in terms of the finances, that agreement should be recorded in a Consent Order and it is the period between Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute that any Consent Order should be submitted to the Court for approval. It is only once the Consent Order has been sealed by the Court that it becomes binding. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, then it may be necessary to consider mediation, negotiations through solicitors, collaborative law, family arbitration or Court proceedings.

It is advisable that divorcing couples settle the finances before applying for Decree Absolute as once the Decree Absolute has been issued, the parties will lose any benefits they may have acquired as a ‘spouse’ such as any pension rights. The finances will remain ‘open’ until a Consent Order has been agreed or a Court has made a final Order and there is no time limit on when an ex spouse can make a financial application in the future. This was illustrated in the recent case of Wyatt v Vince 2015 where the wife was awarded a large lump sum nearly 20 years after the grant of Decree Absolute, following her ex husband becoming a millionaire.

Once the period of 6 weeks and 1 day from Decree Nisi has lapsed and once the finances have been resolved by way of a Consent Order or final Order sealed by the Court then the Applicant is free to apply for the Decree Absolute. If the Applicant fails to apply for the Decree Absolute, the Respondent may do so after 3 months. The granting of the Decree Absolute is the final stage and the parties will then be divorced.

At Breeze and Wyles Solicitors Ltd, we offer a fixed fee package in relation to divorce which includes dealing with the divorce up until the grant of the decree absolute together with 1 ½ hours of legal advice. Our current fixed fee is £499.99 inclusive of VAT plus the Court fee and any other disbursements. We also offer expert advice and assistance in all aspects of financial matters and can assist in negotiations or by other means of resolution such as mediation, collaborative law or family arbitration. We also represent parties in the event Court proceedings are issued.

Lisa Honey is a family solicitor at Breeze and Wyles Ltd specialising in family law and deals with matters covering a range of issues including divorce and financial settlements, separation following the breakdown of a relationship, children matters and declarations of trust. Lisa is also an honorary solicitor providing advice at the Citizens Advice Bureau in Cheshunt.


Divorce down as pre nuptials rise

The first working day in January is commonly known as Divorce Day, when family lawyers receive more enquiries than at any other time of the year, but they are more likely to be faced with ‘silver splitters’ than young couples these days.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that despite the recent rise in the number of marriages, the divorce rates have fallen to their lowest level for 40 years: 114,720 couples divorced in England and Wales in 2013, down almost three per cent on the previous year.  The statistics also show that marriages are more likely to survive the ‘seven year itch’ with divorce rates at the eight year mark nudging down by one per cent.

But for older people, it’s a different picture. Over 60,000 people who divorced in England and Wales in 2013 were over 50, a rise of 11 per cent.

Alongside the slow-down in divorce for younger couples, the Law Society has reported a rise in enquiries for pre-nuptial agreements, with commentators suggesting it’s being driven by parents who are investing in housing to enable their children to get on the property ladder, but wishing to protect family money against any future marriage breakdown.

Family law expert and Family Arbitrator Olive McCarthy MCIarb of Hertford based solicitors Breeze & Wyles Solicitors explained: “Older couples may have less to worry about in relation to the impact of divorce on children, but dividing finances will probably cause more concern, as they are more likely to be asset-rich and with valuable pensions.”

Recent figures from Resolution show that the majority of young people felt that it was better their parents divorced than stayed together unhappily, but they also wanted to be part of the decision-making process and have their views taken into account.

She added: “It’s a hard decision at any time of the year and at any stage of marriage, but perhaps the most important thing for any couple is to consider children first and to avoid finger pointing as they go through the process. Collaboration and mediation can help to focus on achieving an outcome through positive negotiation.  It may be necessary to set out unreasonable behaviour in the divorce petition, but when it comes to dividing up the family finances, the Courts are generally not interested in the cause of the breakdown of the marriage or a spouse's behaviour.”

The exception to this is when family law judges are obliged to take into account 'gross and obvious' conduct that 'in the opinion of the Court would be inequitable to disregard'. Recent cases that have put the spotlight on conduct include Vaughan v Vaughan in 2007, when the Court added back sums spent recklessly by the husband on gambling after the couple separated.  This was reinforced more recently, in US v SR (2014) when the High Court held that where a spouse has recklessly disposed of assets after separation they cannot claim as great a share of what remains, if there is clear evidence of so-called ‘wanton dissipation’.

This requirement was further spelt out in the 2015 case of MAP v MFP where the husband had become addicted to cocaine and despite rehabilitation, often relapsed. The wife argued that £1.5m should be added back as a result of the husband's reckless and wanton expenditure on cocaine, prostitutes, alcohol and therapy after their separation, but the judge disagreed saying that while the expenditure may have been morally culpable and irresponsible, it had not been deliberate or wanton dissipation.

Web site content note: 

Reference:

http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/vsob1/divorces-in-england-and-wales/2013/stb-divorces-in-england-and-wales--2013.html#tab-Main-points

http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/vsob1/divorces-in-england-and-wales/2013/rft-table-1.xls

http://www.resolution.org.uk

Vaughan v Vaughan [2007] EWCA Civ 1085

US v SR [2014] EWHC 175 (Fam)

MAP v MFP [2015] EWHC 627 (Fam)

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.