Moving on

8th January 2018 AKA "DIVORCE DAY"

 

 

The beginning of the year always brings with it an increase in instructions as couples make the decision to separate. For some the stress over the festive period was simply too much for the relationship to bear; for others perhaps the decision was made towards the end of the last year but put on hold to allow for “one last Christmas”. Additionally, the New Year is generally a time when we are expected to take stock of our lives and make changes to tackle things that we are not happy with and it stands to reason that this applies just as much to problems with a relationship as with the other areas of our lives such as health or fitness.

A decision to separate is not one to be taken lightly. It has significant consequences for all concerned and especially children. Consideration should always be given to whether the relationship can be saved and in this respect marriage counselling can be of significant benefit. If however the breakdown is irretrievable, early advice from a specialist family solicitor will ensure that you are aware of your options going forward so that you know where you stand in relation to a divorce, the financial arrangements resulting from the separation and also the arrangements for the children.

Breeze and Wyles Solicitors Ltd are specialist family solicitors in Hertford, Enfield and Bishops Stortford, able to offer advice and support in relation to divorce and other family law matters. We are also one of only a few solicitors able to offer the full range of process options including mediation, collaborative law and Arbitration. More information of the services we are able to offer is available on our website , including details of our fixed fee services or alternatively call 01992 558411.


Sharp Blog Picture

Husband left with less than 1/3 of assets after short marriage!

The Court of Appeal left solicitors with more questions than answers recently after ruling that factors such as a dual-career/income, separate finances, no children and a short marriage can be ample evidence to depart from the long standing principle of equal sharing on divorce.

The duration of Mr and Mrs Sharp’s marriage was approximately 6 years (including the initial period of cohabitation). The couple had similar incomes of roughly £100,000 per annum, however, Mrs Sharp received bonuses totalling approximately £10.5m during the course of the marriage. The couple kept their finances separate and even split their outgoings. Mr Sharp was not aware of the amount of bonus his wife received. Mr Sharp was deemed not to have contributed either in a domestic or business sense to his wife’s bonus and as a result received a settlement of £2m; just under a third of the parties’ total assets.Sharp Blog Picture

The decision in Sharp v Sharp suggests you may not have to share all assets accrued during your marriage with your spouse/civil partner. Of course such a decision perhaps leaves more questions than it answers; how long is a short marriage? Would the decision have been different if Mrs Sharp shared her bonuses?  As with all cases, the decision here is fact specific.

At Breeze and Wyles Solicitors Ltd, our expert family lawyers in Essex, Hertfordshire and North London can advise how best to protect your assets at the outset with a pre-nuptial agreement and/or post nuptial agreement. In the event you face a divorce without such an agreement, we are able to guide you through the process at every step towards a fair settlement.

If you are arranging your finances with your spouse, civil partner or ex-partner, contact the family team on 01992 558 411 for help and advice.


Domestic Abuse Convention to be followed in UK.

On the 27th April 2017 The Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Act 2017 received royal assent.

The purpose of this act was to ratify (make official) the UK’s agreement to comply with the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence which is also known as the Istanbul Convention.  

Violence in any form is unacceptable and although domestic abuse is perpetrated against men and women, statistics show that the majority of victims are female. The convention is based upon the understanding that Domestic Abuse is committed by men against women because they are women and as a way to sustain male power and control. The convention places an obligation upon the state to prevent violence, protect victims and prosecute the perpetrators. It is stated that there can be no real equality between men and women if women experience gender based violence and that states that turn a blind eye and do not actively take steps to tackle these issues are complicit.

Countries that ratify the convention are obliged to raise awareness and educate and encourage people to challenge gender stereotypes, harmful traditional practices and misogynistic attitudes, establish shelters, hotlines, medical services, counselling, legal aid, criminalise and actively prosecute all forms of domestic abuse whilst ensuring that culture, tradition or so called honour are not regarded as a defence. The convention also requires countries to give an annual progress report until they are able to say that they are compliant with the convention.

For current victims of domestic abuse there is support available and it is important to get quick, reliable and easy to understand advice to know what your options are. Our family department is able to offer advice in relation to the full range of family law issues including domestic abuse, finances, divorce and children. Karen Johnson, one of the directors at Breeze and Wyles Solicitors Ltd is a Resolution Accredited domestic abuse specialist and Breeze and Wyles Solicitors Ltd are also members of the East Herts and Broxbourne Domestic Abuse Forum.

For more information and support contact us on 01992 558411 or complete our online enquiry form.

 


Ilott v Mitson - Inheritance Act Claims

to the dogs

Animal Charities succeed in Appeal to Supreme Court.

On the 15th March 2017 the eagerly anticipated judgement on the case of Ilott v The Blue Cross and Others from the Supreme Court was handed down.

Mrs Ilott made an application under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 following the death of her mother Mrs Jackson. This legislation allows people to challenge inheritance provision if they can prove that it does not provide “reasonable financial provision”.

Mrs Ilott and her mother had become estranged 26 years prior to Mrs Jacksons death. When Mrs Ilott was 17 years old she had left home to live with and later marry a man that her mother did not like. Despite a few attempted reconciliations over the years, they had remained estranged and Mrs Jackson made in clear in the number of wills over that time, including her last, which stated that she did not wish to leave any of her estate to her daughter.

On her death Mrs Jackson left an estate worth approximately £486,000. Her will stated that other than a small amount to be left to the BBC benevolent fund, the remainder was to be left to three charities.

Mrs Ilott’s position was that she was living in Housing Association Accommodation and was reliant upon state benefits. She stated that she had not had any expectation of receiving anything from her mother’s estate.

When the case was first dealt with, the court awarded her £50,000. Mrs Ilott appealed and in July 2016 the Court of Appeal determined that she should have £143,000 to enable her to purchase her accommodation plus a further £20,000 as maintenance to be paid in such a way as to enable Mrs Illot to continue to receive her state benefits. The charities appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court decision was to set aside the order made in the Court of Appeal and restore the original decision.

In the Judgement the court confirmed that in accordance with the legislation, unless the applicant is a spouse or partner “reasonable financial provision” is limited to what is reasonable for maintenance only. They confirmed that what is “reasonable” is an objective standard to be determined by the court and that what is “reasonable” did not extend to everything that the applicant wants but is also not limited to bare essentials.

The court confirmed that the appropriate level is case specific requiring the court to consider various factors and whilst maintenance might usually be considered to be income it could be dealt with by the provision of a lump sum.

The factors which the court have to take into account when dealing with these cases include;

  • The financial needs income and resources of the applicant(s) and any beneficiary.
  • Any obligation or responsibility which the deceased had towards to the applicant(s) and any beneficiary.
  • The size and nature of the estate.
  • Any physical or mental disability of the applicant(s) and any beneficiary.
  • Any other matter including conduct of the applicant(s) or any other person which the court may consider relevant.

The Supreme Court considered that the judge first hearing the matter, had taken into account all the factors that he was supposed to and was entitled to reach the decision that he had after weighing up all of the evidence. As such the Appeal Court should not have interfered and their decision should be set aside.

Whilst there had been much discussion surrounding this case and whether it would provide new hope to disgruntled relatives cut out of a deceased’s will or provide further challenges to our right to leave our property to whoever we want, the outcome has not been quite so dramatic. A testator’s right to deal with his estate as he wishes remains intact subject only to very limited claims that can be bought where “reasonable provision” has not been made so long as the Will itself is valid. More particularly the Supreme Court have essentially confirmed that unless the judge first hearing the matter reaches a decision no other judge given the same information would have come to, gets the law wrong, takes into account something he shouldn’t or fails to take into account something he should have, then the appeal court can not interfere with the award.

The reality of these cases is that the court retains much discretion in their objective assessment of the case. These are challenging cases which require an assessment of competing interests and are made all the more difficult due to the fact that emotions will understandably run high. Early advice is key and ideally every attempt should be made to reach an agreement without going to court subject to the strict time limits that are in place in which to bring a claim.

If you have any issues in relation to an inheritance dispute you can contact our family team. Our team of specialist family solicitors are able to offer appointments at our offices in Bishops Stortford, Hertford and Enfield and Nationally via telephone and Skype.

For more information and advice contact us on 01992 558411 or complete our online enquiry form.

Karen Johnson is Director and Family Mediator of Breeze and Wyles Solicitors Ltd. Karen is a highly skilled and experienced Family Solicitor with in excess of 15 years experience of working in Family Law. She is a Resolution Accredited Specialist in the fields of Domestic Abuse and Financial Matters. Karen is additionally a Family Mediator trained by and a member of the Family Mediators Association (The FMA).


Taking time to take stock pays off in inheritance tax planning

bankingAs the end of the tax year approaches, it’s a good time to make sure you’re maximising your opportunities for inheritance tax reliefs. This year, as well as taking advantage of exempt lifetime gifts and transfers, property owners should also look at how the new transferable residence nil rate band fits their profile.

The Residential Property Nil Rate Band

Under the new rules, when a person leaves a residential property to direct descendants there will be an additional nil-rate band for inheritance tax purposes – the transferable Residence Nil-Rate Band allowance (RNRB).

To qualify, the property must have been a residence of the taxpayer and be left to direct descendants, so that excludes brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews. It will include natural, adopted, step and foster children, grandchildren and remoter descendants.  The spouse or civil partner of a living or dead direct descendant may also be the beneficiary, unless they have remarried.

The RNRB will be available from April 2017, in a phased introduction over the next four years, starting at £100,000 per person. This additional IHT nil-rate band for residential property will be on top of the £325,000 per person nil-rate band, which continues to apply to all assets in your estate, regardless of their nature and without restriction on who inherits the assets.

Like the existing nil-rate band, the RNRB will be transferable to a surviving spouse or civil partner, if unused on the death of the first to die, as long as the first to die owned the property or a share in it. A transferable RNRB will be available even where a spouse has died before April 2017 and in this case, the property does not have to have been held in joint names.  By 2020, the RNRB will be £175,000 per person, giving a potential total IHT nil-rate allowance of £500,000 for a single person or £1m for a couple who satisfy the criteria. These RNRB figures are maximum figures: if the value of your house, or your share in a house, is less, then that lesser value will be your RNRB.

The potential savings are significant – by 2020, the estate of a couple could see a saving of £140,000 in inheritance tax where all criteria are satisfied and the maximum RNRB allowance is utilised. So, in tax planning terms it’s high priority and it is worth making sure your estate doesn’t miss out on the allowance if you are a potential match on the criteria.

What may not qualify for the allowance

The additional residential property relief will taper away once an estate is valued at £2m, and estates worth over £2.35m will not benefit, and neither will certain types of trusts. The treatment of trusts has been subject to review since the original announcement of RNRB, as it was not clear initially how they would be treated.  Trusts are frequently used to protect assets, for example when children are young or otherwise not fully capable of handling their affairs, or to provide for a new spouse after re-marriage while still making sure assets pass to children of an earlier relationship.   It’s now been clarified that the RNRB will be available where beneficiaries of a trust are direct descendants and the trusts provide an absolute right to benefit, or where a disabled person is the main beneficiary, but will not be available for so-called discretionary trusts.  As the position is complex, anyone who has any form of trust in their will should make sure that it is still the best arrangement.

People will be allowed to sell a larger house and still retain the relief from inheritance tax, as the Government are keen to encourage older owners to down-size to free up larger properties. Only one downsizing move may be taken into account, so if there are several downsizing moves between 8 July 2015 and the date of death the executors can choose which is to be used for the purpose of the RNRB.  Downsizing can include disposing of part of a property, for example part of your garden.

However, to hold on to the relief after downsizing, the proceeds of the downsizing cannot be passed to a direct descendant during a person’s lifetime, as the relief will not apply to reduce the tax payable on lifetime transfers that are chargeable on death within seven years of the gift. Again, this is rather complicated and requires specialist advice.

Gifts and exemptions

More straightforward is the opportunity to mitigate inheritance tax by making smaller gifts or out of surplus income.

Everyone can make use of the £3000 per annum annual exemption which can be used to make gifts up to the total each year, and if the allowance is not used fully in any year, it can be carried forward one year.

On top of the annual exemption, the rules on small gifts allow individuals to gift up to £250 per recipient per year with no limit to the number of recipients.   However, if you give more than £250 to any individual, you lose the exemption completely, even on the first £250.   And you can’t use your small gifts allowance together with any other exemption when giving to the same person.

Looking at these two allowances together, if you had three children, ten grandchildren and four godchildren, you could make gifts of £1000 to each of your three children by using the annual exemption of £3,000 for all such gifts.  Then you could give up to £250 per year to each of your grandchildren and godchildren using the small gift exemption.  You cannot make an exempt small gift to your children as you have already used the annual exemption to make a gift to them.   These allowances are automatic, but it’s a good idea to log and track the gifts as it makes it easier for your executors and simplifies dealing with HMRC.

Another opportunity is relief on gifts made out of surplus income, but the exemption for these gifts must be claimed by your executors after your death. Here, good record-keeping is vital, because to qualify as normal expenditure out of income it must:

  • Be part of a regular pattern of giving
  • Taking one year with another, be made out of income
  • After the gifts and other usual expenditure, you must be able to maintain your normal standard of living

So, to make such payments, you need to record in writing that you intend to make the gifts regularly and then keep a record of income and outgoings so that your executors will be able to demonstrate that you had surplus income from which the payments were made. Examples of the sorts of payments range from regular monthly payments to a grandchild’s savings account or payment of school fees through to regular gifts on special occasions.

Any other lifetime gifts you make, other than gifts into a trust, are known as potentially exempt transfers (PETs).  A PET becomes an exempt gift if you survive the making of the gift by seven years.  However, if you die within seven years of making the gift, the value must be brought into account when calculating inheritance tax due from the estate.  Tapering relief may be available on the tax attributable to PETS if you die more than three years after the gift, but only if the total value of the lifetime gifts made in the seven years before your death exceeds the nil rate band in force at your death.

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If you’re concerned about inheritance tax and hope to mitigate it through gifting, asset transfer or the new residential property allowances, it’s important to check the position regularly. Getting it right, and reviewing any existing will, is key to making sure reliefs are maximised. Give or Private Client Team a call on 01992 558411 to discuss it further.

Check list for the new inheritance tax residential nil rate band

 

  • You have direct descendants and intend to leave your residential property to one or more of them on your death
  •  You have a total estate worth more than the current £325,000 IHT nil rate band per person threshold, but less than £2.35m overall
  • You have downsized or sold your residential property, or intend to, where the sale took place after 8 July 2015 and you have retained the proceeds

 

ENDS
Web site content note: 

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

Reference:

Clause 9 of the Finance Bill (2) 2015

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/finance-bill-2015-public-bill-committee

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2015-2016/0057/16057.pdf

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/inheritance-tax-on-main-residence-nil-rate-band-and-downsizing-proposals-technical-note/inheritance-tax-on-main-residence-nil-rate-band-and-downsizing-proposals-technical-note

https://www.gov.uk/inheritance-tax


Sexting - Flirty Gertie or Dirty Bertie?

horny devil

Sexting – harmless fun or adultery?! Depends who you ask and its not just confined to stars of our favourite soaps! Whether you are the sextor or the sextee this can be a deal breaker in a marriage. Perhaps it is just harmless fun but to your spouse it may be the ultimate betrayal! What then if you decide the marriage is over and you want to divorce; is it adultery? The answer is no unless it is accompanied by sexual intercourse with a person of the opposite sex. What then is the recourse to the spouse who feels betrayed? – they are able to proceed with a divorce citing the behaviour of the other as unreasonable. Everyone’s tolerance is different but the majority may find that sexting someone other than your spouse is unreasonable.

If you have found yourself in Dyer circumstances then our specialist team of solicitors are able to offer you sympathetic and straight forward advice in relation to your options. Contact us by calling 01992 558411 or alternatively complete our online enquiry form.

Olive McCarthy MCIArb–(Director and Head of Family Department) – Olive joined the firm in 2000 and was appointed as a Partner and Head of the Family Law Department in the old firm in 2004. Olive has had panel accreditation with the Law Society as a Family Law Specialist since 2003 and has been a Collaborative Lawyer since early 2009.  She is also accredited with the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators as a Family Law Arbitrator since early 2013, a prestigious accolade that few have achieved in the UK.

Olive specialises in dealing with complex finance cases, particularly high net worth cases.

 

 

 

 

 


Getting rocky relationships through tinsel-time

The family-focus of Christmas is often followed in January with news of unhappy couples who decide to call it quits, leading to so-called Divorce Day, as family lawyers receive a surge of enquiries when they re-open after the break.

And as the holiday season goes into full swing, there are calls for greater support for couples, based on better understanding of outcomes.
According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the overall rates of divorce are continuing to fall.  There were 111,169 divorces in 2014, a decrease of 3.1% compared with 2013 and 27% lower than 2003.
Compared with data from 2004, divorce rates were lower for all age groups, except women aged 55 and over. As younger people look to be having fewer problems in the first decade of marriage, this has been attributed by ONS to higher numbers of couples cohabitating before marriage, with the suggestion that only the stronger relationships make it through to the wedding day.
But those working at the front-line say the apparent improvement should not obscure the increasing difficulty faced by couples looking to separate.  For although the process of securing a divorce is relatively straightforward, the associated negotiating over finances and children is proving an increasing challenge.
Faced by the cuts to legal aid and higher Court fees – the cost of applying for a divorce increased from £410 to £550 in March 2016 - through to the difficulty in affording to set up two homes, many couples are turning to increasingly desperate measures.
For some, it involves continuing to live together, even when officially separated, or even post-divorce, including so-called ‘bird nesting’ arrangements, where the children stay in the family home and the parents come and go.  Others turn to online help or seek an agreement without independent advice, only to discover later that they may have agreed financial or childcare outcomes that leave them at a significant disadvantage, when professional advice and representation could have reached a fairer outcome.
“Unfortunately the workload of the family lawyer is not reducing,” said family law expert Karen Johnson of Hertford-based solicitors Breeze and Wyles Solicitors Ltd.  “And dealing with problems arising from self-conducted negotiations, or where negotiations have been managed by an untrained intermediary, is becoming more common.
“DIY can seem a sensible option when you’re trying to keep the lid on costs and everyone is saying it’s simple. And whilst it’s true that the application process itself is relatively straightforward, that’s only one small part.  Nor is it fool-proof, and if you get it wrong it could lead to paperwork being sent back, which could mean additional court fees.”
She added: “It’s tough sorting things out between the two of you when emotions are running high, but talking things through is the best way and having someone help you with those conversations is a good idea.  They don’t have to be a professional, but you should have expert input at some stage in the negotiations, to make sure that what you have agreed is fair, that neither party is pushing the other into a corner, and that it is in line with what you could expect as a reasonable outcome if you had gone to court.”
Such encouragement for couples to talk reflects the findings of recent research in the United States.  This suggests that couples who share their problems with each other are more likely to overcome difficulties than those who share problems with their friends.  Reported in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, researchers found that sharing concerns with a friend increased the odds of a break-up by 33 per cent, but talking it out with a partner doubled the chances of them staying together.
She added: “Ending a marriage is one of the toughest things anyone will ever deal with, and what’s needed is a well-informed, collaborative approach.  The couple, and anyone supporting or advising them, need to be focused on achieving an outcome through positive negotiation that is more talk, less war.”

Web site content note:
This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

Reference:

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/divorce/bulletins/divorcesinenglandandwales/2014#statisticians-quote

 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4010064/Relationship-troubles-Don-t-tell-mates-Confiding-female-friends-makes-likely-break-up.html#ixzz4SzsRxTa6

 

 


New Stalking Laws - look who's behind you

untitledThe Home Secretary, Amber Rudd has announced that the Government is set to introduce new Stalking Protection Orders.

The orders in England and Wales aim to offer quick protection to people who find themselves targeted by strangers similar to that which is afforded to domestic abuse victims.

In 2012 the government introduced 2 new offences of stalking via the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. Whilst there is no strict legal definition of ‘Stalking’, the legislation sets out examples of behaviours which can be associated with stalking, eg, following a person, watching or spying on them or forcing contact with them through social media etc. In isolation the conduct can be innocent but when conducted repeatedly the impact upon the victim can cause significant alarm and distress and curtail the victim’s freedom as they feel vulnerable and left constantly looking over their shoulder.

In December 2015 the government launched a consultation paper to consider the protection that was currently offered to victims of stalking and whether and what change could be put in place to offer better protection.

On the 7th December 2012, the Government published its response to the consultation. The consultation identified concerns that current measures lacked consistency, were slow, costly and placed too much responsibility on the victim to protect themselves.

These proposed orders would allow the police to apply to the court for orders even before a suspect is convicted or arrested. This early intervention aims to offer swift protection for victims, prevent behaviours from escalating and removes the onus from the victim to protect themselves

The exact nature of the orders will vary depending upon the circumstances but would typically prevent the suspect from contacting the victim or going near them but could also impose positive obligations such as interventions to identify and treat any underlying mental health difficulty. Breach of these orders would carry a punishment of up to five years in jail.

The Government has indicated that it would seek to introduce new laws as soon as parliamentary time allows.

At Breeze and Wyles Solicitors Ltd our specialist family solicitors understand the impact of domestic abuse, harassment and stalking. We are able to offer practical advice in plain English in relation to the options available to you with appointments available at our offices in Hertford, Bishops Stortford and Enfield or nationally via telephone or Skype.

For more information on how our family solicitors can help you call us on 01992 558411 or alternatively complete our online enquiry form.


He Said/ She Said

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As solicitors who assist people with a wide range of issues that arise on the breakdown of a relationship, we are often asked about the usefulness and legality of obtaining evidence by audio or video recordings.

There have been a number of examples recently of covert video recordings being used particularly in care homes and which have captured horrific incidents involving the abuse of elderly and vulnerable residents. In some of those cases, those video recordings have proven to be key evidence in bringing the person committing these horrible acts to justice.

However, it is really important that people do not get carried away and the following is a cautionary tale as to how covert recordings can have undesired consequences.

The case of Re M & F(2016)EWFC 29 concerned a dispute between parents of a primary school age child with regards to her living arrangements.

The relationship between the parents had become very strained. The father and his partner wished to know what the child was saying in meetings with her social worker, family support worker and her Guardian. They sewed a small recording device into her school uniform. The device recorded everything that the child did including conversations with friends, teachers and her mother. These recordings were made over a period of some 18 months. The father then typed up some of the conversations that he wanted to rely upon and sought to ask the court to take them into account as evidence. The end result of the proceedings was that the court ordered that the child should live with her mother.

With regards to the recordings, the court was very critical of the father and whilst it was not the sole reason for their decision that the child should live with her mother, it was a significant factor.

The court felt that these recordings and the manner in which they had been obtained were evidence that the father and his partner were unable to meet the child’s emotional needs.

The father’s actions had possibly been illegal, showed an inability to trust in professionals and that he had little or no regard to the impact that this would have on the child to find out that she had been secretly recorded by her father, nor the damage that it caused to the relationships between the adults involved in the child’s life, nor the damage that could be caused to the families standing if for example other parents had become aware that their children or themselves had been recorded.

The recordings were selective and not professionally transcribed. The issue increased the length of the proceedings and the costs involved but did not produce a single bit of useful information.

The court felt that it would almost always be wrong to place a recording device on a child for the purpose of gathering evidence and such action would also be likely to be counter-productive.

In short, if you are considering making recordings for the purpose of gathering evidence, think very carefully about the possible consequences and seek legal advice. Our team of specialist family solicitors are able to offer appointments at our offices in Bishops Stortford, Hertford and Enfield and Nationally via telephone and Skype.

For more information and advice contact us on 01992 558411 or complete our online enquiry form.

Karen Johnson is Director and Family Mediator of Breeze and Wyles Solicitors Ltd. Karen is a highly skilled and experienced Family Solicitor with in excess of 15 years experience of working in Family Law. She is a Resolution Accredited Specialist in the fields of Domestic Abuse and Financial Matters. Karen is additionally a Family Mediator trained by and a member of the Family Mediators Association (The FMA).


Hide and Seek

hide-and-seek

The Court of Appeal of England and Wales has last month ruled that the ongoing obligation of full and frank financial disclosure relating to financial matters in divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership continues to apply even following the death of one of the parties.

There are strict rules which apply to financial matters related to divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership, which obliges each party to be honest and open about the true extent of their financial positions when trying to reach an agreement. If it is later found that one party has failed to disclose assets, or has been dishonest about their financial position, any agreement reached between the parties or Court Order made can be overturned.

The case, Roocroft v Ball [2016] EWCA Civ 1009, involved the civil partnership of Helen Roocroft and Carole Ainscow. The parties dissolved their civil partnership in 2009 and an agreement was reached in respect of the finances. Ms Ainscrow later died 3 years later and it then emerged that she had misled the Court as to the true extent of her financial position, claiming to have lost large amounts of her assets in the 2008 property market crash. Ms Roocroft then sought to reopen financial matters against Ms Ainscrow’s estate in an attempt to overturn the original agreement reached. The lower Courts refused to allow Ms Roocroft’s appeal, claiming that any non disclosure would need to be material to warrant overturning the original agreement reached. However, this was before the landmark decisions of the Supreme Court in Sharland and Gohil in which the Court found in favour of the wives in those cases who had been deceived by their husbands.

Ms Roocroft launched an appeal and the Court of Appeal found in her favour, reiterating the continuing duty of full and frank financial disclosure. Ms Roocroft is now able to take her case back to the Family Court to renegotiate the financial settlement with Ms Ainscrow’s personal representatives.

Here at Breeze and Wyles Ltd we offer expert advice on all matters relating to divorce and financial settlements as well as separation following the breakdown of a relationship.

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 and Ware.

For more information on how we can help you please do not hesitate to call our team on 01992 558411 or alternatively complete our online enquiry form.