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    9 divorce myths debunked by a divorce lawyer

    There are some common myths about divorce that remain steadfast despite being unfounded and incorrect in the eyes of the the law. Stowe managing Partner Amanda Phillips-Wylds debunks the top 9 divorce myths.
    Top 9 divorce myths
    When you decided to get divorced you might have heard or read lots of conflicting stories about what to expect about the process. It can feel very confusing. Based on my years of practice, I have put together a list of the 9 most common misconceptions I hear from my clients to help you reset your expectations and move forward with clarity.
    Myth 1 – Divorce always ends in court battles which leave spouses angry and bitter.It is very rare for spouses to have to attend court. Since the arrival of no-fault divorce spouses can no longer object to divorce proceedings being filed. Court intervention would only be necessary if couples are unable to settle disputes over financial claims, but this is still a last resort and before they get to this stage, they will have had to have tried other options such as mediation.
    Myth 2 – Divorce is always expensive.Costs can escalate quickly when it comes to resolving financial claims, especially if spouses cannot agree and take the case to court. However, they can undertake the divorce proceedings themselves to avoid incurring legal fees, alternatively many solicitors offer a fixed fee to act in divorce proceedings which will not be disputed.
    Myth 3 – Celebrities are special and so get ‘quickie’ divorces.The court processes divorce petitions in the order in which they are received. No divorces are singled out to be rushed through.
    Myth 4 – Assets are always shared equally on divorce.The starting point for division of assets is a 50/50 split, this is known as the ‘yardstick of equality’. However, it will not be appropriate in all cases to share the assets equally. There is no set formula which the court uses to make a decision, rather it has a list of factors it must consider and give weight to before arriving at a fair split. These include:

    the welfare of any minor child
    the income, earning capacity, and property each of the spouses has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future
    the financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each of the spouses has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future
    the standard of living enjoyed by the family
    the age of each spouse and the duration of the marriage
    any physical or mental disability of either spouse
    the contributions which each of the spouses has made or is likely to make in the foreseeable future to the welfare of the family, including contributions in looking after the home or family
    the conduct of each spouse, if that conduct is so bad that it would be unfair to disregard it
    and finally the value of any benefit which a spouse will lose by reason of the divorce e.g. a pension.

    Myth 5 – Once you receive a Final Order that’s it.Unless there is an approved court order dealing with the financial claims spouses have as a result of their marriage, then either spouse could make a future claim against the other’s assets, even several years after they have been divorced. Having a Final Order does not end financial claims. There must be a court order that provides for a clean break.
    Myth 6 – There is an automatic right for the mother to have the children living with her upon separation.Upon separation it is for the parents to decide who the children will live with and how much time they will spend with the other parent. A court will not become involved unless the parents cannot agree, and they ask the court to make the decision for them. If a court does become involved its decision is based upon what it thinks is in the best interests of the child, and it has a checklist of factors to measure this against.
    As society changes, parenting roles are evolving from traditional norms and in more and more cases, fathers are taking a greater role in the care of their children, it is no longer unheard of for children to live with their father upon separation. There is no ‘standard’ arrangement for parents to follow when agreeing how much time children will spend with their father or mother once a relationship has broken down.
    The arrangements may differ during holidays and term time, and they normally evolve over time and as the children grow older. 50/50 shared care is becoming a more common arrangement between separated parents.
    Myth 7 – The parent with ‘custody’ of a child has greater rights than the other.Who a child lives with has no bearing on each parent’s role in making important decisions in the child’s life, or their role in caring for the child provided they each have parental responsibility.
    If both parents have parental responsibility, they both have an equal say in all the important decisions in the child’s life, for example in relation to education, medical treatment, religion, and property. The child’s mother automatically has parental responsibility for the child. The father will have parental responsibility if he was married to the mother at the time of the birth, if he is named on the child’s birth certificate, or if he has a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother or an order from the court.
    Myth 8 – If they are not receiving child maintenance, the parent with whom the child is living can stop the other parent seeing the child.There is no legal basis to stop the parent who must pay child maintenance from seeing their child if they stop paying. The remedy is to contact the Child Maintenance Service for a calculation.
    Myth 9 – Unmarried women have rights over property as Common Law Wives.There is no such thing as common law marriage in the UK, and so there is no automatic right to share assets between unmarried couples upon relationship breakdown. If a couple is going to cohabit or buy a property together it is important for them to obtain legal advice on what shares they will each have in that property and how this will be recorded.
    Get in touch
    For more information about divorce or separation please do get in touch with our Client Care Team using the details below or make an online enquiry More

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    Mediation and the Family Courts backlog

    The Family Justice System is currently undergoing significant changes to try and reduce the strain and backlog faced by the family courts.
    The introduction of no-fault divorce and extended funding for mediation for disputes concerning children (£5.38million this financial year, raising the total invested in the scheme to £8.68million since March 2021) demonstrates a continued commitment to resolving matters away from the court arena. 
    The Family Mediation Council (FMC) voucher scheme introduced in March 2021 provides families in England and Wales with a £500 voucher to put towards the cost of mediation. The vouchers can be used by parents attending meditation to discuss the care of their child or children. By enabling divorcing couples and parents to resolve their disputes without litigation, it will enable the court to utilise its limited time on cases that require the adjudication of the court.  
    The emphasis on mediation and no-fault divorce is reflective of the desire for most separating couples to deal with the practical consequences of their separation in a private and constructive way. 
    Since the introduction of no fault divorce, the number of divorce applications have increased; HMCTS received 3,000 divorce applications in the week following the introduction of reforms in April, which is a 50% rise on the weekly average. 
    This demonstrates people’s desire to wait for the law to change, so that they can proceed in this new neutral non-adversarial way.  There is no longer a requirement to provide a reason for the marriage coming to an end, giving people greater respect for their private life, as well as removing the blame element of divorce previously seen. 
    This change in law sets a more amicable tone from the start, and therefore places people in a better position to make decisions about the children and their finances.
    Cafcass statistics show that in 2020/21, there were 97,496 children involved in private children proceedings, an increase of 23.1% since 2016/17. In public law, there were 143,129 children, an increase of 16.4% since 2016/17, with cases taking an average of 45 weeks to conclude. 
    These increases are not sustainable, for the courts or for the families facing long delays. The need to reduce the number of families in the Family Justice system is vital. The focus on solutions achieved through agreement benefits both families, and the Family Justice System, and the court are increasingly robust at encouraging parents to consider alternatives to litigation. 
    Recently in the case of Re B (a child) (Unnecessary Private Law Applications), his Honour Judge Wildblood QC said:
    ‘Do not bring your private law litigation to the family court here unless it is definitely necessary for you to do so,’ he said. ‘You should settle your differences (or those of your clients) away from court, except where that is not possible. If you do bring unnecessary cases to this court, you will be criticised, and sanctions may be imposed upon you.’
    The commitment to further funding for mediation follows research that mediation helps families reach solutions and outcomes that are best for their children. 
    The FMC conducted a survey which showed that mediation is successful in over 70% of cases. The funding enables parents to access mediation in circumstances where it would otherwise be unaffordable, and encourages people to proceed with this option. 
    It has raised the profile of mediation, as FMC research further showed that after an initial meeting, three quarters chose to mediate, and that 
    “This is despite the fact that many don’t know anything about mediation, or think their partner is so unreasonable that mediation will never work”. 
    It should not be surprising to hear that parental preference is to reach an agreement, rather than battle it out in court, and ultimately receive an order imposed upon them by a Judge who doesn’t know them or more importantly their child. 
    Most parents are acutely aware that while their marriage or relationship has come to an end, their relationship as parents has not. And however, hard it may be for them as an individual, as a parent they want to do the best for their child. 
    The option to attend mediation provides parents with the opportunity to communicate, explore the issues, discuss the options and resolve the matters that are important to them. 
    A Judge is unlikely to hear arguments on the appropriate amount of screen time for a child, the choice of gifts each parent buys for their birthday, or how the parents will explain to their child about their new routine now that their parents live apart. 
    All these things can be discussed and agreed upon in mediation. As one Judge said recently: 
    “I cannot order people to be nice. However, in mediation, parents can discuss matters and hopefully improve their communication so that they have the tools to resolve disputes, thus avoiding court now and in the future. The court must make decisions in the best interests of the child. However, court proceedings are often protracted, emotionally and financially expensive, and consequently damaging to the child and their parents. 
    Mediation is not appropriate in every case, nor is it always possible for parents to reach agreements. We need our Family Justice system to work effectively and efficiently for those families. 
    For example, in cases where there are allegations of domestic abuse, safeguarding concerns such as drug or alcohol abuse, parental alienation or protracted disputes. The court is a finite resource, but there must be access to our Family Justice System. 
    Lord Neuberger said access to justice “has a number of components. First, a competent and impartial judiciary; secondly, accessible courts; thirdly, properly administered courts; fourthly, a competent and honest legal profession; fifthly, an effective procedure for getting a case before the court; sixthly, an effective legal process; seventhly effective execution; eighthly, affordable justice.”
    The focus on dispute resolution options, such as mediation, is not designed to take away access to justice, but to create a Family Justice System that provides families with options to resolve their disputes in a way that is most appropriate for their circumstances. 
    The introduction of no-fault divorce and continued funding for mediation enables the focus to move from conflict and confrontation to communication and solutions, and enables our Courts to work more effectively for those who need to litigate. 
    Previously published on LawNews More

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    Travelling abroad with children after divorce FAQs

    While there is much to organise when travelling abroad with your family, if you are a separated parent or you have a different surname to that of your children, there are some additional factors to consider to help ensure you have the appropriate permission and can avoid potential issues. Stowe Senior Associate Zoe Carter has compiled a list of FAQs to guide you through travelling abroad with children after divorce.
    Do I need permission from my ex-partner to travel abroad with our children after divorce?
    Yes. You must have permission from those with parental responsibility for the child, to take them abroad.
    The only exception to this is where the parent travelling with the child or children has a child arrangement order stating that the children must live with them. In this instance, they can take the child aboard for up to 28 days without the consent of the other parent.
    Why do I need permission from my ex to travel abroad with our children?
    Where you have shared parental responsibility for your children, it’s essential to obtain permission to take your children abroad. Failing to do so could lead to criminal charges for child abduction.
    What is classed as ‘abroad’?
    Abroad is defined as anywhere outside of the UK. The UK does not include the Channel Islands or Isle of Man.  There are 4 countries that form the UK: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Island. However, it’s worth remembering that they do not all share the same legal system. If you remove a child from one legal system within the UK to another legal system, this may effectively amount to going “abroad” such as travelling from England or Wales to Scotland.
    How do I get permission from my ex to travel abroad with our children?
    You can obtain permission to travel aboard with your children directly from your ex-partner or through solicitors if more appropriate. Permission should be given in writing.
    How do I know if I have parental responsibility for my children?
    Parental responsibility is automatically given to mothers and is given to fathers who are either named on the birth certificate of the child or married to the mother when the child is born. Parental responsibility can also be granted via court order or by entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement.
    If you are the only parent with parental responsibility and there are no orders in place, permission is not needed from your ex-partner to travel abroad with your child.  It is however recommended that you advice them of your plans.
    What documents should I take with me when I travel?
    You could be asked for evidence of your permission to travel with your children and your relationship to them, at a UK or foreign border. So, to avoid unwelcome issues and ensure that you’re prepared it’s advisable that you take all of the relevant documentation. This includes:

    Written consent to the trip from your ex-partner – ideally with a copy of the their passport
    Proof of your own relationship with the child such as their birth or adoption certificates
    Divorce or marriage certificate if your surname is different from your child’s
    Full contact details of the consenting parent
    The specifics of your trip.

    While this sounds like a lot of preparation, and risky carrying important documentation, without the relevant paperwork you may find yourself refused entry into your destination of choice.
    Can I travel abroad when I have a different surname to my child?
    It is common for parents to have different surnames to their children. However, there are still instances where parents with different surnames to their children are questioned by UK or overseas border control and asked to provide evidence that they are legally travelling with their children. Understandably, these checks are to prevent child abduction but nevertheless can cause disruption to consensual family holidays.
    Carrying the right documentation can help to alleviate potential stress, upset, or even a missed flight! Official agencies will need to be satisfied with your relationship with the child, so it’s advisable that you carry:-

    Your child’s birth or adoption certificate
    Proof of name change – if your name has changed since your child was born you may also need to take evidence such as a change of name deed or marriage certificate
    It may also be beneficial to carry an expired passport, if this is in the name you held at the time of your child’s birth.

    Depending on the age of your children, It may also be worth giving them some warning that they could potentially be asked questions by immigration officials and to reassure them that they do not need to worry and should answer honestly.
    Is there a limit on how long I can go away for?
    There can arguably be no limit on the duration of your holiday, provided you have the permission of your ex-partner who also has parental responsibility for your children.
    If you have an order which states that the child lives with only you, unless the court order says you can’t, you can take your child abroad for 28 days without permission of the other parent.
    What if my ex won’t agree?
    If your ex-partner has parental responsibility and does not consent (and you do not have an order confirming the child lives with only you) you will need to make an application to court for the court’s permission before you can travel.
    The court will consider whether the holiday is in the best interests of the child and, in most cases, will grant permission for abroad travel provided there are no concerns about a child not being returned.
    Useful Links:
    UK Gov – Permission to take your child abroad
    Travelling abroad with your children
    Get in touch
    For more information about travelling abroad with your children after divorce or separation please do get in touch with our Client Care Team using the details below or make an online enquiry More

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    UK surrogacy law FAQs

    Stowe Senior Associate Liza Gatrell, experienced Surrogacy Lawyer, has compiled a list of surrogacy FAQs for those looking into seeking the help of a surrogate as a way of creating their family. 
    Though surrogacy can be legally complex and emotionally charged, it is an increasingly popular, and for many people necessary, route to parenthood. Year on year the number of parental orders made in this country is increasing, although the number of surrogacy arrangements may be far higher than any of us can predict. Whilst change is afoot surrogacy law in the UK remains unduly complex. Here’s a list of questions that I get asked often, to help add clarity to Surrogacy Law.
    What is surrogacy?
    Put simply, surrogacy is where a woman carries and gives birth to a child for another person, or couple. There are two difference types of surrogacy arrangement:
    Traditional surrogacy – the surrogate is artificially inseminated with the intended father or donor’s sperm. The surrogate not only carries the child, but she also donates her egg and as such she is biologically related to the child.
    Gestational surrogacy – the surrogate is implanted with an embryo via IVF and therefore she is not biologically related to the child. Often the sperm and egg of the intended parents will be used, which means that the child will be biologically theirs. Donor egg or sperm can be used if this is not possible. It is possible to use donor egg and sperm, but this will impact on your ability to apply for a parental order.
    Is surrogacy legal in the UK?
    Yes, it has always been legal to enter into a surrogacy arrangement in the UK. However, there are various rules and regulations which need to be carefully considered. Surrogacy contracts are unenforceable, which means that there must be a great deal of trust between all parties to the arrangement. It is also against the law for a third party (such as a solicitor) to take payment for negotiating a surrogacy contact.
    How do I find a surrogate?
    There are several non-profit organisations in the UK who can help.  The most well-known are Surrogacy UK, Brilliant Beginnings and COTS. It is also not uncommon for family members or friends to offer their help.
    What is a surrogacy agreement and are they binding?
    A surrogacy agreement formally records how intended parents and surrogates want their arrangement to work, providing clarity and a mutual understanding of their respective commitments. However, surrogacy agreements are not enforceable in the UK and the intended parent(s) will need to apply to the court to become the legal parents of the child.
    Is it legal to pay our surrogate?
    Contrary to popular belief, it is not illegal to pay a surrogate mother for her services in the UK. However, during the parental order application, the court will need to authorise any payments made over and above the expenses she has reasonably incurred. There is no definition of reasonable expenses, which means the court must decide what is reasonable in each case. The court often takes quite a relaxed approach and there is a history of the High Court approving payments in international cases that more than covers expenses.
    Can the intended parents be named on the child’s birth certificate?
    The birth certificate must reflect the legal position at birth. This means that the surrogate will always be named on the birth certificate in the UK. Whether one of the intended parents can be named will depend on whether the surrogate is married/ in a civil partnership and the circumstances surrounding insemination.
    What is a parental order?
    A parental order makes the intended parent(s) of the child the legal parents and it permanently removes the legal parenthood of the surrogate and her spouse. Once the order has been made the birth will be re-registered and the original birth certificate will be sealed and only accessible to the child once they are over 18.
    The court process can take between 4-12 months and will usually involve 1 or 2 court hearings.
    Can the surrogate change her mind and try to keep the baby?
    The surrogate remains the legal parent up until a parental order is made. The surrogates consent is also required before a parental order can be made. Many intended parents worry about what would happen if the surrogate wanted to keep the baby, but cases of this happening are incredibly low. The surrogate can also be concerned that she may be left holding the baby if the intended parents change their mind, or their circumstances change.
    What are the most common overseas surrogacy destinations?
    The most popular destinations for surrogacy arrangements abroad are US, Canada, Georgia, Greece and historically include Ukraine. It is important to do extensive research before embarking upon a surrogacy arrangement abroad. Your marital status and gender may dictate the options available to you.
    It is important that you ensure that you comply with the law in the UK and your destination country.
    If I am named on the foreign birth certificate/ post birth order will I be recognised as the legal parent in the UK?
    No. In the UK the surrogate will always be the legal mother. Whether one of the intended parents can be recognised as the legal parent at birth will depend on the surrogate’s marital status and the circumstances surrounding the insemination.
    Will my child be a British Citizen?
    This depends. If it can be proven that the surrogate is single, and the biological and legal father is British, then he passes British Citizenship automatically to the child. This means that you can go ahead and apply for your child’s British passport.
    If not, then an application for British Citizenship will need to be made first. There is a substantial fee for this and the process is lengthy.
    How will I bring my child home?
    The child will not necessarily be British at birth, even if one or both of the intended parents is British. Where the child is British an application will need to be made for a British Passport. These applications can be lengthy and often attract scrutiny. If a passport is issued, then the child can travel back to the UK using their British passport.
    If the child is not British at birth, you may need to make an application to register the child as British. This too can be a lengthy process. Once the child has been successfully registered, they will be issued with a Certificate of Registration, which can then be used to apply for a British passport.
    In some countries, such as the USA and Canada, your child will be recognised as a citizen in the destination country. This means that they can travel back to the UK on a local passport. You will just need to ensure that you apply for a British passport before the visa expires.
    If my child is born abroad, do I need to be in the UK before I make the application for a parental order?
    No, you don’t. The application for a parental order needs to be submitted within 6 months and this can be done whilst you are still abroad.
    Get in touch
    For more information about Surrogacy please do get in touch with our Client Care Team using the details below or make an online enquiry More

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    Child Arrangements Orders – what you need to know

    A Child Arrangements Order is a legal court order that helps to ensure the welfare of children. They are most commonly used in cases where divorcing or separating parents have not been able to agree who their children will live with, or how they will see each parent. Here Stowe Solicitor Zoe Carter explains more.

    What is the purpose of a Child Arrangements Order?
    The purpose of a Child Arrangements Order is to legally define with whom a child is to live (previously termed residence) and with whom they should spend time (otherwise known as contact). This essentially sets out who has the responsibility for care of the child and when. Whilst Child Arrangements Orders replace ‘residence orders’ and ‘contact orders’, parents with these previous types of orders do not need to re-apply for a new order.
     
    What does a Child Arrangements Order cover?
    The Child Arrangements Order will cover who the child/children will live with and how and when they will see each parent. For example, it may say that the child/children should live with both parents on a shared care basis, or it may say they should live with one parent and spend weekends with the other. It will also likely cover arrangements for holidays including trips abroad and school holiday periods.
    A Child Arrangements Orders can also set out other types of contact and frequencies including phone or video calls, and letters and cards.

    Who can apply for a Child Arrangements Order?
    There are 2 categories of people that can apply:
    1 Those who have an automatic right to apply – this includes:
    a) Any parent regardless of whether they have Parental Responsibility or not (whether they are named on the birth certificate)
    b) A Step-parent (including those in a civil partnership);
    c) Any person with whom the child has lived for at least 3 years (this does not have to be continuous)
    d) A Local Authority foster parent
    e) A relative of a child who has lived with them for a period of at least one year preceding the application (for this purpose, a relative is deemed to be a grandparent, sister, brother, aunt or uncle)
    f) If you already have a child arrangements order in your favour, you can also apply straight away.
    2 Those required to have Leave (the courts permission) to apply. This covers anyone not automatically entitled to apply in section 1 above. Usually, this category would cover anyone in the child’s life that does not have Parental Responsibility which would typically include grandparents – unless they are considered a guardian for the child, they will need Leave of the court.
    The court will consider a number of  factors when deciding whether or not to grant leave including the nature of the application; the applicant’s relationship and connection with the child, any risk that the proposed application may disrupt the child’s life to such a degree that the child would be harmed, if a child is being looked after by a Local Authority the court will also consider their plans for the child’s future and wishes/feelings of the parents.

    When should I apply for a Child Arrangements Order?
    A Child Arrangements Order should be applied for when an agreement cannot be reached on the care of the child.
    Before an application is made it is important to try and agree arrangements with the other party.  Mediation can also assist parties in trying to reach an agreement, however if it is not possible to agree, then it will be necessary to issue an application for a Child Arrangements Order. In most cases, before an application is made to the court parties are required to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to establish whether the parties might be able to reach an agreement, rather than going to court.

    Is a Child Arrangements Order legally binding?
    A child arrangements order is legally binding on the parties until the child reaches 16 (or 18 in exceptional circumstances).
    If either parent breaches an order and does not comply with the terms, this amounts to contempt of court and there can be very serious consequences including fines, an order for compensation to be paid, community service and even imprisonment.

    Can a Child Arrangements Order be changed?
    Yes – an application can be made to the court to vary a Child Arrangements Order if the order is no longer fit for purpose or in the child’s best interests.
    It is important that an application is made to vary the terms of an Order rather than breaching the order. If you breach an order the other party can apply for the enforcement of the order, and you could be held to be in contempt of court. If this happens you could face serious consequences including fines, an order for compensation to be paid, community service and even imprisonment.

    How will no-fault divorce affect Child Arrangements Order?
    No-fault divorce will have no impact on any Child Arrangements Orders and will not affect how the court considers what is in the best interests of the child.
    However, the introduction of no-fault divorce removes the requirement to assign blame during the divorce process, which typically caused increased animosity and unnecessary conflict between parents, creating an unnecessary knock-on effect for children. Enabling couples to divorce without blame creates a more amicable foundation from which to move forward, meaning that separating parents can prioritise the future arrangements for their children.

    Get in touch
    If you would like more information on Child Arrangements Orders please do get in touch with our Client Care Team using the details below or make an online enquiry More

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    A complete guide to no-fault divorce

    As no-fault divorce draws closer we look at how this family law reform will work, what has changed, and what the benefits are.

    What is no-fault divorce?
    No-fault divorce is the name given to the divorce law reform being introduced in April 2022 in England and Wales that removes the need for blame as a basis for divorce.

    What was divorce like before no-fault divorce?
    Previously, even if both partners mutually agreed that the marriage was over, no wrongdoing had taken place, or both parties were equally ‘at fault’, there was a legal requirement to assign blame to just one party if they wished to divorce in under two years (the minimum separation period).
    Based on the five grounds for fault-based divorce, couples had to spend a minimum of two years separated before they could file for divorce. The alternative was to cite behaviour or adultery as their grounds for divorce to demonstrate that their marriage had irretrievably broken down, but they then had to assign blame to one party, making allegations and disclosing the full details in their divorce application.

    What were the five grounds for divorce?

    Behaviour – The most common grounds for divorce as it covered many types of ‘unreasonable behaviour’ and, while details of the behaviour were necessary, it didn’t require admission from your ex-partner.
    Adultery – which included the need for either your ex-partner to formally admit to sex with someone else , or for you to prove it had occurred. In addition, the law’s definition of adultery only referred to opposite-sex affairs, so could not be applied if your ex was in a same-sex relationship.
    Separation, two years – You have lived apart for two years, and the other party consents to the divorce.
    Separation, five years – In this case, the consent of the other party to the divorce is not required.
    Desertion – fundamentally different to separation; it referred to abandonment.

    How is no-fault divorce different?
    With no-fault divorce the only ground for divorce is that your relationship has ‘irretrievably broken down’. No other justification is needed to grant divorce.
    You are no longer required by law to apportion blame to either you or your ex, fit your reasons for separation into one of the five reasons for divorce, formally accept blame if a divorce petition has been made against you, or provide proof of wrongdoing to support your application. You will also no longer be able to contest a divorce if you are the respondent.
    In addition, under the new divorce law, if you and your partner both agree that your marriage has broken down irretrievably, you will be able to make a joint application for divorce.

    Why is no-fault divorce being introduced?
    Every relationship is unique, as are the reasons that marriages breakdown. Often the reason for the end of a marriage is the accumulative result of a combination of factors felt by both parties, rather than the deliberate actions of just one.
    To have to distil years of unhappiness into one crystallised reason, and attribute blame to just one party, is unconstructive at best and can destroy what’s left of the relationship at a time when cooperation is needed most.
    No-fault divorce paves the way for amicable collaboration, rather than conflict and stress, helping to reduce the overall mental health impact of separation and ease negotiations. It means parties can find a way to both move forward positively, and allows them to focus on the central issues, such as children, finances, and property.

    How does no fault divorce work?

    Under the new law you, or you and your spouse, can make an application for divorce on the grounds that your marriage has broken down irretrievably.
    After a minimum of 20 weeks, the applicant(s) can confirm that they wish to proceed with the divorce.
    The court can then make a Conditional Order (previously called a Decree Nisi).
    After a minimum of 6 weeks, the court can make the Final Order (previously called a Decree Absolute).

    How long will a no-fault divorce take?
    While the new divorce process can take a minimum of 26 weeks, this does not factor in the time needed for administration, processing, and negotiations.
    It was estimated that a typical uncontested fault-based divorce could take anywhere between six to eight months, and it is expected that the no-fault divorce process will take a similar amount of time.

    What are the benefits of no-fault divorce?
    Divorce is difficult enough without the need to assign blame, which ultimately only makes things more difficult.
    No-fault divorce means:

    You no longer need to navigate agreeing which one of you should be ‘blamed’
    You don’t need to air the sensitive details that led to the end of your marriage
    There’s no need to gather enough unpleasant behaviour to qualify as ‘unreasonable’
    Respondents can no longer contest the application (although there will still be some reasons why the courts ability to deal with the divorce can be challenged)
    Conflict is reduced and puts couples in a better position to move forward
    Domestic abusers cannot contest divorce, effectively trapping their spouse
    Relationships are more likely to be amicable between parents post-separation, creating a more positive home environment for children
    Couples no longer have to wait 2 or 5 years to evidence prolonged separation, allowing them to move on sooner
    As before, no divorce and dissolution applications can be made during the first year of marriage.

    Are there any disadvantages of no-fault divorce?
    The aim of no-fault divorce is to make the divorce process simpler and less harmful to relationships. However, in some cases, apportioning blame can feel just and a way to hold an ex-partner accountable for wrongdoing. For example, in cases where one partner has committed adultery, or has been abusive, the no-fault based divorce process provides a way for them to divorce without the partner at fault accepting responsibility.

    Will a no-fault divorce affect what I am entitled to?
    No. Even before no-fault divorce, it was rare for the circumstances that led to separation to have any impact on the outcome of the divorce, such as division of financial assets and property or child arrangements. This will not change under no-fault divorce.
    However, it’s likely that by avoiding the need for blame couples will be able to reach amicable and mutually favourable agreements more easily.

    How will no-fault divorce affect financial settlements?
    No. Divorce does not automatically end a couple’s financial commitments to each other. It’s vital that divorcing couples resolve their finances by reaching a financial settlement which is then transferred to a legally binding court order. No-fault divorce will not change this or impact the outcome.
    Reaching a financial settlement can take time and it’s hoped that the introduction of the 20 week ‘cooling off’ period within the no-fault divorce process will allow parties ample time to resolve the finances of their marriage before the divorce is finalised.

    How will no-fault divorce impact child arrangements?
    Parents who divorce must come to an agreement about what’s best for their children. A Child Arrangement Order covers who the child/children will live with and how and when they will see each parent.
    No-fault divorce will have no impact on any Child Arrangements Orders and will not affect how the court considers what is in the best interests of the child. With reduced acrimony and conflict, no-fault divorce paves the way for a more positive future for families with divorced parents.
    Reaching an agreement on child arrangements can take time and it’s hoped that the introduction of the 20 week ‘cooling off’ period within the no-fault divorce process will allow parties ample time to explore and resolve before the divorce is finalised.

    When does no-fault divorce become law?
    No-fault divorce will begin on Wednesday 6th April 2022. From that date, the no-fault based process will apply to all divorce applications in England and Wales.
    Find a list of no-fault divorce key dates here.

    Get in touch
    For more information on no-fault divorce please do get in touch with our Client Care Team using the details below or make an online enquiry More

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    Routes to single parenthood explained

    Single parenthood
    For so many people, becoming a parent is not easy, whether it’s because they’re in a same-sex relationship, have had alternative priorities until now, or have experienced fertility challenges. But what if you are single, and either haven’t found a partner yet, or you have made the decision to become a solo parent? Happily there are alternative routes to parenting. In fact, it is becoming increasingly common for people who haven’t had children yet, and are single in their 30s and 40’s, to seek alternative routes to parenthood.
    So, what are your options if you want to become a parent while single? Liza Gatrell, Senior Solicitor at Stowe Family Law explains more.
    Adoption
    One route to parenthood for single parents is adoption. You can apply for adoption as a single man or woman. The eligibility criteria for adoption in the UK is quite broad. You can apply to adopt in the UK if:

    You are over 21 (there is no upper age limit)
    You have not have been convicted of any “specified offences”, which are offences against children and sexual offences
    You must have a fixed and permanent home in the UK and have lived in the UK for at least 1 year before you begin the application process.

    Your suitability also needs to be approved by an adoption agency. This means that a range of factors will be considered when establishing your eligibility for adoption, such as your age and health – agencies will expect you to have the health and vitality to see children through to independence, support network, religion, financial circumstances and ethnic background.
    Surrogacy
    Since the 3rd January 2019 a change in the law has meant that parental orders can be applied for by single parents. A parental order gives legal parenthood to the intended parents of a surrogate child and extinguishes the parental status of the surrogate. For a single intended parent to be able to apply for a parental order it is a requirement that they are the child’s biological parent, which inevitably will exclude some people.
    For single intended dads, if your surrogate is married then under current law her spouse or civil partner will automatically be recognised as the child’s second legal parent and you cannot be named on the initial birth certificate. If your surrogate is not married, then you can be the second legal parent and immediately be named on the birth certificate. Either way you will still need to make a parental order application to extinguish the surrogate’s parental status.
    For single intended mums, the surrogate will always be the child’s legal parent at birth, even if you are the biological mother and named on a foreign birth certificate. The biological father will also be the legal father if no Human Fetilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA) clinic forms are signed.  If a HFEA clinic is used, and the surrogate is not married/ does not have a civil partner, then the intended mother can be nominated as the other parent by using specific forms.
    Donor Conception
    Whilst this isn’t an option for everyone, many single women turn to sperm donors each year to make parenthood a reality.
    In the UK sperm (and egg) donation services are provided by HFEA regulated fertility clinics, but there are also donor-matching websites, and some people do make their own arrangements.
    If you use a HFEA clinic then donors will be screened, donors can only be paid for their expenses, each donor can donate to no more than 10 families, donors and parents must be offered counselling and the donor can withdraw their consent up to the point they are transferred into someone else’s body.
    An important difference between using a HFEA clinic and a private arrangement, is the legal status of the donor. If a HFEA clinic is used, then the donor has no legal rights towards the child. Information is kept on record and anyone over the age of 16 can ask the HFEA whether they were conceived with donor eggs or sperm at a clinic in the UK after 1991 and request any non-identifying information held. Some donor-conceived people can also ask for identifying information about their donor once they are 18. This will apply to all conceptions from the 1st April 2006.
    If you choose to use a known donor then it is advisable to have a pre-conception agreement drawn up. This allows you to have very open and honest discussions and set expectations before conception takes place. Most disputes are born from mismatched expectations. Whilst such an agreement is not legally enforceable, they set out clearly what the intentions were and can carry weight in court.
    If you use a known sperm donor, and don’t go through a HFEA clinic, then the law will dictate who the legal parents will be. The birth mother is always the legal mother and must be registered on the birth certificate, the other legal parent is either their spouse/ civil partner or possibly the biological father. As a single mother using known donor sperm, you will need to decide whether to register the second legal parent on the birth certificate, which means that they would then share parental responsibility automatically.
    Co-parenting partnerships
    If the idea of being a single parent is not for you, then a co-parenting partnership could be the answer. Instead of becoming single parents by choice, this growing trend means that singles meet online with the sole objective of raising a child together platonically.
    There are a variety of websites, such as Modamily and Co-Parent Match, which assist those who are ready to become a parent but either don’t want to use sperm banks or are looking for someone to co-parent with.
    You may know a choose to enter into such an arrangement with a friend. If you are considering going down this route then I recommend that you do your homework, especially if your co-parent is someone you have not known for a long time. As many separated parents will tell you, co-parenting across two households takes a lot of communication and shared values so ensure that you are both on the same page.
    Get in touch
    For more information on alternative routes to parenting, please do get in touch with our Client Care Team using the details below or make an online enquiry More

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    The best books to help children understand divorce

    It is regularly quoted that close to 50% of marriages end in divorce, but for the families behind the statistics it is incredibly new and unsettling. For children, it can be an especially confusing and worrying time. Reading books about divorce and separation with your child is a helpful way to support them through divorce, explain what’s happening now and prepare for the future.
    By exploring the themes through the eyes of other children in age appropriate books they can better understand their circumstances and emotions, and feel reassured that they are not alone, it’s not that fault and that change can be for the better.
    I have seen the positive impact reading can have on children dealing with the divorce process. Here is a list of books that I have used when working with clients and their children:
    Books for older children (recommended 9+)
    The Suitcase Kid by Jacqueline Wilson
    When my parents split up they didn’t know what to do with me . . . My family always lived at Mulberry Cottage. Mum, Dad, me – and Radish, my Sylvanian rabbit. But now Mum lives with Bill the Baboon and his three kids. Dad lives with Carrie and her twins. And where do I live? I live out of a suitcase. One week with Mum’s new family, one week with Dad’s.
    Deals with: having two homes, blended families
    Goggle Eyes by Anne Fine
    Kitty Killin is not only a good storyteller but also the World’s Greatest Expert when it comes to mothers having new and unwanted boyfriends. Particularly when there’s a danger they might turn into new and unwanted stepfathers…
    Deals with: new partners, step-parents
    Mum, Dad Can You Hear Me? By Despina Mavridou
    Irene, is a 10-year-old girl whose parents are getting a divorce. In the midst of her confusion and helplessness, Irene turns to her diary to express her feelings and better process her parents’ divorce. With the help of her grandmother and her teddy bear she finds a way to make her parents listen to her.
    Deals with: expressing emotions
    Clean Break by Jacqueline Wilson
    Em adores her funny, glamorous dad – who cares if he’s not her real father? He’s wonderful to her, and to her little brother Maxie and sister Vita. True to form at Christmas, Dad gives them fantastic presents, including a real emerald ring for his little Princess Em.
    Unfortunately, he’s got another surprise in store – he’s leaving them. Will Dad’s well-meaning but chaotic attempts to keep seeing Em and the other children help the family come to terms with this new crisis? Or would they be better off with a clean break – just like Em’s arm?
    Deals with: rejection, absence, step-parents
    It’s not the end of the world by Judy Blume
    Karen’s parents have always argued, and lately, they’ve been getting worse. But when her father announces that they’re going to get divorced, it seems as if Karen’s whole world will fall apart. Her brother, Jeff, blames their mum. Her kid sister, Amy, asks impossible questions and is scared that everyone she loves is going to leave. Karen just wants her parents to get back together. Gradually, she learns that this isn’t going to happen – and realizes that divorce is not the end of the world.
    Deals with: family conflict and separation
    Books for younger children (recommended 3-8 yrs)
    Mum and Dad Glue by Kes Gray
    A little boy tries to find a pot of parent glue to stick his mum and dad back together. His parents have come undone and he wants to mend their marriage, stick their smiles back on and make them better. This rhyming story is brilliantly told with a powerful message that even though his parents may be broken, their love for him is not.
    Deals with: coming to terms with parents’ separation
    Where Did You Go Today? By Jenny Duke
    A little girl goes to the park with her dad and has a fantastic time climbing, swinging and sliding: the play transports her to imaginary locations, like sliding down a snowy mountain, sailing on a roundabout ship out to sea and racing on a camel in the desert while bouncing on her ride-on playground animal. Finally, it’s time for dad to take her home and say a cheerful goodbye to her and mum.
    Deals with: paternal separation
    The Family Fairies by Rosemary Lucas
    Rosemary’s primary aim was to provide the foundations for other adoptive families to help explain their own remarkable journeys… storytelling to help children understand that families come together in different ways.
    Deals with: the adoption process

    The Invisible String offers a very simple and reassuring approach to overcoming loneliness, separation, or loss with an imaginative twist that children easily understand.
    Deals with: separation anxiety, reassurance
    Two Homes by Claire Masurel
    In this award-winning picture book classic about divorce, Alex has two homes – a home where Daddy lives and a home where Mummy lives. Alex has two front doors, two bedrooms and two very different favourite chairs. He has a toothbrush at Mummy’s and a toothbrush at Daddy’s. But whether Alex is with Mummy or Daddy, one thing stays the same: Alex is loved by them both – always. This gently reassuring story focuses on what is gained rather than what is lost when parents divorce, while the sensitive illustrations, depicting two unique homes in all their small details, firmly establish Alex’s place in both of them. Two Homes will help children – and parents – embrace even the most difficult of changes with an open and optimistic heart.
    Deals with: parents’ separation, moving between two homes
    The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman
    What is a family? Once, it was said to be a father, mother, boy, girl, cat and dog living in a house with a garden. But as times have changed, families have changed too, and now there are almost as many kinds of families as colours of the rainbow – from a mum and dad or single parent to two mums or two dads, from a mixed-race family to children with different mums and dads, to families with a disabled member. This is a fresh, optimistic look through children’s eyes at today’s wide variety of family life: from homes, food, ways of celebrating, schools and holidays to getting around, jobs and housework, from extended families, languages and hobbies to pets and family trees.
    Deals with: change in family dynamics, non-traditional families

    Mum and Dad don’t live together any more. so sometimes this little girl lives with her mum and her cat. and sometimes she lives with her dad. She has two bedrooms and two sets of toys. but she takes her favourite toys with her wherever she goes.
    Deals with: parents’ separation, moving between two homes
    Books for very young children (2+)
    I’ll never let you go by Smriti Prasadam-Halls
    When you aren’t sure, you’ll feel me near,When you are scared, I will be here.When you are high, when you are low,I’ll be holding your hand and I’ll never let go.
    A tender and heartfelt picture book. With reassuring words offering a message of unconditional love, and illustrations bursting with exuberance, warmth and humour.
    Deals with: comfort and reassurance
    Living with mum and living with dad: my two homes
    Mum and Dad don’t live together any more, so sometimes this little girl lives with her mum and her cat, and sometimes she lives with her dad. She has two bedrooms and two sets of toys, but she takes her favourite toys with her wherever she goes. This simple, warm, lift-the-flap book with bold and colourful illustrations is a reassuring representation of separation for the youngest children. Melanie Walsh is sympathetically alive to the changes in routine that are familiar to many children who live with separate parents and are loved by both.
    Deals with: moving between homes, changes to routine
    The Family Book by Todd Parr
    Some families have two moms or two dads. Some families have one parent instead of two. Some families live in a house by themselves. Some families share a house with other families. All families can help each other be strong!
    The Family Book celebrates families and all the different varieties they come in. Whether they’re big or small, look alike or different, have a single parent or two, Todd Parr assures readers that every family is special in its own unique way.
    Deals with: looking at different kinds of families
    Guess how much I love you by Sam McBratney
    Sometimes, when you love someone very, very much, you want to find a way of describing how much you treasure them. But, as Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare discover, love is not always an easy thing to measure. The story of Little and Big Nutbrown Hares’ efforts to express their love for each other.
    Deals with: comfort and reassurance
    Useful links:
    The Book Trust: Best children’s books to help talk about divorce and separation
    Get in touch
    If you need support and advice on getting a divorce, please do get in touch with our Client Care Team at the details below or make an online enquiry More