A very warm welcome to the first departmental newsletter of 2015. This month’s focus is on our Family team.
DeBrieF FACT SHEET
Anita Shepherd – head of the Family department – on the divorce process
The most common enquiry the Family team receives at this time of year tends to be about commencing divorce proceedings. The usual questions we get asked include: how much does it cost, how long does it take and how do I go about it. The average cost of a divorce is set out below:
Divorce Petition Court Fee = £410
Solicitors Fees = £700 (approx)
Vat Thereon = £140
Total = £1,250
A divorce which proceeds on agreed terms (undefended) takes in the region of five to six months to complete and does not require either spouse to attend any court hearings. A divorce petition can only be issued by the court where the spouses have been married for 12 months or more.
There is only one ground for divorce which is that a marriage has irretrievably broken down. This is required to be established on the basis of one of five facts which are:
• Unreasonable behaviour
• Two year separation with consent
• Five year separation
Stages of Divorce
Decree Nisi: This is the half way stage where the court considers whether the spouses are entitled to a divorce.
Decree Absolute: This is the final stage which, when granted, means the marriage is dissolved and the parties are no longer married and are free to remarry should they wish. However, the pronouncement of DA does not bring matrimonial financial claims to an end. This is only achieved by the spouses entering into a Consent Order which records the financial settlement terms. The approximate cost of having a solicitor draft this document is £300 to £500 + VAT + £50 the court fee – provided the terms have been agreed in advance between the spouses.
It is important that at the conclusion of the divorce the spouses have a certificate of Decree Absolute as well as a Consent Order approved by the divorce courts confirming the financial settlement which brings the spouses financial claims of the marriage to an end.
DeBrieF TEAM SPOTLIGHT: Laura Johnson, solicitor in the Family department
What does your role at DBF involve?
I work in the private client department dealing with all aspects of private client work including dealing with family matters. I have my own case load of divorce matters dealing with children matters and financial matters. Every single case is different and it is important to work with the client to achieve outcomes that work for the family and/or individual. As I am in the early years of my career, I assist the Head of Department, Anita Shepherd, on our larger and more complex divorce matters. This helps me to develop my skills in the area and gain experience in solving some of the more complicated problems that can arise.
What is the best thing about your job?
I enjoy dealing with a wide range of clients and supporting them through a difficult time to achieve an outcome that they feel happy with. I enjoy the challenges that working on more complex matters brings and learning from the more experienced Solicitors at our firm.
Name the person who has been the biggest influence on your career.
My parents have always supported and encouraged me, which has helped me to become a solicitor.
If you were not a lawyer, what would you be doing?
Growing up, I always thought that I would become a lawyer or a teacher.
Anita Shepherd – solicitor and head of the Family department – discusses the case of Y v Y
The case of Y v Y (Financial Remedy: Marriage Contract)  (Fam), 27th June 2014 reinforces the need for those entering into a pre-nuptial agreement to not do so on the eve of the wedding as they run the risk that the terms of the pre-nuptial agreement will not be upheld in the event of the couple later divorcing.
The parties in this case, both of whom were French nationals, were married in 1991 in France. 48 hours before their wedding, when the wife (W) was pregnant with their first child, they entered into a marriage contract specifying the property regime separation de biens; meaning each would retain their own property during the marriage, on death and divorce.
A sharing award was made in financial remedy proceedings where the assets totalled just under £14 million, despite the marriage contract. The court found that when W signed the marriage contract, she fully appreciated it would govern the arrangement of finances during the marriage, but did not understand its intended effect on death or divorce.
W saw the contract for the first time when she attended the notary’s office 48 hours before the wedding and had not obtained independent legal advice. While it is customary for notaries to explain the legal effect of a marriage contract, there was no primary evidence confirming this had been done.
Each party must possess all the information material to his decision to sign a nuptial agreement and intend the agreement to govern the financial consequences of the marriage coming to an end. The parties must intend its terms to apply on divorce, wherever the divorce takes.
This case reminds practitioners of the importance of parties obtaining independent legal advice before entering a nuptial agreement, so that there is evidence of what informed their understanding at the time. An agreement to enter into a matrimonial property regime is unlikely to carry as much weight as a negotiated nuptial agreement in the absence of evidence that a solicitor advised about the agreement’s effect on divorce. This case reinforces the good practice principles set out in the case of Radmacher v Granatino  UK, SC 42.
Rise in Divorce Enquiries
The family team at Davis Blank Furniss has had a busy start to the New Year with a higher than average number of client enquiries and new instructions. Sadly, this is a time of year when people tend to make changes to their personal relationships where there have been problems developing. For those couples contemplating or experiencing a relationship breakdown we can offer sympathetic – but pragmatic – advice as to the options available to them. For more information, please visit https://www.dbf-law.co.uk/family-and-relationships/.
Davis Blank Furniss is still heavily involved in HOTPOD – the High Peak, Oldham and Tameside professional practice group which promotes and develops the services of collaborative law.
It is fast approaching its two year anniversary and is actively communicating the benefits of collaborative law. The result has been greater awareness amongst our clients of its benefits and why it’s a good option to choose when a relationship breaks down. For more information, please see https://www.dbf-law.co.uk/our-people/kirsty-morbey/ for Kirsty Morbey’s contact details.
Glossop Working Mums’ and Ladies Networking Group
The Glossop Working Mums’ and Ladies Networking Group is still going strong having been set up by Kirsty Morbey in 2013. It now regularly attracts attendees who showcase their services and it is proving to be a valuable referral network in the Glossop area.
The next event is taking place on Thursday 12th March 2015. For further details and to book your place, please visit https://www.dbf-law.co.uk/events/glossop-working-mums-and-ladies-networking-group-march-2015/
Lawyer Supported Mediation (LSM)
Finally, Davis Blank Furniss continues to be a panel member of LSM which is promoted nationally. It aims to provide clients with legal advice/support during family mediation at a fixed fee for divorce, financial and children issues. The uptake of this service is steadily building with feedback being excellent.
If you have any queries or require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact our team of specialist solicitors on 0161 832 3304.