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The Children and Families Act 2014

The Children and Families Act comes in to force on the 22nd April 2014.

The aim is to produce ‘child focused thinking’ in family courts. However what will the Act mean to you?

Parental Involvement

Section 11 of the Act inserts four paragraphs into the Children Act 1989, regarding the further involvement of parents in the life of a relevant child.

This change to the Children Act establishes the expectation that both parents of a child should remain involved in that child’s upbringing in some way. Section 11 will mean that the court will have to consider more carefully any application which may lead to a parent not having involvement with his or her child.

Child arrangements orders

As of 22nd April, ‘residence’ and ‘contact’ are no more! They are replaced by ‘child arrangements’. The idea is that parents will feel that they are equally involved, and will work together for the child. This means certain orders must be drafted very carefully to ensure the outcome is what you intended.

Mediation

Section 10 of the Act introduces a mandatory requirement to engage in mediation before starting court proceedings. So what is mediation? Mediation is a process by which couples negotiate face to face about the arrangements for their future with the help of a neutral third party – a mediator.

Mediation is a great way of keeping matters amicable and can reduce costs long term. However if you do not want to mediate it is important to discuss your concerns with a solicitor.

The new Act will bring in many changes to the way that the Courts deal with family law, and the above is a summary of a couple of the main changes. If you have a family issue, it is important to get legal advice as most ‘DIY guides’ on the internet will not be correct.

Same sex marriages

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act applies in England and Wales.  Separate legislation is being implemented in Scotland, but there are no proposals for equivalent legislation in Northern Ireland.

Most provisions of the Act came into effect on 13 March 2014, but do you know what effect this Act actually has?

The Act provides for references to marriage in existing legislation to be read as including same sex marriage.

Someone who changes their legal gender may do so without ending their existing marriage, where both parties to the marriage consent, something previously which was not possible!

Same sex marriages can take place by civil ceremony, or under religious rites where a religious organisation has opted in to the Act’s provisions.

There is also recognition in England and Wales of same sex marriages entered into under the laws of other countries.

However as of yet, it is not possible for a civil partnership to be converted into a marriage, but this is likely to occur later on in the year. Also their are still provisions which limit the extent of the equivalence of same sex marriage in respect of certain pensions issues, though this is due to be the subject of a government review later this year.

Like all marriages, you should also think with your head not just your heart before entering into one. Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are not just for the wealthy, they are a sensible way of planning for the future. Get legal advice and know your options before entering into a same sex marriage.

 

Protecting family property

‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be…’ - Hamlet Act 1, scene 3

Many parents give or lend a child money to help them buy a property. With property prices so high and children coming out of education with debt, getting on the property ladder means that a loan or gift is more common that it is not.

But what happens if the child enters into a relationship or marriage that later breaks down?

One person may say that money was a loan while another may say it was a gift. It can be difficult, time consuming and expensive for lawyers to try and unpick this once a marriage or relationship has broken down.

If you are lending money to or borrowing money from someone, enter into a formal written loan agreement or a Declaration of Trust recording that the person giving the money has an interest in the borrower’s property. There is a legal presumption against money being gifted, so if it is a gift this needs recording in writing by the donor. If the relationship does later break down it is much easier to establish that the money was a loan rather than a gift and vice verse.

Be sure to get advice from the experts here at HHB Law.

 

Informal surrogacy arrangements

JP v LP, SP and CP [2014] EWHC 595 is a recent surrogacy case  that highlights the problems of entering into informal surrogacy arrangements.

The family involved entered into an informal surrogacy agreement with a friend and difficulties started when the parents separated soon after the child’s birth.  The parents were not aware of the legal position of entering into surrogacy arrangements.

Did you know…

  • Surrogacy agreements are not enforceable in law in the UK.
  • It is a criminal offence in the UK for a third party to negotiate surrogacy arrangements on a commercial basis.
  • The surrogate mother, and no other woman, will be the child’s legal mother.

The legal position in the UK is complicated. Parents should ensure they have all of the relevant advice before embarking on surrogacy, either in the UK or by way of an overseas arrangement. Get specialist advice from our Family Solicitor at HHB Law.

Pre-nup update

Last week the Law Commission recommended pre-nuptial agreements should be given full legal force.

The commission is also suggesting research into whether a formula could be produced for divorcing spouses to determine the range of maintenance they should pay – rather than individuals having open-ended liability for life.

The Law Commission, which recommends changes in legislation to the government, says that the qualifying nuptial agreements would be enforceable provided both parties have disclosed financial information and received legal advice, and the agreements are signed more than 28 days before the wedding.

The agreements would be enforceable only after the financial needs of any children and the estranged partner have been met in areas such as housing.

Pre-nups were relatively new in the UK but commonplace in America and other countries. HHB Law has been preparing pre-nuptial agreements and post-nuptial agreements since their introduction. Although not formally law, great weight has been attached to them over the last couple of years and they are one of the best ways to secure your financial position. They are not just for the wealthy; they are for anyone wishing to take a pragmatic approach to the future.

For a special trial period only we are offering pre-nups at a fixed fee rate of £1,500.00 plus VAT. For your free consultation contact our family expert, Kirsty Leather, on 0161 925 4471.

Pre-nuptial agreements to become law?

The Daily Mail has published that the Law Commission has recommended that pre-nuptial agreements are to be enshrined in law under plans to reform divorce rules. As of yet, no such report has been published by the Law Commission.

The Commission is due to publish a report on Matrimonial Property, Needs and Agreements on 27th February 2014.

The report will include a draft Bill. The report will reflect any points on which the Commission has changed its views during consultation. The final report will be laid before Parliament.

HHB Law have long been preparing pre-nuptial agreements for clients to secure their wealth. Although not yet law, they can certainly persuade a Court if entered into correctly.

If you have any queries about pre-nuptials, contact our family expert, Kirsty Leather, on 0161 925 4471 for a free no obligation chat.