Cohabiting couples warned of ‘common law marriage’ myth

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Millions of unmarried couples who live together could be unaware of their rights if the relationship breaks down, a family law group has warned.

Resolution carried out a survey which found two-thirds of cohabiting couples wrongly believe “common-law marriage” laws exist when dividing up finances.

The number of unmarried couples living together has more than doubled from 1.5 million in 1996 to 3.3 million in 2017.

Resolution chairman Nigel Shepherd said under current law, it was possible to live with someone for decades – and have children together – but not take responsibility for the former partner if the relationship breaks down.

Cohabiting vs marriage: Six ways your rights differ

  1. If one cohabiting partner dies without leaving a will, the surviving partner will not automatically inherit anything – unless the couple jointly own property. A married partner would inherit all or some of the estate
  2. An unmarried partner who stays at home to care for children cannot make any claims in their own right for property, maintenance or pension-sharing
  3. Cohabiting partners cannot access their partner’s bank account if they die – whereas married couples may be allowed to withdraw the balance providing the amount is small
  4. An unmarried couple can separate without going to court, but married couples need to go to a court and get divorced to end the marriage formally
  5. Cohabiting couples are not legally obliged to support each other financially, but married partners have a legal duty to support each other
  6. If you are the unmarried partner of a tenant, you have no rights to stay in the accommodation if you are asked to leave – but each married partner has the right to live in the “matrimonial home”

Source: Citizens Advice

The ComRes poll of 2,000 UK adults, by Resolution, found 84% of people thought the government should take steps to make sure unmarried cohabiting couples knew they did not have the same legal protection as married couples.

Of these respondents, 281 people were in a cohabiting relationship – two-thirds of which thought they were common-law married.

A further four in five cohabitants believed that the legal rights surrounding cohabiting people who separate were “unclear”.

If they have children, each cohabiting partner will still have the legal rights and responsibilities of a parent.

Resolution, which represents 6,500 family practitioners, said it had seen an increase in the number of cases involving cohabiting couples.

Some 98% of Resolution members report having worked with a couple who they say they could not help due to the lack of legal protection.

Source: BBC News

Call Rebecca on 01405 813108 to discuss how we can help draw up a Cohabitation or Separation Agreement to protect you.

Impact of cuts to legal aid to come under review

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The Ministry of Justice have announced a consultation to assess whether access to justice has been restricted by the cuts to legal aid. As many will know, Legal Aid is no longer available for such areas as divorce and applications for contact to children. This has meant that many people are struggling through court proceedings without any legal advice or support.

The justice secretary, David Liddington, has committed his department to review the deep cuts imposed in 2012. The long-anticipated consultation will run into next year and views are being sought from a wide range of bodies involved in the legal system, such as family law group, Resolution and the Law Society.

Whilst we hope that the outcome of the review is that legal aid is once again available for those who need it, it is worth remembering that legal aid is still available for mediation; for cases where there has been domestic violence and where children are being taken into care.

Where legal aid is not available we are able to offer payment plans and fixed fee packages to help you budget for your case. To talk about how we can help you call Rebecca on 01405 813108 (Thorne) or Jean on 01405 720850 (Goole).




Mediation Awareness Week 2017

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Family mediation at KSandC will once again be supporting Mediation Awareness Week, which takes place this year between 7th and 14th October.  The week aims to:

  • Explain how mediation can be used to resolve disputes and conflicts of all kinds;
  • Demonstrate how mediation provides a quicker, cheaper and more effective alternative to going to court;
  • Show how the use of mediation benefits individuals, businesses and communities.

More information and details of events around the country can be found on the website:

Our mediator at Kenyon Son and Craddock is Rebecca Kershaw and she can help you sort out arrangements for your children and your finances. Legal Aid may be available to help with the costs of your mediation.

To find out more, give Rebecca a call on 01405 813108 or email your enquiry to


Splitting the assets after a short marriage

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The Court of Appeal recently considered whether matrimonial assets should always be shared between the parties on an equal basis on divorce, no matter what the length of marriage. In the case of Sharp and Sharp the parties were both in their early 40s and had no children. The marriage, including 18 months of pre-marital cohabitation, lasted for some 6 years. The wife was a City trader while the husband was employed by an IT company. In the early years of cohabitation, the parties’ respective basic salaries were similar, around £100,000. However, the wife received annual bonuses that totalled £10.5m during the marriage while the husband’s bonuses were trivial. In November 2012, the husband took voluntary redundancy. Whilst there was no “deliberate and agreed intention” to maintain strict separation of their finances, there were several significant aspects of their financial arrangements. Some of the factors picked out by the judge were: the splitting of restaurant bills and household utility bills between the parties; the fact that the husband did not know the details of his wife’s bonuses, and the wife’s gift of three cars to the husband.

The court decided that the approach taken in an earlier case, of Miller, was the right one.The “inescapable conclusion” was that in relation to “short, childless marriages, where both spouses have largely been in full-time employment and where only some of their finances have been pooled” fairness may require departure from, rather than a strict application of, the equal sharing principle. This departure may occur via “a reduction from a full 50% share or the exclusion of some property from the 50% calculation”.

The husband’s claim was limited to a 50% share of the jointly owned properties and a ‘modest’ lump sum to reflect three factors: (i) the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage; (ii) the need for a modest capital fund to live in the property the husband was to retain; and (iii) some share in the assets held by the wife.

How the case is applied in the future will have to wait for other cases to be decided but the uncertainty of the court’s approach may mean more couples enter into pre-nuptial agreements.

If you wish to discuss pre-nuptial or other family agreements give Rebecca Kershaw a call on 01405 813108.

Unhappiness not a ground for divorce

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A 66-year-old woman has failed in her ‘extraordinarily unusual’ court appeal to divorce her husband of forty years.

Tini Owens appealed the decision after a family court refused to grant her a divorce petition last year. But the appeal judges, led by Sir James Munby who is the most senior family court judge in England and Wales, upheld the original ruling meaning Owens must remain married to her husband Hugh.

A barrister representing Mrs Owens told the appeal court that the ‘’vast majority’’ of divorces were undefended in 21st century England.Philip Marshall QC said it was “extraordinarily unusual in modern times” for a judge to dismiss a divorce petition.

Mr Marshall said Mrs Owens’ case was that her husband had behaved unreasonably and that the marriage had irretrievably broken down, leaving her feeling “unloved, isolated and alone.”

Hugh Owens contested the case, claiming they still had a “few years” to enjoy

He also claimed he had “moved on” and “forgiven” his wife for having an affair in 2012.

Barrister Nigel Dyer QC, who represented Mr Owens, said Mrs Owens had not established that the marriage was irretrievably broken.

Friday’s ruling means Mrs Owens will have to remain married, though she will be eligible for a divorce after five years of separation, even if her husband objects.

Sir James said: “Parliament has decreed that it is not a ground for divorce that you find yourself in a wretchedly unhappy marriage, though some people may say it should be.”

Source Huffington Post

To discuss whether you have grounds for a divorce call Rebecca Kershaw on 10405 813108

Increases to Probate Fees from May 2017

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In order to deal with a person’s estate following their death it is usually necessary to obtain a Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration.   The current fee payable to obtain the Grant of Representation (‘the Grant’) is £155 if the application is made through a solicitor, or £215 if made personally.

The Government is proposing to increase the fee to obtain a Grant substantially for estates worth more than £50,000. The proposed new fees mean that an estate worth between £50,000 and £300,000 would pay £300, an estate worth between £300,000 and £500,000 would pay £1,000 and an estate worth between £500,000 and £1,000,000 would pay £4,000.  The fees above that rise to a maximum of £20,000 for an estate worth more than £2,000,000.

The work involved for the Court Service to process an application for a Grant is the same whatever the value of the estate.

At present the costs of running the Probate service are covered by the fees currently payable. However, the Government are proposing these fee increases so that they will raise additional revenue to cover the costs of running other Court services, so the Probate fees will subsidise those Court services.

The Government carried out a consultation exercise and the vast majority of responses opposed the proposed increased fees on the grounds that increases of that amount were unnecessary to fund the service provided and amounted to another form of taxation.

We believe that the proposed increases are unfair and could lead to hardship for people at a difficult time.  If you agree please sign the petition to reconsider these proposals following the link below.

We need 100,000 signatures to get the proposals debated in Parliament. Otherwise they are almost certain to be approved.

Help for domestic abuse victims

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A barrier to victims of domestic abuse accessing legal aid has been removed by the Government. Until recently there has been a time limit of five years on the evidence of abuse needed to obtain legal aid. That time limit has now been removed completely so that if you have evidence that you have ever been a victim of domestic abuse you may be entitled to legal aid for related family cases.

The changes were welcomed by the Law Society who have been campaigning to remove the time limits. A spokesperson said, “These changes will help domestic violence victims who have previously been deprived of valuable legal advice, support and representation to access essential family law remedies.”

If you are or have been a victim of domestic abuse and need help with sorting out arrangements for your finances or children give our family department a call: Rebecca at Thorne 01405 813108 or Jean at Goole 01405 720850.


Help with Child Maintenance

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Here at Kenyon Son and Craddock we know that it’s sometimes useful to have some information before you come to see us. One of the most useful websites we have found for separating parents worried about child maintenance is the Child Maintenance Options website, which you can find here

Child Maintenance Options is a free service that provides impartial information and support to help separated parents make decisions about their child maintenance arrangements. On the website you can find out about family based arrangements, calculate maintenance with the online calculator and find lots of useful links to help you navigate your separation.

Once you’ve done your research we can help you draw up agreements or advise you on the next step along the road of your separation. Whatever stage you are at give us a call and arrange a free information appointment on 01405 813108 (Rebecca at the Thorne office) or 01405 720850 (Jean at the Goole office)

Lasting Powers of Attorney and the Government’s risky online legal tool

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A number of organisations representing older and vulnerable people have joined together to raise serious concerns around the Government’s online tool for creating Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs).   An LPA is a powerful legal document that allows a person to appoint trusted individuals to make important decisions about care and finances on their behalf, in the event of a loss of mental capacity through an accident or illness such as dementia.

In May 2014, the Government’s Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) launched its online LPA tool, which it claims allows people to create the documents without the need for professional advice from a solicitor.   But a new report, published by a coalition of organisations led by Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) warns that anyone creating an LPA without taking specialist legal advice faces a significantly higher risk of being left with an ineffective legal document, incurring additional application fees, and even becoming a victim of fraud or coercion.

The report also raises concerns around the potential of a completely digital system proposed by the OPG, whereby ‘wet signatures’ – the physical signing of the document – would no longer be required.

Sarah Littlewood, who is a Full Accredited member of SFE believes that “The prospect of being able to submit an LPA application entirely digitally is extremely concerning, and raises some serious questions around the potential for fraud and financial abuse.”

During a study conducted for the report, participants were invited to create LPAs using the OPG’s online tool and other ‘DIY’ methods. The study revealed that:

  • Some of the forms did not accurately express the way in which participants would want their affairs and welfare to be handled in the future
  • Documents made using DIY methods were more likely to contain elementary mistakes, rendering them ineffective and requiring additional application fees
  • Following consultation with a solicitor, most participants made significant changes to the permissions of their documents regarding how and by whom their affairs were managed

June McSparron, a 75-year-old who participated in the study, said: “You’re exposing yourself to a lot of risk by filling this form in on your own. There are so many bits that you can get wrong, and you can easily be pressured into making choices that you’re not entirely comfortable with.”

The number of LPAs being registered has increased steadily since the launch of the online tool, with over half a million registered in 2015/16 alone. The OPG is actively trying to convince more people to apply for LPAs online, having set a target for the service to comprise 30% of all applications from April 2016 to March 2017.  In its latest Annual Report, the OPG even admits it is willing to take ‘risks’ in striking a balance between ‘empowering and safeguarding’.

With the OPG already receiving over 1,000 calls to its contact centre every day, the organisations behind the campaign say the Government body is potentially exposing people to unacceptable levels

An LPA is by far the most powerful and important legal document an individual can have, because it allows you to pass potentially life-changing decisions about your affairs on to a third party.  It is absolutely right that people should be planning ahead for the future with LPAs, but granting someone this sort of authority over your affairs is an extremely big responsibility for all parties involved. This is a specialist area of the law it is recommended that anyone considering an LPA goes to a legal expert to ensure they get the right advice, consider all the options, and safeguard themselves for the future.”

If you would like to discuss making an LPAs please contact Sarah Littlewood or Laura Scott who will be happy to help