How to have a happy holiday when you’re separated parents

How to have a happy holiday when you’re separated parents

This year more than most, the summer holidays for separated parents can be a difficult and confusing period. Trying to agree if one or both of the parents should be able to spend time abroad with the children can prove to be a tricky subject.

Associate Melissa Jones examines the issues.

Any difficulties in the relationship may well be those of the parents, but it is the children who can reluctantly find themselves in the midst of adult arguments, confused that those to whom they look for guidance are not getting along and often incorrectly blaming themselves for either parents’ upset or even anger. It is easy and perhaps natural for a parent going through such a difficult time to concentrate on themselves at these times, but it is very important if trying to sort arrangements out amicably, not to lose focus of a child’s needs or emotional well-being when they may already be feeling overwhelmed and trying to understand why their parents might not be friends, as well as distress and confusion about their new family circumstances.

The child’s best interests

If charged with deciding, the court will determine matters in accordance with what is in a child’s best interests. As such, and even if it is not what you want to hear personally, try to listen to your children. They may well help you in taking a step back from your own bubble and decide what’s best for them.

Open lines of communication

Good forward planning and open lines of communication with the other parent are essential when working towards organise your children’s summer holiday. Despite past difficulties, there are families who are able to work together to the extent that they can spend a summer break together, although sadly this is not the usual situation. However, regardless of whether you and your former partner are on good terms or not, taking time to come to a mutual decision about what’s best is without doubt the best way forward: from agreeing a safe destination that both parents are happy with to arranging how and where the children are going to spend time with each of their parents over the holiday period, it is by maintaining these open lines of communication that you will achieve a good outcome.

We have seen arrangements agreed where the separated parents have both gone to the same resort or holiday area, and the children have spent one or two weeks with one parent and then spent another week or two with the other parent, meaning that travel arrangements are simplified and there is the smallest amount of disruption possible.

It isn’t easy but it needn’t be difficult either. A little bit of willingness to accommodate the other parent’s request – when they can get time off from work, or if there is a holiday home owned by relatives and can you take a break in the same region to make things easier – can go a long way. Here are McAlister Family Law we encourage our clients not just to try to achieve a respectful divorce, but to remain respectful of one another in the years after that divorce. If you can each try to give a little in order to reach an agreement that will suit everyone involved, particularly your children, in the long run you will be glad you did so.

If you are affected by any of the issues outlined here, please get in touch today. We are here to help you.

Why is it safe to arbitrate?

arbitration

Why is it safe to arbitrate?

The Family Court is strongly in support of the parties using Arbitration as a means of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) for financial matters so that cases can reach resolution in a speedier manner.  Partner Liz Cowell explains.

 

18 months into the Covid-19 crisis and practitioners are finding that contested proceedings for financial settlement following a divorce are taking many months, if not years, to resolve.

This is partially because the Family Court is flooded with urgent Children Act cases and applications for protection from domestic violence.  These cases are understandably given precedents over financial matters and have increased during the pandemic.

Consent Order

The process itself to obtain financial relief from the court is a one-size-fits-all, the parties having to attend at least two court hearings before the case proceeds to trial, when they find themselves unable to agree a Consent Order.

Due to the overburdened family list, hearings are frequently “bumped” usually for the benefit of urgent Children Act proceedings.

Arbitration

It is the case that the Family Court itself is strongly in support of the parties using Arbitration as a means of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) for financial matters so that cases can reach resolution in a speedier manner.  When an arbitration takes place, an award is made by the arbitrator which is then turned into a Consent Order which the court will ratify.

The advantages of using arbitration is that it provides complete privacy, there is consistency, it is a speedier process and although the arbitrator needs to be paid it is cost efficient as there needs to be far less attendance at court and the process can be fine tuned to each and every separate application.

The Family Court’s support for arbitration could not be more clearly set out than in a recent High Court decision of Mr Justice Mostyn A -v- A [2021] EWHC1889 (FAM).

In this case the husband, who had agreed to arbitrate then chose not to be bound by the arbitrator’s decision and tried to get the matter set aside, using an expensive route to appeal to the High Court.  He failed.  Mr Justice Mostyn set out clearly in his judgment the correct way to pursue a challenge to an award – and he also found for the wife.

Hopefully his decision will help to persuade the parties that the process of arbitration provides closure, and the common excuse of some practitioners – that there is no proper means of appeal – has been finally put to bed.

Mostyn J emphasised a previous High Court decision of Lady Justice King in Hayley -v- Hayley [2020] EWCACIV1369 which confirms that a “challenge to an arbitral award should be dealt with broadly the same way and subject to the same principles as a financial remedy appeal in the Family Court from a District Judge to a Circuit Judge” and that this was how he was going to proceed to deal with the husband’s various applications before him.  He helpfully added an Appendix to his judgment which gives clear guidance to practitioners as to how to challenge an Arbitral Award, thus giving practitioners protection before proceeding in this manner.

If you are affected by any of the issues raised here, please do get in touch today. We are here to help you.

I want a divorce: your step-by-step guide

divorce procedure heather

I want a divorce: your step-by-step guide

“I want a divorce.” But what is the process – what do you need to know? Heather Lucy, family law solicitor, is here to help you with a step-by-step guide covering the divorce procedure.

Special Procedure

Don’t be frightened by this term.  All it means is that when you apply for a divorce in England and Wales, the process, in the vast majority of undefended cases (that is, a case where one of you wants to divorce and the other does not oppose), is called Special Procedure.  All this means is that a judge will consider the divorce petition on paper and neither you nor your spouse will need to attend court to explain why your marriage has broken down.

Please bear in mind there is no such thing as a “quickie” divorce, no matter how many times you might read about this in the media. If you want more details on the length of time a divorce might take, please take a look here.

It’s also important to remember that the reason for the breakdown of your marriage rarely impacts on how the finances are divided.  It is a common misconception for example that adultery makes a difference – more details here. The court will deal with the financial consequences of the end of the marriage separately from the process of obtaining the divorce itself. You do not need to wait to resolve financial arrangements before divorcing, but you should not divorce without first getting advice how it may affect you – I really want to stress this point.

Before you apply for a divorce, you will need either your original marriage certificate or certified copy, as well as a certified translation if your marriage was abroad and the document is not in English.

Applying for a divorce

The divorce procedure is started by sending to the court a divorce application known as the Petition. The party making the application is known as the Petitioner, the receiving party is known as the Respondent, and either party to the marriage can apply to the court for a divorce.

Where possible, we will try to agree with your spouse which party will initiate the process and the grounds for divorce.  This will then allow the divorce procedure to continue on an undefended basis.

Grounds for divorce

There is only one ground for divorce, namely that the marriage has “irretrievably broken down”. To evidence this, the petitioner (applicant) for the divorce will need to rely upon one of

The Five Facts

In the Petition, the Petitioner has to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down by evidencing one of five specific statutory facts:

– Adultery

– Unreasonable behaviour

– Desertion (in practice, this is rare, and difficult to prove)

– two years’ separation with agreement by both that there should be a divorce

– five years’ separation (the consent of the Respondent is not needed)

The most common facts relied upon are adultery, or unreasonable behaviour.

The Decree Nisi

Once the divorce petition is issued by the court, it is sent to the Respondent who then usually has 14 days (possibly longer if the Respondent doesn’t live in the UK) to complete return the Acknowledgement of Service to the court.

The court will then send a copy of the Acknowledgement to the Petitioner who then completes and files an Application for Decree Nisi and a supporting Statement.

When the papers are received by the court they will be considered by a judge who, if satisfied with the ground for divorce, will issue a Certificate of Entitlement for Decree Nisi. This will list a hearing date several weeks later, at which the Decree Nisi will be pronounced. This hearing can also be used to consider any applications for or objections to any costs orders sought, if not already agreed.

Do bear in mind that the Decree Nisi is actually an interim stage in the divorce procedure – it isn’t the final divorce, it is a document that says that the court does not see any reason why you cannot divorce.  Once you have your Decree Nisi, you can apply for the

Decree Absolute

Usually, the Petitioner waits until the finances have been agreed and approved by the Court before applying for the final decree of divorce, known as the Decree Absolute.  If the divorce has taken place before the finances are resolved and one of the parties dies then, potentially, benefits to which the other would have been entitled to by virtue of the marriage will be lost (an obvious example is a spouse’s pension).

International divorce procedure

Some people may be entitled to begin divorce proceedings in more than one country: if that is the case, we can assist in helping you to decide which is the better jurisdiction for you (and your family) as the divorce process varies widely from country to country, even within Europe, including as to financial outcome, timing and arrangements for your children. Speed can be of the essence in making the decision.  If you think this might apply to your situation, please do get in touch without delay.

Respectful divorce

Finally, I’d like to stress that here at McAlister Family Law we believe very strongly in achieving what we call a respectful divorce, wherever possible.  Our managing partner, Amanda McAlister, has spoken about this extensively in the media and shares her advice here as to the best way forward for couples who are divorcing.

If you are affected by any of the issues raised here, please do get in touch today. We are here to help you.

Should I name the other person in my adultery petition?

can I name the other person in my adultery petition

Should I name the other person in my adultery petition?

This is a question we are often asked when a client first comes to us to talk about filing for divorce. Often that client is feeling angry and hurt.

Georgia Smith take a look at this challenging issue.

In simple terms, the divorce petition effectively sets out the petitioner’s reasons as to why the marriage has irretrievably broken down. In cases of adultery, it may be perceived that a third party is the sole reason for the breakdown, which is why the question “should I name the person who my partner committed adultery with in my petition?” is asked.

The straightforward answer is no.

It is not normally in your best interests to name the other man or woman in your divorce petition, even if you are divorcing on the sole basis of adultery. This advice can be a tough pill to swallow for most, who understandably wish to allocate blame after experiencing such feelings of hurt and betrayal.

It is usually enough for the petitioner (the person making the application for divorce) to provide the particulars of when the adultery took place and whether that relationship is ongoing. The respondent will then be served with a copy of the petition and will be asked to complete an acknowledgement of service form, which will ask if they admit to the adultery. Alternatively, your solicitor may request that the respondent complete a confession statement.

However, it may be the case that the respondent refuses to admit the adultery and the petitioner will have to prove the fact on a balance of probabilities.

What if I name the co-respondent?

Naming a third party in your divorce petition will make that person a co-respondent to your divorce. In practice, it is very rare for this to happen, as the Family Procedure Rules 2010 state that the third party should not be named unless the petitioner believes the respondent will contest the proceedings.

Significantly, naming a co-respondent could delay matters, as the third party will be served a copy of the petition and will be asked to fill out a form in response. If that third party proceeds to instruct a solicitor, your costs will only increase.

It is often wrongly assumed that adultery will be taken into consideration by the Court when determining financial settlement. This is not the case, and the judge can often take a dim view of a spouse who insists on naming a co-respondent.

In reality, naming a co-respondent only increases contention and may even cause the respondent to decide to defend the divorce. The urge to ‘name and shame’ can be short-lived and the real victory is in obtaining an amicable and swift divorce.

If you are affected by any of the issues outlined here, please get in touch today. We are here to help.

Do I need my ex’s permission to take my children on holiday?

permission to take children on holiday

Do I need my ex's permission to take my children on holiday?

The schools are breaking up now for the summer, and as certain travel restrictions are being lifted, for some of us that may mean the excitement of travelling abroad on holiday.  But if you are separated from your child’s other parent, this can bring issues which need to be addressed with your ex-partner prior to any trip away, particularly if you’re considering holidaying in what is currently deemed to be an “amber” country.

Associate Therasa Kenny explains.

If there is an Order in place, usually a Child Arrangements Order (formerly a Residence Order) then a child can be taken abroad for up to a month without needing the written consent of the other parent.

Parental Responsibility

If there is not a court order in place, what first needs to be considered is whether you have parental responsibility.  If both parents share parental responsibility, then what is often overlooked is that you will need to get written consent from the other parent in order to take your child out of the United Kingdom (Section 13 (2) of the Children Act 1989).  Failing to do so could lead to you committing an offence of abduction for which you can be fined, imprisoned or both.

Should consent be unreasonably withheld, then an application to Court can be made.  The Judge will take into account the individual circumstances of each family, and if permission is given (which it often is) then specific travel details will need to be provided.  These will include the dates of travel, address details for where the child will be staying and any flight numbers.

The Court rarely denies permission to take a child on holiday abroad where there is an existing relationship between the parent and child and the plans are reasonable in all of the circumstances. Where they do, it is usually in circumstances where the plans are patently not in the child’s best interests or where the Court deems the child may not be returned to the country.

The child’s best interests

If only the mother has parental responsibility, and again there are no Court orders in place, then permission is not necessarily needed to take a child abroad on holiday.  That being said, and with your child’s best interests at heart, consultation should always take place with the other parent (if they are in regular contact with the child) in order to reach an agreement that is right for everyone.   As a father without parental responsibility, should you not agree to your child being taken abroad, you can apply to the Court for a Parental Responsibility Order and a Prohibited Steps Order to prevent the trip.

What if my children’s grandparents want to take them abroad on holiday?

Should other members of the family, such as a grandparent, wish to take a child abroad, then it is worth noting that permission will be needed from both parents who have parental responsibility, and not just from one.  Again, it’s really helpful if you can maintain good relationships with everyone in your extended family, but if that isn’t the case, then we recommend getting good legal advice well in advance of any proposed trip.

What if my child has a surname different from my own?

You also need to be aware that customs officers may insist on extra checks where a child is travelling with somebody who has a different surname to them. In these circumstances and in order to avoid any hold ups, it is always useful to take additional documents to the airport with you which can help to verify your child’s connection to you, such as the child’s birth certificate (which may provide the details of both parents’ surnames) and/or your marriage certificate (which will show the surnames before the marriage) and any existing court order and so on.

Open lines of communication

What is important is communication, and trying to agree any travel arrangements between you and the other parent in advance.  This is not always possible, but if it can be achieved, it will avoid any applications to the court being necessary.

If you are affected by any of the issues raised here, please get in touch today. We are here to help.

We welcome two new recruits: Brigid O’Malley and Stephanie Eastwood

Left to right: Brigid O'Malley, Amanda McAlister and Stephanie Eastwood

We welcome two new recruits

We’re delighted to announce the recruitment of Brigid O’Malley as Associate and Stephanie Eastwood as solicitor. Both join the team in response to a significant increase in new enquires in both the divorce and finance and children law divisions.

 

Pictured left to right: Brigid O’Malley, Amanda McAlister and Stephanie Eastwood.

Beyond Group’s specialist Family and Children Law practice, McAlister Family Law, has announced the recruitment of Brigid O’Malley as Associate and Stephanie Eastwood as solicitor. Both join the team in response to a significant increase in new enquires in both the divorce and finance and children law divisions.

The practice has climbed the rankings in both Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners year on year; the Group has offices in Manchester city centre and throughout Cheshire. The two new appointees reflect the continued demand for its expertise both in divorce and finance and children law matters.

Brigid, who studied Law at Leeds Metropolitan (now Beckett) University, graduated in 2009 and completed her LPC at the College of Law in Chester in 2010, where she gained a distinction. She qualified as a solicitor in 2014, and acts on behalf of clients seeking advice and assistance in relation to family matters that includes divorce, financial proceedings, civil partnership dissolution, nullity, domestic abuse, and children proceedings. A key member of the Divorce and Finance team, she also has considerable experience in private children law.

Brigid is an accredited Police Station Representative and is also experienced in criminal law, having represented clients at Police stations and magistrates court, and instructing counsel at Crown Court, including handling cases involving serious sexual assault and violent crime. She is particularly experienced in assisting both victims and alleged perpetrators of domestic violence within the family.

Over the last twelve months, the award-winning McAlister Family Law has seen significant growth having recruited two specialist partners, four solicitors and three paralegals.

Said Brigid: “McAlister Family Law is a practice absolutely committed not only to divorce and related finance work, but also to the welfare of children through its unique specialist children teams. To have the opportunity of being able to work on both is incredible.”

Stephanie graduated from Liverpool John Moores University in 2016, where she went on to gain her LPC. She began her career as a paralegal whilst still at university, working first in the field of Personal Injury claims, before going on to specialise in Family Law. She has joined the practice’s specialist children team and will represent both children and parents on all matters including child abduction, child arrangements and adoption.

Stephanie said: “I’m thrilled to join such a forward-thinking family law practice, and to be part of the wider Beyond Group. McAlister Family Law is home to one of the countries’ leading children law practices, having more than eight solicitors on the Law Society Accredited children panel. I am so looking forward to working with such a highly regarded, specialist team.”

Amanda McAlister, managing partner of McAlister Family Law, added: “I’m delighted to welcome Brigid and Stephanie on board. Both are very talented family law solicitors and bring skills and experience that complement the already comprehensive offering here at McAlister Family Law. Like everyone within our practice, they are dedicated to delivering the very highest level of service to our clients.

“They will, I am sure, make a significant contribution to the team as we continue to grow as a practice and cement our reputation as one the UK’s leading family law practices.”

Beyond Group Head Matt Fleetwood said: “The recruitment of Brigid and Stephanie is further evidence of the Group’s strategic growth and most importantly, they are a perfect fit for the Group’s culture and values. McAlister Family Law has been extraordinarily successful since we established the practice three years ago, and it’s great to see it expand further with these new recruits.”

McAlister Family Law awarded Highly Commended accolade at the Manchester Legal Awards

MLA Highly Commended

McAlister Family Law awarded Highly Commended accolade at the Manchester Legal Awards

We are delighted to announce that we been awarded the accolade Highly Commended in the Family Law Team of the Year category at the 2021 Manchester Legal Awards.

Amanda McAlister, our Managing Partner, said: “This is a huge achievement for our incredible team that has very much been in the trenches together this year.

“I could not be prouder of them all.”

HideOut Youth Zone – flying the flag for young Mancunians

James Plant Hideout Youth Zone

Hideout Youth Zone

As a Beyond Group  company, we are delighted to support HideOut Youth Zone, which is flying the flag for young Mancunians and the new breed of youth centres.

Launched in Gorton – one of Manchester’s most deprived areas – in 2020, the £6.6 million facility has quickly earned a reputation as a sought-after safe space for local youngsters, many of whom rush to the centre right after they’re done with school.

Beyond Group are supporting HideOut Youth Zone for the next four years as a Founder Patron, making a significant pledge to the young people’s youth charity.

Beyond Group are donating their staff time, financial support and partnering support to HideOut. This vital aid helps to ensure that young people from across Manchester continue to have access to new and exciting opportunities as well as important support services.

Matt Fleetwood, Beyond Group Head, said: “We are proud to support HideOut Youth Zone and their vital work in engaging young people across Manchester. As a Group we believe, very strongly, in supporting our community and in particular, young people, and Hideout Youth Zone does valuable work in this area. We are committed to helping them in their continued efforts to improve the lives of those young people.”

Dan, one of HideOut’s young people, says he keeps coming back because the Youth Zone is one of the rare places where he’s given independence: “You can book onto whatever you want – you have your own freedom,” he explained. “In school it’s just maths, English, science, your standard. Whereas here you’ve got cooking, the gym, boxing, football. You can do everything! Even a bit of yoga to relax yourself after a nice footy session. Every Friday we come here and play football with all my mates from the local estate, we grew up together. We come here, get along with the staff and we have a game.”

An incredible achievement

HideOut cut the ribbon to their youth zone right in the middle of a pandemic – which initially seemed like bad timing. The centre was forced to delay its opening by several months, and even now staff are operating seven days a week under strict COVID protocols.

Adam Farricker, HideOut CEO, said: “To date the team have engaged over 1,500 local children and young people via centre-based support groups, one to one support, weekly welfare calls, digital and online engagement, family food packages and holiday provision for children on free school meals. This is an incredible achievement considering the ever-changing restrictions we have been working through.”

 

Hideout Youth Zone
The new youth centre on Hyde Road in Gorton

Fred Done, one of HideOut’s capital funders, said he had “immense pride” in what the centre had achieved in such a short space of time.  “It started as a dream, and now it’s a dream come true,” he stated.

One year on since HideOut arrived, it’s clear to see the hard work of staff, and philanthropy of supporters, has been worth it. Not only has Gorton’s young community quickly come to understand and appreciate the difference the Youth Zone has made to Manchester – they’re also proud to wear their HideOut badges on their sleeves.

How can you get involved?

Become a Founder Patron

As a Founder Patron you will form part of an exclusive family who share a vision to transform the lives of young MancuniansFounder Patrons offer financial support for up to four years alongside ideas, introductions, time and partnering opportunities. This level of consistent support is critical to the success of the charity and ensures they can provide a first class offer for young people.

HideOut Youth Zone are on the lookout for five more Founder Patrons to meet its annual income targets this year, and would ask anyone interested to get in contact with Richard.driffield@hideoutyouthzone.org.

Join the Thousand Campaign

The Thousand Campaign is a regular giving initiative which supports the youth zones core funding, as well as providing subsidised membership and entrance fees for young people. Individuals or small groups can sign up here and pledge a monthly donation of £66.66 + Gift Aid (which increases your donation by 25% at no extra cost) providing an total annual gift of £1,000 to support the young people of Manchester.

Watch 12 Monthsa short film by HideOut about the progress made despite a challenging past year.

You can learn more about HideOut Youth Zone by visiting the official website.

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