News

21

Jun

What does it mean when my ex has 'severed the joint tenancy'?

22 sever joint tenancy A

To answer this question, you firstly need to understand the difference between holding a property as joint tenants versus holding a property as tenants in common.

1. Joint Tenants: this means if Owner A dies, their share of the house automatically passes to Owner B, and vice versa. It also means there is a very strong presumption that the parties intend to hold the property on a 50/50 basis, regardless of who will be paying the mortgage and what they each put into the property when it was purchased or since then.

2. Tenants in Common: this means that if Owner A dies, their share of the house will pass either under their Will or under the rules of intestacy if they don’t have a Will. This means that their share of the property might not be inherited by Owner B, who may suddenly find they co-own the property with a third party. If you own a property as Tenant in Common, you may have also entered into a Trust Deed to say that you don’t own it in equal shares, and may instead have agreed to hold it so that one of you has a greater financial interest in the property to reflect the fact that owner contributed more to the cost of the property.

If you own the property as joint tenants, and you then separate, you or your ex might decide to make sure your share of the property passes to another family member if you die, rather than passing to your ex. This is called 'severing the joint tenancy'. To do this, the person seeking to sever must serve the other owner with notice that they want to hold the property as tenants in common and then apply to the Land Registry for them to amend the title deeds to show that the property is now held as tenants in common.

It doesn’t mean you stop owning the property jointly, or that your respective financial interests have been changed or reduced in any way.

It also doesn’t mean that you or your ex can secure debts against the property without each other’s consent.

Once the severance has taken place, you should make or change your Will to ensure your share of the property passes to your preferred beneficiary.

It’s always advisable to get legal advice from a qualified Family Lawyer if you are going through a relationship breakdown. Our Family Law team are experts in dealing with separations swiftly and amicably, so you call us today on 01245 264494 to book an appointment and find out where you stand.

13

Jun

Avoid this mistake if you are going through a separation!

21 separation mistakes

Going through a relationship breakdown can be one of the most difficult things to deal with, no matter who you are.

No doubt you may be very emotional and need support from friends and family. You may also need to start unravelling your lives together, especially if there is jointly owned property to be dealt with or if you have children together. But where do you start?

Process of a separation

We would always recommend getting some advice from a family law solicitor, who can give you advice tailored to your unique circumstances. We say 'unique' because every separation is different. They involve different families, different assets and different priorities. One of the biggest mistakes we come across is where a client has been given well-intended advice from friends and family who have perhaps been through their own relationship breakdown. This can lead to a client having unrealistic expectations of what the outcome will be in their own case.

Unreasonable financial expectations

Just because your friend was able to get spousal maintenance or keep a jointly-owned property, doesn’t mean you will. Every family law case turns on its own facts. For example, spousal maintenance is only likely to be payable if you can show you need it AND if your ex can afford to pay it.

You may have a family member who was able to retain all of the assets in their divorce. That doesn’t mean the same outcome will apply to you.

Their ex may have agreed to be more generous than usual if they felt guilty, or if they wanted to avoid any children having to go through even more upheaval. Your ex might not feel the same.

Family law solicitors give you the real picture

The danger of taking advice from friends and family, or comparing two different cases, is that you can end up having unrealistic expectations. If you choose not to obtain legal advice from a solicitor, this could result in you having a nasty shock during a court hearing and being told by a judge that you are wrong.

The best option is to get proper advice from a qualified family law specialist.

You’ll have a much better understanding of what your future may look like and you can then start making informed decisions.

We offer a free 30-minute initial appointment with a qualified family law solicitor. All of our family law solicitors have the knowledge and experience to guide you through this difficult phase.

Contact us today to arrange an appointment and start moving forward with your life.

07

Jun

How do I keep my Family Law costs down?

20 family law costs

Everyone knows that using a solicitor to get a divorce or give you advice on arrangements for your children is expensive, but is there anything you can do to keep your costs down?

The simple answer is YES. Here’s our quick guide to keeping Family Law costs down.

1 - Fixed Fees

If possible, instruct your solicitor on a fixed fee basis. This is where a solicitor charges you a set price for a piece of work. It means you know exactly what the cost will be and you don’t have to worry about how many phone calls, emails or letters are being made on your file.

Fixed fees aren’t always available, in which case you are likely to be charged on an hourly rate basis, which means your solicitor will keep a careful log of how long they spend doing things like drafting documents, meeting with you, making telephone calls or reading paperwork on your file. A solicitor can’t predict exactly how long they will spend working on your file, but they should give you an estimate of your costs at the outset. They will usually bill you each month for any work they have done.

You could also check whether you are charged for speaking to a secretary or paralegal. If not, then you could call the secretary to pass any information on to them, rather than having a chargeable phone call with the solicitor, simply to pass on basic information. Remember though, secretaries are not legally qualified and may not be able to answer your questions, in which case they may have to transfer you to the solicitor.

2. Respond Promptly

Another way to keep your costs down is to respond promptly to your solicitor. If they have to chase you, you will be charged. For example, if your solicitor writes to you asking you to send them your bank statements, they will usually give you two weeks to get those statements sent to them. If, after two weeks, you haven’t sent them, your solicitor may chase you by letter, email or telephone. You will be charged for that work. The best thing to do is to keep your solicitor updated with what is going on, so if your bank says it will take 4 weeks to get the statements to you, pass that information on to your solicitor so they can adjust their diary notes accordingly.

3. Be Amicable

The very best way of keeping legal costs down is to avoid lots of aggressive letters being sent backwards and forwards. Tit-for-tat correspondence gets you nowhere and is a waste of energy, not to mention it is the easiest way of being landed with a large bill! You don’t have to be best friends with your ex, but if you treat each other with respect and give each other the benefit of the doubt, you will find that matters progress much quicker and your costs will be lower.

28

May

5 most common Family Law questions ... answered

 18 family law questions

We get asked a lot of questions about your rights in various Family Law issues. You might find your answer here ...

QUESTION 1: Does my ex have an obligation to keep a roof over his children’s heads?

No, there is no law to say that a non-resident parent (a parent who doesn’t live with their children) has to keep a roof over their children’s heads in the event of a separation from the resident parent.

A non-resident parent does have to pay child maintenance, which is calculated based on how much they earn. That may not be enough to cover the rent or mortgage in full though, so a parent with whom the children live would need to see if they have sufficient income from other sources (such as their wages, benefits, tax credits etc.) to cover their housing costs. If not, then the resident parent may need to consider moving home in order to reduce their outgoings. the 
If the non-resident parent has a lot of disposable income, and the resident parent is struggling financially, then spousal maintenance may be payable. Please note that spousal maintenance can only be paid if the parties were married. Our specialist team of family law solicitors can give you advice on whether spousal maintenance should be paid in your case.

QUESTION 2: Can I keep the house?

Every case turns on its own facts, so it is very hard to say what will happen to matrimonial homes or other jointly owned property. However, the three most common outcomes are:
• One party buys the other out of the property by paying them a lump sum and having the house transferred to them. This would usually be on the basis that they are also able to release the other party from any existing mortgage.
• One party is able to remain living in the house until any minor children are over 18, at which point the house is sold and the money divided.
• The house is sold now and the money is divided between the parties.

How much each party gets or the level of the lump sum payable by one party to the other will depend on the level of overall assets in the matrimonial pot. Our expert solicitors can advise you on what assets should form part of the pot, and what percentage you should expect to receive from it.

QUESTION 3: How expensive is it to use a solicitor?

There are three ways of funding a family law case:
• Legal Aid : If you are eligible for Legal Aid, then the Legal Aid Agency will cover the cost of your family law case. However, you have to be on a very low income and have evidence to show you or your children have suffered abuse at the hands of your ex.
• Fixed fee: Some solicitors charge a fixed fee for specific work. For Example, we charge a fixed fee to deal with a straightforward, undefended divorce from start to finish. It doesn’t matter how many telephone calls we make or letters we write, you will still only be charged the fixed fee.
• Hourly rate: This is where you pay an hourly rate, for example £210 plus VAT, and you are billed usually once a month. Your bill will set out how much work (in minutes) the solicitor has undertaken on your file. Your solicitor must give you an estimate of your total costs at the start of your matter, and keep that estimate under review as your case progresses.

We believe is being transparent on costs and billing, so you won’t have any hidden surprises.

QUESTION 4: How do I protect my pension?

Pensions can be dealt with in a number of different ways. They can be subject to a pension sharing order, where a percentage of your fund value is transferred now to your ex-spouse. Alternatively, if you wanted to protect your pension, its value can be offset against other capital assets. For example, you could agree to give your ex-spouse more of the equity in the house on the condition that you keep all of your pension.

QUESTION 5: Do I have to wait two years before I can get a divorce?

No. You can get a divorce immediately, but it does still require you to petition based either on your ex-spouse’s adultery or on their behaviour. Although that can sound unappealing, we can limit what you have to say about them, and we try to deal with it as amicably as possible by sending them a draft of the petition before it is sent to court.

In April 2019 it was confirmed that the no-fault divorce law is coming to England and Wales "as soon as parliamentary time allows". If you can wait that long!

We hope this blog has helped answer some of your burning family law questions, but please give us a call if you would like an appointment with one of our experienced solicitors, who can give you specific advice on your case.

23

May

A Day in the Life of a Family Law Solicitor

17 day in life solicitor

Being a Family Law Solicitor can be challenging and rewarding.

You never quite know what the day has in store and you meet so many different types of people who all have different priorities.

The reality is that all of your clients wish they did not need a Family Law Solicitor, but circumstances dictate that they do. The Solicitor/client relationship within the Family Law arena can be complex and one of the hardest challenges is proving to clients that all of the work we do is necessary and that we really do try and keep their costs as low as possible.

How we feel in a Family Law court

Having said all of that, there is no greater feeling than walking out of a Courtroom knowing you have secured a more positive future for your client. At the start of a case, clients are often emotional, nervous and full of unanswered questions. Finishing a case where you know your client is settled, happy and positive about their future is the best feeling.

Clients often have a preconception of what Family Law Solicitors are like (scary bulldog types who are baying for blood!) but there is a different way of conducting Family Law cases and they won’t be left with a big mess at the end of it. Quite the opposite really…they will know everything has been sorted out properly.

My day as a Family Law Solicitor

9.00am I check my calendar when I first arrive at work so I have a rough idea of what appointments I have throughout the day. I then check any voicemails and review any e-mails that I have received overnight.

9.15am My secretary reviews my diary notes and brings up the relevant files. Sometimes this means it is necessary to chase clients or other solicitors so that matters can be progressed as quickly as possible. I am always very aware that clients are keen to bring matters to a swift conclusion so I like to be proactive rather than reactive.

9.30am Reception brings the post up to me with the relevant files. I have a quick look at all the post. This allows me to prioritise what might be urgent (for example if there is a Court hearing approaching) and what is less urgent.

One of the most important things you can do as a solicitor is to manage your client’s expectations. Even the most demanding client needs to understand that their case will not be prioritised over an urgent case, for example, if someone needs an injunction to protect them from harm. Equally, clients who might be particularly vulnerable and need an emergency Court order need to know that they will be prioritised.

10.00am I start working my way through the diary notes and post. I am lucky to be supported by an excellent and experienced secretary and we aim to respond to correspondence on the day we receive it.

Throughout my morning I regularly check my e-mails and try to respond to them as soon as possible. Some solicitors dislike e-mails because they can disrupt your day but I personally think they can make life easier for you and your clients They mean you can respond quickly and they help keep costs down because they avoid the client coming in for a lengthy appointment. They help you use your time more efficiently. It is always frustrating when you are dealing with a solicitor on the other side of a case who refuses to deal with matters via e-mail. It slows everything down quite considerably!

1.00pm Lunchtime. I usually grab a quick sandwich at my desk and check to see if I have any new voicemails. Then it is straight back to work.

2.00pm I might have a client appointment. They are great because they break up the day and I always enjoy meeting people. You never quite know what they are going to tell you or what help they are going to need, and that can be quite exciting, particularly when they tell you something you haven’t heard before and you have to do so research into their case. Most of my clients are recommended to me by other clients, which means they already have a level of trust in me. Some clients already have an expectation of what they are going to be told and it can be difficult to explain to them why their outcome might to different from that of their friends. With Family Law, every single case is different so advice has to be very tailored to each individual client.

4.00pm My secretary will bring typed letters up to me to review and sign.

5.00pm Before I leave the office, I always review my diary for the next day. If I have any Court hearings scheduled then I will often find myself thinking about the case and making notes throughout the evening.

5.30pm The office closes. I sometimes take time to deal with any administrative work (which sometimes takes a backseat!).

So if you would like to contact me and find a slot in my day, please contact Cunningtons' Family Law department on 01245 264494 and I'll see what I can do to help.

Our Locations

Braintree - 01376 326868

Cunningtons LLP in Great Square and Tofts Walk in Braintree, Essex, is the head office for Cunningtons Solicitors across the UK. Established in 1748, the Braintree head office in Great Square is still in its original offices. This amounts to almost 300 years of Experience and Tradition.

The Senior Partner at Cunningtons’ Braintree office is David Drake. Paul Fenton is the Joint Managing Partner. He, along with Johanna Withams are the residential conveyancing partners at the Braintree practice. They are supported by qualified Solicitors and Licenced Conveyancers.

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