Cunningtons Family Team make the Legal 500 rankings for 2019!

Did you know that as well as being award-winning conveyancers, Cunningtons also has a thriving family law department?

We are delighted to announce that our Family Law Department has been 'recommended' by the Legal 500 for 2019.

What sets Cunningtons' family team apart from other firms?

We treat every case as if it's our first case. Our focus is always on moving matters forward, being proactive and actively managing clients and opponents. We want our clients to feel comfortable with us, so they trust that we will get the best possible outcome for them in the shortest amount of time. Our greatest endorsement is when a client's matter reaches conclusion and they can move on with their lives with financial stability and certainty about their future.

The Family Law team at Cunningtons

Our Family Law team is headed-up by Katie Beer, who is an equity member based at our Chelmsford office.

The team is small but perfectly formed, with Katie being supported by Jill Wiggins who is a salaried partner at Braintree and Louise Paynter who is a senior associate at our Wickford branch. The size of the team means that knowledge and learning is shared quickly between us, meaning we are always up-to-date with new legal developments and fresh approaches to family law.

Katie Beer: Family Law Solicitor in Chelmsford

Katie has a particular interest in representing unmarried couples who find themselves in need of legal advice after a separation.

These clients may jointly own a home with their ex-partner, and be unsure of what will happen to the property. This can cause a great deal of anxiety, especially if there are children involved. With Katie's realistic and practical advice, they can gain a better understanding of their options and make informed decisions. Katie has a growing caseload of clients who use her to 'future-proof' their lives by having cohabitation agreements or Trust Deeds drawn up when they buy a property with a partner, or have a prenuptial agreement drafted if marriage is on the cards.

Louise Paynter: Family Law Associate Solicitor in Wickford

Louise's reputation for being a financial expert precedes her.

Nothing excites her more than a tricky pensions case, and she knows all of the options when it comes to dealing with finances in a fair way. Although Louise acts for many High Net Worth clients, the value of the matrimonial pot has no bearing on how hard Louise works for her clients. In fact, cases where the assets are limited are often the cases that benefit hugely from Louise's creative and lateral thinking. Louise also has a knack for empowering clients who have suffered domestic abuse or have an ex-spouse who was controlling and demanding. Louise rebuilds their self-esteem so they can move on to a more positive future.

Jill Wiggins: Family Law Solicitor in Braintree

Jill is our Children's' Act hero, and represents clients in both the private law and public law arenas.

Jill is passionate about representing clients who face having their children removed from their care, and is often able to obtain orders for expert evidence to support the children being returned to the parents. Jill is non-judgemental and excels at putting all clients at ease. The benefit of this is that they feel able to be honest with her, which enables her to give more accurate advice.

Please note that our offices will be closed for Christmas from 11am on Friday 21st December and will re-open again on 2nd January 2019.
Cunningtons would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy Christmas and prosperous New Year.



Civil Partnerships for All!

Civil Partnerships: Is it about time?

The Government has announced plans for all couples - both homosexual and heterosexual - in England and Wales to have the option to enter into civil partnership as well as to get married.

The Supreme Court made a ruling earlier this year which recognised that the bar on opposite-sex couples being able to enter into a civil partnership was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.  A change to legislation was inevitable and the prime minister has now made it official, as we reported in June in our piece Civil Parnerships Take A Step Closet To Being For Everyone.

Why should Civil Partnerships be available for everyone?

The benefits of entering into a civil partnership rather than simply being “boyfriend and girlfriend” are that civil partners acquire rights to inherit if their partner dies, as well as rights to their partner’s property, assets and pensions in the event of a separation.

Some ask why a couple can't just get married - but others maintain that marriage is no longer romantic. It symbolises the intervention of religion and bureaucracy into your personal life. 

What do you think?

Will you be considering a civil partnership with your partner?  Do you think marriage is still going to be the preferred option?  Let us know your thoughts!



Owens v Owens: Wife forced to stay in an unhappy marriage

Last Wednesday’s ruling in Owens v Owens has seen 5 Supreme Court judges reluctantly find that the wife cannot divorce her husband based on his behaviour.

The Case for Divorce

Hugh and Tini Owens have been married since 1978 - although they have lived apart since 2015.

Mrs Owens’ petition claimed that Mr Owens’ behaviour was such that Mrs Owens could not reasonably be expected to live with him, and gave vague, almost flimsy, examples of that behaviour.

Mr Owens denied the allegations.

The Legal Case

The court must look at the individual allegations made by the petitioner and decide who to believe. It must then assess the effect that such behaviour had on the petitioner, before evaluating whether it was unreasonable for the petitioner to continue to live with the respondent.

Lady Hale specifically stated in her judgment that she found this case to be "very troubling". Lord Wilson stated that "parliament may wish to consider whether to replace" the current law.

Surely Time for a Change?

Family practitioners have been lobbying for years for a 'No Fault' divorce system where no mudslinging is necessary. This case might just prompt that change.

Surely that would be better for both parties and certainly for any young children? Until then, Mrs Owen’s only choice is to wait until they have been separated for 5 years and petition again on that basis.



Mills vs Mills: The Supreme Court Outcome

The Supreme Court has upheld the decision of the First Instance Judge in Mills v Mills by agreeing that the ex-wife should not have her spousal maintenance payments increased after 16 years of being divorced.

You may remember an earlier installment of this tale ... here's how we covered it earlier this year: mills-v-mills-spousal-maintenance

Mrs Mills received a lump sum of £230,000 on divorce as well as spousal maintenance of £1,100 per month for their joint lives or until she remarried or a further order was made.

Many years later, Mrs Mills found herself struggling to meet her outgoings, largely due to mismanaging her finances, incurring significant debts and making a series of unwise property purchases since she divorced Mr Mills in 2002.

Mrs Mills found herself in a position of having to rent a property rather than living in a property she owned mortgage-free.

The Court Judgement

Mr Mills applied to court to cancel the spousal maintenance order and proposed to pay his ex-wife a lump sum of £26,000.

Alternatively he proposed that spousal maintenance only continued for a fixed period of time and at a reduced rate. His ex-wife cross-applied to increase spousal maintenance.

The Judge dismissed both applications so that the original spousal maintenance order was upheld.

Mrs Mills Appeals

However, Mrs Mills appealed to the Court of Appeal and they increased her spousal maintenance payments to £1,441 per month.

And the Final Judgement ...

Mr Mills appealed to the Supreme Court who have now agreed that the maintenance payments should remain as they are – with no increases or decreases.



Civil Partnerships Take A Step Closer To Being For Everyone

Equal rights for all couples: Civil Partnerships may be available to opposite-sex couples

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that civil partnerships should now be available to all couples, even those who are of the opposite sex.

Civil partnerships were introduced in 2008, before same sex couples were allowed to marry. By entering into a civil partnership, the parties are legally recognised as a significant person in each others’ lives and can be treated as next-of-kin, and they can inherit assets on the death of the other.

Since then, same sex couples have also been given the right to marry, so now they have the option of a civil partnership or a marriage, but opposite sex couples only have the option of marriage.

In the case concluded yesterday, Rebecca Steinfeld and her partner Charles Keidan sought a judicial review to confirm that civil partnerships should be made available to heterosexual couples.The Supreme Court has unanimously agreed with them by finding that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Government will now have to consider whether to change the law to make civil partnerships open to all couples. The pressure will be on!

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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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Brighton & Hove: 01273 725229
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Wickford: 01268 732268