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Family Law FAQs

Divorce and Civil Partnership Dissolution FAQs

What is a Consent Order?

A Consent Order is a type of Order that is made by agreement between the parties. Often when looking at the finances following a relationship breakdown, a couple are able to reach an agreement about how their finances should be divided. A Consent Order is a formal Court Order that sets out what needs to take place.

Often, such an Order is expressed to be a ‘clean break’. This means that once the Order is approved by the Court, and once it has been implemented, the parties’ claims for financial settlement against each other can be brought to an end.

It is important to understand the terms and effect of a Consent Order before it is signed, and important to understand whether there is a full clean break or not. To obtain advice from Rowlinsons, or to organise an initial free no obligation consultation, please telephone 01928 735333 and ask to speak with the family department.

What is a Pension Sharing Order?

A pension Sharing Order is a type of Financial Order made in divorce or dissolution proceedings. It is an Order that requires a percentage of a total pension to be transferred or shared into a pension in the other party’s name.

If you need advice about a pension sharing order, or to organise an initial free no obligation consultation, please telephone 01928 735333 and ask to speak with the family department.

What is a pension attachment order?

A pension attachment order is a type of Financial Order made in divorce or dissolution proceedings. It is an Order that requires a percentage of a pension to be paid on retirement each month or each year to the other person.

If you need advice about a pension attachment order, or to organise an initial free no obligation consultation, please telephone 01928 735333 and ask to speak with the family department.

What is Judicial Separation?

Judicial Separation is a Court process which legally formalises your separation, but does not affect the legality of your relationship so you remain legally married/in a civil partnership. It is still possible to resolve some financial matters within judicial separation proceedings but there are some key differences between judicial separation and divorce/dissolution, and expert legal guidance would be needed before choosing this option.

To obtain advice from Rowlinsons, please telephone 01928 735333 and ask to speak with the family department.

What is a Separation Agreement?

A Separation Agreement is a formal document, in the format of a Deed, that you and your spouse/civil partner can enter into to set out the circumstances of the separation. Again, this agreement does not legally end the marriage/civil partnership, and divorce/ dissolution proceedings would still need to be issued if you later decided you wanted to legally end the relationship.

The agreement can be useful for couples who are unable to petition for a divorce/dissolution at the time of separation, or who do not wish to straight away, for example if they have not lived separately for two years and none of the fault facts of either adultery or unreasonable behaviour apply.

It is important to be aware that a Deed of Separation Agreement is not 100% binding and cannot prevent the Court from making such financial orders as it sees fit in any later divorce/dissolution proceedings. The Court in those proceedings could decide that the terms of the Agreement should be upheld in full or in part. Alternatively, the Court could decide due to a number of factors that the agreement is not binding, and the Court could make such financial Orders as it sees fit. Due to these factors, it is important to take independent legal advice about the terms and effect of a separation agreement before deciding to pursue this route.

To obtain advice from Rowlinsons, please telephone 01928 735333 and ask to speak with the family department.

What is a Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing?

The Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing, or FDR is a hearing that takes place in financial settlement proceedings between a married couple, or a couple in a civil partnership. At this hearing, both parties are encouraged to spend time at Court negotiating a financial settlement if possible. The Court will look at the information and evidence and will try and help you both negotiate an agreement by giving an indication of what types of orders it considers suitable.

If you have been ordered to attend an FDR hearing, or if you need any further information about financial settlement proceedings, please telephone Rowlinsons Solicitors on 01928 735333 and ask to speak with the family department.

What is Common Law Marriage?

The term ‘Common Law Marriage’ has been used in England and Wales to refer to an unmarried, usually heterosexual, cohabiting couple. Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as ‘Common Law Marriage’ and this does not confer any legal rights on a couple who live together. Couples who are married or enter a civil partnership have certain legal rights that they can rely on. There are no similar rights for couples who live together, or believe they are in a ‘Common Law Marriage’. It is important for couples who live together to get independent legal advice to understand their rights and responsibilities.

To obtain advice from Rowlinsons, please telephone 01928 735333 and ask to speak with the family department.

Can I convert a civil partnership to a marriage?

It is possible to convert a civil partnership into a marriage in England and Wales (there are different rules for Scotland, and currently it is not possible to do this in Northern Ireland). You can convert your civil partnership into a marriage either at a register office, or local registration office.

You can also convert the partnership into a marriage following a ceremony, but it is important to know that the ceremony has to be conducted on religious or approved premises and at a registered venue.

There is a fee of £4 for a marriage certificate and £45 to convert your civil partnership. If you conduct a ceremony, you will also have to pay £27 for an appointment as well.

You will need to sign a "conversion into marriage" declaration, and will also need your original civil partnership certificate and identification documents as well.

For more information, go to www.gov.uk/convert-civil-partnership

Can I enter into a civil partnership if I am in an opposite sex relationship?

At the moment, only those in same sex relationship’s have the option of entering into a civil partnership. Currently, couples in a heterosexual relationship are not able to enter into a civil partnership.

Civil partnerships were introduced in the UK in the Civil Partnership Act 2004. The Act came into force in December 2005, with the first couples forming civil partnership that month. The Act allowed same sex couples to formally recognise their relationship, which provided similar rights to those enjoyed by married couples.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 legalised marriage for same sex couples in England and Wales, although civil partnerships also remain available to same sex couples.

For those couples in opposite, or heterosexual relationships, the only option currently to formally recognise their relationship is to get married. There have been a number of challenges through the Courts to this, arguing that it is unfair and discriminatory to not allow opposite sex couples the same rights as same sex couples.

During the summer of 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that it was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 is only an option for opposite sex couples. The ruling does not change the law, but it does make it more likely that the Government will now do something to allow opposite sex couples the same rights as same sex couples.

Can I get divorced in the UK if I got married abroad?

To get divorced in England and Wales you firstly have to have been married for at least 12 months, and have a valid marriage that is legally recognised in this country.

It is then necessary to prove to the Court that you have the necessary "jurisdiction" to petition in a court in England and Wales:-

- You and your spouse are habitually resident here

- You and your spouse were last habitually resident here and one of you still resides here

- Your spouse is habitually resident here

- The person issuing the petition is habitually resident here and has resided here for at least a year immediately before presenting the petition

- The person issuing the petition is domiciled and habitually resident here and has resided here for at least 6 months before presenting the petition

- Both you and your spouse are domiciled in England and Wales (only relevant to marriage)

If none of the above applies, you might be able to issue a petition for divorce in England and Wales if no other Court has or is recognised as having "jurisdictionâ".

Can I get divorced if I have lost my marriage certificate?

In most situations, you do need an original marriage certificate to get divorced in the UK. If you got married in England or Wales, it is sometimes possible to request a further copy be reissued if you can’t find your original certificate.

If you got married abroad, it might be possible to get a further copy issued, and you would need to seek guidance from the local authority that conducted the wedding ceremony or registered the marriage.

If your marriage certificate is not in English, you will also need to get a copy fully translated into English before you can issue your divorce petition.

If you cannot find your marriage certificate, it might be possible to still apply for divorce in some situations. You would however need to issue a separate application alongside your divorce petition. It is rare that the Court would allow a petition for divorce without a valid marriage certificate, and you would need expert legal advice before pursuing such an application.

Can I get divorced online?

It is now possible for individuals in England and Wales to apply for divorce online. The Government now offer a facility to issue a divorce petition through their online service. There is still a Court fee to apply online, which is the same fee as applying via post, and that has to be paid at the time the application is issued.

For more information about the Government online divorce process, https://www.gov.uk/divorce/file-for-divorce

Do I have to go to Court to get divorced?

In most situations, it is not usually necessary for either party in a divorce to physically attend Court if the divorce is agreed. If the divorce is contested, or if there are issues of costs or other complicating features, then sometimes it is necessary for the parties to physically go to Court.

Separate from the divorce process, it might however be necessary to go to Court to deal with the financial side of the separation. That will again depend on whether you and your partner are able to reach an agreement or not.

Disputes Involving Children FAQs

Can I change my childs name / surname?

It is possible for a parent of a child who is under 16 years of age to change a child’s name, including their surname, provided that everyone with parental responsibility signs to provide their consent. A change of name deed, or Deed Poll, can be prepared, and everyone with parental responsibility would need to sign to confirm their consent. If a person with parental responsibility does not provide their consent, an application to Court for a specific issue order may be needed.

To speak to someone about changing the name of a child under 16, please telephone Rowlinsons Solicitors on 01928 735333 and ask to speak with the family department.

Do I have any rights to see my Grandchildren?

Grandparents don’t have legal rights to see their grandchildren. If there has been a family breakdown, and the grandparents are finding it difficult to see their grandchildren, the first step would be to see whether arrangements can be agreed as a family. Sometimes mediation can be helpful to achieve this.

If an agreement cannot be reached, it might be possible to consider making an application to Court for a child arrangements order. The process for grandparents usually differs from the process parents take, as grandparents have the added step first of requiring leave of the court to apply. If leave, or permission, is granted, the grandparents can then go on to pursue their application for a child arrangements order.

If you want to talk about a Child Arrangements Order, or to consider whether you wish to apply for one, please telephone Rowlinsons Solicitors on 01928 735333 and ask to speak with the family department.

What is a Child Arrangements Order?

A Child Arrangements Order is a type of Order made by a Court relating to a child. The Order can specify where and with whom a child lives, when they should spend time with each parent, and how the arrangements should work.

It is sometimes possible for other people to apply for Child Arrangements Orders for a child, but anyone other than the child’s parents may need permission from the Court first before they are allowed to make an application.

If you want to talk about a Child Arrangements Order, or to consider whether you wish to apply for one, please telephone Rowlinsons Solicitors on 01928 735333 and ask to speak with the family department.

What is a Specific Issue Order?

A Specific Issue Order is a type of Order made relating to a child and how the child is being brought up. For example, the Order could relate to what school they go to, decisions about their religion, or what name the child should have.

It is also possible to apply for an Order to prevent certain things from happening, such as to prevent a child being removed from a school, or having their name changed. This is called a Prohibited Steps Order. 

If you want to talk about issues relating to a child, or to consider whether you wish to apply for an Order, please telephone Rowlinsons Solicitors on 01928 735333 and ask to speak with the family department.

What is Parental Responsibility

Parental Responsibility is defined by Section 3(1) of the Children Act 1989 as “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities, and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property"

Parental Responsibility is the parent’s responsibilities towards their child, such as the responsibility to provide a home, and maintain and protect a child. All those who have Parental Responsibility for a child are able to have a say about certain decisions relating to a child, such as consenting to certain medical treatments, determining the child’s education, choosing, registering or changing a child’s name, determining their religion etc. Parental responsibility does not give a parent automatic rights to have contact with a child, or to know where a child is living.

If you want to know more about Parental Responsibility for a child, please telephone Rowlinsons Solicitors on 01928 735333 and ask to speak with the family department.

Collaborative Law FAQs

What is collaborative law?

Collaborative Law is a process that a couple can use to help them through a separation or divorce. It is a voluntary and entirely confidential process which involves you and your former partner sitting down with a collaboratively trained family lawyer to work things out, face to face. You each work with your solicitors, working out the best solutions for you and your family.

If necessary, the collaborative process can also involve other third party professionals, such as financial or mortgage advisors, pension specialists, or counsellors. The process is entirely tailored to you and your former partner to enable you both to reach an amicable resolution in the best interests of your family.

You and your former partner, as well as each of your collaborative solicitors, sign a participation agreement which confirms you will all work together with the upmost trust and respect, being open and honest throughout, and committed to reaching a resolution by agreement rather than conflict. The agreement disqualifies your solicitors from being able to represent you in court if the process breaks down.

Your collaborative solicitors can also help you to put your arrangements into legally binding documents or Court orders, where appropriate. They can also help you to implement any agreements that you have reached as well.

For more information about the collaborative law process, or to organise a free initial no obligation appointment to talk about your options, telephone Rowlinsons Solicitors on 01928 735333 and ask to speak with the family department.

Is Collaborative Law the right process for me?

Collaborative law is an option for you and your ex partner to meet together in a safe and supported atmosphere with qualified, independent, collaboratively trained solicitors. It allows you the option to make decisions and arrangements for the best interests of your family in an amicable way. Collaborative law works for lots of people, but it isn’t always right for everybody. It can be especially helpful where parents need to sort out how they can best raise their children, even though they will no longer be living together, or where a couple wish to remain as amicable as possible, even after separating.

Our qualified, experienced family team will be able to talk to you about all of the options available to you, including collaborative law, to enable you to make an information decision about what is best for you and your family.

For more information about the collaborative law process, or to organise a free initial no obligation appointment to talk about your options, telephone Rowlinsons Solicitors on 01928 735333 and ask to speak with the family department.

Family Mediation FAQs

What is family mediation?

Family mediation is an alternative way for separating couples and families to resolve disputes and difficult issues in an amicable way. Mediation works by helping people who have decided to separate or divorce or who are trying to deal with changes in family relationships to talk things through. A trained, independent third party mediator is instructed to meet with you both to help reach a resolution without conflict. All sorts of things can be discussed at mediation, such as arrangements for the children, financial and money matters or arrangements about living in the home. Mediation helps you make informed decisions, and provides somewhere safe and neutral to talk calmly and privately. Mediation is voluntary and confidential, and can often be more cost effective and quicker than court processes.

For more information about mediation, or to organise a free initial no obligation appointment with a trained mediator, telephone Rowlinsons Solicitors on 01928 735333 and ask to speak with the family department.

Is mediation compulsory?

Family mediation is a voluntary process that a couple going through a separation or divorce can utilise to help them reach an amicable resolution in a non-confrontational, safe and supported way. You do not have to attend mediation, but it is always worthwhile considering mediation as an option as it can be very cost effective, and can avoid significant conflict, especially for parents trying to agree arrangements for their children.

Although mediation is voluntary, for most people who are engaged in family court proceedings, it is a requirement to attend a MIAM, unless you can satisfy one of the Court’s exemptions.

For more information about mediation, to organise a MIAM, or to book a free initial no obligation appointment with a trained mediator, telephone Rowlinsons Solicitors on 01928 735333 and ask to speak with the family department.

What is the difference between mediation and collaborative law?

Family mediation works by helping people who have decided to separate or divorce or who are trying to deal with changes in family relationships to talk things through. You instruct an independent and impartial mediator who will meet with you and your ex together.  Mediation helps you make informed decisions, and provides somewhere safe and neutral to talk calmly and privately. Information and guidance can be given during mediation, but you may need to consider getting separate independent legal advice both during the mediation process and to draft any binding agreements where appropriate.

Collaborative Law is a process that a couple can use to help them through a separation or divorce. You and your ex each instruct your own separate collaboratively trained lawyer, and all of you would meet to work things out, face to face. Your collaborative solicitors can give you independent legal advice throughout the process, they can also put your arrangements into legally binding documents or Court orders, where appropriate.

For more information about the mediation or the collaborative law process, or to organise a free initial no obligation appointment to talk about your options, telephone Rowlinsons Solicitors on 01928 735333 and ask to speak with the family department.

Is mediation right for me?

Mediation is an option for you and your ex partner to meet together in a safe and supported atmosphere with a trained independent third party mediator. It allows you the option to make decisions and arrangements for the best interests of your family in an amicable way. Mediation works for lots of people, but it isn’t always right for everybody. Mediation can be especially helpful where parents need to sort out how they can best raise their children, even though they will no longer be living together or where a couple wish to remain as amicable as possible, even after separating..

Our qualified, experienced family team will be able to talk to you about all of the options available to you, including mediation, to enable you to make an information decision about what is best for you and your family.

For more information about mediation, or to organise a free initial no obligation appointment to talk about your options, telephone Rowlinsons Solicitors on 01928 735333 and ask to speak with the family department.

Is mediation binding?

Family mediation is a voluntary process that a couple going through a separation or divorce can utilise to help them reach an amicable resolution in a non-confrontational, safe and supported way. Mediation is non-binding, which means that anything discussed at mediation or any arrangements agreed will not be imposed on the parties at the end of the mediation process. Mediation is also confidential, and information discussed at mediation should not be disclosed to anyone without both parties consenting.

If a resolution is reached during the mediation process, it is possible to incorporate that into a legally binding agreement. You would need independent legal advice before putting into a binding document arrangements discussed at mediation.

For more information about mediation, to organise a free initial no obligation appointment or to obtain independent legal advice on a mediation arrangements, telephone Rowlinsons Solicitors on 01928 735333 and ask to speak with the family department.

Child Inclusive Mediation FAQs

What is Child Inclusive Mediation?

The role of mediation is to help parents to make arrangements for their children following separation or divorce. It is important that decisions about future parenting are made by the parents as they are the ones who know their children best. Parents are encouraged to consider all of the implications of the arrangements they propose to make for their children. The perspective of the children is crucial in helping parents in their decision making.

As part of the mediation process, the mediator will offer to see your child to give them the opportunity to talk to someone independent. This is what we call child inclusive mediation (previously Direct Child Consultation). This will allow the child to give their views on the proposals and arrangements you are talking about in mediation. The child should not feel they need to take sides, especially if there is a difference of opinion between the parents.

When parents are disagreeing about how to share their parenting, the voice of the child is sometimes not heard very clearly, as the adults are preoccupied. Child Inclusive mediation is an independent way of getting the voice of the child in the room.

Next steps

If you want to talk about Child Inclusive Mediation further, please email Linda Hunter: linda.hunter@rowlinsons.co.uk or call 01928 735 333.

What is a MIAM?

A MIAM is a Mediation Information and Assessment meeting that takes place with a trained, independent family mediator. Although mediation is voluntary, for most people who are engaged in family court proceedings, it is a requirement to attend a MIAM, unless you can satisfy one of the Court’s exemptions.

For more information about mediation, to organise a MIAM, or to book a free initial no obligation appointment with a trained mediator, telephone Rowlinsons Solicitors on 01928 735333 and ask to speak with the family department.

What does the mediator ask the child?

During child inclusive mediation, the mediator will not be asking the child to make decisions about what they want or who they may wish to live with. This is for the parents to decide. However, it does give the child the opportunity to voice any worries, views or thoughts they might have on the proposals their parents are making.

Next steps

If you want to talk about Child Inclusive Mediation further, please email Linda Hunter: linda.hunter@rowlinsons.co.uk or call 01928 735 333.

How does Child Inclusive Mediation work?

The first step in Child Inclusive Mediation is for the mediator to meet with both parents to discuss the role of the mediator, and to consider whether it is appropriate for the child to be included in the process. The mediator will only see the child with the permission of both parents and we will write to the child to attend an appointment. If the child does not wish to see the mediator, they can say no. Both parents will be made aware of when the appointment is. The mediator will have talked to both parents about ways to prepare the child for this meeting.

The meeting with the child is confidential and at the end of the meeting, the child and the mediator will agree what can be fed back to the parents. The mediator will talk to the child about the limits of confidentiality; the same limits for the parents in the mediation process.

If there are brothers and sisters, they can be seen together or separately.

As part of the process the parents will have previously agreed with the mediator to a further meeting to hear what the child had to say. This will give the parents the opportunity to take account of the comments and views of their child and help them make decisions which best suit everyone.

Next steps

If you want to talk about Child Inclusive Mediation further, please email Linda Hunter: linda.hunter@rowlinsons.co.uk or call 01928 735 333.

What if I dont like what the child tells the mediator?

Sometimes the information that the mediator feeds back following a child inclusive mediation session is difficult for parents to hear and sometimes it is unexpected. It might be that you are given feedback separately. Parents need to prepare for this and the mediator will talk to you about it beforehand.

Mediators do not deliver counselling to children in the child consultation sessions and they do not provide counselling to parents either. If you and the mediator want to explore counselling for you or your child(ren), they will discuss it with you as part of the initial consultation.

Next steps

If you want to talk about Child Inclusive Mediation further, please email Linda Hunter: linda.hunter@rowlinsons.co.uk or call 01928 735 333.