Family law covers a diverse range of areas, including divorce/dissolution of civil partnership proceedings, child arrangements, property and finances issues and disputes, pre- and post-nuptial agreements and much more. Many of these issues can be stressful for all parties involved, so it’s important to seek help and legal advice that’s on your side.
Family lawyers offer sensitive and practical advice to help you navigate legal processes and obtain the best outcome for you and your family. As well as advising on practical legal solutions, they can also help to minimise conflict and emotional upheaval during the process of separation and divorce. If you’re dealing with a sensitive issue and think you need the help of a family lawyer, read on for our guide to different areas covered under family law.
Divorce and separation
The breakdown of a relationship can be highly stressful and upsetting emotionally, not to mention the practical details that need to be sorted out. A family lawyer can help you to navigate the divorce process, including starting divorce proceedings (also known as filing for divorce), how to respond to a divorce petition, agreeing on grounds for divorce and arranging a financial settlement. They can also help you and your partner agree on child arrangements if there are children involved (more on this later).
You don’t have to be legally married to seek the help of a family solicitor and they can also offer advice to non-married couples going through a separation. This could include advice on how to split your assets, your rights regarding any shared property and the law regarding your finances. As well as practical legal advice, family lawyers can also help make the process as amicable as possible. This could be by signposting to mediation services or communicating with your former spouse or partner on your behalf.
Divorce or separation is often more complicated if there are children involved but a family lawyer will advise on finding solutions focused on the children’s best interests and welfare. This includes helping parents to maintain positive communications and relations and focusing on being as open as possible, so that you can reach an agreement that is best for your children.
You may need advice on child arrangements to determine where any children will live, how much time they will spend with each parent and how often they see other family members such as grandparents. Your family lawyer can also advise you on parental responsibility issues and making decisions about your children in relation to their health, religion, education and upbringing.
In most cases clients are encouraged to reach an amicable decision via mediation or negotiations between solicitors. If you cannot reach a decision between yourselves or with the help of mediation, then your lawyer will represent you in court where necessary.
Unmarried couples do not have the same legal protections as married couples, even if you’ve lived together for decades. In these instances, you might want to consider a cohabitation agreement. These are often used by couples who are moving in together, have children and/or are buying a shared property.
A solicitor can explain your rights and help you and your partner draw up a cohabitation agreement that suits you both. These agreements can cover income, property, belongings and childcare arrangements, and will lay out how you intend todivide assets in the event of a separation,
Family lawyers will also advise you about how to resolve any disputes in relation to finances or property in the event that you do separate from your partner.
Finances and money issues can be a contentious issue for couples going through a divorce or separation, so it’s important to seek legal help and advice where necessary. A family lawyer will explain where you stand and your rights regarding any property or shared assets. This will depend on your situation, whether you were legally married and if you signed a pre/postnuptial agreement or a cohabitation agreement.
For married couples, solicitors can offer advice regarding what happens to the family home (and any other shared property), pension provision, maintenance payments and any business interests.
Unmarried couples do not have the same legal rights to property or assets as married couples do. However, you may still be able to make a claim on any shared property or a claim on behalf of your children if you have children together. Family lawyers can also help with transfer of tenancy following the breakdown of a relationship. This involves transferring the tenancy of a property from one person to another, or changing from joint tenancy to a single person’s name.
If you share children with your former partner, in most cases one parent will have to pay child support to the other. The payment amount will depend on the parent's income and child arrangements and with whom the child lives and how much time they spend with the other parent. You can seek help from a family lawyer if your partner has missed payments, is refusing to pay child support, or if you want to dispute the amount of child support you’re paying. Payments are calculated by the Child Maintenance Service but in some limited situations, the court may have the power to make an order.
Domestic abuse can take many forms, including physical, emotional, psychological, verbal and financial as well as controlling and coercive behaviour. Whatever the form, family solicitors are on hand to provide help and support, as well as immediate action to keep you and your family safe. Domestic abuse services might include filing an application for a non-molestation order (to prevent your partner from contacting, threatening or harassing you), occupation orders (which regulate the occupation of the family home), or taking action for breach of a non-molestation order.
Some orders can be applied for on an emergency basis if you are at risk of imminent harm or abuse. You don’t need to currently be in a relationship with a partner to apply either; protection orders can be issued against an ex or current partner, family member/relative or members of the same household. Family lawyers can also arrange for you to access the emotional help and support you need, such as counselling or other specialist support services.
Family mediation is used to resolve legal disputes with help from a neutral third party. A professional mediator will oversee sessions between both partners to help resolve issues such as child custody, visitation, child support payments and division of assets following a divorce or separation.
Mediation is not couples counselling and it won’t cover the issues of how or why the relationship broke down. However, it can be extremely beneficial when it comes to sorting out practical arrangements in a calm, neutral way. Mediation will seek to reduce any potential conflict and ensure both parties reach an agreement they’re happy with.
Pre and postnuptial agreements
You don’t have to be a celebrity or high net worth individual to sign a pre or postnuptial agreement and many couples regard it as a sensible, practical decision. A prenuptial agreement can be used to protect property or wealth acquired individually before your marriage to safeguard these assets in the event of a divorce. The court still retains ultimate jurisdiction in respect of finances after a divorce and so such agreements are not completely binding on the courts and will only be upheld if entered into properly and if the outcome is fair and provides for the needs of the parties and the children.
A postnuptial agreement is essentially the same thing, but drawn up once you’re already married. Couples might be prompted to do this because of a big life change, such as having children or if you’ve suddenly acquired a lot of wealth. Pre and postnuptial agreements can be drawn up by anyone married or in a civil partnership. If you’re in a serious relationship but not married, you can choose a cohabitation agreement instead.
High quality family law services from the experts at ITN Solicitors
If you’re looking for a skilled family lawyer in London, please contact the Family Department at ITN Solicitors. Our dedicated family law team offers expert legal help and advice covering a wide range of areas, including divorce and separation, children’s law, financial matters, advice on cohabitation/living together, property issues following divorce or separation, mediation and much more. We’re committed to helping our clients sensitive resolve conflict, minimise the emotional upheaval of any family law proceedings and obtain the best outcome for you and your family.
We work with clients from all backgrounds and financial statuses and can identify where legal aid may be available. To arrange an appointment with a legal representative and discuss how we could help you, don’t hesitate to give us a call today or contact us via the website.