Family Law

Guiding you through difficult times

What do we do?

Family disputes can be difficult to resolve.  The break up of a marriage or relationship can be complicated and emotional, particularly where children or property are involved.

Our family law specialists are able to help you with all aspects of family law and provide sensible and practical legal advice.

How do we do it?

We will deal with your case with discretion, sensitivity and a clear understanding of your needs.

Separation and Divorce

Our dedicated family team understand that going through a divorce can be difficult and stressful and so to make things a little easier, we now offer a fixed fee divorce service.

We can assist you with your divorce for a fixed cost of £750.00 plus VAT. The court fee for issuing the divorce proceedings is currently £593.00.

Our fixed fee divorce service includes all steps from initial instruction to the conclusion of your divorce. In order to start divorce proceedings, you need to have been married for at least one year and you will need to confirm to the court that your marriage has broken down.

What is not included in the fixed fee scheme?

  • If your spouse fails to acknowledge the divorce or defends the proceedings.
  • If a co-respondent in named in a divorce based on adultery.
  • The cost of translating or obtaining a marriage certificate.
  • Advice in relation to financial issues or children matters.

 

Frequently asked questions:

Q: How long will it take?

A: There are no set timescales as each case is different but a divorce can be concluded within six months. It may take longer if there are financial issues to resolve.

Q: I have received a divorce petition, what should I do?

A: Don’t delay – get in touch with a member of our family team as soon as possible. If you have received a divorce petition from your spouse, we will review it with you and explain what it means before assisting you to complete the paperwork which you must return to the court. If you do not agree to the divorce, we can also discuss your options with you.

Q: I don’t want to get divorced but we are separating, can Clarkes help?

A: Even if you do not want to get divorced, it is still important to ensure that your financial issues are resolved and any financial arrangements are accurately recorded and we can discuss your options with you. If necessary, we can also advise and assist you with agreeing the arrangements for your children.

Q: Can we try to mediate?

A: Clarkes can arrange a referral to mediation with regard to all types of disputes relating to Family Law, including divorce, property, finance and children. If you wish to attempt a settlement by consent, or if you have already agreed with your ex-partner to try mediation, we can refer you to a mediator.  If you succeed in negotiating a settlement by agreement, we can check the terms and turn it into a watertight legal document for you.

For expert legal advice on Separation and Divorce contact a member of our Family Law team or call Clarkes on 01952 223548 or 01952 291666.

Cohabitation

As more people are now living together without marrying, it is important to understand and consider your legal rights and responsibilities to one another. People who live together but are not married often refer to themselves as ‘common law spouses’ and they mistakenly believe that this will protect them in the event of separation or death. It is important to consider what would happen in these circumstances and Clarkes can assist you to make a will and advise you whether a cohabitation agreement is appropriate.

 

Frequently asked questions:

Q: I am moving in with my partner, what should I consider?

A: It is always worth seeking legal advice before moving in with your partner. It is sensible to seek advice on what would happen in the event of any significant change in circumstances and ascertain whether a cohabitation agreement should be prepared. Clarkes will discuss the circumstances of your case and advise you of your various options.

It is also important to ensure you have a will. If you live with someone you may wish to provide for them in the event of your death and plan for any financial difficulty. For further information on financial planning and wills, please contact one of our Wills and Probate Team.

Q: I have separated from my partner, what rights do I have?

A: If a relationship breaks down and you are not married, there are certain things which may need to be resolved such as joint bank accounts, business interests and property. Clarkes can assist you to resolve any financial issues and deal with your interest in the property, where relevant.

For expert legal advice on Cohabitation contact a member of our Family Law team on 01952 223548 or 01952 291666.

Civil Partnerships

Civil partnerships in the United Kingdom are granted under the Civil Partnership Act 2004 and give same-sex couples rights and responsibilities identical to civil marriage.  Detailed below are Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ�s) for this area of law.

Q. What are the rights for civil partnerships
Committed same sex couples can obtain a special package of rights when entering into a Civil Partnership.  These rights are similar to the rights of opposite sex couples for property, inheritance tax, social security and pension benefits.

In addition, civil partners are able to other rights such as parental responsibility for a partners children, tenancy rights, life insurance recognition and next-of-kin rights in hospitals.  Special procedures similar to divorce have to be followed if the Civil Partnership breaks down.

Q. I am in a Civil Partnership, do I need to make a Will?
Making a will is important so that your money, property and other assets go to those people you choose after your death.   It also allows your exact wishes to be carried out and those you have left behind to be treated with dignity.

Around 2 out of 3 people never make a will and it is not always the case that your loved ones will inherit your wealth.  Sometimes complications arise when civil partnerships break down and the final outcome may not be as you intended.

Q. How much will it cost to make a Will? 

If your financial circumstances require extensive estate planning, with the creation or amendment of complex trusts, settlements and inheritance tax schemes, Clarkes Family Law team will liaise with Clarkes Wills and Probate team to ensure that your accumulated wealth will eventually pass to the right people with the minimum fuss.  Clarkes will provide full details of likely costs and how these are calculated at the first meeting before any legal work is undertaken.  If, however, you just want to make sure your ex does not inherit your property and that your new partner does, perhaps even as a temporary safeguard while the divorce is still being heard at Court, Clarkes can offer you a straightforward Fixed Fee rate for drafting simple Wills.

Alternatively, we will provide you with our best estimate of how much your matter will cost overall, how long it will take and what to expect at the end of it.  We will also discuss payment plans with and outline ways to pay your legal expenses over a number of months by instalments. You will of course be kept fully informed in writing of how much work has been carried out and how much more is likely to be necessary.

 

For expert legal help and advice on Civil Partnerships contact a member of our Family Law teamor call Clarkes on 01952 223548 or 01952 291666.

Children Matters

Our family team has experience of assisting clients with various children disputes including where a child should live, how often they should spend time with each parent and specific issues such as whether a child’s name should be changed. Our team are sensitive to the concerns you may have when disputing the arrangements for your children and they will use their knowledge and expertise to assist you to resolve matters.

Sometimes, social services may step in to assist you with your family arrangements and in those cases, legal aid is available. If you have a case involving social services then contact a member of our family team as soon as possible.

Q: My ex-partner has stopped me seeing my children, what should I do?

A: Contact Clarkes as soon as possible and they will discuss the options available to seek to reinstate contact with your child(ren) again.

Q: My ex-partner is refusing to pay maintenance for our child(ren), what should I do?

A: Child Maintenance is governed by the Child Support and Maintenance Service and a referral can be made to them. In some cases, they may not be able to assist you or you may prefer to agree payments without their intervention. In those circumstances, Clarkes can assist you to resolve matters.

Q: How much will it cost?

A: If social services are involved with your case, you will automatically be entitled to legal aid and for this area of law you should contact our Children and Social Services Team.  In other cases, a member of the family team will discuss your individual circumstances and will provide you with an estimate for the work involved.

For expert legal advice on Children matters contact a member of our team on 01952 291666 or 01952 223548.

Specialist areas of law

Every family is different and complex legal issues differ from one family to the next.  The Family Law team at Clarkes will treat you as an individual and can help you with timely and appropriate advice.

Whether we are advising upon pre-nuptial agreements for single-sex couples or the division of business assets for a wealthy household with teenage children, there will be factors setting your particular family apart from all others.  At Clarkes you can be assured that our experienced legal team have the breadth of knowledge and experience to advise you whatever your circumstances.

Our Family Law team has experience of assisting clients with the following:

Pre-Nuptial Agreements
Legal contracts made before a couple get married.

Post-Nuptial Agreements
Legal contracts made upon separation but without going to court.

Cohabitation Agreements
Legal contracts made before a couple live together.

Divorces involving:

  • Business assets: Company directorships, shareholdings, limited companies, working capital for partnerships.
  • Agricultural assets: Farming families, tied cottages, Ministry contracts, milk quotas or valuation of set-aside land.
  • High Value Property
  • Public sector and Military Pensions
  • Inheritance Act claims.  The relative or former spouse who has been maintained but is missed out of the Will.
  • Disabled children.  Special provision for children and adults with special needs.
  • Civil Partnerships

For expert legal advice contact a member of our Family Law team on 01952 223548 or 01952 291666.

Financial Settlements

When a relationship breaks down, finances can be one of the biggest areas of concern. Clarkes understands how stressful it can be to separate from your spouse and the associated worries about your financial circumstances. Our expert family team will advise about the various ways you can reach an agreement with your spouse and will assist you to reach a fair and reasonable settlement. Our team have knowledge and experience of dealing with various financial resources such as property, business assets and pensions.

Frequently asked questions:

Q: How much will it cost and how long will it take?

A: The cost of assisting you with a financial settlement is dependent upon the specific circumstances of your case but our team will always provide you with an estimate of how much you matter will cost before any work is undertaken. We can discuss payment plans with you and will continue to keep you informed as your matter progresses.

Again, the amount of time it will take to resolve matters will be determined by the facts of your case and the assets involved. In some straightforward cases, matters can be resolved in accordance with the Divorce timescale of six months. If court proceedings become necessary then it may take around twelve months to resolve matters.

Q: We have reached an agreement, do we need a financial settlement?

A: Yes. If you do not record the terms of your agreement in a sealed court order, confirming that there is a ‘clean break’ between you then your financial claims against one another remain open. By obtaining a ‘clean break’ from the court, this means that all financial claims that you and your spouse have against the other will be dismissed, whether or not there is any change in circumstances.

Q: What am I entitled to?

A: A member of the team will discuss the details of your case with you and will advise you on what is reasonable in the circumstances. We will advise you about the various options to claim a share of any property, capital, business assets and pensions.

For expert legal advice on Financial Settlements contact a member of our Family Law team on 01952 223548 or 01952 291666.

Adoption

Adoption can be a way to provide long term care and support for a child by people who are not the child�s birth parents.  The process of adoption can be a lengthy and time consuming process and exists to ensure the welfare of the adopted child is maintained.  Detailed below are Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ�s) for this area of family law.

Q. What is adoption?
Adoption is the process where a child becomes a full member of a new family and the new parents become legally responsible for the child.   The birth parents no longer having any legal responsibilities and the adopted child has the same legal status as any child born to their adoptive parents.

Some children retain indirect contact with their birth families through the exchange of occasional letters and photographs.  However, it is more usual for birth parents just to receive an annual report on their child�s progress.

Q. Who can be adopted?
Children under the age of 18 can be adopted.  If a child is married or has been married they are no longer eligible for adoption

Q. Who can adopt a child?
Adoptive parents must be over the age of 21.  Single people, married people or partners living together may apply.  For partners who cohabit, only one partner may legally adopt the child.

Adoptive parents must possess a level of maturity and life experience. Single people must be able to demonstrate that they have a support network of relatives or friends living close by who can support them will offer assistance if a child is placed.  Married people and cohabiting partners must have lived together in a stable relationship for a minimum of 3 years. Partners from same sex partnerships are usually treated in a non-discriminatory way.

Adoptive partners with previous criminal convictions must disclose these. Any offences involving children, or offences involving serious violence will prevent adoption.

Q. What is the legal process for adoption?
Adoption can be a slow and complex process and every case is unique.   It is usual for adoptive parents to complete a programme of preparation and training before an application for adoption is made to the court.

Once an adoption order has been granted it can not be reversed apart from extremely rare circumstances.  A child must have lived with the adoptive parents for at least 13 weeks before an application can be made.

If the birth parents are likely to agree to an adoption, the court will appoint a Reporting Officer to ensure the birth parents understand the implications of adoption and witnesses their agreement to the adoption order.  If the birth parents are unlikely to the adoption the court will appoint a Children’s Guardian to advise if such an order would be in the child’s best interests.

Q. How much will it cost?
Clarkes will provide full details of costs and how these are calculated at the first meeting before any legal work is undertaken.  You may be eligible for Legal Aid with your expenses paid from public funds.

Alternatively, we will provide you with our best estimate of how much your matter will cost overall, how long it will take and what to expect at the end of it.  We will also discuss payment plans with and outline ways to pay your legal expenses over a number of months by instalments. You will of course be kept fully informed in writing of how much work has been carried out and how much more is likely to be necessary.

If you are eligible for Legal Aid you must provide information when requested by the Legal Services Commission.  If a private client payment is required for legal fees in advance or at regular intervals during the progress of your case.

For expert legal help and advice on Adoption contact a member of our Family Law team or call Clarkes on 01952 223548 or 01952 291666.

Domestic violence and Injunctions

Many people suffer domestic violence from their partners and often suffer in silence.   You do not have to put up with violence.

Clarkes can provide help until your domestic violence situation is resolved.  We can discuss ways to protect any children you may have from contact with your violent partner and even help with a separation or divorce should this be needed.  Detailed below are Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for this area of law.

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence can be defined as any type of physical, emotional or sexual abuse between people in a relationship such as married couples, co-habitees or family members.  It can include physical assault, sexual abuse, threats or intimidation.

What are typical domestic violence situations?

Although each situation is different, typical examples of domestic violence include:

  • My spouse hit me last night.
  • My ex-partner has threatened to kill me.
  • My ex-partner telephones me at work and follows me about in the street.
  • I am frightened of my spouse and I want them to leave the house.
  • My partner treats our children badly and they are very frightened.
  • My spouse says they have paid some friends to attack me.
  • My partner has smashed up all the furniture in the house.

 

How can Clarkes help?

At Clarkes we will use the law to help you and your children feel safe and secure rather than frightened or intimidated by your partner.   We ask you to tell us about your situation and will advise you about protection you can get.  We can even apply for apply for Court Orders to protect you.

What is an Emergency Injunction and how can I obtain one?

Emergency injunctions are quick ways to protect a person from their violent partner.  This temporary injunction can be granted on the basis of one parties account of events and the violent partner will not be present in court.  Thereafter a full hearing will usually take place where both parties give evidence and the court will to decide if the injunction should continue.

Clarkes can help you obtain an emergency injunction and will give absolute priority to your concerns.  If a court is available to hear your case we can often obtain an injunction within 24 hours of first speaking with you.

What are Non-Molestation Orders?

A Non-Molestation Order can be obtained in cases of domestic violence and is where the Judge can make a Power of Arrest.  This provides the police with the legal right to arrest anyone who disobeys the Court Order.  The Judge will often impose a prison sentence on anyone foolish enough to break such an order.

How much will it cost?

Clarkes will provide full details of costs and how these are calculated at the first meeting before any legal work is undertaken.  You may be eligible for Legal Aid with your expenses paid from public funds which is usual if you are dependant upon your violent partners income.

Alternatively, we will provide you with our best estimate of how much your matter will cost overall, how long it will take and what to expect at the end of it.  We will also discuss payment plans with and outline ways to pay your legal expenses over a number of months by instalments. You will of course be kept fully informed in writing of how much work has been carried out and how much more is likely to be necessary.

For expert legal advice on Domestic Violence and Injunctions contact a member of our Family Law team on 01952 223548 or 01952 291666.

Legal Aid

Government changes have led to the wholesale withdrawal of Legal Aid from most Family matters. Very few Family cases are eligible nowadays for public funding.

Clarkes’ Family Team will advise you whether you should apply for Legal Aid. Sometimes, disputes alleging domestic violence or requiring contested injunctions can qualify for funding. But only those people with very limited means are likely to be eligible. Clarkes will either help you apply for Legal Aid, or will point you in the direction of other lawyers who can help you with your application.

Family matters that always attract public funding are those that relate to “Public Law” – court cases involving social services. In those circumstances, parents and children are automatically eligible for Legal Aid.  Clarkes are authorised to grant immediate Legal Aid when social services are threatening to refer a case about children to court.  For more information, please contact our specialist Children & Social Services Team.

As only a few clients will be eligible for public funding, it is more important than ever to be as clear as possible about legal costs, right from the start. How much does it cost a private client to instruct a lawyer?  This is something your lawyer will talk through with you at the very first meeting.

Diversity Statement

All comments on this website in respect of married couples of different gender apply equally to Civil Partnerships or marriages between couples of the same gender. The lawyers at Clarkes are willing and able to assist everyone, without regard to gender or sexual-orientation.

 

 

Family Law News

 

 

I would like to think all Solicitors and Practices would have been as helpful as you have been – M

Laura’s compassionate approach put me at ease from the start.  You genuinely wanted me to voice my initial concerns and your responses made me feel a whole lot better.  You subsequently answered all my written questions well, and more besides.  I needed to have an overview of what potentially lies ahead and was reassured by your experienced, knowledgeable and supportive approach – MA

For expert legal help and advice call a member of our Family Law Team on 01952 223548, 01952 291666 or 01743 231531.

 

Paul Harrison

Solicitor and LLP Member

Laura Tarbuck

Solicitor and Associate

Nichola Pickering

Chartered Legal Executive

Ellesse Wilson

Solicitor and Associate

For more information about how we could help you, please get in touch below.

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