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Family Law

The breakdown of any relationship can be traumatic and stressful, but our dedicated team of family law solicitors in Orpington have the knowledge and experience to provide caring, practical and clear advice to guide you through what is often a distressing time.

Whether you and your partner have decided to divorce, you’ve just moved in with a partner and are concerned about your legal rights, or you need advice about making arrangements for children, we are compassionate and sensitive in our approach.

Family law matters can unfortunately create a lot of tension within families, particularly where children and complex assets are involved. Disagreements can quickly escalate, leading to costly and lengthy court litigation.

As members of Resolution, our priority is to help you avoid any unnecessary conflict and, wherever possible, we’ll recommend Alternative Dispute Resolution methods such as mediation, collaborative law, and arbitration to help you come to an amicable result which works for the whole family.

In the majority of situations, our clients are able to resolve their matters amicably and, with our assistance, it’s unlikely you’ll need to go to court. However, if it does become necessary to seek the decision of a judge, we’ll vigorously represent you, protect you and your children’s rights, and to give you the best possible chance of achieving a positive outcome.

If you require further advice, please fill in our Online Enquiry Form and a member of our family law team will contact you as soon as possible. Alternatively, email the head of our family law solicitor team Orpington, Claire Schneck.

How our family law solicitors in Orpington can help you

We have wide-ranging expertise across all family law matters, including:

 

Divorce

Our varied experience includes negotiating divorce settlements from the most straightforward cases (such as those involving separate finances and no children) to the most complicated (such as those involving businesses and international assets).

Under UK family law, you can get a divorce if:

  • You and your spouse have been married for at least a year
  • You satisfy the ground for divorce – your relationship has irretrievably broken down
  • Your marriage is legally valid in the UK and the UK is your permanent home or that of your spouse

You must rely on at least 1 “reason” to prove your relationship has irretrievably broken down. The reasons include:

  • Adultery with someone of the opposite sex
  • Unreasonable behaviour – your spouse has behaved in a way which makes it unreasonable to expect you to live with them. For example, they are abusive or are irresponsible with drugs or alcohol
  • Desertion – your spouse left you 2 years prior to you applying for divorce and you have not lived with them for more than 6 months in the past 2 years
  • Separation for at least 2 years and you and your spouse both agree to the divorce
  • Separation for at least 5 years but your spouse doesn’t have to consent to the divorce

Civil partnership dissolution

You can dissolve your civil partnership if you’ve been in the partnership for at least 1 year. Like divorce, you can only dissolve your partnership if you show the relationship has broken down irretrievably.

There are 4 “reasons” you can rely on and you must cite at least 1 to be successful:

  • Unreasonable behaviour – your civil partner has behaved in a way which would make it unreasonable to expect you to live with them (for example, they’ve committed domestic abuse or adultery)
  • Desertion – your civil partner left you 2 years ago and you have not lived with them for more than 6 months in the past 2 years
  • Separation for at least 2 years and both of you consent to the dissolution
  • Separation for at least 5 years but your civil partner doesn’t have to consent to the dissolution

Unlike divorce, adultery is not an official “reason” for dissolving a civil partnership but it can fall under the “unreasonable behaviour” reason.

Separation

If you and your spouse or civil partner need time to consider whether you want a divorce or dissolution but are not yet ready to commit, we can help you create a Separation Agreement and/or apply for a legal separation on your behalf.

Separation Agreements (or Deeds of Separation) define how a couple’s finances and children-related matters will be arranged prior to divorce or dissolution. If a couple later decides to legally end the relationship, the Separation Agreement may form the basis of a divorce settlement.

A typical Separation Agreement will cover matters like:

  • How the mortgage, rent, and/or bills will be paid
  • Who will continue to live in the family home
  • How debts such as loans and overdrafts should be managed
  • How property, such as cars and furniture, should be divided
  • Whether one party should pay maintenance to support their spouse and children
  • Who the children will live with most of the time and how contact with the non-resident parent should be arranged

It’s important that both you and your spouse or civil partner obtain independent legal advice prior to entering into a Separation Agreement, otherwise it may not be adhered to by the courts.

Alternatively, we can help you apply for a legal separation which allows you to live apart from your spouse or civil partner without divorcing or dissolving the partnership. You may want a legal separation if your religion disallows divorce or you legally cannot divorce or dissolve the partnership (for example, because you’ve been married or in a civil partnership for less than a year).

Division of assets on divorce or dissolution

When a couple decides to divorce or dissolve their civil partnership, all money and assets brought into or acquired during the union must be divided fairly between the parties (even if property is owned in sole names). Matrimonial property includes:

  • The family home
  • Earnings
  • Savings
  • Personal belongings
  • Investments
  • Pensions
  • Family businesses

The starting point for the division of assets is 50/50, however, you and your spouse or civil partner must consider what is fair in your individual circumstances. Relevant factors include the earning capacity of both parties, the needs of any children, the length of the marriage, and whether either party has any physical or mental disabilities.

We can help you and your spouse come to a Financial Settlement in the course of divorce or dissolution proceedings which is based on harmonious compromise and cooperation. In the majority of situations, it won’t be necessary to go to court. However, we can make your Financial Settlement legally binding by applying for a Consent Order.

Child maintenance and spousal maintenance

Our family law solicitors can provide detailed advice on child maintenance, spousal maintenance, and civil partnership maintenance agreements.

If you or your partner was the main earner in the family, it may be necessary to provide financial support after divorce, dissolution, or separation to ensure you or your spouse is able to maintain a decent standard of living for themselves and your children.

We can advise in relation to:

  • One-off maintenance payments – if you and your spouse would prefer a “clean break”, we can help you negotiate a one-off payment to enable both parties to proceed into single life completely independent
  • Ongoing maintenance payments – weekly or monthly payments can be agreed to support the financially weaker spouse/civil partner and any children on a longer term basis.

Arrangements for children

Maintaining stability in children’s lives is of utmost importance during divorce or dissolution. We can help you reach a practical agreement on matters such as:

  • Where the children will live most of the time
  • How much time children should spend with their non-resident parent
  • How decisions about the children’s upbringing, such as education and religion, will be decided

We can also advise during matters where one parent wants to move abroad with their children, either temporarily or permanently.

Our main priority will always be the happiness and welfare of your children and all our advice will be tailored with their best interests in mind.

Cohabitation

To the surprise of many unmarried couples, “common law marriage” is actually a myth. If two people live together for a long time, they do not obtain the same legal rights as married couples, but do risk encountering financial hardship in the event they decide to break up or one partner dies.

If you cohabit with a partner but you’re unmarried, we can help you negotiate and draft a robust Cohabitation Agreement to protect your interests in the unfortunate event that your relationship ends.

A solid Cohabitation Agreement covers things like:

  • How assets (both jointly and solely owned) are to be divided
  • How the rent, mortgage, and/or bills are to be paid
  • How debts will be managed
  • How childcare will be arranged

Cohabitation Agreements are not technically legally binding but, assuming it’s fair to both parties and you’ve received independent legal advice, it’s highly likely to be upheld in court.

Prenuptial Agreements and Postnuptial Agreements

Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements are becoming increasingly popular as modern couples are now frequently coming into marriage or a civil partnership already owning significant assets.

We can provide advice on the legal effects of marriage or civil partnership and your options for protecting your financial interests. We’ll also advise you through negotiations with your partner and draft a watertight agreement so you can proceed into marriage or civil partnership with confidence.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

We are highly skilled in methods of Alternative Dispute Resolution, with an enviable success rate at helping clients resolve their family law matters without having to resort to expensive and stressful court proceedings.

Mediation

Mediation involves sitting down with your partner to negotiate under the guidance of a professional mediator. The mediator’s role is not to tell you what to do or to give you legal advice but to help facilitate your discussions.

Mediation can be used for a wide range of family law disputes, including divorce, financial settlements, arrangements for children, Prenuptial Agreements and Postnuptial Agreements, and Cohabitation Agreements.

We can help you access mediation as well as advising you in relation to any agreement reached during the process and drafting a Consent Order to make your agreement legally binding if necessary.

Collaborative law

Collaborative law is the process of sitting down with your partner and your respective collaborative lawyers to discuss and negotiate your family law dispute in a neutral, cooperative environment.

Unlike mediation, your collaborative lawyer will be on hand to provide legal advice and negotiate on your behalf. You can also bring independent third parties such as accountants and financial advisors to provide advice. Therefore, it’s often a popular choice for couples with complex finances, such as those including issues of international property or family businesses.

Our team includes a trained collaborative lawyer, Kevin Bristow, who can support and represent you through the collaborative law process.

Arbitration

Arbitration can be used where couples cannot agree a resolution to their family law matters. The process involves a professional Arbitrator reviewing the case and making a decision on behalf of the parties.

You and your spouse won’t be bound by any decision made by the arbitrator unless you both agree prior to the proceedings.

Arbitration bears similarities with court proceedings, however, it tends to be cheaper, more informal, and less combative than court.

Domestic violence

Our family solicitors take domestic violence extremely seriously. Whether you’re experiencing, or have experienced, physical, psychological, sexual, financial, or any other kind of abuse, we will provide sensitive advice and representation to help protect you and your children.

If your matter is urgent, we also provide immediate assistance, including helping you access emergency accommodation or other support services, and making urgent court applications on your behalf.

Why choose our family law solicitors?

At Clarkson Wright & Jakes, we’ve dedicated our legal knowledge and expertise to clients across London, Kent, and the South East for decades. We’re a long-standing law firm with a modern approach to family law issues.

As members of Resolution, our family team of solicitors in Orpington is committed to resolving family disputes in a sensitive, constructive, and cost effective way. With our assistance, there’s very little chance you will need to attend court, saving you considerable time, money and stress.

Our specialist team includes family solicitors who are ranked in both the Chambers & Partners and Legal 500 guides as leading family solicitors in Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

Notable members of our team include is our head of family, Claire Schneck who is  named in the Chambers & Partners directory for her specialist focus on family law matters. Claire takes a progressive approach to her work and one of her considerable successes includes representing a client in a ground-breaking case which boosted the legal rights of cohabitees.

Another notable member of our team is Kevin Bristow who has 20+ years PQE. is a Law Society Family Law Advanced accreditation specialist, and is also listed in Chambers & Partners as a family law expert.

Clarkson Wright & Jakes is independently regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Family Law frequently asked questions

To learn more from our family law solicitors in Orpington, please visit our Family Law FAQ.

Get in touch with our family law solicitors in Orpington

If you require further advice, please fill in our Online Enquiry Form and a member of our family law team will contact you as soon as possible. Alternatively, email the head of our family law solicitor team Orpington, Claire Schneck.