As a nation we love our pets. Animals often form an integral part of family life, with disputes on pet custody becoming one of the aspects of concern in divorce proceedings. We have witnessed news stories of high-profile celebrities battle out the care arrangements of these four-legged friends during their divorce, with the likes of Ant McPartlin and his ex-wife agreeing shared custody of their chocolate Labrador, whereas Johnny Depp had to relinquish custody of his and Amber Heard’s dogs.
It is common to conflate custody arrangements relating to children with pets. These areas of law are, however, unrelated.
Child custody arrangements, on the one hand, are dealt with under the Children Act 1989, which place the child’s welfare as the paramount consideration in proceedings and looks to factors including the child’s wishes and their educational needs.
On the other hand, pets are treated as property under English law. This equates animals to the likes any other property owned by the couple that are dealt with during the divorce, for example, household furniture and cars. As such, the court’s approach in these cases does not look to the day-to-day caregiving duties or the emotional needs of the animal in question, but rather the same factors taken into consideration when handling ordinary assets. These may (though non-exhaustively) include:
While the court can make maintenance-related financial orders on divorce, these do not extend to the maintenance of pets. These costs may, however, be factored into your income needs for spousal maintenance as part of the financial remedy process. This is particularly pertinent where such maintenance costs are extensive, for example, with horses or a pet that has a chronic condition requiring expensive treatment.
There are several ways that someone can protect their ownership of a pet during the divorce proceedings:
Pre or postnuptial agreements set out what would happen if the relationship were to breakdown. It will cover issues such as childcare arrangement as well as the division of finances and assets. These arrangements can cover what would happen to any pets if the parties were to separate in the same way that this can be covered in a Will. These agreements must be considered fair to be upheld in the courts.
If there is not already an agreement in place, the parties can mutually agree on a course of action amongst themselves or in negotiation between their lawyers. To do so independently of the courts helps reduce costs and any potential conflict, with the final agreement being formally documented.
In the event an agreement cannot be reached, pet custody arrangements may fall under ongoing financial proceedings. It should, however, be noted that the courts are typically unwilling to make orders in this regard. This can be seen in RK v RK, where Mr Justice Mostyn made clear that he was wholly unwilling to deal with the issue of pet ownership. Cases like IX v IY have therefore seen parties resort to specialist dog mediators to resolve these matters.
It is also worth noting the risk that exists with any litigation: mounting costs. Last year, a case saw £25,000 in legal fees being spent in a court battle over arrangements for a cat named Ozzy. However, the courts are generally reluctant to spend much time hearing evidence in relation to pet custody, wanting to focus their attention on childcare and financial arrangements.
Unlike many other countries, England allows people to apply for financial remedies even if they are already divorced in another country. Often spouses will use this power, Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act, to try to re-open the case and get more money.Part III applications are complicated, and they should not be seen as a simple chance to get a second go. It is only available where “no, or no adequate provision” has been made and is likely to be largely limited to what your spouse reasonably needs. That said, the court has a broad discretion in the award it makes.
If you feel you should have got more from your divorce, it may be possible to appeal your case. A successful appeal may well lead to a higher award or to increased maintenance.To appeal against a financial order, you will need to show that the judge was wrong in the way the final decision was reached. As experienced family lawyers, the legal team at Vardags will help you prepare your case for appeal. We will review the initial judgment and advise you whether it is possible to appeal. The dynamic approach our lawyers take meant that we are used to challenging judgments and working to change the law – we will help you put forward innovative arguments in support of your appeal.
A tax-deductible expense is a deduction that lowers a person's (or organisation's) tax liability. This means that the tax you would usually be charged on that service is removed. To qualify, the expense has to be "ordinary, necessary and reasonable". It is commonly asked whether divorce lawyers’ fees are tax-deductible. The simple answer: probably not.
One positive aspect for some parties going through a divorce is the fact it results in the ability to take those first exciting steps towards moving on and starting afresh. Inevitably, this includes the opportunity to date and, potentially, find a new partner. Legally, you can date during the divorce proceedings, however, exist a number of legal and practical considerations to bear in mind.
The short answer is yes. There are various reasons why one might wish to remain living in the same house as their spouse whilst undergoing divorce proceedings. It may be that matters remain amicable between the pairing, a sense of "normality" is being attempted for the sake of children, or more likely due to financial necessity, especially if the home needs to be sold before the parties can move into separate properties. These are all legitimate reasons to remain cohabiting, however, it is important to note that certain statutory rules and common practices exist that prevent a divorce being granted if two spouses are still living together as a couple in the same property.
This article will address the extent to which a parent can move their child away from the other parent without their consent. A distinction will be made between moving the child to another part of the UK, as well as moving abroad.It should be noted from the outset that whether the parties have ever been married or in a civil partnership is immaterial for the purposes of relocation of the child. The important factor is whether the parent seeking to prevent the relocation has parental responsibility.
It is common for couples to share in the responsibility of handling their finances, which is why many opt to open to a joint bank account to facilitate this. This account can be set up so that transactions require either one, or both, party’s signatures. In general, joint accounts present few problems for couples and are, as such, a favoured means of dealing with finances.
Divorce is often a life-changing event, as individuals - who once shared earnings, assets, and even children - navigate new lives independent of one another. In this respect, one may wonder whether it is indeed possible to maintain the same lifestyle after divorce, especially in high-net-worth cases, where the parties may have enjoyed a very high standard of living throughout the marriage and that will require significant assets to sustain.
When an entrepreneur gets divorced, their spouse can sometimes try to get their company joined to proceedings. In doing so, they might be trying to extract cash from the business or dispute how it is owned and held. If you find yourself in this situation, you may well want to make representations to the court.Vardags, with our corporate understanding and family law expertise, are well placed to advise you. Our in-house forensic accountancy team can help you produce realistic arguments about the value, ownership, and liquidity of the business, whilst understanding the aims and procedure of the family courts.
Whilst it can be extremely upsetting to receive a divorce petition with whose contents you emphatically do not agree, it is always worth bearing in mind the following two things: i) with no fault divorce yet to come into force, there still exists a tendency for petitioners to overstate their account of a spouse’s unreasonable behaviour, and ii) it is very rare that there would be a detriment made to your financial entitlement or child arrangements by a petition that depicts you unfavourably.
The Decree Nisi is a legal document confirming that the court is satisfied that the divorce should be granted in principle- this is the half way stage of the divorce process and is only an interim order. The Decree Absolute is the legal document that finally ends the marriage.
In many countries, a couple can divorce with little or no financial support being given to the poorer party. Sometimes, you might not even know about the divorce until it has already been finalised. That does not prevent you from seeking the support of the English courts.
Sometimes litigation can get bogged down in a costly mire. The case can drag, whilst endless correspondence pushes up solicitors’ costs. It may be possible to escape this morass by changing solicitors.
The legal fees of a top divorce lawyer can seem expensive, but it may be the best investment you ever make. When it comes to divorce, your entire asset base will be part of the dispute, and your fees will likely be only a small percentage of this.
The thrill of a lottery win can be quickly tarnished when divorce is involved and there is the prospect of having to share it with a previous partner. If there is a large win, the resulting financial settlement will likely comprise an ultra high net worth one. Does a lottery win automatically get shared as part of a financial settlement? Can you wait until the divorce is finalised before cashing in to avoid having to share with someone you no longer want to be with? The answer is it depends on the circumstances of the win.
People that have gone through a divorce may wonder what will happen to their assets if they meet a new partner- does their former spouse inherit or their new partner. When going through a divorce it is very easy to overlook the impact it can have on other issues, for example your will. Ensuring the protection of your assets should be a key consideration following any important life changes such as marriage or divorce. By keeping your will valid and up to date also ensures that your wishes will be honoured.
The best way to ensure your assets are protected is to conduct a thorough and accurate valuation.
As the court has wide powers when making financial awards, it is vital that you set out the proper values of your assets so you can define your spouse's entitlement.
For most people, debt is something that they will incur to enable them to buy larger purchases such as cars and homes, as well as sometimes for everyday spending. In the same way that assets need to be assessed and divided when a couple divorce, any debt will need to be examined to determine who is responsible for its repayment.
If you fear violence or are subject to harassment the court can and will protect you, even after your divorce. For victims of domestic abuse (be it physical, verbal or emotional harm) the court can make non-molestation orders and occupation orders each giving you comprehensive legal protection.Non-molestation orders (“non-mols”) are designed to protect your from harassment. Normally, they will prevent your ex-partner from harassing you and threatening you with violence. Sometimes they will bar them from contacting you directly and from going near you.
If your partner is breaking an existing order, there are numerous ways of enforcing it. The court can divert a portion of their salary directly to you (garnishee order), give you a charge over property or shares or even transfer bank accounts over to you. If your partner willfully and deliberately refuses to satisfy an order, this can amount to contempt – the court can fine and even jail them for this.
Though uncommon, false allegations of domestic violence can be extremely distressing. As leading family lawyers, Vardags can defend such claims while putting forward your case. Where false allegations are made before the court, the consequences can be very serious. Under an occupation or non-molestation order you could be removed from your home or arrested by the police.
London is known as one of the fairest locations for a less-wealthy spouse to bring a divorce. In many other countries, a spouse will receive little or no payment at the end of a marriage. If you want your fair share, it may be vital that your case is heard in England.Jurisdiction in relation to divorce is governed by a complex web of English, European, and international law. Generally, you will only be able to get divorced in England if you, or your spouse, has been resident or domiciled in England. If there is more than one European country in which you are able to get divorced, the “correct” jurisdiction will be determined by where the proceedings are started first. If the jurisdiction is disputed between England and a non-European country, the court will consider which country is the most suitable to hear the dispute, considering where the assets are located and the previous lifestyles of the parties.
There is a common misconception that a “quickie” divorce is possible in this country. Divorcing couples should also be careful about the exaggerated claims made by companies offering fast DIY divorces. However, even uncontested and uncomplicated divorces will take at least four to six months to finalise. The exact length of time depends on various factors and the particular circumstances of the case.
A person can apply to get divorced in England or Wales if all of the following apply:- You have been married for over a year- Your relationship has permanently broken down- Your marriage is legally recognised in the UK (including same-sex marriage)- The UK is your permanent home, or the permanent home of your husband or wife
During the process of divorce, one of the elements is the exchange of information relating to finances, known as disclosure. This is done in order to determine what a fair division of the assets will be. However, there are instances where one or both of the parties conceal or misrepresent deliberately the value of their assets. Should it be the case that certain assets are not included during disclosure, it cannot be divided, even if it’s the case that it is later discovered it is likely already be disposed of. These kinds of assets are known as hidden assets and should either party be discovered to be hiding assets, the court will take serious action against them.
When it comes to parties seeking a divorce, it is not uncommon for one party to be unaware of the true extent of their joint finances, that of their spouse or indeed their own. This is often the result of one spouse in the relationship controlling the finances in their entirety. However, while this may work when the couple are together, when the relationship ends, the party that is unaware of the marital finances may feel vulnerable and anxious, unsure as to whether they will receive a fair share of the couple's assets.
If you spouse’s income has increased significantly and you receive ongoing maintenance, you can argue that the amount paid to you could also go up.This will often be informed by what your income needs are, but the court may even order a surplus above what you need. If your ex has increased their capital wealth substantially, it may be possible to capitalise these payments ending your monthly reliance on your spouse.
Sometimes a spouse will argue that a marriage was not valid, and so there can be no divorce. If your wedding was in England, this will generally be easy to assess as English law lays down strict licencing requirements for wedding venues. In other countries, for example with Islamic marriages, things can be far more complicated. Generally if you can demonstrate that your marriage was registered with the local authorities, the English court will accept it as valid, allowing you to proceed with a divorce.
If you carry on sharing a house with your spouse during a divorce, they must treat you with respect and not make life more difficult for you. They cannot restrict your financial freedom, nor can they harass you or pressure you psychologically.
If you are involved in divorce proceedings and you have concerns that your partner may sell property and other assets, Vardags’ experienced team can help you make an application to court. An injunction can prevent your partner from disposing of property both in the UK and abroad. In effect, the injunction ‘freezes’ property, so that it is protected. We can provide swift and sensitive advice to help you act quickly, before it is too late.
Sometimes a wealthy parent can be joined to divorce proceedings, for example if they have a history of making large payments to their child, or if they are likely to be the one who meets the order.If this happens to you, you will want to protect your wealth and minimise the amount you might have to pay to your child’s spouse. The involvement of third parties is very fact specific, but as experienced family lawyers, Vardags will help you minimise the cost of your involvement.
If you fear violence or suffer from it, the court will protect you. For victims of domestic abuse (be it physical, verbal or emotional harm) the court can make non-molestation orders or occupation orders, each giving you comprehensive legal protection.
Ensuring that you have a lawyer that has both the specialist skills, knowledge and experience is something that you want to clarify in your initial questions with your solicitor. The areas you want to clarify are:How experienced is the lawyer in family law, particularly divorce law? Have they dealt with cases that have similar circumstances that are relevant to your case?How credible is the firm that the lawyer works for? AWhat is the lawyer’s view on fair play? How will they effectively ensure a good lawyer/client relationship especially when dealing with situations where emotions can be running high? How frequently they will update you on your case?Whether it will be one person with overall control and as a contact point?
If your ex has increased their own earnings or is cohabiting with a new partner, it may be possible to reduce the amount of maintenance you pay to them. Ongoing maintenance will always be informed by your partner’s needs. If those needs change, or they are able to meet them from other sources, then it may be possible to apply for a downward variation of the payments you make.
When you divorce, any maintenance order will be based one what you are earning at the time. For whatever reason, you might not always be earning at that level.Whether it is due to a downturn in your business, ill-health or retirement, you might find that the maintenance payments are taking a disproportionate amount of your income. If that is the case, you can ask the court for a downward variation of your maintenance.
If your spouse has stopped supporting and you are struggling to meet your daily expenses, Vardags can help.It is possible to apply to the court for your spouse to provide you with interim maintenance, also known as maintenance pending suit. Here the court will look at your short term income needs and will order your spouse to make payments to meet them. If such an application is required, your spouse might also be ordered to pay your legal costs relating to it.
It is remarkable how often we are approached by clients who are unhappy with their current solicitors or would like a second opinion. Often they have initially selected local solicitors without the requisite experience of complex cases, have a personality clash with their solicitor, or have been palmed off on junior staff without justification.We can give a second opinion without your current solicitors finding out. If you ultimately like what you hear and would like to switch, we can handle the whole process for you and you don’t even need to speak with your current solicitors.
We often hear from our clients that they wish they had taken advice earlier. They have been reluctant to speak with lawyers while making up their mind about whether to get divorced, to increase access to their children, or to prevent escalating domestic abuse.
Where a spouse is dissatisfied with the outcome of a case, they can appeal. To do so, however, they must have viable grounds.Judges in family law have a wide discretion to make findings of fact and rule on the distribution of assets between the parties. For a successful appeal, the court must be shown that the initial judge erred in their understanding or application of the law. It is not possible to have a re-run of the case simply because you do not like the outcome.
Where a spouse has significant business assets, they can often try to downplay their value on divorce. Having the correct value for an asset like this will be key to ensure you get your fair share of your marital wealth.Sometimes spouses will route their business through a complex web of company structures. On other occasions they will manipulate the way the business is run and accounted for in order to suggest it has a lower value. The court appointed expert valuer will have to contend with each of these tricks as it seeks to properly value the asset.
When you begin divorce proceedings, it is natural to worry about how your spouse might react. From the outset of proceedings, they are under a duty to maintain the status quo – including giving you the same access to money to meet your day-to-day expenses.
Often people will apply for divorce proceedings in England with the aim of maximising their claim, even if this is not justified. Jurisdiction, in cases of divorce, is governed by a complex web of law, involving multiple cross-border elements. Generally, the divorce will only be heard in England if you, or your spouse, has been resident or domiciled in England.
Your spouse might try to stop you getting your fair share by giving assets away – transferring them to business associate or family members – or by putting them into trust. In doing this they will try to reduce the amount of money available to meet your claim. Vardags are used to such tricks and can help you protect yourself from them.If you have evidence that your spouse is going to dissipate their assets, either by spending them or moving them to other people or other countries, it is possible to obtain a freezing order. These orders freeze your spouse’s assets, allowing them access to no more than they need for their ordinary living expenses. This prevents them from making any major transactions and putting their assets beyond your reach.
All parties in a divorce are under a duty to provide “full and frank” disclosure. This means that they have to tell you about all their assets and income. Unfortunately, some wealthy spouses think that they can hide their assets – placing them under the control of companies, or moving them offshore.Vardags are very experienced in these types of cases. Our in house forensic accountancy team can search for assets across the globe, and are experienced at understanding and unravelling complicated corporate structures.
In high value cases, it is common for parties to have an inflated view of marital assets. In order to tackle these false perceptions, an accurate and thorough valuation of all your assets is key.With a unique team of in-house forensic accountants and well-established links with expert valuers, Vardags are adept at demonstrating the true value of shared assets and countering any excessive needs claims.
In the course of proceedings, maintaining the financial status quo is required as well as not doing anything that can be seen as dissipating assets. That should not, however, restrict you from making legitimate investments, as divorce should not be seen as a blanket ban on moving capital. Likewise, spouses can often apply for the extraction of cash reserves held in a business, arguing that they should be used for their claim rather than being retained for future investment.Throughout proceedings, presenting business affairs in a transparent manner will be vital in avoiding attracting suspicion or appearing in a bad light. Our in-house corporate expertise, allied with our legal acumen, will help you protect your business activities.
Following the landmark decisions of Sharland v Sharland and Gohil v Gohil, it is now much easier to re-open your case if you think your partner lied during divorce proceedings. Fraudulent non-disclosure, i.e. hiding assets and lying about your wealth, can now lead to a new settlement, no matter how much time has passed. It will be up to your partner to show that their lies were not relevant to the outcome.
Since the Supreme Court decisions of Sharland v Sharland and Gohil v Gohil, the court has greater ability to re-open cases if there has been fraudulent non-disclosure. This has led to an increasing number of spouses trying to have their cases brought back to court.Often, this can be unmerited, born out of their feeling they got a bad deal, rather than actual evidence of asset hiding. Even so, an appeal can be a costly and time consuming process with you having to go to court to fight the allegations.Vardags are experienced with cases such as this, and will help you demonstrate that the original outcome was the right one. We will help you demonstrate that your previous disclosure was full and frank and that any omissions were honest mistakes and not attempts to deceive the court.
Custody and access - more properly called “Child Arrangements” - can be emotionally fraught litigation, especially where one party is threatening the other with the prospect of denying them time with the child. The court will always look at child centric outcomes, with the welfare of the child always being paramount. The starting point will always be that the child should spend time with both parents, except in very unusual circumstances.
Divorcing is not easy. It can be even harder if your partner is sharing details with the press. Seeing stories about yourself can be highly upsetting, especially if they are only showing one side of the story – and even worse if that side is not true. Vardags are used to working with clients who are in the public eye and managing the publicity surrounding divorce.
In a high net-worth divorce case, a party can start spending recklessly for a number of reasons. Freezing orders in family law ensure a wealthy party cannot dissipate their assets in this way. This is a form of injunction which restricts a party from spending above their reasonable needs. If they breach it, they can be fined or jailed.
Starting divorce proceedings can be frightening as well as full of uncertainty; however, as leading family lawyers, Vardags can guide you through the first steps. Being excluded from the family home is a common worry that many have. Under law, a spouse’s rights include remaining living at the family home even if it is owned in their partner’s sole name. This is because of a principle called “home rights”, which also, when properly registered, prevents your spouse from selling the property from under you or from kicking you out. As experienced family lawyers, Vardags have experience in helping people protect their home rights, helping you remain in the family home.
When deciding a financial settlement, the court will consider the standard of living enjoyed by both parties while they were together. While this is taken into consideration, it is only one of many factors which are considered and the discretion of the judge will play a key role.In high net worth cases, where the family have enjoyed a very high standard of living and there are substantial financial resources, the parties’ needs will be computed in a more generous way than in an ordinary divorce case. For high net worth and ultra high net worth individuals, having the best legal team on your side will ensure, where possible, you are able to maintain a similar standard of living.
Under section 37 of the Matrimonial Causes Act, a transfer of property can be set aside if the court is satisfied that it was done to frustrate a matrimonial claim. If you have received property from a parent, it is possible that, on divorce, the other parent or step-parent might try to set it aside.
High value divorces can lead to expensive litigation, but you should not be squeezed out of getting your fair share because you do not have the money to pay your fees. Though family lawyers are not allowed to work on a “no win, no fee” basis, we can often find away to keep your case going.
If you are ordered to make payments by the court, deliberate failure so to do will be considered contempt. Disobeying orders is taken very seriously by the courts and can result in fines and even imprisonment. If you are genuinely unable to make the payments required by the award, you will need legal advice to address this before arrears mount up.If the order to which you are subject has been made very recently, it may be possible to appeal. If the judge has made a mistake about the law or facts in your case, then it may be possible to apply to the court to reassess what you are required to pay.
Your divorce is likely to impact upon your finances for the rest of your life. It is vital that you have a legal team who can trust to deal with your case effectively. If you are unhappy with your legal team, it is very easy to change to new solicitors, only requiring you to lodge a Notice of Change with the court.
Spouses having inflated ideas about the value of assets is not uncommon in high value divorces, especially where parties have had a high-spending lifestyle.This false perception of reality can prove costly for both parties, if not kept in check. Where this is the case, full disclosure will be vital in demonstrating that there are no hidden assets while reassuring your spouse that everything has been done transparently. Equally important will be obtaining thorough valuations.
If you fear violence or are subject to violence, the court can and will protect you. For victims of domestic abuse (be it physical, verbal or emotional harm) the court can make non-molestation orders and occupation orders each giving you comprehensive legal protection.Non-molestation orders (“non-mols”) are designed to protect your from harassment. Normally, they will prevent your ex-partner from harassing you and threatening you with violence. Sometimes they will bar them from contacting you directly and from going near you.
Some of our clients tackle their problems head on. Others sit back and wait for their spouse to take the first step.In our view waiting is almost always a mistake. In some cases, the cost of delay can be enormous. Waiting may risk the client’s spouse issuing proceedings in another jurisdiction and this can have enormous consequences for the ultimate outcome of the case (for instance, as you might imagine some countries are far less generous to the financially weaker party than the UK).
Search orders, also known as search and seizure orders and Anton Piller orders, are a form of interim mandatory injunction.
The matrimonial home is very often the main asset of a marriage and is likely to be an area of consideration both during the divorce process itself as well as what happens when it is finalised. It is not uncommon for one party to leave the family home during divorce negotiations, especially where close contact causes unnecessary tension and conflict. However, it is crucial that you obtain full legal advice before taking any steps, to ensure that you do not compromise any aspect of your divorce.
All criminal cases that are to be dealt with by the court system begin in the magistrates’ court. Where a person is charged with a criminal offence, they will need to attend court so that the case can be dealt with. The person that attends court charged with the criminal offence is known as a defendant. When a person is charged with a crime, they can either be released on bail with certain conditions (including attending the court hearing) or held in custody for the next available court hearing.
According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales by the Office for National Statistics, 7.7% of women and 3.6% of men were victims of domestic abuse last year. Lockdown has seen a 7% rise in this figure. It is important to note that not all abuse is physical and, as now enshrined in the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, can also take the form of emotional bullying, intimidation, financial control and other coercive behaviours. Taking the first steps towards divorce is daunting, but all the more so in the context of domestic violence. Fortunately, however, there exist a number of steps you can take to ensure your safety and interests during the divorce process.
As a nation we love our pets. Animals often form an integral part of family life, with disputes on pet custody becoming one of the aspects of concern in divorce proceedings. We have witnessed news stories of high-profile celebrities battle out the care arrangements of these four-legged friends during their divorce, with the likes of Ant McPartlin and his ex-wife agreeing shared custody of their chocolate Labrador, whereas Johnny Depp had to relinquish custody of his and Amber Heard's dogs.
There is often a lot of paperwork involved in a divorce and it can seem overwhelming to think about contacting more people about the change of circumstances. However, it is very important that you make sure that you contact all the relevant organisations that need to know your marital status to make sure all processes are correctly followed.
The origin of wedding rings can be traced back to Ancient Egypt, where they were first fashioned out of reeds and placed on the fourth finger of the left hand, through which it was believed ran the Vena Amoris (vein of love) which carried a flow of blood straight to the heart. While this anatomical myth has since been debunked by modern medicine, the tradition has otherwise endured, albeit with rings of much greater value.