The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act of 2013 places same sex marriages on exactly the same legal footing as those of heterosexual couples. This means that the rights and obligations of a married same sex couple are identical as those of a married opposite sex couple.
The 2013 Act also enables civil partners to convert their partnership into a marriage if they wish.
Same sex spouses whose relationship has irretrievably broken down can seek a divorce through the court using the same process and under the same legislation as married couples of the opposite sex. The only difference is that instead of using one of the five facts to prove the irretrievable breakdown, there are only four. Adultery cannot be used for a same sex couple as, in law, adultery specifically relates to sexual intercourse between a man and a woman.
In 2005, The Civil Partnership Act came into effect allowing couples of the same sex to legally register their partnership giving them the same rights and responsibilities of a married couple.
Before entering into a Civil Partnership both parties need to ensure that they have considered carefully what their plans are for the future.
All of this can be agreed beforehand and can form part of an agreement very similar to a pre-marital or prenuptial agreement. A pre-civil partnership agreement can help protect family heirlooms, major assets and business interests, and whilst this is not currently legally binding, a well drafted agreement may hold weight and assist a court to understand the parties intentions for specific assets.
In the event that a civil partnership breaks down irretrievably, you must get permission from the court to legally dissolve the partnership. The court can grant you either a separation order or a dissolution order.
If a partnership has lasted 12 months or less, a separation order is used. A dissolution order is only available after the first 12 months of the civil partnership and is similar to a divorce of a married couple. Once you have been granted a separation order it means that you cannot legally enter into another civil partnership until you get a dissolution order.
Our family law team will advise on these and other related matters which may be a cause for concern. It is, therefore, preferable that you take legal advice prior to leaving the property or deciding upon the division of any assets.
With years of experience, Blackhams are experts in the field of family law and pride themselves on providing the highest professional standards, combined with impartial advice, and understanding.
Some individuals are under the preconceived notion that common law marriage exists – it does not. You are either married, civil partners or cohabiting.
Common Law marriage is a creature of fiction – it does not exist in the real world.
If you live with your partner, purchase a property together or have children, the law does not offer automatic protection as it does with married or civil partner couples. The mere fact of living together gives neither party any rights against the other, though the particular history of the relationship may do so, not always in the way that the parties expect!
This can inevitably leave one party exposed and at a disadvantage. For example, claims could be brought against the other party who has a property in their sole name in which the parties have been living. Complications can arise as to what one party has promised the other during the course of the relationship.
If you are thinking about living together, it is important to be clear from the very outset what your rights are, and what you want to happen if the relationship breaks down or if one of you dies.
As a means of protection, you may want to consider entering into a ‘cohabitation agreement’ (also known as a ‘living together agreement’), which would set out in clear terms the financial and domestic arrangements between the parties thereby avoiding confusion and bitterness should you later separate.
If you have already entered into a cohabitation agreement and your relationship breaks down, you should seek immediate advice from our family law team without delay if you encounter problems in implementing the terms of the agreement. We may need to consider enforcement methods with you as a last resort if your partner reneges upon the agreement.
Following a break-up, issues relating to children can become difficult and the source of disagreement.
Following a break-up, issues relating to children can become difficult and the source of disagreement. In cases involving children, parents and other family members are encouraged to regard the welfare of the children as the first and paramount consideration.
We aim to keep the needs of children at the forefront of our client’s mind when advising in this sensitive area. It is our view, that you are the best judge of your children’s best interests, but we appreciate that the arrangements for children can become somewhat difficult to resolve on separation.
Our family law team will help you to avoid parental conflicts that evolve on separation and advise you about mediation as an alternative to the court process. We can assist and advise you about practical, legal and financial arrangements for the children, and how their time can be shared between you.
In addition, we can provide comprehensive advice on the following areas:
We can help anyone who finds themselves in conflict concerning any children issues. In situations where there are serious concerns about a child’s immediate safety and welfare, our family law team are able to act very quickly to provide you with protection through court orders.
Reported cases have shown that children whose parents separate are more likely to suffer from psychological and behavioural issues, usually because they are embroiled in the parental conflict and become confused and distressed with the situation.
Parents can help to minimise the impact their separation has on the children involved by reaching amicable arrangements quickly and preferably without recourse to the Courts.
Going through a divorce or any kind of family separation can be a difficult and traumatic time for an individual and the family.
Blackhams divorce and separation solicitors are highly knowledgeable and are at hand to advise you at every step.
Going through a divorce or any kind of family separation can be a difficult and traumatic time for an individual and the family.
Family law involves critical decisions, following any relationship breakdown, on a great number of matters including, your children, your financial affairs and your future.
We can give you practical advice and clear guidance in an approachable and calm manner.
Blackhams promote, where possible, an ongoing line of communication with your partner so that you can enter into your own discussions to structure your own financial settlements and agree on arrangements about your children with minimum court intervention and with a view to reducing your costs.
Where appropriate, we will invite you to consider family mediation, collaborative law and family arbitration as an alternative to court. Where court proceedings are unavoidable, we will represent your interests to the fullest extent.
We will guide you through the court process and will work with you to obtain the best and most cost-effective resolution possible.
If you are in a relationship where you have been the victim of domestic violence, we can help you to protect yourself and your children from danger so that you can rebuild your lives in a safe and secure environment.
Domestic violence is a very difficult and emotionally distressing area of law that deals with protective measures arising from physical, mental and emotional abuse as well as harassment. It may also be a relevant factor when considering contact and shared arrangements between the children and the ‘absent’ parent.
At Blackhams, we encourage anyone who is the victim of domestic abuse to not suffer in silence. We understand and appreciate that leaving an abusive partner is a difficult step to take, particularly if you have children together or you do not have access to any finances to be able to move out independently.
We are sensitive to this difficult situation and will support you throughout the entire process and provide you with assistance at every stage.
Our family law team appreciate the importance of dealing with domestic violence issues as swiftly as possible and will ensure you receive a speedy resolution especially if you require the immediate protection of the court.
As with all the services we provide, anything you disclose to us will remain confidential – you can talk to us openly and honestly about any concerns you might have and without feeling the need to hold back any information.
We are not here to judge you or your partner. We are simply here to help you to break free from an unjust situation. We will happily meet you in our offices which are easily accessible, discreet and secure, or at any other venue where you feel safe and comfortable.
The breakdown of any relationship can be a particularly emotional and stressful time. There will be many issues to resolve and we can offer practical advice and clear guidance to ensure that you are protecting your finances, property and assets.
Blackhams offer expert legal advice tailored to suit each individual’s needs to relieve any anxieties or doubts you may have.
If you are contemplating a separation or have separated from your partner, it is important that you take legal advice at the earliest possible opportunity. It is preferable that you take legal advice prior to leaving the matrimonial home or agreeing to any division of the matrimonial assets.
During the course of the financial process, it will be necessary for the parties to provide full and open disclosure about their finances.
However, if you feel that your partner is being less than honest about their financial position and assets, our family law team can provide you with comprehensive advice as to whether an injunction to freeze assets is an appropriate course of action.
We have the expertise to deal with complex situations upon separation and will help you in a constructive and conciliatory way to achieving a quick outcome and peace of mind.
Business interests and assets
Prenuptial agreements are becoming increasingly common as a means of protecting a family’s assets in the current financial climate.
Pre and Post Nuptial Agreements
The family structure has changed over the years and families are becoming far more diverse, making it even more desirable to structure financial commitments before marriage.
If a prenuptial agreement is prepared properly, both parties will have given full disclosure and received legal advice in which case it would be binding and upheld by the courts.
It does, however, need to be reviewed from time to time to ensure it is effective and appropriate. It can be amended during the course of the marriage, by agreement.
For those families that wish to protect their wealth, prenuptial agreements and trusts are the way forward, particularly where couples are entering into their second or third marriages and wish for their property to pass to their children from previous relationships.
Prenuptials can also serve as a means of protecting the wider and extended family, where family businesses share ownership.
The same protection applies when a property is being passed down a generation following divorce.
The prenuptial agreement can record those assets that are wholly external to the marriage so that they are treated differently by the courts.
If the parties do not enter into a prenuptial agreement, they can after the marriage, enter into a post-nuptial agreement. The same principles apply in that there has to be full and frank disclosure with both parties having had the benefit of appropriate legal advice.
James has recently joined the firm to become Head of our Family Department and brings with him a wealth of experience to the role. James has an extensive knowledge in all areas and aspects of private family law.
James has practiced family law for over 35 years mainly in the Midlands area. His area of expertise includes helping clients through a very difficult time in their life whether it is divorce, civil partnership and subsequent financial issues, child arrangements and domestic abuse. I can also prepare post pre and post nuptial agreements. James has also conducted high net worth financial remedy cases including farms and family trusts.
James represents husbands or wives, same sex couples, unmarried couples and sometimes grandparents trying to have contact with their grandchildren. James always endeavours, where possible, to follow Resolutions Principles and adopt a constructive and conciliatory approach in solving family law problems. James achieves a high level of client service and focuses on resolving matters pragmatically and swiftly to achieve a resolution that is tailored to the individual needs of the client.
Our of the office and court room James enjoys watching sport, choral singing and enjoying a nice glass of wine.
Laura joined Blackhams in November 2018 as a Paralegal, having previously completed a legal apprenticeship with a firm in Birmingham. Laura is now studying CILEx and has recently completed her Level 3 exams and wishes to go on to study Level 6 to qualify as a Chartered Legal Executive. Laura has a wide range of legal knowledge having worked in a number of different departments such as Property, Family, Private Client and Civil Litigation.
Laura works in the Family Department and Dispute Resolution Department and provides assistance to a number of Solicitors, which she enjoys thoroughly and finds it rewarding to provide a service to clients in their time of need.
Out of the office Laura enjoys going to the gym, learning German and plying the piano which she has completed up to Grade 4.