Family Law

We offer a full range of legal services for Family Law

When lives are torn apart because of a relationship breakdown, people are often left feeling unable to cope with the rejection or loss. Dean Vickery is a highly experienced, proactive and client- focused solicitor who has over 20 years of experience. 

The courtroom is his arena where he fights on his clients’ behalf. Whether it be children or finances, he will do his utmost to get his clients the result they want and need,  his client base is diverse and he is able to undertake a limited amount of pro bono work.

He will also be providing an Out Of Hours service that is tailored to accommodate busy people who cannot easily take time out of work to see a solicitor or for those who want to access discreet legal services, seven days’ a week and/or outside of regular office hours. This service allows clients to obtain urgent legal services at a time and place that suits them, any day of the week. The Out Of  Hours service can also be utilised if a solicitor’s letter arrives on a Friday night or Saturday morning and advice or urgent legal assistance is urgently required, Dean will be happy to assist with an initial free chat

In addition there will be a Family Legal Surgery available on Wednesdays from 6pm – 8pm which can be booked here

Deans’ services include the following:

  • Divorce – from simple to highly complex cases
  • His own representation in court, also known as advocacy
  • Difficult Children Act Matters and Prohibited Steps
  • Leave to Remove from the Jurisdiction
  • Hague cases

When people use the word divorce, it rolls off the tongue very easily. 

But that is the only easy element. 

When anyone decides to take this course of action, it is often a long road with many ups and downs, not only for the person taking the action but for the whole family. Nobody remains untouched in this process – friends, family, children and respective parents. 

So, what is divorce?

At present to begin a divorce you have to Petition and under current law it is fault based, the Petition is the document which you have to complete to begin your divorce.

Under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (MCA 1973), there is a singular basis for divorce: that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The court cannot make a finding of irretrievable breakdown unless they are satisfied on one or more of the five facts listed in the MCA 1973.

If you are the person instigating the Petition then you will be called the Petitioner, the other party will be known as the Respondent.

The following reasons are acceptable grounds for divorce:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behavior
  • Desertion
  • Two years’ separation with consent
  • Five years’ separation

You cannot petition for divorce until you have been married for at least one year

Decree Nisi

Once the petition has been filed and the acknowledgement has been returned, an application can be made for the Decree Nisi. At this stage if there is a question of costs then the judge can deal with the matter when giving the pronouncement.

Decree Absolute

This can be obtained after six weeks and one day of the Decree Nisi being pronounced, the Respondent has three months to apply.

Contested Divorce

If the Respondent does not accept that the marriage has come to an end under the grounds stated this becomes what’s known as a contested divorce. The Responding party has the right to defend for a limited time, once they have received the Petition. 

It should be noted that even when the Decree Absolute has been obtained, that is not the end of the matter., this will not be completed until you have received a financial order from the court.

N.B. This law is only applicable in England and Wales.

Family Law And Islamic Divorce

Dean has assisted in Sharia-compliant divorces. He understands faith, culture and how the Nikah contract is used. He is also aware of the important role that is played by the immediate and wider family. Whether the ceremony took place in the UK or overseas, we are happy to discuss the most appropriate ways forward.

Dean can also assist with arrangements regarding children where agreements have not been made, including cases in which one party  wants to move within the UK or overseas.

Do’s & Don’ts During A Relationship Breakdown

Do:
• See a counsellor, or therapist, or speak to a friend – the pain and the hurt may be deep, but it does not last forever
• If these issues cannot be resolved, talk them over with a solicitor and see if there is something that can be done to soften the impact of the relationship split – the solicitor may write to the other party with some suggestions
Do Not:
• Do not send emails or texts with content you would not want a judge to read in open Court
• When matters are raw, do not be tempted (or ask friends or family to get involved) to send abusive or threatening text messages
• Many people are surprised to learn that messages may feature in proceedings and in the cold light of day it can be very embarrassing when a judge asks you if the contents of the messages are true. The Court may not see what has gone on before the communication started.
• Do not use foul language
• Do not be tempted to go back to the matrimonial home to argue with the other party, this can frighten the other party and if children are involved, they should not be made aware of the emotional and financial impact the split has caused
• Do not go back to the matrimonial home because you miss the home, person and/or the children and all the memories. You may find yourself with an injunction and the police involved, which may have an impact on both your case and / or your job
• Do not go on social media while intoxicated or angry and mention your confidential matter – this could have negative consequences in Court
• Do not involve the children or expect them to understand your hurt and pain. They are children and they will be dealing with their own problems as a result of the split

 

How do I apply for a dissolution?

To apply for a civil partnership dissolution (the civil partnership terminology for divorce) your civil partnership must have been entered into at least one year prior to an application for dissolution.

You are able to seek a dissolution and it does not matter where you formalised the relationship. However, dissolution can only be applied for in England and Wales, additionally either you, or your civil partner, will have to meet certain residency conditions

The process for dissolution is carried out by a Judge, which means that unless the dissolution is contested or defended neither party will have to attend Court.

The person starting the dissolution is called the Petitioner and the other party is called the Respondent and to begin the process, a document know as a Petition must be completed.

The petition is used to gather information on you and your civil partner, and it informs the court of the reasons you are seeking a dissolution.

The Petitioner will need to note which of the following grounds they are applying under:

  • that your civil partner has behaved unreasonably
  • that your civil partner has deserted you for two years
  • that you have lived apart for two years and your civil partner consents to the dissolution
  • that you have lived apart for five years

Please note that if no agreement has been reached between the parties with regard to the split of assets and / or arrangements regarding children then this will be dealt with under a different process, this can be started either during or after the dissolution but should conclude before entering another civil partnership.

Following Dissolution

If a will had been drawn up during the partnership you may wish to review this to ensure that the details contained are still as you would wish now that the partnership has been dissolved.

We are able to offer assistance with the following Children Act matters:

Child Arrangement Orders
It is often very difficult when couples split and the ‘normal’ routine of waking up with the children changes. Mediation should be tried, unless the applicant falls into a category which means that the use of mediation would not be in the child’s best interest. An application for a child arrangements order could be offered to bring structure into the child’s life.

Most couples would like a shared custody order but that will depend on how the parties get on and if, in the court’s view, this is in the best interests of the child or children.

If people live a distance away due to work, then alternative arrangements can be made. Travel to a neutral venue for the handover of the child or children may be chosen but issues can arise over expenses such as travel costs, purchasing of clothes or over the return of possessions. If there is an issue between both parents, a third party may have to be used for hand over and collection.

Nowadays most children have phones, so apps such as Face Time, WhatsApp and Zoom are available and this technology allows absent parents to see their children more regularly than would previously have been possible.

Applications with regard to visitation rights are sometimes made to ensure certainty for both parents and child / children.

Other applications are in place to protect the child if there is an issue with drink or drugs and/or offensive behavior, which is distressing for the child. However an application should be the last thing on a parent’s mind and avoided unless absolutely necessary.

The Use Of Contact Centers And Reporting
A parent may require observed visitation, either a nominated third party in a contact center or an independent private social worker, who will often draft a report for the court.

This tends to happen if the child is young and the parent with care wants to make sure the absent parent can cope with a young child. The separation may have not allowed for the absent parent to be involved as much as they would want in the child’s life and this can satisfy the parent with care’s worries with regard to appropriate behavior by the absent parent.

If communication is bad between the parents, a contact book may be required to inform the other parent with regard to any medication that needs to be administered for example.

International Child Arrangements
If one parent lives in a different country the child/ children may go to that country to spend time with that parent. Alternatively, the absent parent may come over to the UK to see the child/children for a specified time period

Relocation And International Relocation
Sometimes a parent wishes to return to their country of birth or where they have family Without consultation this can have a dramatic effect on the child/children and wider family as the absent parent may lose touch or be unable to afford to take legal action. Additionally the other country may not recognise any court orders made in the UK.

An emergency application must be made and an investigation carried out to decide on any action that is in the child’s/ children’s best interests

Abduction & Safe Travel
If emotions are running high, a child may not be returned from the usual child arrangements or may be removed from school. In cases like these, an emergency application must be made for the immediate return of the child.

Prohibited Steps
A prohibited step order stops a parent from removing the child from the parent with care, without leave of the court.

Specific Issue Application
An application to deal with a specific a specific issue – for example, where a child is supposed to be attending school and a parent is refusing to allow this to happen.

Breach Of Court Orders Including Related Orders
In a Children Act matter if the court order is not adhered to, an application can be made for breach of the order. The Court will then determine if it was fair and reasonable for that breach to have taken place. If proven, the court has the power to enforce the Order

Location Of Absent Parent
If the parent with care has relocated and not informed the absent parent, there are methods to locate the parent and confirm the court ordered arrangements for the child / children or the application that has been made

Child Alienation
Child alienation refers to the children appearing to take a dislike to the absent parent, which can take many forms. The parent can go from being loved to being vilified for no apparent reason and the absent parent will normally try to prove that this is harmful the child / children and has only happened since the relationship breakdown.

Implacable Hostility
Occasionally one parent makes it difficult for contact to proceed in any meaningful manner, for example not being at the venue for the child collection, contacting third party agencies and making false allegations. Each situation is unique and the court will deal with matters like these on a case-by-case basis

In addition Dean is also able to deal with:
• Emergency applications and delivery of the child or children
• Children Act matters which overlap with social services investigations, working with Cafcass and a Guardian for a child and/or children
• Finding of fact hearings linked with a child concerning drink, drugs, behavior, alienation/implacable hostility, domestic violence
• Grandparent rights
• Application by stepparents

An extensive and impressive reputation for achieving the best outcome

When the relationship with children has broken down and access to grandchildren is an issue, Dean can help to find a way forward

Advocacy seeks to ensure that all people can have their voice heard on issues that are important to them in court and the art of advocacy is ensuring the important points of a client’s case are heard.

Deans’ strengths include knowing all elements of his clients case, the ability to present these in the best way and in line with the Client’s instructions. Equally important is knowing when to walk away and consider what has been said during a hearing.

He also has extensive experience in the new remote style hearings.

What Is A Case Bundle And Why Is It Important?

A case bundle is very important as it shows a Judge who does not know you and has never met you the details of your case.

It is a collection of documents that make up your case along with other relevant information and If your matter is going to court, you should familiarise yourself with the contents in case the judge asks you a question directly.

You or your solicitor/ barrister can draw a Judge’s attention to a page which may be considered important to your case.

Costs

Costs are very important, because the amount may mean the difference between continuing with a case or not. A breakup can cause a lot of anguish. However, it should not cloud your judgement and stop you seeing the real goal which is to move on and start a new life, sometimes compromise is the key

Often there is just one pot of money to be divided between the two parties and this pot can be eaten up with legal bills, so be aware of what you are spending and that in some applications the instructed party may lose.

Asset protection either before marriage, after separation and/or a pending divorce

Clients sometimes say to me, “I am unhappy with my solicitor”, or “I am unhappy with the service and the route they are taking me down.”

Clients require reassurance about their case and information; whether divorce, dissolution or separation, these are big decisions, and you need your solicitor by your side to guide you along the way. You should feel reassured that your solicitor will be there when you need them.

This is especially important for clients who are not UK based who often feel they are not being represented properly and that the time difference is having an unfair impact on their case – this is where our ‘Out Of Hours’ service is invaluable

A client needs to know that their solicitor can add value to the case and this is very often based on building a trusting relationship. Expectations need to be managed, evidence needs to be gathered – we operate with a pragmatic, commercial, cost-effective viewpoint offering high levels of service and responsiveness whatever day of the week or time of day

Remember: it is never too late to transfer your file. The sooner you do it, the better the outcome will be.

Court Orders follow an application to the Court, which can be made by the Court’s own motion or following an application being made to the Court.

In most circumstances the Judge will ask one of the representatives to draft a Court Order. This is circulated between both parties and then passed back to the Judge (or to their clerks). If the Judge approves the order it will be sealed by the Court and sent out to the parties.

Consent Orders are slightly different. Here, both parties have agreed a way forward, one party will draft the order and other side confirms that it agrees with the arrangement made between the parties. It should be noted that even when the Parties agree, the Court decides the final outcome.

Out of hours instructions can allow for an emergency application to be made to stop the following:

Children: if you find out that your child / children are going to be taken somewhere, either in the UK or abroad, against your wishes you can make an emergency application to prevent this
Financial: to prevent drawdown of a joint financial asset such as a pension by one party without permission from or the knowledge of the other

An emergency application may make a difference to your case and put the other side on notice – please feel free to call us, even during the weekend

If an order is breached or not upheld for example, then enforcement proceedings can be brought

This refers to someone who is known to another, causing that person to live in fear, or be controlled by the perpetrator.

Molestation is difficult to define and indeed Sir Stephen Brown (Lord Justice of Appeal and President of the Family Division of the High Court) has stated that ‘There is no legal definition of ‘molestation’. Indeed, that is quite clear from the various cases which have been cited. It is a matter which has to be considered in relation to the particular facts of particular cases. It implies some quite deliberate conduct which is aimed at a high degree of harassment of the other party, so as to justify the intervention of the court’.

Molestation involves any form of physical, sexual, or psychological abuse or harassment that has a serious impact on the health and well-being of the recipient and violence is NOT a prerequisite.

An Occupation Order can be brought when the couple live together, and the perpetrator can be asked to vacate the property. In the immediate circumstance the Police should be called

Many people settle in the UK from other countries and sometimes the stress of this can cause a relationship to break down In such cases the assets of the relationship may be in a different jurisdiction.

The relationship breakdown can also cause issues for the children of the relationship if one of the parties wishes to return to their country of origin.

Additionally, the marriage may have been dissolved in another country but the splitting of assets remains unresolved

We are also able to assist clients who are UK residents but work abroad where different time zones may hinder communication between parties. By utilising technolgy such as Zoom or Teams for calls and by offering an ‘out of hours’ service Dean is able to progress a matter whilst reducing the stress this can cause on the parties involved

Where a third party and existing party are connected to the matter in dispute, it may be desirable to add the third party so that court can resolve the issue.

Often, a person may be involved in a business partnership and/or a limited company. While the romantic relationship is going well, neither party considers how this may affect the business.

How Third Party Interest May Be Affected:

Often properties are bought in the business with the future in mind and with the advancement of the business, property/assets may have grown in value.

There is often an advancement of the financial side of the family matters. The partner and/or shareholder may not think this will affect the business but to protect their third party interests, the other party should become involved.

A business owner who has a title on any properties may find their ownership challenged because it has been turned into an asset of the marriage or civil partnership.

In circumstances where another member of the family (e.g. eldest child) has bought the family home, this too can be brought into the financial argument. The financial settlement may see the house sold so that those with third party interests become involved.
Swift action is required in all such cases rather than waiting until such a case goes to Court.

Maintenance Pending Suit
Whilst parties are involved in divorce proceedings, financial and children act proceedings, the Court may need to make an interim order before the final hearing (which can take many months).
Clients may wish to initiate a maintenance pending suit and legal services order.

If, because of separation, one party has no access to funds, there has been no voluntary payment and the client is struggling to maintain their lifestyle, an application can be made for a maintenance pending suit.

Each case will turn on its own facts and the court looks at evidence on a case-by-case basis. The more information the client can provide the better, together with details of any detrimental impact on the clients lifestyle. If one party does not have funds to pay their legal bills and cannot obtain legal representation, the other party may provide a specified amount to enable them to do so.

Legal Services Provision Order
As part of a divorce process, one party may find themselves in a position where there is no legal aid available to them for the proceedings.

In some cases, a client may have few or no assets in their name, low or no income and no ability to borrow from family or friends or the usual lending establishments such as a bank. A Legal Services Provision Order can be obtained to allow legal advice and representation to be secured in order to pursue the case against the other party, who may be financially better off and/or proving to be litigious or obstructive. The other party may not understand and/or have never been involved in that person’s financial circumstances, which are now complex and unclear.

A court will make a decision on a case-by-case basis, thought must given to whether the payment will cover the whole proceedings including paying the legal team

When a relationship breaks down, sometimes the only things left are the possessions.

When one party leaves the marital home, items are often not taken or forgotten due to the upset and they may be unable to return house to collect these. These items may include pictures, clothing, tools, wedding gifts, jewelry and so on.

The courts do not routinely wish to become involved. If, however, the parties cannot agree then a Judge will listen to the arguments, before the hearing, a Scott Schedule may be required and a judge will often decide or insist that the possessions are sold at auction and the money split equally.

If items are destroyed through anger or other reasons, the Court may find a way of compensating the other party.

When a couple want to move forward in their relationship, they may decide to live together. Parents are overjoyed, the couple may need a deposit or money to furnish a house and some parents have the funds to buy assist their child to buy a house.

The ‘Bank Of Mum And Dad’ often do not want the money back or they think the relationship will last. Parents tend not to formalise matters in case offence is caused to the family of the other partner.

However, we would always recommend that advice is sought before you re-mortgage or withdraw savings

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