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Wigan Family Law Blog

Nondisclosure of assets

A survey by Big Yellow Self Storage has exposed the fact that 47 per cent of people in the process of getting a divorce have sought to hide possessions from their spouses. Of the 53 per cent who were honest about disclosing all their assets, more than one in 10 admitted that they regretted doing so. In the face of these facts, people getting divorced in the Greater Manchester area might be advised to closely check their partner's asset disclosure document.

Apart from money, one of the most common items hidden away were photographs, with over one third of the people admitting they had done so. Another 25 per cent said that they had kept mementos and almost a fifth had tucked away family heirlooms. Divorce, however, can be a time when strong emotions run out of control, and approximately one fifth of people revealed that they had thrown away possessions with sentimental value out of anger.

Emotional abuse and coercive control

Domestic abuse in Greater Manchester does not always involve physical violence. Often, individuals who go on to physically abuse their spouses begin by emotionally abusing them with controlling, bullying behavior. Even when it doesn't lead to physical violence, emotional abuse can be very psychologically damaging to the spouse who is on the receiving end of it.

In 2006, a professor from Rutgers University in New York coined the term 'coercive control" to describe a type of domestic abuse in which one partner controls the other partner through verbal intimidation. Victims of coercive control may be isolated from their family and friends by a domineering partner who seeks to deprive them of their basic human rights. Many spouses who use coercive control restrict the victim's access to money, withhold the victim's phone and act excessively jealous.

Single parent barred from applying for parental order

Counsel representing the single father of a child that was born to a surrogate mother has argued that the legislation that forbids her client from being granted a parental order is discriminatory and against his human rights. Residents of the Greater Manchester area who have considered becoming a parent through surrogacy may be aware that current legislation requires the applicant of a parental order to be married or in another form of longstanding relationship.

The father argued that in the case of adoption, the law recognised that a single parent was a legitimate form of family unit and that Parliament, accepting that the structure of a family in the present day could take many forms, had revised the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act to prevent discrimination against various models of the modern family. He said that denying a single parent the right to apply for a parental order was discrimination and went against the European Convention on Human Rights.

Reducing domestic violence and Clare's Law

The passage of Clare's Law has resulted in more than 300 women in Greater Manchester being warned that their partners have histories of abusing others in the past. This law was implemented after a woman named Clare was strangled and killed by her ex-boyfriend, a man that she met on Facebook.

Clare, the woman who was murdered, had no idea that her boyfriend had a history of violence against women, including kidnapping one girlfriend with a knife. After he killed Clare, the man then committed suicide. The law allows women to apply to see if their new partners have any history of domestic violence.

Surrogate child ruled legally fatherless by court

A case has been heard in family court that has underscored the situation facing those in the Greater Manchester area who are single and seeking to become surrogate parents. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 has meant that only couples can be granted parenting orders for a surrogate child, and that even the most senior family court in England is unable to grant a parenting order to a single parent.

The case centred around a British man who paid an American woman £30,000 to be the surrogate mother. After the child was born in Minnesota over a year ago, he was recognised as the sole parent by a court in America. But in England, because the man is single, he was denied a parenting order and his child was declared to be a ward of court. The judge explained that the law was put in place by Parliament and the court was unable to overrule it.

"Empire" star to renegoiate divorce settlement

Greater Manchester fans of the hit series "Empire" may recognise the name Terence Howard who stars in the TV show. After a hearing that lasted four days, a judge has ruled that Terence Howard was coerced into accepting the divorce settlement that he agreed to with his second wife in 2012. The ruling paves the way for new terms to be negotiated regarding the financial settlement between the actor and his ex-wife.

The second season of the FOX TV series is due to start in September. The show has boosted the career of the actor who was nominated for the Academy Award for his role in the film "Hustle & Flow" in 2005. The terms of the original divorce settlement would have entitled his second wife to share of his income from his part in the "Empire". He contended that if he had refused to agree to that settlement, she threatened to reveal damaging information about his private life that would have ruined his career at the time.

Soaring numbers of mothers without legal representation

Figures obtained from the Ministry of Justice have shown the dramatic impact that the changes to legal aid have had on legal representation in child custody cases, including those in the Greater Manchester Area. The data collected under the Freedom of Information Act shows that, for the first time, more women have been representing themselves than men in these types of cases and that in over half of all the cases, the mothers were unrepresented by legal counsel, a dramatic increase from the same period the previous year.

According to the founder of a mediation service firm, the figures suggest that stay-at-home or part-time working mothers on low incomes have found themselves forced to attend court representing themselves due to the lack of legal aid. This lack of legal support has meant that mothers fighting for custody or visitation rights are often not able to present their cases in the best way and may find themselves losing their cases on legal points.

Pet care after divorce

When couples go through a divorce, the arrangements for the future of the family pet may be a significant financial and emotional consideration. Pet owners in the Greater Manchester area will be aware that the cost of taking care of even a small dog can run high, with vets bills, food and other associated costs. The decision over who will keep the family pet is becoming an increasingly common question in separations with approximately half of U.S. pet-owning couples raising the issue during divorce proceedings.

When children are involved, the family pet will usually stay in the household with them, but the increasing number of pet-owning couples who have chosen not to have children has led to more pet custody situations. Around 10 per cent of all custody cases are currently about the family pet, and in a survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers over 25 per cent of lawyers confirmed that they had seen an increase in pet custody cases.

Divorce settlement revisited after wooden spoon incident

A mother of two stands to lose in the region of £44,000 of her divorce settlement after being prosecuted for an incident that involved one of her daughters and a wooden spoon. Both of her children, aged 10 and 13, gave evidence against her in magistrates court. The mother was released on conditional discharge, however, residents in the Greater Manchester area may be aware that this type of alternative sentence is often imposed when a crime has been committed.

Although the mother's solicitors announced that she had not touched her daughter with the wooden spoon, both the children are now living with their father. The case that is being heard in High Court is a result of this change in the children's living arrangements. Their father is appealing against the terms of the original financial order which took into consideration the fact that children would be living with their mother for the majority of the time.

Divorce rates fueled by new pension rules

A pension often represents one of the most significant financial assets in a marriage. The changes in pension regulations that were implemented in April has fuelled an increase in divorce rates across the U.K. in a trend that includes the Greater Manchester area. With the freedom to convert their pension into cash at the age of 55, a growing number of older couples who had been avoiding divorce proceedings for financial reasons are now deciding to end their marriages.

While this change to pension regulations has offered many couples a greater flexibility in reaching a divorce settlement, there are still financial issues that need to be recognised. When cashing in their full pension pot, they need to be aware that only 25 per cent of it is considered tax-free. The remaining 75 per cent is subject to income tax which may be as high as 40 per cent. Further consideration should be given to expenses such as mortgage payments on a new property or possible long-term maintenance payments.