Getting a Legal Separation Agreement

A legal separation agreement is beneficial for married couples who are thinking about splitting up, but who are not ready to proceed with divorce.

Similarly to divorce, a legal separation allows you to live separately from your partner. In addition, you will still need to consider negotiating your finances, property and child arrangements. However, unlike divorce, a legal separation means you will not have legally dissolved your marriage. You also do not need to prove your marriage has irretrievably broken down, but can apply on similar grounds for divorce, including desertion and adultery.

Married woman and man considering legal separation agreement or divorce

Why Choose a Legal Separation Agreement?

Married couples or those in a civil partnership may prefer a legal separation agreement for several reasons, such as:

  • You have been married for less than one year
  • Your religion is against divorce
  • You are looking for a less formal approach to divorce
  • You are not ready to start divorce proceedings and need time to consider your options

Couples seeking a separation agreement have no obligation to inform any legal bodies that they are no longer living together. However, it is always recommended to seek advice from a solicitor for a separation agreement. This is because of the issues you need to discuss relating to your home, finances and children.

What Do Separation Agreements Involve?

There are a number of matters to take into account with a separation agreement, including:

  • Agreeing to child arrangements, for example where your child will live, as well as child maintenance payments due to you or your ex-partner
  • Consideration of your child’s other necessities, such as who will pay school fees
  • Determining the division of property, investments and savings
  • Deciding on where you and your ex-partner are going to live, including who will live in the former family home
  • Taking into account who will be responsible for bills and debt payments, and if you will be able to afford these after separating
  • Discussing transfers of shareholdings in family businesses

Both parties must also fully disclose all their financial information, including any debt and any savings. If your ex-partner is dishonest about their finances, the agreement is less likely to be legally binding.

Without the assistance of a family law solicitor, it can be difficult for couples to come to a fair agreement during a separation, especially when children and finances are involved.

Is a Separation Agreement Binding?

Usually, the Court is currently not involved in creating a separation agreement. However, you are entering a contract which has the potential to be legally binding. If you later decide to proceed with divorce, a separation agreement may put you at an advantage in Court. Furthermore, if both parties have been frank regarding finances, and your separation agreement has been properly drawn up by a solicitor, these factors may also have more influence in Court.

A solicitor can create the agreement for you and form a recognised contract that is reasonable and fair. It is worth remembering that any changes to your separation agreement must be agreed to by your ex-partner.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Separation Agreement

Advantages

  • It can be as formal or as informal as you prefer, with the latter relieving the pressure of separation for some couples
  • You can include what you want in the agreement and decide on terms both parties approve of, including the date your relationship ended
  • It offers transparency regarding both you and your ex-partner’s financial situations
  • You no longer have to live with your ex-partner, therefore they cannot accuse you of desertion
  • It can be upheld in Court, providing the separation agreement is reasonable, financially factual and drawn up by a solicitor

Disadvantages

  • The Court is less likely to uphold the agreement if both parties did not seek legal advice or disclose their full financial information
  • Additionally, if there have been major changes to you or your ex-partner’s circumstances, the Court may not support the agreement, as the original terms are now no longer reasonable
  • A separation agreement can only be amended if both parties accept the changes

How to Get a Legal Separation Agreement?

A legal separation agreement initially costs £365. You will also need to pay for a certified copy of your marriage certificate, if you do not have one.

Once you and your ex-partner have committed to getting a legal separation agreement, seek advice from a family law solicitor. This is especially important if your financial, property or child arrangements are complicated and cannot be easily decided on.

If both parties agree to the terms of the separation agreement, your solicitor can draw up the contract for you. You may need to revisit the agreement with your solicitor several times before both parties settle.

When the terms are agreed to and the document is properly drafted, you and your ex-partner will sign the separation agreement. If you do decide to divorce at a later date, a legal separation agreement can be very valuable in Court, on the condition you have met the relevant requirements when drawing up the agreement.

For more information on legal separation agreements, contact Major Family Law solicitors and receive our professional advice, expert guidance and an initial consultation, free of charge.

Driving Offences: Using a Mobile Phone While Driving

The scourge of modern times – when they first arrived on the scene, the mobile phone was the size of a brick and needed regular ‘powering up.’ It rapidly took on the shape of an American WWII radio. I remember in the 80s arriving at the Australian Bar, Milner Street, SW3 on a Friday afternoon. Porsche cars complete with whale tails crowding the pavements, their ‘owners’ drinking at the bar with phones standing next to their pints. Although they had left the ultimate status symbol at the time outside, they had a mobile alternative weighing in at slightly less than the car.

Driver Using a Mobile Phone While Driving

Frankly, committing a driving offence like using a mobile phone while driving would have been almost impossible then. Holding a phone to one’s ear, more often than not, required both hands – leaving little else for steering.

As with all technology, as time goes on, designs improve. Thanks to electronic innovation, communications equipment gets smaller and smaller until it becomes truly mobile and something far more than just a phone. The result? More and more people are using a mobile phone while driving. Consequently, the dangers which follow create new offences like the CU80.

Using a Mobile Phone While Driving – the Law

The three main offences for using a mobile phone while driving are:

  • Use by the driver
  • Causing or permitting the use by the driver
  • Supervising a provisional licence holder whilst driving

In the first offence, the phone must be held at some point during the course of making or receiving a phone call, or performing any other interactive communication function. When supervising a learner driver, it is also an offence to use a phone while driving, because you should be supervising the driver at all times.

Using a mobile phone while driving is usually recognised as a CU80 driving offence. The CU80 code defines the offence as a ‘breach of requirements as to control of the vehicle, such as using a mobile phone.’

What is the Penalty for Using a Mobile Phone While Driving?

In March 2017, driving offence penalties were increased. If you are convicted with a CU80 driving offence, you could receive:

  • 3-6 penalty points
  • A maximum fine up to £2,500
  • A discretionary driving ban

If you have passed your driving test in the last two years and receive six penalty points, you will lose your licence. A CU80 driving offence code will additionally remain on your driving record for the next four years.

Avoiding a CU80 Driving Offence

If you are caught using a mobile phone while driving, you can avoid a CU80 in particular circumstances. There is an exemption which applies to all three offences, requiring three criteria to be met:

  • The call was made to an emergency service (112 or 999)
  • The caller was acting in response to a genuine emergency
  • It was impracticable to cease driving in order to make the call

The emergency will be judged objectively. Therefore, ‘genuine’ emergency rather than just emergency is used perhaps to reinforce this fact.

In addition, some phones (an iPhone) can stop receiving incoming messages of all types while the car is moving. Thus, messages are stopped and the driver cannot be distracted. It still allows calls to be made and received on the hands-free facility to ensure we are not completely cut off from the outside world.

Mobile Phone Driving Law in Court

The problem with interacting with our phones is it causes us to lose concentration on the main event. How often have you missed a junction because you were having a conversation? Sometimes, you may even forget where you are going.

Using a phone while driving will come to court if not dealt with by way of a fixed penalty. Mobile phone offences can also appear as aggravating features to other road traffic offences. If asked by a prosecutor if you were having a conversation on your mobile at the time of the crash, it is always better to be able to say no. The lorry driver who was using his mobile phone while it was in its stand on the dashboard was horrified when he crashed into the car in front. But what he did not realise was that he had also driven over another car which was under his lorry.

The best advice is perhaps not to use your phone in the car at all. If you must and don’t have a hands-free device fitted, stop somewhere safe and not on the road. Apply the handbrake, switch off the engine and remove the keys from the ignition. Then, you can make the call. That way, you will never find yourself charged with using a mobile phone while driving. Better still – why not write a letter?

If you have been charged with using a mobile phone while driving, contact Major Family Law for specialist knowledge and expert guidance. We can assist with all motoring and driving offences, including totting and being drunk in charge, as well as the using a phone while driving CU80 offence.

Contact us and speak to our Consultant Solicitor Charles Waddell on 078 0271 7418 for emergency advice on mobile phone driving law.

Fathers’ Rights & Parental Responsibility

If you are thinking about divorce or separation and have children, you may have also considered your fathers’ rights. Fathers’ rights involve having parental responsibility for their child. Parental responsibility was defined in the Children Act 1989 as ‘all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property.’

Father and son sitting together

This means those with parental responsibility have the legal right and duty to care for their child. If you have father parental responsibility, it is your obligation to:

  • Provide a place for your child to live
  • Maintain your child financially
  • Support and protect your child

Fathers’ rights also include the right to be involved in making decisions about the child’s upbringing, some of which include:

  • Registering your child’s name and agreeing to name changes
  • Consenting to your child’s medical procedures
  • Deciding on and providing for your child’s education
  • Taking care of your child’s property
  • Disciplining your child appropriately
  • Choosing their religion

If you have father parental responsibility but are separated from the child’s mother, it is still your duty to make decisions relating to the child’s welfare.

Do You Have Father Parental Responsibility?

A child’s mother automatically has parental responsibility. You will normally have fathers’ rights if you are married to the child’s mother (before or after the birth), you have adopted the child, or if you are named on the child’s birth certificate after 1st December 2003.

A child’s birth can be registered up to 42 days after they are born. If you are not married to the child’s mother, you should be present at the registration. Your attendance can guarantee you receive father parental responsibility.

In the event of divorce, you will usually keep your fathers’ rights.

If You Do Not Have Father Parental Responsibility

If you do not have parental responsibility, you may not have the right to make decisions about your child’s upbringing. However, it is still up to you to support your child financially.

Fathers’ rights do not always apply if you are not married to the child’s mother, or named on the child’s birth certificate. In this case, you can apply for father parental responsibility.

In addition, step parent parental responsibility does not automatically apply, no matter how significant your input in the child’s life. There is a separate application process for stepfathers seeking parental responsibility.

How to Get Father Parental Responsibility

Fathers can acquire parental responsibility outside of court. You can either marry the child’s mother or re-register the child’s birth certificate in your name.

However, if you are separating from your partner, it is unlikely for you to obtain fathers’ rights through these methods. Children and parenting disputes can cause emotional implications as well as having a significant impact on your family. It may be the child’s mother does not want to re-register the birth certificate in your name. But you can still keep the matter out of court by signing a parental responsibility agreement.

Obtaining Fathers’ Rights with a Parental Responsibility Agreement

A child’s biological father can request the courts witness a parental responsibility agreement. The agreement will be signed and witnessed in your local county court. It’s recommended you seek advice from a family law solicitor to help you fill in the agreement form before taking it to court. A family law solicitor can also explain the process and advise you on the effects of the agreement.

What can be problematic with parental responsibility agreements is the child’s mother must also agree. If you are having difficulties because of your relationship breakdown, the child’s mother may be unwilling to agree to you acquiring fathers’ rights.

It is most important to avoid disrupting the child’s life. Additionally, the courts will always view the child’s welfare as paramount. Nevertheless, if you cannot come to an agreement with your ex-partner through mediation or counselling, you can take the issue to court.

Going to Court for Fathers’ Rights

If you cannot successfully make a parental responsibility agreement, you can apply for a parental responsibility order through the courts. Most parties need to attend mediation first to help you communicate with your ex-partner and find out if you really need to go to court. As expert family law solicitors, we find the majority of our cases are successfully resolved without court proceedings, which can be costly and time-consuming.

If you are going to court to obtain fathers’ rights, it is strongly advised a family law solicitor represents you.

For a parental responsibility order, it will cost £215 to apply. The courts will make a decision based on the father’s reasons for applying and their connection to the child.

Father Parental Responsibility Order Process

Once you have completed the relevant forms and submitted your parental responsibility order application to court, you can await your court date. The date for the first hearing can be up to six weeks after applying, of which you and your ex-partner must both attend. The Court will decide the outcome on an individual basis, as no case of parental responsibility is ever the same. A decision, known as the Final Order, will not necessarily be made at this stage. You may need to attend further hearings or appointments before the Final Order is complete.

Getting Help with Fathers’ Rights

If you want to acquire father parental responsibility through an agreement or an order, Major Family Law can give you our specialist knowledge to guide you through the process. We offer a number of different approaches to family disputes, from offering legal support to help you reach your own agreement to delivering our full court representation service.

If you are looking for more information on fathers’ rights, contact us via email on enquiries@majorfamilylaw.co.uk and receive expert advice from Major Family Law.

Driving Matters: Drunk in Charge of a Motor Vehicle

Being caught drunk in charge of a motor vehicle is often a shock to chose charged with it. In 1925, it became a driving offence to be found drunk in charge of any mechanically propelled vehicle on any highway or other public place. The penalty was a fine not exceeding £50, and/or imprisonment for a period not exceeding four months. Furthermore, drunk in charge motorists were disqualified from holding a driving licence for a minimum of 12 months.

When considering drink driving penalties, we may think of someone being charged after causing a serious accident or even death. But drink driving law does not only involve driving when over the limit. If you are charged with being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle, you could face:

  • 3 months’ imprisonment
  • Up to £2,500 fine
  • A driving ban

Major Family Law Consultant Solicitor Charles Waddell explains the meaning of being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle and advises what to do if you are ever in a potential drunk in charge situation.

Gentleman drunk in charge of a motor vehicle

What it Means to be Drunk in Charge of a Motor Vehicle

You may have no intent to drive after drinking alcohol. But you may still be considered drunk in charge if you are over the limit and:

  • There is evidence you intend to drive the vehicle
  • How far you are from your vehicle
  • Your keys are in the ignition
  • You are found in the car, even if not in the driver’s seat

Determining whether you were or were not drunk in charge of a motor vehicle will be reviewed by the Court on an individual basis. Each case is different, but it can be difficult to prove you were not drunk in charge. As with any driving offence, it is strongly recommended to seek advice from a lawyer. A drink driving solicitor can argue your case for you to deliver the best possible outcome.

Drunk in Charge: Example Case

Drink driving penalties can happen to even the most law-abiding citizen. You could drive to a party and sleep in your car before heading back the next day after a hearty breakfast. By that time, one will hopefully have fallen below the drink drive limit (35 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath). But you could be considered drunk in charge for being over the limit and sleeping in your car.

I had a client who had a lunch in the park on a sunny day in June. He brought with him a newspaper, roast ham and chutney sandwiches, Kettle crisps, an apple and a bottle of wine – a chardonnay, I seem to remember. Unfortunately, he had in his car looking out across the park. Also, his bottle of wine was on the dashboard in full view. A concerned member of the public reported him (quite rightly). Before he finished his sandwiches, the police arrived.

The keys were in the ignition, the vehicle was in a public car park and the gentleman was over the limit. Therefore, in order for him to be deemed ‘not drunk in charge of the motor vehicle,’ he needed to prove (on the balance of probabilities) that, at the material time, there was no likelihood of him driving whilst unfit or whilst over the legal limit.

One of the problems was the client had been at work in the morning. He had clients booked in that afternoon. Furthermore, he regularly had lunch at the same park most days of the week. Although, normally, he had a flask of coffee to quench his thirst, rather than a bottle of wine.

Drunk in Charge: Case in Court

On the face of things, it seemed particularly bad and a drunk in charge disqualification likely. His wife attended court; I remember it being a rather heated discussion, with her saying she wouldn’t lie for him, which I commended her for. The client’s wife then asked what the best thing would be to say in court (a question criminal defence solicitors are often asked). ‘The truth,’ I replied! She answered, ‘Yes, of course.’

There were a number of other important issues the Court were given to consider in mitigation. In the end, the matter was disposed of by way of 10 penalty points and a hefty fine. But the client maintained his licence to drive.

How to Avoid a Drunk in Charge Penalty

If you are drinking alcohol, you can avoid being classed as drunk in charge of a motor vehicle by:

  • Parking on private land
  • Giving your car keys to somebody else
  • Booking a taxi to collect you at a prearranged time
  • Organising a lift with somebody else

Don’t put yourself in the position where you are going to have to argue the statutory defences of being ‘in charge.’ If you are unfit to drive through drink or drugs, it will usually be a difficult argument to win.

Defending a Drunk in Charge of a Vehicle Allegation

You should always seek assistance from a drink driving solicitor for a drunk in charge allegation. With their knowledge and expertise, drink driving solicitors are the most equipped to build your defence and achieve the greatest results.

Major Family Law can help with all driving offences. We understand how the impact of offences like drunk in charge penalties or totting up bans can affect a person and their family. In addition, we can protect you by successfully representing you in court to reduce or avoid a driving offence penalty.

Contact us today for an initial consultation, free of charge, to find out how Major Family Law can help. Or call Consultant Solicitor Charles Waddell on 078 0271 7418 for urgent enquiries and advice on driving offences.

Post-nuptial agreements

Post-nuptial agreements are much the same as pre-nuptial agreements with the obvious difference that they are entered into after a couple have married instead of before.

Like a pre-nuptial agreement, it sets out the financial arrangements that the parties will be bound by in the event that the marriage ever breaks down. The parties can enter into this type of agreement at any time after the marriage takes place and before the marriage breaks down.

There are many reasons that parties may wish to set out their financial arrangements in a written agreement of this type: one of the parties may have inherited or expects to inherit a sum of money that they wish to protect; the parties may have encountered a marital difficulty that they have agreed to work through and have agreed that entering into a post nuptial agreement will avoid unnecessary financial arguments, either in endeavouring to reconcile or in the event that the reconciliation fails and the marriage ends.

It has become increasingly common for couples to formalise their financial arrangements to allow them a greater level of certainty and autonomy in the event of permanent separation or divorce.

It is important that anyone entering into this type of agreement understands the nature of the other party’s finances. Both parties are expected to be clear and frank with each other about the value of their assets and debts. 

This includes business assets, pensions and offshore investments. They both must understand the nature of the agreement, it helps if they have both taken independent legal advice on the terms of the agreement before they sign on the dotted line. 

Both parties must enter into the agreement freely, there must be no pressure by one party one the other to sign the agreement. If there is pressure then the agreement may not be upheld as being binding by the court when the parties divorce.

Overall, the agreement must be fair to both parties, the court will want to see that the financial needs of their children have been satisfied in the agreement. If the agreement states that one party gets everything and the other party gets nothing, it is not likely to be a fair agreement and therefore won’t be upheld by the court.

Ultimately the court has the power to make an order that it thinks is fair in all the circumstances. If the agreement is properly drafted and entered into by the parties it is highly unlikely that the court will interfere with the agreement reached by the parties.

Totting & Exceptional Hardship Explained

Totting occurs when one collects 12 penalty points from driving offences within a three-year period. If this happens, you will be liable for a totting up ban – a driving disqualification for at least six months.

However, with the help of driving offence solicitors, a totting up ban can be avoided in certain circumstances. This means offenders can continue to drive despite having 12 or more active penalty points on their licence. In order for this to take place, the Court has to decide whether or not the loss of an offender’s license will cause ‘Exceptional Hardship.’ Consultant Solicitor Charles Waddell advises how to avoid a totting up ban by explaining exceptional hardship.

Woman on phone committing driving offence

What is Exceptional Hardship?

In order to determine what exceptional hardship means, the criminal courts can broadly apply the approach taken by Lord Scarman. Lord Scarman considered the meaning of exceptional hardship within the Matrimonial Causes Act in 1982, stating specifically:

  • In choosing the imprecise concept of exceptional hardship, Parliament deliberately intended that what is or is not exceptional hardship be a matter of fact for the judge to decide on his own subjective judgement.
  • It would be wrong for an appellate court to define the concept of exceptional hardship with any precision, or to try and lay down guidelines as to how the concept should be applied.
  • The decision made at the first hearing should be treated as final unless it can be shown as clearly wrong.

Exceptional hardship is considered on an individual basis depending on the unique circumstances of the motorist. Because of this, it’s recommended to seek the advice of driving offence solicitors. They can build an exceptional hardship case to reduce or avoid a totting up ban.

Consequences of a Totting Up Ban

Anyone with a driving licence will know how reliant they become on driving. Commuting to and from work, travelling as part of work, driving for leisure, moving children about, assisting elderly relations with their day-to-day living, shopping and so on – these are all examples of how motorists depend on driving.

The loss of one’s licence can have devastating consequences. Therefore, if totting is on the cards, the consideration of an exceptional hardship hearing at court may be vital.

Exceptional Hardship Hearing

An exceptional hardship hearing will generally be listed at a later date to obtain relevant evidence for the Court. Although it can sometimes be dealt with on the same day as the totting hearing, it will depend on advice at the time.

The burden of establishing exceptional hardship is on the offender. It is up to them to convince the Court (on the balance of probabilities) that it exists. At this point, a driving offence solicitor should represent you to argue your case in the best way possible.

What equates to exceptional hardship is a question of fact to be judged by the Court on the evidence. It must be something ‘out of the ordinary,’ since all disqualification will normally cause some kind of hardship.

So, what does this mean in plain language? Generally, if you’re going to be disqualified from driving and other wholly innocent people are going to suffer as a result, exceptional hardship is more likely to be found by the Court. The ‘other people’ could be your employers, who rely on you to drive in order to do business. They may be your family, who depend on your income to pay the rent or mortgage, and without a licence you would lose your job. There could also be others who rely on you being able to drive on an ongoing basis, such as elderly or vulnerable relatives.

Totting & Exceptional Hardship: Case One

I remember a vicar facing a totting up ban (who initially wished to challenge the legality of the speed camera that recorded his minor speeding infringement!). He gave oral evidence at his Exceptional Hardship Hearing and told the Court if he lost his licence, he would use his bicycle. The vicar explained he would thoroughly enjoy this, since he would get fitter, lose weight and would appreciate the experience of cycling in the countryside. The problem was that, because his parishioners were so widely spread, he would be unable to visit the more vulnerable ones on a regular basis. This was a concern both to him and them. The Court found exceptional hardship on this point alone.

Totting & Exceptional Hardship: Case Two

Another case involved a young driver who lived with his grandmother and worked for a large car manufacturer. He had borrowed money from her to buy a car so he could travel to and from work. Unfortunately, the driver had been very unlucky and managed to amass 18 penalty points. He faced a minimum totting up ban of six months. Since the driver worked shift work, it was difficult to get to the plant on public transport at night. It was likely he would lose his job.

The loss of employment does not always amount to exceptional hardship, which can be hard to come to terms with. In the aforementioned case, the defendant’s grandmother attended court with her grandson and gave evidence. The Prosecutor suggested if her grandson lost his job, she could support him until he found other employment.

The grandmother responded by telling the Prosecutor she couldn’t do that. She had lent her grandson money from her savings to help buy his car. It had been agreed his money would be paid back to her on a weekly basis, together with the contribution to household and living expenses over two years. The fact she had lent him this money meant she didn’t have any other funds available to cover him not working. It would undoubtedly cause her hardship if her grandson was unable to pay of his debt, as agreed between them.

The Court found exceptional hardship in these circumstances. I don’t know how he managed to pay his insurance premiums! However, he was allowed to keep his licence and therefore his job.

Avoid a Totting Up Ban with Driving Solicitors

The way courts are run at present often means ‘guilty pleas’ to driving offences are dealt with by one court. If a totting disqualification is expected, there is a temptation and sometimes desire by the Court to let a sentence hearing run on into an exceptional hardship hearing. This is never a good idea, unless you have seen a driving offence solicitor prior to the hearing. You must have planned for the event. There is potentially for one chance to avert a disaster and avoid a totting up ban. In my experience, trying to ‘wing it’ often goes badly wrong.

If you’re facing a totting up ban and believe you may be able argue exceptional hardship, contact Major Family Law for an initial consultation without charge. Or if time is of the essence, speak to Charles Waddell, Consultant Solicitor by calling 078 0271 7418.

Pre-nuptial agreements. Do you need one?

Congratulations to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle who were married at  St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle on Saturday! 

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry reportedly have not signed a prenuptial agreement before their May wedding. The Prince has an estimated net worth of £28 million, and Ms Markle’s net worth is estimated at around £3.7 million following her acting career.

According to a Royal expert it isn’t within royal protocol to sign prenuptial agreements. 

Katie Nicholl, author of Harry: Life, Loss, and Love. “It’s commonplace with celebrity marriage, but this is not a celebrity marriage, it’s a royal marriage.”

Pre-nuptial Agreements are not only relevant to the rich and famous.  They are likely to have growing significance to couples who are marrying for the second time, Like Meghan Markle. Figures published by the Office for National Statistics in 2008 estimated that almost 40% of the marriages in the UK were second marriages and divorce rates were especially high for couples the second time around.  

At Major Family Law, we have observed a growing trend in the volume of clients who seek our assistance following the breakdown of a second marriage.  These clients often entered into their second marriage with significantly greater wealth than their spouse and are understandably concerned about their financial position should they divorce.  

Second marriages can be more complicated, as there are often children from previous relationships to consider, as well as, pre-owned assets. A Pre-nuptial Agreement could be the answer as couples can determine, which of their pre-owned assets should remain “untouched” in the event of divorce.   

Pre-nups can also protect wealth acquired within the marriage, should one party receive a family gift or an inheritance which the other party has not contributed to.

A specialist family law solicitor can advise you of the difficulties such an agreement could also create, the uncertainty as to the effectiveness of a proposed agreement and that the law of course may change in the future.

Finally some advice; “don’t marry the person you think you can live with; marry only the individual you think you can’t live without”.

Welcoming Prince Louis!

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge emerged full of smiles outside St Mary’s Hospital as they proudly showed off their third child, named Prince Louis, last month.

The young Royals also celebrated their 7th wedding anniversary.

Whereas many choose the traditional route to enter into a legally binding marriage before having a family, a report by the ONS suggested that 60% of all births registered outside marriage or civil partnership each year have been to a cohabiting couple.

This is consistent with increases in the number of couples cohabiting rather than entering into marriage or civil partnership.

But what does this mean if your cohabiting relationship is to break down?

Even though as an unmarried couple you don’t need a solicitor to end your cohabitation status, there are still many areas linked to the relationship break down which may need legal advice and input.

On separation you may still have to organise the arrangements for the children and the financial arrangements – and these matters may be difficult to agree.

Obtaining Legal advice at the outset can help a great deal in providing you with information about the options available. This can assist you in reaching an amicable resolution to the plan for the future arrangements.

If you are living together or considering living together, it is wise to seek appropriate legal advice as soon as possible about your financial circumstances before you proceed to purchase property.

Reflecting on a journey

Read what Joanne Major, Managing Director of Major Family Law, the divorce and family law specialists, says in her article in this month’s Luxe magazine:

Niche Family Law Practices are now becoming widespread across the U.K. as an alternative, more bespoke way of offering specialist family law advice rather than being a tag on to a larger corporate business. Whether the model is a sustainable one only time will tell, however, last month we celebrated our 9th anniversary in business since we first opened the doors of Major Family Law in Ponteland.

Our offices originally situated at 10 West Road opened for the first time on April 1st. The date being deliberately chosen as one myself and my landlords Liz and John Scott Batey, who have both since tragically passed, as being a memorable one. “Perhaps I’ll be the biggest fool”, I remarked to John, in ignorance as to what lay ahead.

It wasn’t as tricky setting up as you’d imagine. The Law Society were helpful and told me I just needed insurance and my practicing certificate so to start with I worked from home for a few months until I secured the premises at West Road.

It took 2 months before we gained our first client. The phone never seemed to ring and the door remained firmly shut! It was anxious times and back in 2009 we were just crawling out of the recession. However, I was pragmatic and thought if it doesn’t work I’d pick up my handbag and get a job.

But come June the phone did ring and clients started instructing us. The same year I took on board my first two loyal and committed staff, Jane and Anna, both now my fellow Directors along with Lucinda Connell who was promoted to Director in January this year.

We quickly expanded and by late summer 2010 had moved next door to Number 12 and taken over the upstairs of Number 10. We’ve since refined our brand and our premises were given a make-over in 2015 to reflect our company ethos which is to provide a comfortable environment for consultations. Feedback from clients and professionals alike is extremely positive. “Our offices are very different from other practices, very homely but stylish.” Clients tell us that they do not feel intimidated by our offices which is important as, for most of them, this is the first time they have had to deal face-to-face with solicitors. We demonstrate a strong commitment to client care and this is borne out by the high proportion of work that has come to us through recommendations. Our clients tell us we provide a more sensitive and personal service than our competitors in the city law firms. And of course we always aim to achieve the right and fair result for each of them.

Running a business isn’t as easy as it may look from the more comfortable shoes of employment and once you’ve taken the plunge you have to accept it becomes another member of your family that you nurture and care about every day of your life. I’ve become braver by reflection and try always to learn from setbacks. Sustaining and growing a business requires strategy, focus and most importantly getting the right team in place to deliver what our clients expect of us – a professional service.

From a standing start back in 2009 we are now a team of 16 and shall be shortly joined by 2 more lawyers. We are a firm that people want to work in, with and have working for them. As we move into our ninth full year of trading, we are delighted at the high level of client satisfaction. We are the David taking on the Goliaths of this world.

Today we are a well-regarded Practice with able lawyers and a dedicated supporting staff alike but most importantly for me is that we all get along together. My journey of self-employment has had many challenges this past 9 years but the support and loyalty of our burgeoning team is the constant and is the core to our continued success in the market place.

 

 

 

Drink Driving Law Guide: Offences, Penalties & Bans

A quick pint after work, a glass of wine with Sunday lunch – there are lots of occasions where we might think about drink driving law. Often, those who commit drink driving offences aren’t aware of alcohol limits and don’t know how it affects them. Two bottles of beer might not place a 15-stone man over the limit but could do for a petite woman who hadn’t eaten. Your weight, metabolism, age, sex, stress levels, food intake and alcohol choice all play a role in drink driving.

Alcohol and car keys demonstrating potential of drink driving law being broken

If you’re found guilty of drink driving, you could face a fine, a ban or even imprisonment. All drink driving offences are dealt with by the Criminal Justice System, and your penalty will depend on the magistrates who hear your case.

What is Drink Driving Law?

Drink driving law states strict limits on alcohol for drivers:

  • 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath or
  • 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood or
  • 107 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine

These limits apply to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The law is different in Scotland to the rest of the UK.

Because of the various factors that affect your body, you might absorb alcohol at a different rate than someone else. If you are caught, you will be issued one or more of the drink driving penalties.

What Happens if You Get Caught Drink Driving?

If you are caught drink driving, you could be banned, face a fine or go to prison. The main drink driving offences include:

  • Being in charge of a vehicle when unfit to drive or over the limit
  • Driving or attempting to drive when unfit to drive or over the limit
  • Refusing to take a breath, blood or urine test
  • Causing death when unfit to drive or over the limit

Drink driving penalties are case-dependent but are always treat very seriously.

Drink Driving Offences: Being in Charge of a Vehicle

If you are in charge of a vehicle when over the legal limit or unfit to drive because of alcohol, you could face:

  • Three months’ imprisonment
  • Up to £2,500 fine
  • A driving ban

Being in charge of a vehicle isn’t always straightforward. If you’ve gone to the pub after work and have your car keys in your pocket, you are in charge of the vehicle but didn’t necessarily have the intent to drive. You may have planned on getting a taxi home and getting a friend bring you back to your car the next day.

Another example of being in charge of the vehicle could be when you are over the limit but decide to sleep in the back seat of your car. You may have had no intention of driving, but are still unfit to and in charge of the vehicle.

In either case, you could be charged against drink driving law. If this happens, it’s important to contact a road traffic lawyer. Drink driving solicitors can defend your case to achieve the most successful outcome.

Drink Driving Offences: Driving Over the Limit

If you’re caught driving or attempting to drive when over the limit, drink driving penalties are more severe. These cases are usually clearer because of the numerous tests used as evidence.

A police officer can pull you over on suspicion of breaking the drink driving law, if they have a reasonable cause to do so. You may be asked to take a field impairment and/or breath test, which provides the police officer with an immediate result. If you are over the limit, you will be taken to a police station and breathalysed again. A blood and urine sample may also be taken to prove you have committed a drink driving offence. If you are charged, you could face:

  • Six months’ imprisonment
  • An unlimited fine
  • A driving ban that lasts between 1-3 years

If you refuse to take a breath, blood or urine test, you are also breaking drink driving law.

Drink Driving Offences: Refusing to Provide a Breath, Blood or Urine Sample

If you fail to comply with a police officer suspicious of you committing an offence under drink driving law, you will be penalised. Refusing to take a breath, blood or urine test could mean:

  • Six months’ imprisonment
  • An unlimited fine
  • A driving ban that lasts at least one year

Drink Driving Offences: Causing Death When Over the Limit

Death by careless driving when over the limit or unfit to drive due to alcohol is the most serious offence. You may get:

  • 14 years’ imprisonment
  • An unlimited fine
  • A driving ban that lasts at least two years
  • An extended driving test before recovering your licence

Other Effects of Breaking Drink Driving Law

If an extensive fine, long driving ban and imprisonment weren’t already a considerable price to pay, drink driving penalties go even further. With a criminal record, you could lose your job, which inevitably has an enormous impact on drivers supporting their family. Your car insurance premiums will also increase drastically, and you may be unable to travel to some countries like the USA.

Going to Court for Drink Driving Offences

If you are charged with drink driving, you are being charged with a criminal offence. This means you will need to go to court. Therefore, it’s recommended you seek the help of specialist drink driving solicitors, so they can represent you in court and achieve the best results.

Drink Driving Solicitors

Drink driving solicitors provide expert insight, utilising their professional knowledge and wide experience to defend your case. There may be errors in police procedure, or perhaps you drank alcohol after the incident with your vehicle and not before. Whatever the circumstances, drink driving solicitors can offer their assistance to quickly and effectively manage your defence strategy, helping to reduce your penalty and potentially save you from losing your license or going to prison.

If you need more information about drink driving law, contact Major Family Law for fixed fees and a free initial consultation. If you have been charged with drink driving offences and need urgent assistance, call our Consultant Solicitor Charlie Waddell on 078 0271 7418 for more advice.