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from Woolley & Co, solicitors
September 2010
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Welcome

Andrew Wolley

It’s funny how certain things, if talked about enough, become accepted as the truth. Collective wisdom dictates that something must be true because “everyone” says so. Such myths need not have any basis in reality and yet large swathes of the population believe them to be so.

A survey last month on our divorce myths website revealed 40% of people still think the concept of “common-law” husband or wife is real. That is, if a couple have been living together for a period of time, they automatically enjoy the same legal rights as married couples.

This is simply not true and illustrates the job we still have to do trying to dispel common misconceptions about family law. It is something we can all do our bit to help out with.  

Andrew Woolley
Managing Partner,
Woolley & Co family law specialists

0800 3213832

Andrew blogs regularly on a variety of issues connected to family law. To view the most recent, visit
http://www.family-lawfirm.co.uk/Blog/

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Contents

Judging when the courts have got it wrong

Professional in focus:
Bob Greig - Only Dads

Family law in the news:
Nearly half of domestic violence victims are men

Honeymoon over for civil partnerships?

Tiger and wife announce their divorce

Woolley & Co in the News
Liz takes the W&C challenge

Monthly myth

Judging when the courts have got it wrong

Any dealings with the court can give rise to a sense of injustice, whether the encounter is criminal or civil. Divorce proceedings in particular can leave a bitter taste in the mouth for many. But what are the options if a person genuinely thinks the judge has got it wrong?

There are a number of courses of action available but the first and most important task for an individual is to stop, take a deep breath and think: is the judge really wrong or am I just hacked off with the result?

Part of a family lawyer’s role is to manage expectations. If they have tried to be realistic about what a person can expect, their prediction comes true and the client just can’t accept it, an appeal might not be the best course of action. If, however, a judgement falls well short of what could reasonably be expected, an appeal could be considered.

It is also important a client should assess the situation rationally and not be swayed by what less qualified friends might think.

Sometimes when making a ruling, a judge may make reference to the fact that a situation is not fair but they are bound by the law. It might be in this case that “the law is an ass” and there is an argument for going to an MP to present the facts and see if they will take it up. This will be in rare cases though.

“Sometimes judges do get it wrong or judgements are simply out of kilter and it is worth a person taking issue with it,” said Andrew Woolley, managing partner with Woolley & Co.

“It may not be necessary to go to the extent of an appeal. An appeal causes costs, concern and trouble for all, so sometimes extra negotiations can succeed.

“An appeal must normally be made with 14 days of the order being made and a person must decide if they wish to appeal against the order (because the court got it wrong) or have it set aside (because full information was not put before the court). It will normally be either a review of the evidence by a higher judge or a review with additional evidence.

“In all cases, an individual should take advice from an experienced family lawyer to save time and money in the appeal process. They will be able to advise if there is a reasonable chance of success or if it is likely to just prolong an already difficulty process that has run its course.”

For advice on all aspects of family law, contact Woolley & Co on 0800 321 3832 or visit www.family-lawfirm.co.uk  

Professional in Focus: Bob Greig

In 2007, Bob Greig found himself a single father with sole charge of two young girls and struggling to cope. After looking for practical support for fathers and not finding anything that quite fitted the bill, Bob decided to set up his own online resource, OnlyDads.org. In 2009 he rebranded and launched sister organisation OnlyMums.org in response to the 50% of enquires that were coming from lone mums.

Working in partnership with a host of organisations and with lots of input from single parents, the websites continue to grow, offering professional, up-to-date support and advice. The Panel of Experts offers parents free and anonymous advice ranging from bereavement issues to debt, financial and legal advice from a team of professionals.

Here, Bob gives his three top tips for dads when dealing with the legalities of divorce.

  1. Instruct your solicitor well. Start by asking: “What is best for my children?” Then think again, and again, and again. You will find that the answer changes but in this process of questioning, truth will begin to emerge. Communicate this to your solicitor but remember communication is a two-way street and listen to the advice they give you.

  2. Tell the truth! Given that you were once a boy and are now a man means there is every likelihood you are some way between Perfect Peter and Horrid Henry. Your solicitor and the judge in front of you will know this. Don't pretend to be someone you're not. The whole truth means telling them things that they may need to know too, even if they haven’t asked.

  3. Talking to your mates down the pub and letting off steam is good - but so too is the process of getting help and support while you objectify the needs of you and your children. Make no bones about it: Women are better than men at listening. You will need a sounding board, and I have no hesitation in sending dads off to talk with mums and get their wisdom.

"If dads can really grapple with these three points, they will be best served by the legal process – and so will their children,” added Bob.

You can find the OnlyDads website at www.onlydads.org or email the site at info@onlydads.org  

Family Law in the News

Nearly half of domestic violence victims are men

About two in five of all victims of domestic violence are men, contradicting the widespread impression that it is almost always women who are left battered and bruised, the Guardian reports.

Men assaulted by their partners are often ignored by police, see their attacker go free and have far fewer refuges to flee to than women, says a study by the men's rights campaign group Parity.

The charity's new report, Domestic Violence: The Male Perspective, states: "Domestic violence is often seen as a female victim/male perpetrator problem, but the evidence demonstrates that this is a false picture."

Data from Home Office statistical bulletins and the British Crime Survey show that men made up about 40% of domestic violence victims each year between 2004-05 and 2008-09, the last year for which figures are available. In 2006-07 men made up 43.4% of all those who had suffered partner abuse in the previous year, which rose to 45.5% in 2007-08 but fell to 37.7% in 2008-09.

"Male victims are almost invisible to the authorities such as the police, who rarely can be prevailed upon to take the man's side," said John Mays, of Parity.

"Culturally it's difficult for men to bring these incidents to the attention of the authorities. Men are reluctant to say that they've been abused by women, because it's seen as unmanly and weak." 

Honeymoon over for civil partnerships?

Civil partnership dissolutions have almost doubled since 2008 – from 180 to 351, according to new figures.

More women than men dissolved a civil partnership in England, Wales and Scotland in 2009. In England and Wales, 63 per cent of civil partnerships dissolved in 2009 were to female couples.

More than 6,000 gay couples tied the knot last year, as civil partnerships fell by 12 per cent in popularity. There were 6,281 civil partnerships in 2009, down from 7,169 the previous year, the Office of National Statistics figures show.

Andrew Woolley, of Woolley & Co, said the firm had been noticing a related trend – a rise in the number of same sex couples trying to get a dissolution within 12 months of marriage which is much higher than traditionally married couples.

“Many are couples who have been together for a number of years beforehand so it is not that they have rushed into anything or suddenly discovered they are not compatible,” said Andrew.

“Is it something about the process/ceremony itself? Or is it because significant numbers of gay couples are entering into a civil partnership as a last ditch attempt to save a failing relationship?"

“Whatever the reason, it is still an oddity that same sex couples cannot give adultery as a reason for wanting to dissolve their union, something which I feel should be changed.”

For more on Civil Partnership Dissolution visit the Woolley & Co website.  

Tiger and wife announce their divorce

Tiger Woods and estranged wife Elin Nordegren have finally announced that they have divorced.

A joint statement confirmed the divorce has been finalised in Bay County, Florida, and the agreement allowed for joint parenting of their two children. Exact details about the settlement though have been the subject of huge speculation.

The couple – him one of the world’s most highly paid sport stars and she a Swedish model – married in October 2004. Numerous reports suggest Elin signed a pre-nuptial agreement of £12 million to which she would be automatically entitled after 10 years of marriage.

However, a renegotiation of the pre-nup is believed to have taken place with some reports suggesting Elin will now get just over £100 million and will keep one home in Florida, while the golfer will retain their house in Jupiter Island, Florida. He is also likely to keep a £2 million Los Angeles apartment and their 155ft yacht Privacy. She will keep property bought in Sweden.

“It is unfortunate that this high profile divorce has seen pre-nups thrust into the spotlight in a less-than-favourable light,” said Andrew Woolley.

“Pre-nups still have a serious stigma attached to them. However, they are incredibly useful to many people as they set out how financial matters (at least) will be dealt with if a marriage doesn’t work.

“To have such a high-profile case seem to suggest that anyone can simply go and renegotiate the terms if they feel like it when things go wrong does beg the question: why bother in the first place?”

For more details about how prenuptial agreements work in practice, visit the Woolley & Co website.

Woolley & Co News

Liz takes the W&C challenge

Shropshire-based family law expert Liz Davies has joined Woolley & Co solicitors as the firm continues to expand.

Her arrival brings the tally of senior level family lawyers to 20, working from home offices across the Midlands, London, South, South West and Wales.

Mother-of-two Liz, who is based near Ludlow serving clients across the region, said: “The approach that Woolley & Co takes, with lawyers working from home offices, flexible to fit around the needs of the client and using technology to speed up procedures wherever possible, really appealed. The whole ethos is very fresh."

“I have deliberately specialised in matrimonial law from the start of my career. I really like the variety and getting to know the individuals involved. It is inevitably an extremely emotional time for a client if they are going through a divorce or separation. Working as a lawyer in this area means you have to offer so much more than just expert legal advice.”

Over her time in the profession, Liz – a big follower of Worcester Warriors rugby in her free time – says she has seen a significant rise in the number of cohabitation disputes as more couples choose to live together outside of marriage. With a focus on resolving things without conflict where possible, Liz is a strong advocate of mediation to try and reach settlements amicably.

Liz Davies can be contacted at liz.davies@family-lawfirm.co.uk or on 0845 680 0587. 

Monthly myth

PLEASE READ:

I don’t need to get married as I have the same rights as a common-law wife.

Download The Divorce myths book here

The above is no substitute for legal advice. Please take advice before making any decisions or advising others. The above are outlines of cases and the details have been removed for brevity. The detail is often extremely important in law.

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