What are my divorce rights?
Wanting to know what your rights are when your relationship or marriage breaks down is a common question raised with family lawyers. Unfortunately, it is not always something which is easy to answer – as can be seen from the commonly asked questions below. If your specific question isn't answered contact Woolley & Co here.
I am getting divorced – what are my rights regarding a financial settlement?
Unfortunately there is no simple answer to this question – it depends upon the circumstances of your case. There is no automatic rule of “50/50” although in some cases, this will be the fairest answer. Your lawyer will guide you through the factors that the court may take into account – such as the age of the parties, the length of the marriage, any discrepancy in your incomes, pension provisions and so on.
Generally, the Court would give priority to whoever is caring for the children of the family, and will try to address the reasonable needs of the parties for things such as housing. Very often the reality is that there is simply not enough money to provide for the needs of both parties, and this can sometimes result in what appears to be an unfair solution, with one party receiving a lot more than the other.
It can sometimes seem as though men have fewer rights than women – this will often be a result of the children living with their mother, who earns less, has a lower mortgage capacity and less pension provision than the husband. If you are better equipped to “re-generate” your finances than the other party, then you may well receive less than they do – it can appear that you are losing out because you have worked hard, but this is the way a Court is likely to deal with things.
There will often be a “range” of possible solutions to dividing the assets, and it is important that you explain fully to your lawyer your own preferences within that range – such as “I really don’t want the house to be sold if possible” or “I am worried about having enough money when I retire” – this will help your lawyer explain the options available to you. The most basic right that you will have is to invite the court to decide what you should have if you cannot agree on a division of the assets between you. See Financial Settlements on Separation and Divorce for more details.
My ex-wife won’t let me see my kids any more – what are my rights?
Here, the law is very clearly based upon the rights of the children, rather than those of the parents, and in broad terms it is often considered to be their right to have a relationship with both of their parents. If you were married then you will have parental responsibility for the children and this will give you the right to access information for example from their school about how they are doing and so on. You also have the right to know where your children are living, and can ask the court to make orders to ensure that their whereabouts are known. A natural parent has the automatic right to make an application to the court regarding contact or residence arrangements for their children.
It is often perceived that fathers do not really have any rights – it can be very difficult sometimes for the courts to intervene in an effective way if the parent with whom the child is living is determined to resist there being any contact. But the courts can and do take steps such as changing the residence arrangements so that the child lives with the “absent” parent to ensure that there is a relationship with both parents or can even send a disobedient parent with care to prison if they believe that they are not acting in the best interests of the child.
We weren’t married – do I have rights to our property?
There’s no yes or no answer here, much will depend on the circumstances. The law for unmarried people is very different to that for those who are married. But, if your name is on the deeds to the house you have the right to live there and not to be excluded (e.g. by the other person changing the locks). You will be entitled to a share of the equity – quite possibly 50%.
But if your name is not on the deeds, things can be very different. If you have paid towards the property you may be able to show that you are entitled to a share of the equity, but this is a complex area of law and you should take specific advice.
If you had children together and they are living with you, you may be able to secure the right to live in the property until the children are older. The basic rights that you will have in respect of the house contents is that if you can show that you paid for something, then it belongs to you. In all circumstances you have the right not to be evicted unlawfully – if your partner is trying to force you to leave you must take legal advice straight away.
My ex partner is being aggressive and I am frightened. What are my rights?
Everyone has the right to live without fear for their safety. No-one has the right to cause you harm or threaten you. You have the right to complain to the police, as such behaviour may constitute a criminal offence. Bear in mind that harassment is also a criminal offence, and you should report any such incidents so that the police are aware if there is an ongoing problem. You may have the right to seek an order or injunction to keep your ex away, or maybe even to make them leave the property.
My son and his wife have split up and she won’t let us see the grandchildren – what are my rights?
There is often reference to “grandparents’ rights” but sadly, the law does not really recognise such a thing. Even though grandparents can have extremely close bonds with their grandchildren – often providing the majority of childcare whilst the children are young – these bonds can be shattered when the parents’ relationship breaks down. A grandparent will not even have the automatic right to make an application to the court in the way that a parent can. But, they can seek leave (permission) to make an application, and the court will always put the best interests of the children first if they have to decide whether a contact order should be made. Because of the acrimony and expense that a court case can generate, it is best to exhaust all possible ways of trying to resolve the matter amicably – such as mediation – first. For more details on this complex areas read The Law and Grandparents Rights.
Need further advice?
Call Woolley & Co on 0800 3213832 or book a free initial telephone appointment with one of our lawyers.