No doubt everyone is aware of the separation of Cheryl and Liam. But what happens next? Well the law is the same for everyone regardless of whether you are famous or not.
So how do contact & residence arrangements work (or living with and spending time with orders as they are now called)? The best way is to try and reach an agreement between yourselves about where the child should live and how much time they should spend with the other parent. In most cases, the Court prefers a ‘home base’ and then on average 2-3 nights per week with the other parent. Of course, this doesn’t suit every child and contact can be increased or reduced where necessary and shared care arrangements can also be appropriate for some families.
Parents always seem to overlook the important dates. You should consider what should happen in school holidays or contact to allow one parent to take the child on holiday. Again, agreement should be reached but the non-resident parent should be provided with additional time with the child during the year.
Other important dates to consider are Mother’s Day / Father’s Day, the child’s birthday, parent birthdays, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year. Reaching agreement as to what should happen saves conflict at a time when you should be enjoying and celebrating the special day.
If agreement cannot be reached between yourselves, then a service called mediation is available. The mediation process allows parents to discuss the child and the arrangements with someone who is independent and who is aware of the law. This helps communication between the parents which can lead to an agreement being reached.
Alternatively, solicitors can be instructed to assist in cases where communication has broken down. Here at MBH Solicitors, we have 2 Resolution accredited solicitors who follow a code of conduct to ensure that hostility is reduced and to support you in putting the best interests of the child first.
Unfortunately, mediation and solicitor agreements are not legally binding and if you later renege on the agreement, Court proceedings would have to be issued. Proceedings are also issued where mediation and solicitor agreement cannot be reached.
The Court’s paramount decision is what is in the best interests of the child and it doesn’t favour the mother or the father. It seems that both Cheryl and Liam are considering this with their joint statement, “Bear is our world and we ask that you respect his privacy as we navigate our way through this together.”
There will also be the issue of child maintenance. It is hoped that an agreement can be reached between parties in line with the agreed contact arrangements. However, if this is not the case, then the Child Maintenance Service (previously known as the CSA) will be able to assist.
The arrangements for Bear is not the only issue that the couple will have due to their separation. What is the position with any property they have acquired jointly or separately?
The law is complex when you are not married and despite many myths, common law couples do not exist.
If property is in joint names then couples are mostly protected (but not in all cases). Advice should still be obtained if you are unsure how you hold the property, just because it is in joint names does not necessarily mean you are entitled to 50%! There are different ways you can hold property even jointly such as joint tenants, tenants in common in equal shares and tenants in common in unequal shares. This should be investigated prior to agreeing any financial division of assets.
If property is held in one person’s sole name, claims can still be brought against the property. However, this is dependent on what you have paid towards the property and discussions you have had as to whether you believed you had an interest in the property. This is a complex area of law and advice should be sought to determine whether you have an interest. A restriction should also be entered with the Land Registry to stop your ex-partner from selling it whilst you are taking legal advice.
Again, mediation and solicitor correspondence can assist in reaching agreement. Court proceedings are there for where agreement cannot be reached, but should always be considered as the last resort.
Please do not hesitate to contact our family solicitors Gillian Lavelle or Kim Busby if you wish to discuss any of the above further. McCarthy Bennett Holland are able to offer a free 30 minute initial consultation and are more than happy to assist.
www.wigansolicitors.com Tel: 01942 206060 Address: 26 Bridgeman Terrace, Wigan WN1 1TD Twitter: @MBHSolicitors