Family matters

It is an unfortunate fact of life that not all relationships are successful or lasting. The prospect of resolving family and relationship issues can be daunting. We sympathise and understand the emotional and financial impacts of family break- ups. It is our aim to resolve problems by providing sound and constructive expert advice to achieve practical solutions for you and your families. It is important for you to know your legal position at an early stage, otherwise you may be disadvantaged.

Often children are involved in these matters. It is helpful to have parents' respective rights and duties in relation to those children explained clearly to each party. This can help both parents to agree on arrangements that benefit the children, as it is ultimately the interests of the children that are paramount.

A settlement is almost always at the forefront of our objective and it is our aim to provide a practical and constructive settlement that will allow you and your children to get on with your lives as soon as possible. We can help negotiate a settlement or refer you to mediation. Mediation is aimed at providing a neutral ground where parties can meet and discuss their issues and try and find a compromise that is workable.

We recognise that each family is different and has its own special circumstances and a detailed knowledge of the law, legal procedure and local practice is essential and this is visible throughout our services.

We aim to take as much stress as possible out of the divorce or separation process. Our Family Law Division offers a sympathetic and understanding approach to resolving matters to the agreement of all concerned. All four members of the Division belong to Resolution, a body committed to a Code of Practice aimed at dealing with matters in a conciliatory manner.

If you wish to proceed with a divorce soon after separating from your spouse then you will need to satisfy the Court that he/she has either committed adultery or has behaved unreasonably during the course of the marriage. We will discuss this with you whether you have sufficient grounds on that basis and then draft the petition for you. Many people without a solicitor fall into difficulties with this as they are understandably unclear as to exactly what information the Court will require or how it should be set out.

The alternative is to wait until you have been living apart for a period of two years and then commence divorce proceedings on the basis of that period of separation. Your spouse’s consent is, however, crucial to enable the divorce to go through at that time; if that consent is not forthcoming then you would have to be separated for a period of five years before the divorce can proceed on the basis of separation alone.

If there are issues regarding finances or children that need to be resolved as part of a divorce or separation, we will advise you accordingly. We are committed to negotiating a settlement for you if at all possible and will work closely with local mediation services to try to resolve matters. In some situations, however, an application to the Court becomes necessary, which we will handle on your behalf in a constructive manner.

Not all separations concern married couples. At GCA, we also have considerable experience in dealing with the separation of unmarried couples in terms of finances and children. We frequently encounter the belief amongst clients that the concept of common-law spouse exists. It does not, which is why co-habitees who are considering separating should obtain legal advice sooner rather than later. Changes to the law have been proposed in respect of this and we will advise you if and when they occur.

Childcare and Adoption
There will be occasions when individuals may need to consult with us, even though they are not going pursuing divorce or separation – for example, if the Local Authority is proposing to take children into care. We can assist you in what is inevitably a very difficult time for parents and the extended family and attend Court to contest such action, should it be appropriate. In the case if adoption, we can guide you through the process including the application to the Court and also act as your representative.

Pre-Nuptial/Cohabitation Agreements
Some people might be contemplating marriage but are concerned about preserving their assets in the event of a marital breakdown. Although the law in respect of prenuptial agreements is developing all the time, we can assist in relation to the drafting of such an agreement. Similarly, for couples proposing to cohabit, we can assist you by drawing up a cohabitation agreement confirming what each will pay for in the event of an eventual breakdown of the relationship.

Civil Partnership
The law in relation to civil partnerships is constantly changing and we pride ourselves in keeping up to date with developments. We can advise you on current legislation and the procedures to take in the event of a civil partnership breakdown.

Funding support
We have a contract with the Legal Aid Agency to ensure that we can offer Legal Aid to those clients who are eligible. If you are ineligible, we will be happy to offer an initial fixed fee first interview £50+ VAT. We also offer fixed fee divorces starting from £200+ VAT and disbrsements.

Collaborative Law
Collaborative law is a process which offers separating couples an alternative to litigation. Instead of relying on the Court to determine what is fair, collaborative law offers the couple themselves the opportunity to agree what is right for their children and financially for themselves in collaboration with each other and their own solicitors in a series of four-way meetings.

The collaborative approach is fundamentally changing the way people think about family law. For couples who genuinely seek a fair solution, and want to minimize the pain of family breakdown, it may offer the very best way ahead.

Collaborative lawyers sign an agreement with you which disqualifies them from representing you in court if the collaborative process breaks down. This means they are absolutely committed to helping you find the best solutions; by agreement, rather than through conflict.

Domestic violence
In the unfortunate event of an individual being subjected to domestic violence whatever form that may take, we understand the importance of a sensitive approach. It may be appropriate to secure a non- molestation injunction and/or an order excluding the perpetrator from the family home (known as an occupation order). We liaise closely with the police and the CAB to offer a fully supporting service.