Government funds to support therapy for adopted children

On the Playground

The government has announced the allocation of a £19.3m support fund for adoptive parents with children in need of therapy. From 2015 the Adoption Support Fund will be available to help children who may have suffered abuse and/or neglect.

The introduction of this fund follows a House of Lords report calling for adoptive parents to have a legal right to support. It is hoped that providing additional support will result in a far greater number of successful adoptions.

It has been recognised that adopted children may have behavioural problems carried over from their former circumstances, that may not be resolved simply by being adopted. Not addressing these issues is likely to result in adoption breakdown and the return of an already troubled child to care.

The BBC reported that Edward Timpson, Children and Families Minister, commented: “We know that children adopted from care have often lived through terrible experiences which do not simply disappear once they have settled with their new families”.

They also reported that he intends the money to be used for support such as cognitive therapy, music and play therapy and attachment-based therapy “to ensure that these children have a stable and fulfilling childhood – a fundamental right for every child, no matter what their starting point in life”.

This funding is part of a larger government backed scheme to increase the number of adoptions, making the process quicker and easier – something that has been welcomed by adoption charities.

We are delighted to see this proposal come to fruition, at Hartnell Chanot & Partners we have the responsibility of dealing with both care and adoption cases. The announcement of this new funding is a clear acknowledgement of the need to help children – who are the most important part of any adoption event – to overcome the challenges of their former lives and start fresh with a new supportive and caring family.

The long term effects for children who have been removed to care, adopted and later returned to care could be devastating on their future well-being.

If you are interested in adoption or have any concerns relating to this subject, please contact us today to talk to one of our children law specialists on 01392 421 777

A lesson in honesty as Judge rips up settlement agreement

A recently reported case from the High Court has offered up a few valuable lessons for couples trying to settle financial agreements upon divorce.

The case is centred around a wealthy business tycoon who, as the Daily Telegraph reported, was untruthful about his wealth and his former wife who was keen to move on quickly when their relationship finally broke down.

The couple, who cannot be named, originally divorced in 2009. At the time of the original negotiation, which took place without the benefit of independent legal advice, the wife had been led to believe that the husband was simply an employee of a ‘nil value company’. The result of their private settlement discussion was a £1.8m settlement.

The wife later found documentation that painted a very different picture of her former husband’s financial situation. This documentation included evidence that the businessman had shares worth up to £740,000 in one company which had a £50 million turnover. It also emerged that a further £800,000 investment had not been disclosed.

Judge Sir Paul Coleridge has ordered for the original divorce settlement to be “ripped up,” after reportedly saying that the man had been “deliberately false” when negotiating with his former spouse.

As a result of not providing full-and-frank disclosure, the settlement agreement will now have to be re-negotiated with a high chance of a greater capital payment to the wife.

This case offers a perfect example of situations where independent legal advice would have been of benefit. The greatest lesson however, is that honesty really is the best policy, unless you want to risk further financial penalties.

Some things are more important than money

Many of you will have heard in the media recently that Nigella Lawson has obtained an uncontested or “quickie” divorce following the heavily publicised encounter with her husband Charles Saatchi. The images of the event saw the international advertising mogul and art collector grab Lawson by the throat and tweak her nose. Following his actions Saatchi accepted a police caution for his threatening behaviour.

While no official comment has been made about the nature of any financial settlement involved, it has been suggested that the pair honoured the terms of a pre-nuptial agreement that prevents either party from being able to claim against the other financially. This agreement, whilst not strictly binding, was presumably put in place to protect the much greater assets of her former husband. The reason given for Lawson accepting these terms, when she may have been able to gain a greater settlement, was that she wished for herself and her children to be spared the additional pain and trauma associated with contested proceedings, with the accompanying publicity. She and her children already had enough financial provision to cater for their needs.

In our experience, whatever the speed of the proceedings,  there is no such thing as an easy divorce, most people who have invested time, energy and hope into a marriage are devastated when the relationship ends. The law provides of course for basic financial  needs to be met for both parties and any children affected but the sooner that a relationship, that has not worked for whatever reason, is brought to an end and with the minimum of acrimony the better it is for all parties concerned.

No one is in any position to judge another when it comes to relationships, but there are certainly times when credit should be given to a mother who puts the interests and emotional needs of her children before the green-eyed monster.

Family Law: A Global Affair

International child abductionHere at Hartnell Chanot & Partners we have noticed a trend in the information being provided by many of the bodies involved in international family justice. As you will have seen from our earlier blogs: first it was the Foreign Office, then the UK’s leading Child abduction charity, now the Head of International Family Justice for England and Wales has commented on the alarming growth in the number of international family law cases that they were asked to advise on.

In the 2012 annual report, co-written by Lord Justice Thorpe, it was noted that the office had seen a 40.5% rise in the number of requests for assistance compared to 2011, taking the total to 253. 2011 in turn saw a 96% increase over 2010. These requests related to 71 different jurisdictions.

The International Family Justice Office for England and Wales offers advice to Judges, Solicitors and other parties in relation to international disputes, as well as negotiating with judges in other countries.

The dramatic increase has been attributed to on-going globalisation, increasing movement of persons across international borders and the ever rising number of family units with a truly international make up.

The findings of the report have highlighted the growing trend in international family law cases, in particular, child abduction. In an attempt to avoid lengthy and potentially costly court proceedings, many parties in these disputes are simply leaving the country, hoping to find a haven overseas.

So what can you do to avoid becoming involved in one of these complex disputes?

Jane Chanot, Director of Hartnell Chanot & Partners and member of the International Child Abduction Contact Unit, commented that: “Prevention in these circumstances is so much better than having to find a cure. International disputes are enormously complex and can result in great emotional and financial hardship for those involved.” Jane went on to say that: “At Hartnell Chanot we have a dedicated team of international child abduction specialists and we would urge anybody who feels that their children are at risk of being removed from the jurisdiction without consent, to seek advice as soon as possible.”

Can’t afford your divorce proceedings? You could make your partner pay!

As the legal community and the general public come to terms with the recent changes to Legal Aid 

and the shift towards mediation for matters involving children and finance matters on divorce and separation, a new provision has been introduced that offers a ray hope.

This new provision offers powers for the court to order one party to make a payment to fund the other party’s lawyers.

The court will have the power to order one party to a marriage to pay to the other (the applicant) an amount for the purposes of enabling that party to pay for legal advice and assistance.

These orders – which have been dubbed ‘legal services payment orders – can be made:

  1. in divorce, nullity or judicial separation proceedings to enable the applicant to pay for legal advice or
  2. for proceedings for financial relief in connection with divorce, nullity or judicial separation.

How does it work?

The new order may be for a single amount to be paid by the respondent to the applicant or in instalments that will need to be secured. The order can be obtained to cover legal services for all or part of the proceedings or to provide advice as to how law applies to the particular circumstances. The payment can also be sought to cover all or part of the costs in relation to the settlement or other resolution of the dispute. This would include processes such as family mediation, arbitration or collaborative law.

The order can also be sought in relation to legal advice regarding the enforcement of decisions within the proceedings or as part of the settlement or resolution of the dispute.

How does the court make its decision?

There a checklist of factors that need to be considered when applying for this type of order including income, earning capacity, property, assets, financial needs and obligations, the subject matter of the proceedings and whether the applicant has taken steps to avoid all or part of the proceedings by proposing or considering mediation etc.

An applicant will also be required to demonstrate that they have explored all other means of funding, without success, before the order is sought.

For more information about this type of order or any other family law matter, give us a call on 01392 421777 and arrange a free ½ hour appointment with one of our family law specialists.

Not the destination you had in mind for your Louis Vuitton luggage

Earlier this week Scott Young, 51, was sent to prison after being held in “flagrant,” contempt of court for failing to provide information about his financial circumstances.

Mrs Young had applied for maintenance, both for herself and for their two teenage children, who live with her. After many, many hearings, the court decided that Mr Young should be required to pay an astonishing £27,500 per month! At this point many of you may be aghast at this figure but consider this- Mr Young is said to be worth somewhere in the region of £400,000,000! Arguably he is not the sort of man who needs to be counting the pennies.

Rather than pay up, Mr Young continued to deny his astonishing wealth, claiming to be bankrupt. Understandably, rather than simply taking his word for it, the court said “prove it” and ordered Mr Young to provide evidence of his poverty. Mr Young declined to do so.

At a hearing earlier this week Mr Justice Moor decided that Mr Young’s excuses for not complying with orders to disclose his financial circumstances were “absurd” and that one reply he had provided was “next to useless”. The Judge had clearly had enough and in true Monopoly fashion, sent Mr Young directly to jail.

Although many of us can only dream of having access to the incredible wealth that Mr Young is said to have, this case is a cautionary reminder that anyone involved in financial claims, before the family courts, must disclose their financial circumstances when asked to do so. It is a brave (or foolish) husband or wife who says “no”. There is a good chance that they too may find themselves packing their couture overnight bag in anticipation of spending a little time at Her Majesty’s pleasure.

Alarming growth in parental child abduction

Alarming new figures from the Foreign Office(FCO) have revealed that the number of children being abducted and taken abroad by an estranged parent has risen by 88% in just under a decade.

Data from FCO showed that approximately 270 cases of international child abduction were reported in 2003-2004, while 2012 has seen in excess of 500 cases. In the last year the Foreign Office’s Child Abduction Section has fielded an average of four calls per day, more than half of these calls were new cases.

It is estimated that almost a quarter of Britons are unaware that it is a crime to take a child overseas without first obtaining permission from other parties with parental responsibility for that child.

In response to these staggering statistics, the Foreign Office has launched a campaign to highlight the issue and inform people of the reality of the crime.

This is a global problem

The FCO is keen to highlight the widespread, global nature of this problem, recent cases have involved as many as 84 different countries.

Alison Shalaby, Chief Executive of Reunite, commented on the FCO report that:

“It is important to remember that parental child abduction is not faith or country specific. 71% of the UK public thought that parents most commonly abduct their children to the Middle East, India and Pakistan but it can happen to anyone, from any background. Countries children are abducted to can range from Australia, to France, to Thailand.”

The research commissioned by the FCO also highlighted the fact that the UK population believe that the government can intervene to order the return of a child to the UK if he or she has been abducted.

The reality of the situation however is that while help is available, there is no quick and easy solution; child abduction cases can take years to resolve. There is also a possibility that the child may never be returned.

It is also much more difficult to return a child from a country that has not signed the 1980 Hague Convention, an international agreement between a series of countries which aims to ensure the return of children abducted by parents.

The costs of abduction

In addition to the intense emotional distress experienced by parents that involved in international child abduction cases, there are also significant financial costs as they battle for custody through foreign courts. These costs can continue to mount up if and when the child is successfully returned to the UK.

Seeking appropriate advice from the likes of the Reunite International Child Abduction Centre, the Foreign Office Child Abduction Section or an experienced Child Abduction Solicitor can help to limit these costs and ensure that you take the right steps to resolve the issue.

Hartnell Chanot & Partners have a dedicated team of specialist international child abduction solicitors. The team has a wealth of experience dealing with a wide range of countries and jurisdictions. We are also one of a handful of firms to have panel members of both the International Child Abduction Contact Unit and Reunite.

For more information or to find out how we can help you contact Jane Chanot, Head of our Child Abduction or call +44 (0)1392 421777

Solicitor of the year joins specialist firm

It has been an exciting 18 months of developments for Devon firm, Hartnell Chanot & Partners. The family law specialists have expanded their services from Exeter into nearby Plymouth and they have greatly increased their capacity to deliver their creative brand of family law service across each of their specialist practice teams. In return they have been rewarded for these efforts with a host of award nominations and industry recognition.

Just a week after being listed as a top tier firm in Legal 500, the leading directory for legal practitioners, Hartnell Chanot &Partners are proud to announce the latest addition to their ranks. Family Law Solicitor of the Year in 2011- Vanessa Priddis who will bring a wealth of experience and a nationally respected reputation to the firm.

Norman Hartnell, Director, commented: “We are absolutely thrilled to have Vanessa joining the firm, she is widely respected within the family law community and she will help reinforce our status as a leading player in the South West’s family law market.” He went on to say: “Vanessa will be adding valuable scope to our team of highly skilled and experienced care lawyers and support staff. It would be fair to say that we will have one of, if not the best, childcare team in the country.”

Vanessa qualified as a solicitor in 1987 having studied at Guildford College of Law. She quickly built up a reputation for acting for children and parents in all types of cases before the court. During her distinguished career Vanessa has specialised in international adoption, surrogacy and care proceedings. She has contributed widely to the development of family law practice, serving on the local Resolution committee, the National Law Society sub committee on Children Law, working as a member of the Exeter Family Court Users Group, lecturing for Jordans Family Law and sitting as a deputy district judge.

Hartnell Chanot & Partners are known for their creative, problem solving approach to family law; an approach that seeks to provide amicable resolutions to a wide range of family disputes and relationship breakdowns. This reputation and well-rounded approach was one of the key factors that attracted Priddis to the team.

Vanessa stated: “I am really delighted to be joining Hartnell Chanot & Partners as I see their approach and commitment to all areas of family law to include those that are legally aided as mirroring my own. The team has a wealth of talent which I am excited to work alongside.”

Co-op divorce: is a fixed fee £99 divorce the answer?

The Co-operative supermarket chain, announced last week that it was launching a range of “family law products”, to include DIY divorce packages starting at £99 as well as prenuptial agreements and cohabitation agreements.

This isn’t a new phenomenon, in fact there are a number of law firms across the country that offer cheap, fixed-fee or no-fee divorce packages. Many of these packages including the Co-operatives’ cheapest solution, which works out to £503.50 including VAT and court fees, simply provide you with a step-by-step guide to administering your own divorce along with all of the forms that you will need to make it legally binding. For an additional fee you are, in most cases, also able to pay to have your documents checked by a legal professional or make individual appointments to discuss your case with a solicitor.

I am sure that, at first glance, this seems like a fantastic proposition, and if you are in a position where you have no children, no money, no assets (properties), no businesses and the break-up is amicable then this may indeed be a cost effective way for you to process your divorce.

However as a seasoned family lawyer, having dealt with more than 1,000 divorces, one thing has become abundantly clear to me- no divorce is ever the same. Everybody is different, our personal circumstances vary greatly and we all manage different situations in our own ways. It is therefore very difficult to make a ‘one-size-fits-all’ divorce solution work effectively. That principle is at the core of the many pitfalls that I can see with such packages.

The Pitfalls:

  1. You and your family may have unique and specific needs that exclude you from being able to utilise the fixed fee model.
  2. You may need access to a plethora of other services including:
    1. Mediation
    2. Counselling
    3. Child psychologist
    4. Debt advice
    5. Independent financial advice
    6. Actuarial advice (Pensions advice)
    7. Valuation advice
    8. Business/corporate advice
    9. Probate/wills advice

Proceeding with an online/DIY divorce without meeting with a solicitor to discuss your circumstances, could have a knock on effect that seriously impacts yours and your children’s lives in the future. At Hartnell Chanot & Partners we offer a FREE Initial Interview, to help you understand what services you are likely to need for your individual case.

  1. The Co-op pledges a transparent pricing structure and “no nasty surprises” ,while admirable and attractive to potential consumers, the prices quoted are likely to be blown out of the water once the additional hours of support are taken into account in more complicated cases.
  2. Having managed your own divorce, you may find out at a later date that an agreement you reached or a decision that you made has put you at a disadvantage. It may then be very costly, time consuming or even impossible to put this right.
  3. There is no percentage split or formulaic approach to divorce settlement in English Law. Determining a fair solution can be a very complex exercise that examines a number of factors particularly where children are concerned or where one party earns or has contributed more over the course of the relationship.
  4. There is a common misconception that once you divorce all opportunity for financial claims cease. This is in-fact not the case and you could end up facing a financial claim by your spouse years down the line against assets, income and pension provision that you had at the time or income, assets and pensions acquired after separation and divorce unless all matters are resolved in a legally binding manner.
  5. The paperwork associated with divorce, if you don’t fill it out on a regular basis, can be a very challenging process. At the core of this documentation is the Form E, a 29 page nightmare that can, depending on your circumstances, require hundreds of supporting documents.

If you really need to save money and you are set on DIY divorce the same forms that you are likely to get from the Co-op or any of the other DIY packages are available for FREE here www.courtservice.gov.uk and the Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to assist you with any queries or individual advice.

The reality is that a specialist family solicitor may be able to save you a significant amount of money in the long run. They will also be able to look at your situation and provide advice and guidance that is tailored to you, helping you to achieve the best possible outcome. At Hartnell Chanot & Partners we can provide a clear up-front personalised quote, before any work is carried out.

Whatever your circumstances, make sure that you choose a solution that helps you resolve these important, life changing issues completely and effectively so that you and your family can move on with your lives without any lingering stress or anguish.

Sun, Sea and…… Separation?

With September just around the corner and the summer holidays starting to draw to a close, people the length and breadth of the UK are starting to reflect on the events of the last couple of months. The diamond jubilee celebrations, a Brit making the men’s final at Wimbledon, London 2012 providing the greatest British medal haul at an Olympic Games since 1908, the impossibly perplexing weather conditions of ‘the great British Summer’ and the highly anticipated annual family holiday.

Despite the overwhelming sense of joy and celebration that accompanied many of these events, for a great many people this period of reflection will result in one overwhelming conclusion.

They aren’t happy.

In a lot of cases, they aren’t happy with their relationship and the impact it is having on the rest of their life.

Perhaps that long awaited holiday, the one that was supposed to rejuvenate their relationship, failed to live up to expectations. Maybe despite being able to spend more time together with their partner, they still felt alone or isolated. The added strain of the summer holiday put too much pressure on parents who were desperately trying to balance all of the demands on their limited time, without the much needed support of their partners.

There could be any number of contributing factors. The end result however is the same.

The differences come when people try to decide what to do with this new found realisation. Some people will decide to suffer in silence, trying to embrace a belief that something may change; that things might get better. Others will seek out the services of an experienced relationship counsellor in an attempt to resurrect the relationship that they once had. Those that see no light at the end of the tunnel, no chance of improvement will opt for divorce.

For the last 21 years Hartnell Chanot & Partners, the family law specialists, have been helping individuals going through the full spectrum of relationship breakdowns. Rachel Buckley, Director, was keen to highlight that: ‘No matter what your circumstances, it is possible to find a solution that allows you to resolve your relationship breakdown and move on with your life. At Hartnell Chanot & Partners we have helped people with children, properties, businesses both married and unmarried alike, providing representation and arranging mediation services and counselling when required.’ She added: ‘The most important thing you can do is to talk to a professional and get some real advice to help you make this important decision.’

Hartnell Chanot & Partners, like many firms, offer a free 30 min consultation to help you understand the options that are available to you. So if you are struggling with your relationship and you want to know what your options are, contact a specialist.