Divorce Application Process Goes Fully Digital

The Government has announced that is currently testing a fully online divorce application process across England and Wales for the first time.

The pilot scheme means someone who wants a divorce can apply online, which the Government says will make the process easier to understand and remove some of the stress during a difficult time for families.

The pilot was initially launched last year and according to the Government has reduced the number of applications being returned because of errors, with a 90% improvement compared to paper forms. It has apparently gained positive feedback, with people welcoming the simplified, streamlined and easy to understand system that delivers their application instantly – without the worry of it being lost in the post.

The next stages will include making the system available for use by legal representatives.

Family law organisation Resolution has said it welcomes the move to a fully digitised service as it brings divorce in line with many other Government services that have been digitised for some time now.

“Although the consequences of divorce, such as making arrangements for how parents will care for their children and sorting out the finances, can be complicated, the divorce itself is usually a relatively simple administrative process,” commented Resolution Chair, Nigel Shepherd. “Moving it online is a step in the right direction, provided it functions well for the couples, their legal representatives where they have them and anyone else involved. We hope to see positive results from this pilot.”

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Findings of Adoption Enquiry Published

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has recently published the results of a UK-wide enquiry into adoption.

Key findings of the Adoption Enquiry include:

  • It was considered that in recent decades, and particularly in England, policy makers had tended to promote adoption as risk free in a ‘happy ever after’ narrative. The Enquiry heard from a range of respondents across the UK that this is unhelpful as it can lead to the silencing of adopted children and adults who may have to manage contradictory emotions such as grief and loss, joy and happiness.
  • Austerity was adding to the “considerable adversities” faced by many families in poverty who are seeking to safely care for their children. Welfare and legal aid cuts had reduced the financial resources available to some, while services designed to help more families stay together and prevent children being taken into care had also been stripped back. Cutbacks were also impacting post-adoption support, with provision for both birth families and adoptive families “inadequate”.
  • The quality of the relationship between social workers and families was “crucial” to pre-and post-adoption support. However, it warned the pressure of rising caseloads and cuts to services, meant many practitioners felt limited in the time and support they could provide and some families feared their children would end up taken into care if they sought help.

The enquiry’s authors, Professor Featherstone and Professor Gupta, made five recommendations and BASW has accepted them and has outlined how they will action them.

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For expert legal advice on adoption, or other issues involving children, then contact our specialist family lawyers today.

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Research Reveals the Financial Implications of Divorce

The emotional impact of divorce and separation is widely recognised and much has been written on the detrimental impact it can have on a family’s well-being.

Perhaps less widely recognised is the financial impact that divorce or separation can have on both parties. Some costs are obvious, such as legal costs and possible child or spousal maintenance costs. However, there are other potential costs that are less immediately apparent, and new research from Aviva has given an interesting insight into the extent of these costs and their impact on a couple’s finances.

Increasing Costs

According to Aviva’s Family Finances Report, 68% of couples have financial issues to resolve when they divorce or separate, and on average this process takes 14.5 months, which is three months more than in 2014.

The costs associated with divorce and separation have also increased, with UK couples spending an average of £14,561 on legal and lifestyle costs when they break up. This is an increase of 17% since 2014 when it totalled £12,432. Moving out of the marital home can add £144,600 to this bill on average for those buying a new property (16%), or more than £35,000 for those renting (51%).

Legal fees are the most common cost when a relationship ends, encountered by over half (54%) of couples, followed by setting up a new home (40%) and annual child maintenance payments (21%).

Housing Issues

Sorting out alternative accommodation following a split is a major issue for many couples. Nearly half (46%) of home-owning couples sell their property leading to both partners having to find a new home, in addition to those individuals who move out whilst their partner remains in the former joint home.

One in six (16%) buy a new home following separation, with an average cost of £144,600 per person, rising from £94,100 in 2014.

However, many can struggle to get back on the housing ladder, and 51% apparently move to the rental market after their divorce or separation, spending an average of £7,519 each year on rent.

Aviva highlights that with house prices continuing to rise across the country, renting post-separation could become a more permanent circumstance for many people. Of those currently renting as a result of their split, seven in ten (70%) feel that they will be unlikely to buy a property in the future.

Many people also find themselves unable to maintain their former standard of living and have to adjust to a reduced household income following divorce or separation. Around a third have been forced to dip into their savings, and 23% have had to borrow from friends or family to be able to make ends meet.

Impact on Retirement Income

Previous research has also highlighted the negative impact separation and divorce can have on pension savings and retirement income, particularly for women.

The study by Scottish Widows found that 70% of couples fail to take pension savings into account when agreeing their divorce. The study also found a general lack of understanding of how pensions should be handled during divorce, which might explain why so many leave it out of their divorce negotiations.

“Relationship breakdowns can leave people really vulnerable but, quite simply, they’re also throwing significant sums of money down the drain,” commented Catherine Stewart, Retirement Expert at Scottish Widows. “It is important that everyone – whether single, married or divorced – take steps to understand their finances and prepare for their independent future should a relationship break down.”

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Job Vacancy – We’re looking to hire a Child Law Solicitor to join our leading Family Law Practice

A leading family law practice with office locations in Surrey, Hampshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire and the South Coast  is looking to further consolidate its status as the go to firm for cases involving children.

We are looking to recruit lawyers who either have or are working toward achieving the Law Society Children Law Panel Accreditation.

The successful candidates will be joining a highly desirable family law firm where commitment and dedication to clients is second to none.

It is anticipated that the successful candidates will be skilled advocates, have strong negotiation skills and the ability and experience to handle difficult and complex proceedings.

Salary is negotiable and dependent upon experience. Benefits include life insurance, contributory pension scheme and discretionary annual bonus scheme.

To apply, please send CV and covering letter to pauline@childlawpartnership.co.uk.

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