Matrimonial & Divorce Solicitors in Sussex

Matrimonial & Divorce Solicitors in Sussex

Divorce Solicitors – What do Matrimonial Solicitors do?

Our matrimonial solicitors offer expert advice and are here to assist you with various stages of your divorce, separation, finances and child contact matters under private law.

We have a team of lawyers with very wide experience in Family Law and Civil Law, all of whom recognise how difficult it can be when a relationship dissolves. We aim to provide you with specialist legal assistance as well as support to deal with the consequences of relationship breakdown.

When Should You Use A Matrimonial Solicitor?

When will I need a Matrimonial Solicitor?

A matrimonial solicitor will be required for a number of family issues, even for situations where you might not think one may be necessary. If you have a case that is a family matter but also brings other legal aspects, such as property, into the equation we can include the necessary department within the firm assuring professional assistance wherever necessary.

When’s the best time to use a Matrimonial Solicitor?

The best time to use a matrimonial solicitor would be as early on in your legal process as possible. If you are unsure about your situation, it is best to seek expert legal guidance so you know how to take the next step.

It is possible that all you may need is an initial consultation to point you in the right direction. Contact one of our family solicitors today

DIVORCE TEAM

What a Matrimonial Solicitor can help with:

Divorce and Separation

Over time the law has changed in relation to separation and settlement – alongside altering views in society. However, the grounds for divorce can only be changed by Statute; at the moment there is no automatic immediate ‘no fault’ ground for divorce, even if both parties agree. Most people try to avoid apportioning the blame with divorce but it is still necessary to prove that there has been an “irretrievable breakdown”.

This irretrievable breakdown must be based on one of the following five facts:

  • That one of the parties has committed adultery and as a result of this, the other party finds it intolerable to live with them.
  • That one party has behaved in such an unreasonable way that the other party finds it intolerable to live with them.
  • That the parties have lived separately from each other for at least two years and both consent to the divorce.
  • The parties have lived apart for five years or more.
  • That one party has deserted the other for a continuous period of two years.

Dissolution Of Civil Partnerships

If your relationship has broken down and you no longer wish to be with your partner, you must go through the procedure to dissolve your Civil Partnership (also known as a Civil Union). The final step will be accepting a Dissolution Order, granted by a judge in court.

Our family solicitors can advise you at this stage, but there must be grounds on which the partnership has ended. One of the four following conditions must be proved:

  • That one party has behaved in such an unreasonable way, the other party finds it intolerable to live with the respondent.
  • The parties have been separated for two years and the other party consents in writing.
  • That one party has continuously deserted the other party for a period of two years or more.
  • If you have been separated for five years or more, consent from your partner will not be required.

Financial Settlement, Including Pension Sharing, Property, Maintenance And Other Assets

At Coole Bevis LLP, we aim to settle your financial claims and carry out a negotiation on flexible and amicable terms, ensuring that we take every measure to protect your future. We hope to produce the best result for you, reaching agreements that are legally binding on both sides.

The Settlement procedure can be carried out in a number of different ways and we will discuss all the options with you. This includes negotiations with solicitors through mediation and collaborative law. If it is not possible to negotiate a settlement via this route, proceedings in the family court may commence.

Property and maintenance can be intricate subjects and differ for each family depending on their situation, our goal is to help aid you to achieve a fair settlement.

How will the finances be arranged? The Court can make a number of different financial orders, including:

  1. Lump Sum – This payment requires that one party pay a lump sum to the other party, either for the ex-spouse’s benefit or the benefit of children.
  2. Property – The Court can make an order for property to be sold, either immediately or at a future date. The Court can also make an order that the property can be transferred into the name of one party.
  3. Maintenance – One party may have to pay maintenance to the other, either to maintain their former spouse or children of the family. Maintenance is usually paid every month and may be for a fixed number of years or until the recipient remarries (or either party dies).
  4. Pensions – It is possible that your pension is the biggest asset in your family. The Court can make an order that a pension is transferred from one party to the other, or that a pension sharing order is made so that it is divided between the parties.

Unmarried Couples Where Children And/Or Joint Property Are Involved

In the early stages of a relationship breakdown, you may be wondering what will happen when your family separates and how your assets will be divided. With sensitivity and understanding, we can guide you to make the right choices for what is most important to you.

When you have children, it is essential to seek reliable advice. If applicable to your situation, have you thought about any of the following?

  • Parental responsibility – Are you able to make decisions regarding your child’s care and upbringing?
  • Arrangements for children – If possible, decisions about where children should live and how much time they should spend with the other parent (formerly known as child custody) should be agreed between the parents. Depending upon the age of the children, the children’s wishes should also be taken into account. If it is not possible to reach an agreement, the parents may be assisted by mediation or if necessary, Court proceedings under the Children Act 1989.
  • Child protection – If there are any concerns regarding the safety of your children, the local authority will investigate these concerns. It is possible that the local authority will issue Court proceedings and in this scenario, our solicitors can represent you within the proceedings (legal aid is available for this).

Property – The law surrounding the ownership and division of property where a couple is unmarried is very different to where a couple is married. Whether or not the property should be sold, and how the sale proceeds should be divided, will depend upon a number of factors including:

  • Contributions to the initial purchase price.
  • Contributions to the mortgage payments.
  • Other financial contributions to the household.
  • Who looks after the children and where they will live.

Contributions to mortgage payments; if you and your partner separate will the non-residing party still contribute to mortgage payments? (Normally occurs where children are involved.)

  • Who cares for children and the relation to property size.
  • Shared owned businesses – you may be able to make a claim on your ex-partner for a share of business interests. If you have run the business together/made an investment/promised a share/contributed financially, you may be able to make a court claim if we cannot negotiate a settlement for you.
  • Private property – the division of private property will depend on the way you hold the property on the legal title and/or agreements between you.

All Issues Relating To Children Including Residence, Contact, Wardship, Adoption And Children In Care

Our solicitors are able to help with a number of concerns that you may have in relation to your children. We are able to help with the most challenging cases, some which could involve social services and lengthy court procedures.

Residence and Contact

Separated parents will need to make arrangements for their children, this includes where the children should live and how much time they should spend with the other parent. If you and your ex-partner cannot reach an agreement about the arrangements for your children, we can help you to make an application to Court for a Child Arrangements Order.

Child Protection

If there are welfare concerns about your children, it is possible that you will have involvement with a Local Authority Social Worker. If there are serious child protection concerns, it is possible that the Local Authority will issue care proceedings in the Family Court. Parents of children who are subject to care proceedings are automatically entitled to Legal Aid, we hold a Legal Aid franchise and we will be able to help you both with general advice and with representing you in Court proceedings.

Wardship – Only used in exceptional circumstances, ‘Wardship’ is arranged by the court of protection to make someone a ‘Ward of the Court’, which puts the child in question under the care of a chosen guardian. An example of this would be to avoid child abduction or violence towards the child.

If a child cannot be cared for by his or her parents, grandparents or other family members may be able to look after the child. If the court approves, the grandparent or relative may be granted a ‘Special Guardianship Order’ which gives them parental responsibility for the child.

Adoption

If you wish to adopt a child, we can guide you through the Family Court process, including an application for an Adoption Order. If you are the birth parent of a child who is subject to adoption proceedings, we will be able to provide you with assistance (you may be entitled to Legal Aid, depending upon the circumstances).

Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements

When entering a marriage, it is important to have a level of security in your relationship. Whilst the notion may not be romantic, the safekeeping of your future (and perhaps your child’s) should be considered. A prenuptial agreement can be made before marriage and a postnuptial agreement can be made after the marriage ceremony. But why make one? They are there to protect your assets in the event of a relationship breakdown:

  • They may safeguard the ownership of your business or corporation.
  • They may protect your family’s money, for example, inheritance and trusts.
  • If your partner incurs a debt, or is subject to bankruptcy proceedings, an agreement could protect you.
  • If a divorce does occur, they can help to avoid hefty legal fees.

Whatever your position and no matter how complex, we are happy to advise you wherever necessary.

Pre-Civil Partnership and Post-Civil Partnership Agreements

These are very similar to pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreements, we can assist in the drafting of an agreement which regulates financial affairs during your civil partnership and protects you in the event of a relationship breakdown.

Cohabitation Agreements

It is often thought that those who have lived together for a long time have the same legal rights as couples who are married. This is not the case. In fact, the notion of “common law marriage” does not exist in English Law. However, in the event of a cohabiting relationship breaking down, it is still necessary to sort out arrangements for any children and to make decisions about any property.

We can help you and your partner create a Cohabitation Agreement which covers a range of issues, avoiding lengthy court hearings and legal costs that could arise in the future if the relationship breaks down.

A Cohabitation Agreement will:

  • decide how much each person pays in rent/mortgage if they separate.
  • clarify who will pay any bills.
  • decide how savings and shared bank accounts will be divided.
  • decide who has custody of any children.
  • decide who has custody of family pets.
  • explain how any debts will be settled.
  • explain how property will be divided.
  • clarify who takes financial responsibility for children.
  • decide how family businesses will be managed.

If you are looking to move in with your partner or if you are already cohabiting, contact a matrimonial solicitor. Our Family department can provide you with the necessary protection for your relationship.

Change of Name

Are you in a situation where you wish to change your name or your child’s? We can prepare your Change of Name Deed – these become valid when they are signed.

Anyone over the age of 16 is able to change their name, however if your child is under the age of 16, they will need consent from those with parental responsibility.

Non-Molestation/Occupation Orders: Injunctions

If you or your child are suffering from violence, aggression, harassment, pestering, abuse or sexual abuse from a spouse or civil partner, we can support you if you decide to have a non-molestation order installed. This order will stop the offender from any further violations and the behaviour will be prohibited by a judge in court.

Evidence will be required to show that the type of behaviour has occurred and both parties will have the opportunity to stand up in court and give their account. Bear in mind that if an injunction is made, this does not necessarily mean that you will no longer live together, just that behaviour will be banned and the abuser will be monitored closely. The respondent will have the opportunity to appeal, however if not granted, the order will then last until you divorce or separate unless specified otherwise.

These orders are usually made in the magistrates courts, however if the behaviour is extreme, the case will be put to county courts where they are able to give further penalties. An ‘Occupation Order’ would be a more suitable order if you considered yourself unsafe to live with your partner due to violence or by another means, this would exclude them from your house.

Surrogacy

Surrogacy is a complex legal area. We can advise you about surrogacy arrangement or what your rights are in relation to a child who has been born via surrogacy in the event that the parents’ relationship breaks down.

Jointly-owned property

If you are not married, but you jointly own a property, you will need to decide how and when the property is sold if you decide to separate. When parties are married, they have financial claims against each other but the Law is quite different in relation to unmarried couples.

In relation to your family home, if there is no Cohabitation Agreement or Declaration of Trust in place, the starting point is working out the legal ownership of the home and whether or not this accurately reflects the equitable ownership.

Your property may be in your partner’s name, but if you have made contributions over time, you may have some equity in the property (and therefore be entitled to a share of its value).

We can advise you about your interest in the family home and also help you to work out the living arrangements, for example, when the house should be sold and who will pay the mortgage until that time.

Matrimonial & Divorce Solicitors FAQ’s

How Do I Find a Family Law Solicitor?
It is important to find the right solicitor. Family solicitors often specialise in particular areas of the Law and some may be more suited to your situation than others. It is also important that you get on with your Family solicitor as you will need to work closely with them. We have an exceptionally knowledgeable Family Department with a wealth of experience in all areas of Family and Matrimonial Law.

Our solicitors are members of Resolution, this is formerly the Solicitors Family Law Association. Also, our Family Department is ranked in the Legal 500 where we are described as a “skilful, thorough and dedicated” team which provides advice that is “genuinely faultless”.

Alternatively, you can visit the Law Society of England and Wales ‘Find a Solicitor’ page to find accredited solicitors in your area.

How Do I Hire A Matrimonial Solicitor/What is the best way to hire a family solicitor?
Deciding who you want to represent you may seem time consuming, but your decision could massively impact the outcome of your case.

If you are struggling to find a solicitor, here are some points you may wish to consider:

  • A huge amount of our clients come to us through referrals.
  • We would recommend choosing someone who you do not know to be your solicitor, this is simply because some situations can become very personal and you may not want to share certain privacies with a friend.
  • If you are looking online, narrow your search to medium sized/smaller firms. In the industry larger firms tend not to deal with individuals and can be very expensive.
  • Dependant on your case, the level of experience of your solicitor should be another significant factor when making a decision on who to hire, particularly if your state of affairs are complex.

Once you have found a solicitor that could be right for you, look them up on The Law Society http://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk/ to find their practice of law and certification, showing they are genuine. Here, you will also find what qualifications they have as well as their indemnity insurance.

How Long Do Matrimonial Cases Take?
The duration of proceedings will depend upon the complexity of your case. Divorce cases typically take between six months to one year to resolve, but they can be done more quickly if the issues in your case are simple, alternatively they can take much longer if it is complex.

With our other services processes may vary. If you would like to call, we may be able to give an estimate and one of our family solicitors will go through the details of your position with you. Our team are always happy to help with any questions you may have, even in a first initial call.

What Will A Divorce Cost Me?
The cost of your divorce will vary, it depends upon how simple it is to resolve, financial matters and the arrangements for your children. The more that can be agreed between the parties, the lower your overall costs will be.

Fixed Fee

We understand that most clients appreciate certainty and therefore, in cases where it is appropriate to do so, we are willing to agree with you a fixed fee.

Hourly rate

For most of our work in the family department, our charges will be based upon the time that we spend multiplied by an hourly rate. The hourly rate will vary depending upon the level of skill and experience of the lawyer handling your matter. In addition to the time spent, we may take into account a number of other factors. These include any need to carry out work outside normal office hours, the complexity of the issues, the urgency required, and any particular specialist expertise the matter may demand.

You will be advised of the hourly rates applicable to your matter and provided with an estimate of charges in advance of instructions being accepted. We will update the estimate of pricing at regular intervals.

Are There Any Other Costs?
There may be additional costs, for example, Court fees, barristers’ fees and fees for experts’ reports. We will always inform you of these fees in advance so that you can plan for these expenses.

If our other departments are involved in the matter, for example our Company & Commercial department, you may be required to input on any family business for our residential Conveyancing department may delay with the family property then charges for those departments will also apply.

Why Do I Need A Family Solicitor?
In most cases, it is in your best interests to hire a matrimonial solicitor, even if this is only for some initial advice. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • It is unlikely, unless you are a solicitor yourself, that you know the Law well enough to be able to represent yourself in court in a way that will give you the best chance of a good outcome.
  • Documents prepared will need to be given to a judge. This information should be checked thoroughly by a solicitor before it is handed over as any false or incorrect information could result in your documents being rejected or an agreement being overturned at a later date.
  • Solicitors will be able to give you guidance and options that you may not have considered.
  • Your emotions may make it difficult for you to think clearly when it comes to making decisions. Solicitors will give a point a view that is objective and will help you to resolve issues efficiently.
  • Matrimonial solicitors are there to provide the best outcome for you and your children, aiming to protect your future.
What About ‘Internet Divorces’?
An online divorce is legal in the UK and can be a cost-effective way of ‘doing it yourself’, however the very small fees seen online often only cover the price of divorce papers and are not a resourceful way of handling a divorce.

If you have a case where children, property and assets are involved, it is a much safer to hire a solicitor as internet divorces can hide costs and are more appropriate for simple, uncontested cases.

What Can I Expect At The First Consultation?
First meetings usually involve taking a lot of background information and finding out what you are hoping to achieve. The law will be outlined and we will apply it to your case, explaining the procedure and what outcome is likely. We will discuss whether or not your expectations are likely, as well as our costs which could be at a fixed fee or hourly rate.

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About the Areas We Cover

OUR OFFICES

Brighton Solicitors

Lanes End House,
15 Prince Albert Street,
Brighton BN1 1HY
t. +44 (0)1273 323231
f. +44 (0)1273 820350
info@coolebevisllp.com

Horsham Solicitors

14 Carfax,
Horsham,
West Sussex RH12 1DZ
t. +44 (0)1403 210200
f. +44 (0)1403 241275
info@coolebevisllp.com

Hove Solicitors

79 Church Road,
Hove,
East Sussex BN3 2BB
t. +44 (0)1273 722532
f. +44 (0)1273 326347
info@coolebevisllp.com

Worthing Solicitors

5 The Steyne,
Worthing,
West Sussex BN11 3DT
t. +44 (0)1903 213511
f. +44 (0)1903 237053
info@coolebevisllp.com