Russell and Russell Solicitors can deal with all the legal aspects of your new life together. Whether you’re buying or selling a property, looking to protect your assets, thinking about starting a family or want to leave your possessions to those you care about, we can help.
We’ve nine offices across the North West; in Bolton, Atherton, Bury, Chester, Farnworth, Horwich and Middleton. And, because anything can happen at any time, we’re available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Unmarried woman wins legal battle for cohabiting couples.
Read more about this landmark case..
The law needs to stop discriminating against cohabiting couples and recognise that society has moved on. This is the view of Jakki Smith who has recently won a landmark battle for greater legal recognition for bereaved unmarried couples. Jakki and her partner, John had been together for 16 years, but had never married. He died after falling ill on holiday in Turkey. He had previously undergone an operation to remove a benign tumour from his foot, but medics hadn’t recorded that he had a serious infection. After his death, Jakki was denied statutory award because she and John weren’t married when he passed away. As a result, she took the government to court, claiming her human rights had been breached by denying her bereavement damages. Currently, the law states that if a couple are married and one of them dies as a result of negligence, a fixed sum of £12,980 is payable. For cohabiting couples in similarly committed relationships, the same rights don’t apply. Eligibility of bereavement damages for cohabiting couples have been recommended by the Law Commission in the past and the government did produce a draft Bill, but plans were shelved in 2009. In the initial case the judge ruled against her because there was no conflict between the 1976 Fatal Accidents Act and Jakki’s rights under the European Convention, effectively rendering her unable to make a claim. At the time, Mr Justice Edis noted that the law was in need of reform, but acknowledged that he had no power to intervene. However, the Court of Appeal has since found in her favour, allowing her challenge against a High Court ruling dismissing her claim. Jakki will make no money from the case and nor is she interested in doing so; she simply wants to help others in a similar position. She now hopes the ruling will have a positive impact on the increasing number of cohabiting couples by legally recognising meaningful relationships. .
Personal injury claims under review.What will it mean?
Justice Committee to Review New Personal Injury Claims Limits
The Justice Committee plans to launch an inquiry into the government’s proposal to raise the threshold for personal injury compensation claims. The announcement follows a government declaration earlier in 2017 (see the news article dated 26.07.17 on our website russellrussell.co.uk) in which it stated its intention to raise the limit for whiplash claims from road traffic accidents from £1,000 to £5,000. Compensation claims for more general accidents is also set to double from £1,000 to £2,000. The proposals, which are being pushed forward under the Prisons and Courts Bill, have been opposed by many personal injury solicitors who believe it will prevent access to justice for people injured through no fault of their own. Lawyers claim that victims of non fault accidents will be put off pursuing a claim for compensation if they’re required to pay their own legal fees for damages awards valued below the new claim limits. The government’s view is that the new legislation will reduce the number of compensation pay outs in a bid to crack down on fraudulent claims and end what it calls the ‘compensation culture epidemic’. The inquiry will look into the impact of the increases, given the planned move towards online court procedures as well as how it will affect claims management companies and the market for ‘before the event’ legal expenses insurance.
The government has announced a review of the impact of its cuts to legal aid which will report back next year.
What are the implications for families ?
Children suffer in Court Hearings When Parents Have No Lawyers A survey of the Magistrates Association has revealed that 68% of people represented themselves at the most recent family court hearings. This is up from 41% in 2014, resulting in a 65% increase since that time – one year after legal aid cuts were introduced. Magistrates claim the situation is causing long, confrontational court hearings and injustices but, more importantly, children are ultimately the victims. The anonymous survey, which consulted 370 magistrates, condemned legal aid cuts which have been blamed for the rise of Litigants in Person (LiPs). The situation, as one magistrate called it, is “becoming a joke, while another claimed that the person with a solicitor “would always fare better”. Family Courts hear a range of cases which impact children’s lives significantly. Cases include victims of domestic violence, parental disputes over contact, the residence of children, financial support of children and social service interventions. Speaking of the report, which was commissioned by BuzzFeed News, chair of the Magistrates Association, John Bache expressed concern that those representing themselves were at an unfair disadvantage if the other side had a lawyer representing them. He explained: “The impact on children will stem from that because if there hasn’t been proper representation, the children won’t be achieving necessarily the best outcome in terms of relationship with their parents.” He also said that court delays caused by explaining the law or waiting from documents from LIPs could also end up harming children as they were left in limbo. Several magistrates echoed this. One said: “I fail to see how removing legal aid from Private Law Family Proceedings is saving any money at all, given the number of extra hearings and additional time spent in court. The situation is becoming a joke.” 95% of those surveyed believe that self-representation had a negative impact on the effectiveness of the court processes and that the imbalance of one having representation by a solicitor, while the other fends for themselves was unfair and resulting in injustices. In another testimony, a magistrate said: “LiPs are often at a huge disadvantage in the courtroom, this is not justice. LiPs often appear intimidated by the other person’s legal representation, [and] some barristers particularly play on the inequality.” One of the reasons the government introduced the legal aid cuts for low-income divorcing couples, or parents arguing over child arrangements, was to encourage them to enter into mediation. This strategy appears to have backfired. Without lawyers referring clients on to mediation, the number of amicable agreements being made has reduced drastically. This has led to more people navigating their way through the judicial system without a solicitor. The government has announced a review of the impact of its cuts to legal aid which will report back next year.
There is a rise in the number of people over 60 who are splitting up and yet pensions are often overlooked in divorce settlements.
What are the implications? Read below..
Over the last decade the overall divorce rate has fallen, but a surprising statistic is the rise in the number of people over 60 who are splitting up. Between 2000 and 2015, the total number of divorces in England and Wales dropped 28% from 141,135 per year to 101,055. Yet the number of divorcing couples over the age of 60 shot up by 43% (from 9,997 to 14,249). Reasons for ‘silver splitters’ are numerous, but there’s a view that as people are living longer, they’re looking for more from life. Equally, the stigma of divorce has faded, so separating from a partner is no longer the daunting proposition it may once have been. Also, more people than ever are more likely to work beyond retirement making the idea of supporting themselves outside marriage more conceivable. A divorce at any age is difficult, but it can become much more problematic with older couples who have more assets and pensions that come under scrutiny when they part company. Research carried out by Scottish Widows showed that seven out of 10 couples separating didn’t discuss pensions during divorce proceedings. In particular, this can have a huge impact on women who perhaps have taken maternity leave, had career breaks and may have suffered as a consequence of the gender pay gap. The starting point for a fair split is to find out what pensions there are between the parties, identify what they’re worth along with any other assets, such as property and savings. From there, an agreement can be worked out as to who gets what. Depending on the circumstances of a split, there are a number of ways assets can be divided and a good solicitor will outline this clearly and transparently. For example, a couple can ‘offset’ assets against each other so that one party keeps the pension while the other gets a larger share of the other assets. Alternatively, courts can make a pension sharing order, giving a percentage of one person’s pot to the other partner. Again, a good solicitor will explain this in plain English. Pensions are very complex and it may be appropriate to obtain an expert report on the issue from a Pension Actuary.
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