Understanding the Grounds for a Divorce

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 107,559 opposite-sex marriages ended in divorce in 2019. In the same year, 822 same-sex couples also got divorced. The truth is, not all marriages are destined to last, and divorce has become increasingly common.

The aim of Norton Peskett’s team of specialist divorce lawyers is to make the process as painless as possible. Accepting the breakdown of a relationship is not easy, and we understand that. But the process of divorce is never automatic, and we’re here to help. So, read on to discover more about divorce and how the process works.

grounds for divorce, notebook on glass table during mediation

Grounds for divorce

A no-fault divorce system is scheduled to be introduced in the UK in April 2022. Until that happens, you must show why your marriage has irretrievably broken down.

There are five basic reasons you can give to explain why you’re filing for divorce.

1. Adultery

If your spouse has had sexual intercourse with someone of the opposite sex, this would be grounds for divorce. You would need to show through admission or circumstantial evidence that this had taken place.

2. Unreasonable behaviour

Unreasonable behaviour is cited as grounds for divorce in around 45% of all divorce applications. Such behaviour might include alcoholism or verbal abuse, although less serious behaviour can also be accepted by the court.

3. Desertion

If your spouse has been continuously absent without your consent for two years or more, this is grounds for divorce. It is seldom used, as you must prove you intended to divorce throughout the whole two-year period.

4. Separation of 2 years with consent

If you both agree, you can divorce after living apart for two years. But you must have the consent of your spouse.

5. Separation of 5 years — no consent required

Lastly, if you’ve been living apart for five years or more, this can be used as grounds for divorce. In this case, consent from your spouse is not necessary.

Applying for a divorce

In the first place, you can only file for divorce if you’ve been married for at least a year. You can apply online via the gov.uk website, or by post using a D8 divorce application form. According to the government’s website, the fee to apply for a divorce is £593. (If you are on benefits or a low income, you may be eligible for help with fees).

How long does it take?

Depending on the grounds for divorce and other factors, the process typically takes somewhere between six weeks and a year. Naturally, this will vary according to the complexity of each individual case. For example, if your spouse is not contesting the divorce, the length of time will generally be shorter.

The average duration for a divorce where both parties agree is three months. If one of the parties is contesting the divorce, the average duration is 12 months.

To make the process smoother and easier, it’s generally advisable to take legal advice. So, for help from specialist divorce lawyers, contact Norton Peskett today.

Does Everyone Need a lasting Power of Attorney?

We all want to feel that we are in control of our lives and affairs. Have you ever wondered who would deal with your affairs if you could no longer deal with them yourself due to a physical or mental incapacity? For example, an accident, sudden ill health or dementia could put you in a position where you can no longer handle your day to day affairs yourself. Even old age brings situations where you may feel the need to pass your responsibilities onto others. These are the situations where you may consider the need for Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs).

Power of AttorneyWhat is a lasting Power of Attorney?

An LPA is a legal document where you can appoint people that you trust to help you manage your affairs or manage your affairs on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself. There are two types of LPA: Property & Financial Affairs and Health & Welfare. A Property & Financial Affairs LPA allows your attorneys to help you make decisions in relation to your money and property, such as paying household bills or selling your property. A Health & Welfare LPA allows your attorneys to make decisions about your daily care routines and medical treatments.

key points about lasting Powers of Attorney

  • Making LPAs means that you get to choose who you would like to handle your financial affairs and your health and welfare. Without LPAs, the Court or Protection will assign someone to act on your behalf, rather than you choosing the people you trust to deal with your affairs.
  • You can choose to make both types of LPA or one or the other, depending on your circumstances.
  • The Property & Financial Affairs LPA can be used whilst you still have your mental capability if you require any help but in this case your attorneys can only act on your instructions. If you lose your mental capability, your attorneys would be able deal with your financial affairs on your behalf. The Health & Welfare LPA only comes into effect if you lose your mental capability.
  • You can appoint multiple people to act as your attorneys and deal with your affairs. It is a good idea to appoint more than one attorney in case your attorney is unable to act for you for any reason.
  • A Certificate Provider will ensure that you have agreed to make your LPAs of your own free will and have not been forced into making them.
  • LPAs must be sent to the Office of the Public Guardian to be registered before they can be used.
  • If an attorney is suspected of abusing their position, or are not acting in your best interests, the Court of Protection can step in and resolve the situation.

Norton Peskett Solicitors

If you are still wondering whether you should make LPAs, then we would be happy to give you some further advice and answer any queries you may have.

For more information about lasting power of attorney, we invite you to get in touch with us today.

What is Commercial Conveyancing?

When it comes to buying and selling commercial properties, the process tends to be more complex than for residential transactions. There are many details and finances involved that can make a commercial purchase seem like a legal minefield. That is why you should use the services of a specialist lawyer to assist with commercial conveyancing on your behalf. A first-rate lawyer will know the property conveyancing process inside out and will meet and fulfil all obligations required. So, let us look at exactly what the commercial conveyancing process involves.

Commercial Conveyancing

What Does Commercial Conveyancing Involve?

When it comes to property conveyancing, you need lawyers who specialise in the transaction of property. They will know how to handle legal matters, as well as any related queries and finances. The conveyancing process involves processing contracts for leases or mortgages. It also deals with arranging cash transfers and the signing of related documents. The lawyer will help clients understand complex processes and advise them of any financial issues. The last crucial act the lawyer will be involved with is the final payment. This includes the date of this payment and the handing over of the keys to the buyer. All these are difficult for buyers or sellers to try and do on their own. As such, it is crucial to use the services of a top-class solicitor.

The Commercial Conveyancing Process

While not every case of property conveyancing is the same, many of them will follow this path:

  1. When a buyer has chosen a premises to purchase, the conveyancing lawyer will investigate the title of property and arrange any pre-contract searches. At the same time, the vendor’s lawyer will need to explore the legal title and prepare a Contract of Sale and any related CPSE forms. Once complete, the buyer’s lawyer will approve this draft contract provided by the vendor’s lawyer and raise any issues revealed in the pre-contract searches.
  2. If the buyer is happy with the answers and results, and if both sides agree to the draft contract, then contracts will be exchanged and the buyer will pay an agreed deposit. This makes the transaction legally binding between the two parties.
  3. The buyer’s lawyer will discuss any pre-completion searches needed and prepare a Transfer Deed. The seller’s lawyer will approve the deed and arrange to discharge any mortgage to the property. The buyer will also prepare to pay the rest of the money owed.
  4. The buyer forwards the balance of the overall purchase to the seller’s lawyer to complete the transaction. The buyer’s lawyer will handle any stamp duty or land tax and register this with the Land Registry if needed. The seller’s lawyer will settle any remaining charges and transfer the remaining funds to the seller.

Working with Norton Peskett Solicitors

Depending on the type of commercial conveyancing involved, there may be different fees you will need to pay for your lawyer to conduct their work. If you require assistance in a property transaction, contact Norton Peskett’s specialist commercial property team today.

What is Probate?

The death of a loved one can be a tough time for many reasons. As well as the emotional burden of grieving, there is the task of sorting out the estate of the recently deceased.

This is where a legal process we call probate comes in. But what is probate? At its simplest, it is the legal process that helps distribute and handle the estate and assets of a person after they have passed away. This process ensures assets go to the right people, whilst resolving any outstanding tax or debt.

In this article we’ll take a closer look at the question ‘what is probate’; as well as the ways you can make the process easier for yourself and your family.

What is Probate and How Does it Work?

Probate is a necessary part of the legal process, whether or not the deceased had a will. In any event, the existence of a will makes the process much simpler.

If a will is available, then the process involves making an application, with the original the will to the Probate Registry. This application is made by the Executors to the Will, which may be family of the deceased, friends or Solicitors. The Probate Registry will confirm the will’s validity before granting Probate, which authorises the Executors to carry out its bequests.

Once all assets are distributed according to the will and any taxes are paid, the Executor can prepare a set of final estate accounts and arrange distribution of the estate to the named beneficiaries.

If the deceased person did not make a will, they are considered to have died intestate. In this case, the law applies a set of rules to determine who is entitled to administer and inherit the estate.

Working with Norton Peskett

From sole ownership property to all smaller non-titled assets and items, the probate process decides how the majority of the deceased’s property is distributed. Without a will, the entire process can become more time consuming. On top of this, without the guidance of the will, accurately fulfilling the deceased’s final wishes becomes much more difficult.

Without a will, the law will do its best to distribute property fairly. However, the only way to guarantee a say in what happens to your property after your death is with effective end-of-life planning.

Norton Peskett can provide help with will writing and the process of probate itself. Contact us today to find out more.

The Stages of Buying Your First Home

Are you preparing to buy your first home? The chances are you can’t wait for the feeling of coming back to your own place. But it might seem that between you and owning a home, there is a complicated process of applications, arrangements, and agreements. The big question for every first-time home buyer is “how long will it all take?”. In this article, we will walk through the stages of buying a house, to give you a better idea of the process.

Before the Deal: the early stages of buying a house

Stages of Buying a House

As a first time home buyer, one of the earliest stages of buying a house will be making sure your finances are in order. Give your credit rating a check. A good credit rating is the key to getting a mortgage on good terms with lower interest rates.

With a good idea of your financial situation, you can get a better sense of your budget. Deposits are now a sizeable chunk of a property’s value, so you will need savings. With a location and budget in mind, you can begin your hunt for your first home.

Whilst you are doing this, you will want to start looking at your mortgage options. Do you want fixed terms or rates? To speed up the process, you will need to have certain documents ready to hand. These include bank statements, payslips, P60, utility bills and a driver’s licence or passport. This is also where having your credit score in order will help move things along.

As part of your mortgage, the lender will perform an affordability check to make sure you can pay the mortgage. Cutting down outgoing expenses will raise lenders’ interest. With proper planning, applying for a mortgage shouldn’t take longer than a few weeks.

With pre-approval for a mortgage, and a property in mind, you can strike a deal for your first home. Now were onto the final stages of buying a new house.

Buying a House: How Norton Peskett Can Help

Conveyancing is the process of transferring a property from one owner to another. This is the heart of home buying, and where it helps to have a solicitor’s expertise. A solicitor will help oversee the exchange of contracts, and speed up what can be a confusing process.

During this stage, it is advised to arrange a survey of the home you are buying. A survey might seem like a needless expense, but spotting any issues with the house at this stage can save you money further down the line. Your conveyancing solicitor can use the results of the survey to ensure the deal is in your favour.

With any concerns from the survey resolved, and your mortgage in place, it’s time for the exchange of contracts. This signifies an agreement has been reached. With this done, you can start getting ready to move in!

The stages of buying a house might seem a little confusing, but with a bit of planning and the help of a solicitor, you can soon be moving into your first home. Contact us today to find out how Norton Peskett can help with the conveyancing process and take the stress away from a move.

Unmarried Couples: Do We Have Cohabiting Rights?

Cohabiting Rights

Many couples are now choosing to live together before marriage. Others may have no plans to marry in the future. A couple living together are called ‘cohabitants’; but this name does not bring with it any legal protections.

Many cohabiting couples are under the mistaken impression that their legal rights are enshrined under ‘common marriage law’. However, there is no such thing in English and Welsh law.

This means that in the event of a separation, either party could find themselves left with very little. Unmarried couples living together cannot access all of the same legal protections as a married couple, no matter how long they have been together.

So, what are your cohabiting rights, and is there any way to secure greater legal security outside of marriage?

Property and Parental Rights

In the event of a separation, most unmarried couples cannot claim ownership of one another’s property. This applies equally to large investments like houses, and small items such as furnishings. Even gifts are the sole property of the recipient.

If a property belongs to one partner, but another has contributed to it, both partners may in some circumstances be able to make a claim to it on the basis that a trust was formed. This is a difficult legal area that often involves the courts in an attempt to prove that one party has financially contributed to the other’s property and what the effect of that contribution is.

On the side of parental rights, unmarried mothers automatically claim parental responsibility of their children. An unmarried father who is named on the birth certificate has parental responsibility. This kind of agreement provides extra security for children in the event of a separation, or the unexpected death of a partner. If a father is not named on the birth certificate he can still apply to the court for parental responsibility.

In the event that one partner in an unmarried couple dies without leaving a will, the other partner has no immediate right of inheritance. However, the Inheritance Act 1975 provides one avenue for an unmarried partner to claim from the deceased’s estate. The time limits for these claims to be made can be very short.

It is clear that the law surrounding cohabiting couples offers less security than many people might expect. But there is one way to gain a sure legal footing.

Understand Your Cohabiting Rights with Norton Peskett

One way a couple living together but not married can secure their rights is with a cohabitation agreement. This agreement allows a couple to set out their property rights, separation rights, and payment of debts or receipt of benefits. Whilst a cohabitation agreement isn’t necessary, it provides an assuring amount of legal security.

Cohabiting rights are a complex subject. If you need help understanding your rights in the wake of a separation or death, or wish to set up a cohabitation agreement, get in touch with Norton Peskett today. Our straightforward advise can help cohabiting couples make sense of complicated law.

Workplace Injury Claims: Everything You Need to Know

In the UK, there are well over half a million workplace injuries each year. Of these, only around 70,000 are reported to, and by, companies. Despite the number of injuries, many employees hesitate to make a compensation claim.

But what exactly is a workplace injury claim? Firstly, every UK employer should have insurance to cover workplace accidents. A victim of a workplace accident can make a claim against their employer for negligence. The insurance company will call in an insurance claims adjuster to investigate the claim. Finally, after the investigation, the insurance provider will compensate the victim if they are eligible.

Workplace Injury Claim

Has Your Employer Failed to Ensure Safety?

There are two different kinds of compensation from a workplace injury claim. The first kind is for pain, suffering and loss of amenity, the second kind is for financial losses and expenses, such as but not limited to lost wages, medical and travel expenses. However, not every accident will be eligible for a compensation claim. A successful claim needs to prove that your employer’s negligence was responsible for the accident.

How can an employer be negligent? An employer’s negligence is shown in their failure to comply with health and safety laws. In the UK, every company must follow these laws to ensure the safety of their employees. So, an employer is responsible for maintaining a safe working environment. This means ensuring employees have access to safe equipment and proper training, whilst monitoring work procedures. If an employer neglects these safety considerations, and that causes your accident, you are likely to be eligible for compensation.

If you’ve had an accident at work, and wish to make a claim, it’s important to report your accident. Most businesses will have an accident book. Ensure your employer records the details of your accident along with the date and time it occurred. These details will help you with any claim. But bear in mind that if you want to make an accident at work claim, you need to do it within three years of the accident. There are some exceptions to this deadline but specific circumstances would have had to have occurred.

Claiming for an Injury at Work

Many employees hesitate to make a workplace injury claim, but this is a mistake. Governments inscribe employee health and safety in law. You have a right to a safe working environment. Equally, if you have been injured, you have a variety of rights. This includes job security, statutory sick pay, and proper medical treatment. You also have the right to make your injury claim.

Your employer’s insurance will cover them for your claim. However, the value of your compensation can vary depending upon the decision of the claims adjuster. This is where professional legal advice can help you get the full compensation you are entitled to.

For over 180 years, Norton Peskett have been active in the legal world. We help our clients understand their legal rights with professional, clear advice. Get in touch with us to find out how we can help you with a claim if your employer has not followed health and safety laws.

Reasons for Taking Your Employer to Tribunal

We all want to work in a place that allows us to feel confident and supported in our daily tasks. Yet sometimes issues come up that can affect your ability to work effectively. It is always important to first try and resolve such issues in a civil way. However, this does not always work, and in such cases taking your employer to tribunal is the only option. In this blog, we will discuss some reasons why you might consider taking your employer to tribunal, what you can gain, and tips on how to resolve disputes before they reach this point.

Taking Your Employer to Tribunal

What Is An Employment Tribunal?

An employment tribunal is a judicial body that resolves disputes between employers and employees. An employment judge with at least five years of experience, including legal credentials, will oversee the tribunal. For complex cases, two wing members, one with a trade union background and the other with a background in HR/business, will aid the judge. The aim of the tribunal is to find an unbiased resolution to a dispute when an earlier agreement could not be made.

Reasons to Take Your Employer to Tribunal

If you are planning on taking your employer to tribunal, it may be for any of these reasons:

  • Discrimination based on race, gender, beliefs or any other criteria.
  • Unfair dismissal, such as where the process was not conducted fairly or was a retaliatory act.
  • The employer breaches contract in some way, such as making changes to your role or pay without notice.
  • Changes to your working environment or hours that are also in breach of your contract.
  • Equal pay disputes, particularly where someone with similar duties is being paid more than you.

In the end, any action taken by your employer without consultation and that breaches your agreed contract can be grounds for taking your employer to tribunal.

What Can I Gain From Tribunal?

If the tribunal agrees in your favour, your employer may still work out a settlement with you. However, if neither side can reach a settlement then the tribunal may award you compensation from your employer. Your employer may decide to appeal against this, and if so, the case may go before a higher court called the Employment Appeal Tribunal. If this occurs, it is vital that you get sound legal advice before going forward.

How To Resolve Disputes Before Going To Tribunal

Before taking your employer to tribunal, it is best to try and resolve any disputes in a civil way. Aim to meet with your employer and discuss your issues in a calm and reasoned way. Ensure you have full knowledge of your contract and rights at work. It is also good to have on hand any evidence that supports your claim. If you need it, you may bring someone to support you during the meeting. If these meetings fail to resolve the dispute in a way agreeable to both parties, then you should consider going to tribunal.

At Norton Peskett Solicitors, we can provide you with advice and representation should you have a case before a tribunal. For more details on our employment law advice and fees, contact us online or via phone today.

What Can I Do About a Neighbour Tree Dispute?

One of the most common reasons that you may end up having a dispute with your neighbours is due to issues with trees. Neighbour tree disputes can arise for a number of reasons: perhaps the roots are pushing up your driveway, or the overhanging branches have become a safety risk. In any case, it is helpful for you to know how best to deal with a tree dispute with your neighbours before it turns ugly. Here are some ways a tree dispute may occur, an overview of your rights, and what you can do to resolve an issue.

Neighbour Tree Dispute

Types of Neighbour Tree Disputes

Tree disputes between neighbours often fall under the following categories:

  • The tree, in some way, causes problems and potential damage to the neighbour’s property in its present condition. This includes overhanging branches blocking downpipes, roots that damage drainage pipes, and other such issues.
  • The tree has been neglected and is liable to be a safety risk. Without proper maintenance, the tree or parts of it could fall and cause damage to the neighbour’s property.
  • A neighbour has entered another neighbour’s property without permission and interfered with the tree in some way.

These are the most common form of disputes relating to trees, and it is important to know what your rights are in these cases.

Your Rights In Tree Disputes

Here are some common questions when it comes to a neighbour tree dispute:

Can I cut down my neighbour’s tree?

No, as this would be trespassing unless you have permission. If you cut down a tree on your neighbour’s property, you could end up incurring a large fine.

Can I cut any branches hanging over my property?

In most cases you can trim the overhanging branches up to the property line, so long as you do not harm the tree itself. However, you should check the laws for your area first before pruning.

Can my neighbour force me to cut my tree?

If the tree is entirely on your property, then your neighbour cannot force you to cut it. However, if the tree poses a safety risk, you may be liable if you do not take steps to maintain its safety.

What happens if the tree sits right on the property line?

If the tree sits between two properties then both you and your neighbour are responsible for it. You must both agree in order to remove it, so it is best to settle this amicably.

What Should I Do About Tree Disputes?

When it comes to a neighbour tree dispute, the first thing you should do is research any relevant laws for your area. Being aware of your legal rights is a good tool to have in any dispute. Next, try and meet with your neighbour and discuss the issue politely. If you are unable to reach an agreement, then it is a good idea to seek legal advice going forward.

Here at Norton Peskett Solicitors, we help all clients understand their options when it comes to a range of disputes. We work with you throughout the process to ensure any dispute is resolved with the best possible outcome. To find out more about our services for neighbour disputes, please contact us online or via phone today.

Five Tips for Inheritance Tax Planning

If you intend to leave your estate to your descendants, inheritance planning is essential. If your estate is valuable, the inheritance taxes loved ones may have to pay can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds. This can be a devastating blow for those already grieving after someone has passed away. There are ways to mitigate the effects, however, but this will require some careful estate planning.

Clients in East Anglia have been turning to Norton Peskett for legal assistance for over 180 years. Having expanded significantly since the early 1970s, our knowledge and experience is second to none. We’re proud of our integrity and professionalism, and of the service we provide for our clients. Read on for our top five useful tips on inheritance tax (IHT) planning.

Inheritance Planning

How does inheritance tax work?

The money, property and possessions owned by an individual are known as their ‘estate’. Most people wish to leave their estate to their descendants when eventually they pass away. The value of an estate is based on assets such as money in the bank, property, investments, and vehicles. If the value of an estate is below £325,000 there is no tax to pay. Anything above the £325,000 threshold will be taxed at 40%. The following five tips will help you decide on the best form of inheritance tax planning for your estate.

1. Start Planning Early

An estimated 60% of UK adults do not have a Will, but it’s unwise to leave IHT planning until the last minute. The truth is, none of us know when the last minute will be. Topics like death and estate tax are not enjoyable to discuss. But, such discussions form the basis of inheritance planning, and are essential to protect your loved ones.

2. Find out about exemptions

Norton Peskett can offer knowledgeable advice on ways to reduce IHT. For instance, money left to charity won’t count towards the total taxable value of your estate. If your ‘legacy’ amounts to at least 10% of your estate, the IHT rate can be cut to 36%. Owning assets like business property for two years prior to death can also bring significant benefits.

3. Assets placed in trust

With the right plan, estate assets placed in trust can be exempt from inheritance taxes. A trust can also offer some control over how the money is used after your death. Some types of trust are subject to additional IHT charges, so make sure you seek expert advice.

4. Lifetime gifts

Another method of inheritance planning is to make a lifetime gift to someone, which could be exempt from IHT. If you live for seven years after making the gift, it will be deemed to be outside of your estate. Consequently, it will not be affected by inheritance taxes.

5. Insurance can be a good policy

A number of insurance policies are available that can mitigate the effects of IHT. Some can offer additional control over how your heirs use their inheritance. Some can be combined with trusts to pay a lifetime income. What remains to be passed on then falls outside of the IHT estate.

For more information or expert advice on inheritance and tax planning, contact Norton Peskett Solicitors today.

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