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No fault divorce

6th April 2022 will see the introduction of the long awaited “no fault” divorce process.

For the last 165 years, most people wishing to obtain a divorce in court have had to do so by blaming the other spouse for the breakdown of their marriage. This has often led to high levels of acrimony and anxiety at what was already a difficult time for separating families. The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 ends this “blame game” and will allow couples to divorce based on the simple fact of irretrievable breakdown without the requirement for any further details or evidence. There are only very limited circumstances in which that divorce can be opposed.

For the first time couples will be able to present joint applications for divorce and the antiquated language of “Decree Nisi”, “Petitioner” and “Decree Absolute” is swept away in favour of plain English. The new divorce process will take a minimum of 26 weeks.

It is important to realise that, while the new divorce process has been simplified and stripped of conflict, couples still need to resolve the financial issues which arise from divorce and that this does not happen automatically as part of the divorce. There is no time limit for bringing financial claims after divorce and claims have been seen many years, and, in some cases, decades after the marriage ended. It is therefore crucial that a court order is obtained dealing with financial settlement at the time of the divorce. Where couples are agreed this can be dealt with on paper without the need for anyone to attend court. Only by doing this can couples have the security of knowing that their finances are secure after their divorce.

Courts no longer routinely scrutinise arrangements for children on divorce preferring parents to make the best decisions over their children. Only where parents disagree are the courts involved and only then if a parent applies for a court order.

It is hoped that these huge changes in divorce law will go a small way to make the emotional process of ending a marriage a little less trying for those involved.

If you would like advice on your family situation, visit our Family Law/Divorce page, or contact us today.

The Benefits of Family Law Mediation

Getting married is one of the most special moments of your life. You make a vow that you will spend your life with your partner. This is a huge commitment and one that most people believe will last. However, as we all know, circumstances can change, and you may end up separating. This can be a difficult process, especially when there are children involved. To get through this difficult time, family mediators can help resolve disputes.

What is Family Law Mediation?

Mediation is a way of assisting couples who are separating. An independent third party can help both parties make informed decisions. The mediator provides a safe setting so discussions can be civil and productive. Nowadays, families are encouraged to have family mediation before taking a dispute to court. Since mediators are neutral, they can help both sides; providing solid advice and suggestions so both parties can take appropriate actions. They will also help with the financial problems associated with a separation. A mediator can provide essential information during this emotional time.

What Happens During Family Mediation?

Every situation is unique, so a mediator is trained to deal with all sorts of problems. When anger and emotions run high, it can be difficult to resolve issues. A qualified mediator can help both sides understand what needs to come next. Their main role is to help separated families come up with a plan that everyone is content with. The most difficult aspect is often deciding on a parenting plan for their children. When all the decisions are complete, the mediator will help to write a proposal. Then the solicitor can complete the legal parts of the proposal.

Parenting Plans For Children

One of the most difficult aspects of separation is defining parental responsibility. A mediator can help separated parents come up with a parenting plan, which can help avoid difficulties further down the line. The plan should outline each parent’s role in the upbringing of the children. This might include sleeping arrangements and how to schedule holidays and special occasions. It is also important to discuss how you will communicate with the children in the future. A parenting plan can include payments and expenses that will crop up in the future, as well as cover situations that may occur in the event of new partners. Deciding on things such as schools can also help avoid complicated issues later.

Getting Help

It is best to seek mediation services as early as possible in the event of a separation. Norton Peskett Solicitors have been providing legal services for over 180 years. Built on the core values of professionalism and integrity, our team can help with family mediation. Early family law mediation can reduce hostility and save expensive court battles. It also sets a good example for children when you work together to resolve issues in a civil way.

To find out more about family mediation, contact Norton Peskett today.

The Impact of Drink Driving at Christmas

Over the Christmas period in Suffolk last year, 86 motorists were caught drink driving or driving having taken drugs. 43 people failed breath tests, while another 30 provided a positive drug test result. Others failed to provide a specimen or were deemed unfit to drive due to alcohol and drugs.

At Norton Peskett we have a team of highly experienced driving offence solicitors, and we’re here to help. So let’s take a closer look at the impact of drink driving at Christmas.

The legal consequences of drink driving

Depending on the circumstances, the following penalties may apply if you’re caught drink driving and convicted of an offence:

For being in charge of a vehicle while above the legal limit or unfit through drink, you may get:

  • 3 months’ imprisonment
  • a fine of up to £2,500
  • a possible driving ban.

For driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit or unfit through drink; or for refusing to provide a specimen of breath, blood or urine for analysis, you may get:

  • 6 months’ imprisonment
  • an unlimited fine
  • a driving ban for at least 1 year.

For causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink, you may get:

  • 14 years’ imprisonment
  • an unlimited fine
  • a ban from driving for at least 2 years
  • an extended driving test before your licence is returned.

The impact of being caught drink driving

If you drive for a living, having a conviction on your licence could mean losing your job. Even if you don’t drive for work, a ban can be a serious inconvenience for you and your family.

When you get your licence back after a drink driving conviction, your insurance will increase significantly.

You will also have a criminal record, and may find it difficult to travel to certain countries. This could affect holiday plans, or prevent you from studying or working abroad.

In the worst case, drink driving can result in serious injury or death. In the UK in 2019, an estimated 7,800 people were killed or injured in accidents related to drink driving.

Ways to avoid drink driving

If you’re going out with a group to celebrate, try and arrange a designated non-drinking driver. If you have no choice but to drive, only drink soft drinks, alcohol-free beer or ‘mocktails’.

Try a different kind of night out with food and non-alcoholic drinks, rather than hitting the pubs and bars. And if you’ve taken your car, but you’ve had a drink, don’t get back in your vehicle. Use a taxi or public transport.

When you should seek the advice of a solicitor

If you’re charged with, or under investigation for a drink driving offence, you should seek the advice of a solicitor.

Motoring law can be complex and hard to navigate. Norton Peskett’s experienced team can help guide you through the process, providing the best advice on your options.

Should you require further advice and information on our motoring law services, please contact our team today.

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 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.

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