Monday, 7 December 2015


At this time of the year we all picture the perfect family. Presents around the tree. Laughter at the dinner table. Smiles. Happiness.  Whilst that is indeed true of many families, this can often conceal the real state of a marriage.


The festive period can cause marriages that are already cracking to reach breaking point. One person may have been thinking about taking the leap of divorce for a number of months (or even years) and Christmas has suddenly crept up on them. In a period of reflection and fresh starts the New Year can be the trigger one needs to finally bring a dysfunctional or unhappy marriage to an end.   Alternatively you may have just separated or this could be the first Christmas as a separated parent.


Whatever it is, I set out below some practical legal tips to consider in this web of confusion.


  1. Before Christmas at least find out ‘where you stand’. Do not wait to obtain legal advice. Remember your attendance with a solicitor, your discussions and their advice is strictly confidential. Whilst it is not a magic solution, obtaining legal advice before you go into Christmas can often alleviate the anxiety. It provides you with options and strategy. That is the key.
  2. Preserve assets, If you believe your Husband or Wife will behave or react badly when you announce your decision, be prepared. Ensure you are in a position to preserve assets and can take control of the situation early on.
  3. Have a plan in place. Where are you going to live? Do you intend to stay in the home? Do you want your partner to remain – if not, how will you engineer there departure? How will you pay the bills? Are you eligible for financial support?
  4. Ensure arrangements for the children are agreed at an early stage. Whether you are a Mother or Father Christmas is a magical time you will want to share with your children. Being a separated parent does not mean you should be deprived of this. Actually the opposite is true. The courts will generally expect Christmas' to be alternated year on year but to ensure the children have the opportunity to share Christmas with both parents. Do not allow the dominant parent  to dictate the arrangements. Your child is not a possession. Both parents are important and equal.
  5. Allegations. Do you anticipate allegations being made? If so, what type of allegations and how can you counter these to dilute and minimise the impact.   Can you preserve evidence (lawfully) that will be useful to a divorce case.
  6. You are not alone. Around 50% of marriages end in divorce. Advice to those thinking of separation is being given by divorce solicitors up and down the country. There is certainly no shame in being prepared for what the future holds.
  7. Finally. The divorce process does not need to be brutal. With adult discussions and the right guidance and support your fresh start could be here quicker than you think.


If you need early advice about divorce matters  please do feel free to drop me an email at or pick up the phone for a no obligation initial discussion on 0121 203 5309.



Friday, 22 May 2015


Many will be blissfully unaware that a new Universal Credit was introduced by the government in 2012 as part of its welfare reforms. It replaces seven of the means tested benefits including child and working tax credits. It has already been introduced in different parts of the country and now the Tories have obtained a majority it is going to be phased out across to all parts of the country by 2017.

What does this mean for me?

It will mean that if you receive tax credits (or other means tested benefits) you will receive just the Universal Credit. Given that the government needs to find £12bn in welfare savings I very much suspect its introduction will mean, in one way or the other, some form of cut to the amount of financial help you receive.

Why is a family solicitor telling me this?

Good point. Well, there is more…

Presently any child or spousal maintenance payments from an ex-spouse are not taken into account when calculating tax credits. They are completely ignored. A claimant therefore receives his or her maximum entitlement in tax credits.

Whilst child maintenance will continue to be ignored, the calculation of the Universal Credit will take into account any spousal maintenance a claimant is receiving. It will deduct spousal maintenance in a pound for pound way from any Universal Credit calculation. So let’s say a claimant is receiving the Universal Credit of £900 p/m and spousal maintenance of £400 p/m. Under the ‘old’ rules they would receive £1,300 p/m. Under the new Universal Credit the spousal maintenance will be deducted and a claimant will receive just £900 (being £400p/m in maintenance and £500 for the Universal Credit (£900 - £400)).

This is a significant development. Tax credits are very often taken into account when looking at maintenance for an ex-spouse. Many hard working people rely heavily on tax credits as a way of financially supporting their family. This is even more relevant in single parent families after a separation.

What are the implications?