As I sit in the Marlborough Law office watching the rain falling down I realise that the summer is well and truly over. Of course, as a law firm we do not have the long summer holidays that children have but we do have the problems that dealing with separated parents brings. The summer holidays are always a bone of contention when trying to arrange contact time around parent’s holidays and trips away. Then we have the issues concerning which parent has the passport and which parent has the money to pay for the better holiday. Now, one would think that all the work done before schools finished would be set for the duration, but human nature dictates this does not happen so I am sure that I am not the only person who is looking forward to the children going back to school as much as we love them.
English Family Law took a very interesting turn over the holidays with a recent case in the Court of Appeal on 25th July 2018 in which the Court refused to allow the Wife to carry on with her Divorce Petition because her reasons were “flimsy and exaggerated”. The current Divorce Process requires the party making the application to give good reason as to why the marriage has broken down. The majority of petitions issued are either due to “unreasonable behaviour” or “separated for 2 years and with consent”. If couples do not wish to wait for 2 years they use the “unreasonable behaviour” reason and then must give the court good examples of the behaviour. This often causes bad feeling between couples who have literally grown apart but remain on good terms. Careful wording in the opening letter to the spouse receiving the petition is required to explain these reasons are not are harsh as would appear. In the case of Owens v Owens the court ruled that the wife’s 27 reasons of “moody and argumentative nature” were isolated incidents and did not meet the necessary criteria. I have spoken before about Lady Hale, one of the greatest women in modern family law, and she was part of the Appeal process but she had misgivings and reluctantly dismissed the appeal. However, for Family practitioners such as myself, it has fuelled the campaign for the “No Fault” divorce which is currently being reviewed by the Judiciary. So if you are considering divorce you will still need to have a better reason than, Not putting the bin out or leaving his socks on the bedroom floor.
There was also the second reading on 20th July of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 (Amendment) (Sibling Couples) Bill. This bill seeks to amend the Civil Partnership Act 2004 to include sibling couples aged over thirty who have lived together for a continuous period of twelve years. “Brothers and sisters in such committed, platonic relationship— and indeed many other long-term cohabitants can be hit hard because they are denied all legal safeguards and fiscal protections. The rights available under the Civil Partnership Act are vital to give security to every cohabitant particularly the right to inherit a joint tenancy or a jointly owned home free of inheritance tax.” Says Lord Lexden. I will be keeping my eye on this over the next few months because I suspect we have a few of these domestic situations locally.
We have also had a significant increase over the summer in enquiries regarding Land disputes. I suspect that is because the fabulous weather meant more people were in their gardens. When people buy land they often assume their boundaries are clearly defined by Land Registry plans or rely on Estate Agent’s particulars. Sadly, these plans and were never intended to distinguish boundaries and the particulars will be mostly based on the seller’s description of the land, which may or may not be correct.
Unfortunately, determining boundaries is often not straight forward and can be a complex area of law. Boundaries do not always follow straight lines. The boundaries may have shifted long before you entered the property leading to adverse possession arguments (basically squatter’s rights). The neighbours’ extension may have been built on what appears to be your land. The common space between properties may be taken by someone. Or, there may be arguments over who repairs the boundary fence. Each of these situations requires investigation into the property with regards it the current and historic makeup, considering the legal documents, and applying what can be discerned to the law. Given the complexity it is generally best to take advice early on.
If you want to put a face to the name Marlborough Law will be at the Classic Car Show on 23rd September where we would love to meet all our readers.
Until next time – Stay Safe and Stay Legal.