When it comes to family law, no situation is ever the same, as illustrated by the case studies below. Our team take a tailored approach to seeking the most sensible, practical and realistic solutions.
Case study 1: judicial separation
Parties had been married for 24 years when the marriage ended.They had two children aged 22 and 19. They owned a family home and also had two buy-to-lets -one of which was bought during the boom and was in negative equity. The wife had a permanent job and the husband was semi-retired and running a small business. The wife was effectively supporting the family. However, the family home was in the sole name of the husband, as it had been the home he grew up in.
Efforts were made to settle the case by meeting. It soon became clear that the family home would have to be sold to allow the parties to move on. The husband refused to sell and the wife was left with no alternative but to issue proceedings for a Judicial Separation. The case went for hearing in the Circuit Court and the judge after hearing evidence of the contributions of the parties to the various mortgages ordered that the family home be sold and the net proceeds after payment of the mortgage be divided 50/50 between the parties.
The buy-to-let property in negative equity was left in joint names, in the hope that prices would rise and the negative equity decrease.
In this case, there were no issues about access or custody as the parties’ children were effectively adults. There was a small maintenance order made in respect of the child who was still at college.
When it became clear that the husband would not agree by negotiation, the wife had no alternative but to bring proceedings.
Case study 2: Separation agreement
Parties were married 30 years with three grown up children. They owned one family home with no mortgage. The husband was in a public service job with a large pension, while the wife was a part time administrative assistant.
Parties attended a mediator and discussed the broad parameters of Separation agreement.
Despite most of the terms of the Separation being agreed, they sold their family home before a formal agreement was signed. The proceeds of sale were placed with one of the solicitors and distributed once the agreement was concluded.
The wife received a greater proportion of the proceeds due to the amount of her husband’s pension. The wife purchased a mortgage-free home and continued to work to support herself. She retained death in service and spousal pension in respect of her husband’s pension.
This solution gave the wife security for the future. The conclusion of a Separation Agreement is however vital before any property is sold. It is difficult to agree matters satisfactorily where major decisions have already been made.
Case study 3: consensual divorce
Parties had separated over eight years previously but had never thought about Divorce.
As the wife wanted to marry her new partner she instructed us to issue proceedings with a view to obtaining a Divorce on consent terms. They had one child aged X but the marriage itself had only lasted less than a year.
They had reached a Separation Agreement shortly after they separated, and the wife had bought the family home. The only issue was maintenance which was agreed at the current amount being paid by the father. He saw his son regularly and they were able to agree flexibility in arrangements.
We advised the wife to discuss the agreement with her ex first and then advise us when the proceedings should be served as it is always better to preserve good relations where possible and not surprise a spouse with proceedings coming “out of the blue”.
When the terms of Consent were agreed, we sent them to the husband shortly after serving the proceedings. The husband was happy to sign them, so we got the soonest possible date for hearing and finalised the Divorce within three months of being instructed. The judge congratulated both parties on coming to an agreement and wished them both well in their future lives.
We will always support a client who has reached an agreement with their spouse and wishes to settle. People move on in different ways and Divorce is not always a negative thing.
Case study 4: separation turning into divorce
Parties had been married one year and had no children.They both had good jobs so there was no question of maintenance for either of them. The family home was unfinished but was in negative equity.
Proceedings were issued for Judicial Separation as efforts to agree what would happen to the house came to nothing. The bank refused to consider either of the parties as capable of having the property in their own name and making full payments of capital and income. A stalemate ensued and the husband paid the mortgage in the meantime, as he was living in the property. However, he fell into arrears and the wife had to apply to court to compel him either to sell or recommence repayments by renting out the property. He recommenced payments and built up a record with the bank.
The years rolled by with neither being able to take the property over in the eyes of the bank, until eventually, the value of the house rose enough for the bank to reconsider and allow the husband to buy it and take the mortgage over in full, releasing the wife from any liability.
At this stage, they were eligible for a divorce, having been separated for four out of the previous five years. A Civil Bill for divorce was issued and ruled the same day as the separation.
During the recession, many couples were deadlocked in houses that they couldn’t sell or transfer to the other spouse. Banks were often uncooperative in consenting to a transfer as they required as many parties as possible to remain liable for the debt. Thankfully, banks are now more responsive and the value of houses has risen somewhat.