Last week we looked at what constitutes a short marriage, and how that may have a bearing upon the division of assets on divorce. But that begs the question: what is a long marriage, and what difference, if any, does that make to the financial settlement?

As we explained last week, one of the factors that the court must take into account when considering what is an appropriate financial settlement on divorce is the duration of the marriage. Of course, that may not just mean that the fact that the marriage was of a short duration may affect the settlement – it can also mean that the fact that it was a long marriage can have a bearing upon what the settlement should be.

So what is a ‘long marriage’?

Again, there is no definition contained in the statute. We therefore have to look at what judges have decided over the years. And those decisions suggest that a ‘long marriage’ is not actually that long, at least by the sort of measure that most people might use.

Whilst most people might not consider a marriage to be long until it has at least reached its silver anniversary, the courts will generally consider a marriage of fifteen years or more to be long, and sometimes even a marriage shorter than that might qualify.

So what difference does it make to the settlement if the marriage is long?

Well, whilst a short marriage may have a bearing, as we explained last week, the mere fact that a marriage may be defined as ‘long’ does not of itself necessarily have a bearing. The ‘sharing principle’, whereby assets will generally be divided equally unless there is a good reason to depart from equality, applies to every marriage that was not a short one, irrespective of how long it was.

But the length of the marriage may have a bearing in other ways.

For example, if one party gave up a career to bring up the family then the disadvantage that they may have suffered in the employment marketplace will be greater the longer the marriage, and they may need to be compensated for that disadvantage, by having a larger share of the assets.

And after a longer marriage the fact that one party brought assets into the marriage may lessen in significance, making it less likely that that contribution will result in that party receiving a greater share on divorce.

In summary, the court will look at all of the circumstances in every case, including the duration of the marriage, and will make an award that it considers to be fair, having regard to those circumstances.

If you want further advice as to what factors may affect your divorce settlement then you should consult an expert family lawyer. Family Law Café can put you in touch with such a lawyer – for further information, call us on 020 3904 0506, or click here, and fill in the form.

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Family Law Cafe offers a modern, agile and compassionate approach to family law, giving you a helping hand when you need it and guiding you through the complexities of this difficult and stressful area. Family Law Cafe is your start-point for getting matters sorted with strategy, support and security.

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When the courts divide financial assets on divorce they follow a general principle that an equal division of those assets between the parties should be departed from only if, and to the extent that, there is good reason for doing so.

This ‘sharing principle’, as it is known, leads many people going through divorce to believe that they are automatically entitled to half of the assets. And, to put it the other way around, it leads many to fear that, no matter what, they will have to pay half to their spouse, even if they contributed most of the assets to the marriage.

But what if it was only a short marriage? Will you still have to pay half to your spouse?

Perhaps the best answer is: not necessarily.

When the court decides how assets should be divided on divorce it must have regard to a list of factors, as set out by statute. One of those factors is the duration of the marriage. Thus, the fact that the marriage was short could have a bearing upon the division, meaning that the party who contributed less may get less than half.

But the statute does not define what a ‘short marriage’ is. All we can do is look at the case law to see what judges have decided, although caution is required, as each case is decided upon its particular facts. And it may be surprising to some just how short a marriage has to be for a judge to consider it short.

Whilst there is certainly no ‘cut-off’ point at which a marriage is no longer defined as ‘short’, the cases suggest that any marriage that lasted for more than three years is unlikely to be defined as ‘short’.

Looking at it the other way though, the shorter the marriage the greater the bearing that the marriage’s duration is likely to have upon the division of the assets. Thus, for example, in a recent case a judge who found that the marriage lasted just eight months awarded the wife just 20% of the assets.

It is important to note, however, that if there are children of the marriage then the fact that the marriage was short is likely to be of less importance to the outcome – the welfare of the children and the future contributions of either party in looking after the children will take precedence when dividing the assets.

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If you feel that the short duration of your marriage might affect your financial settlement then you should seek the advice of an expert family lawyer. Family Law Café can put you in touch with an expert – call us on 020 3904 0506, or click here, and fill in the form.

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Family Law Cafe surrounds and supports the customer with both legal and pastoral care, end to end, from top barristers to case workers to therapists and mediators, to help the customer get the best possible result with the minimum stress. Family Law Cafe is your start-point for getting matters sorted with strategy, support and security.

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The Supreme Court has allowed a wife to proceed with a maintenance claim in England, despite divorce proceedings taking place in Scotland.

Charles and Emma Villiers spent almost all of their married life living in Scotland. After they separated in 2012 Mrs Villiers moved to England.

In 2013 she issued divorce proceedings in England, but in the following year Mr Villiers issued divorce proceedings in Scotland. Mrs Villiers agreed to the divorce going ahead in Scotland, and therefore her English divorce petition was dismissed.

However, in 2015 she applied to the English court for a maintenance order. Mr Villiers objected to this, claiming that the English court did not have jurisdiction to deal with the application, because of the Scottish divorce proceedings. However, the English court held that it did have jurisdiction. Mr Villiers appealed to the Court of Appeal, but the Court of Appeal upheld the order. Mr Villiers appealed again, to the Supreme Court.

Last week the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, by a majority of three to two.

Giving the leading judgment Lord Sales said that the husband’s divorce proceedings in Scotland did not preclude the wife’s maintenance application as they were not ‘related’ actions.

However, giving a dissenting judgment Lord Wilson warned that the decision means that “untrammelled licence” will be “given to a wife to go forum-shopping, in other words to put her husband at an initial disadvantage unrelated to the merits of her case.” Whether this turns out to be so, we will just have to wait and see.

You can read the full judgment here.

Should you go forum shopping?

So can you issue proceedings in England and Wales, rather than another country? And even if you can, should you?

As the fact that this case went all the way to the Supreme Court indicates, the rules on forum shopping are complicated. We could not possibly set them out here. In general, though, you will need some connection with the country where you intend to issue proceedings. It will also depend upon the type of proceedings that are being issued, and whether proceedings have already been issued elsewhere.

But even if you can issue proceedings here, that does not necessarily mean that you should. London may have a reputation for being more generous to wives making financial applications than other countries, but that does not automatically mean that it will be best for wives to issue here (and for husbands to issue elsewhere!).

Clearly, if you are considering issuing proceedings in England and Wales rather than another country then you should take expert legal advice, both upon whether you can issue here, and whether you should. Family Law Café can put you in touch with an expert – for further information, call us on 020 3904 0506, or click here, and fill in the form.

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Family Law Cafe’s accessible team of legal experts from various disciplines expedites the customer’s case and keeps them informed and in control 24/7 through a unique and secure online portal. Family Law Cafe is your start-point for getting matters sorted with strategy, support and security.

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The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, under which a system of no-fault divorce will be introduced, has passed through both houses of parliament. The Bill now just requires the Royal Assent before it becomes law.

However, the Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland QC has warned that the new law is unlikely to be implemented until autumn 2021, as “time needs to be allowed for careful implementation”. This will include the making of the necessary rules and procedures to give effect to the law, which will obviously be quite different to the present system.

All of which begs the question: what do you do if you want to commence divorce proceedings? Do you proceed under the present law, or wait for the new law to come in?

At the moment, in view of how far the new law is still away, the answer must generally be that you should proceed now, unless you will have to wait anyway for the requisite period of separation to elapse. (If you can’t or don’t want to issue divorce proceedings now on the basis of the other party’s adultery or unreasonable behaviour, you have to wait until you have been separated for two years if the other party consents to the divorce, or for five years if they do not consent.)

However, as we get closer to the introduction of the new law, then more and more people will no doubt prefer to wait, rather than have to apportion blame for the marriage breakdown under the present system.

And if you believe that your spouse will defend divorce proceedings, then it may be more appropriate to wait, as defended divorce proceedings will not be possible under the new system.

If you want further advice as to whether to commence divorce proceedings you should consult an expert family lawyer. Family Law Café can put you in touch with such a lawyer – for further information, call us on 020 3904 0506, or click here, and fill in the form.

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Family Law Cafe offers a modern, agile and compassionate approach to family law, giving you a helping hand when you need it and guiding you through the complexities of this difficult and stressful area. Family Law Cafe is your start-point for getting matters sorted with strategy, support and security.

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After a campaign for reform lasting at least thirty years it seems that we may finally be about to get a system of no-fault divorce.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, which will bring in the reform, is due to have its second reading in the House of Commons today. Whilst some MPs have voiced their concerns about the reform, it has widespread support, and is expected to pass. In fact, it has been reported that ministers are keen to see the legislation receive royal assent as soon as the end of this week.

To briefly recap, the Bill intends to do away with the need to attribute blame in a divorce. It will no longer therefore be necessary (for example) to allege that the other party has committed adultery or behaved unreasonably (at least until the parties have been separated for two years). The Bill also removes the possibility of defending the divorce.

Instead, there will be a procedure whereby when a party applies for a divorce they will simply file with the application a statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, and the court will accept that as proof that the marriage has indeed broken down irretrievably. Twenty weeks later the court can make a conditional divorce order, and six weeks after that the divorce can be finalised.

As mentioned, some MPs have indicated their opposition to the reform. However, Resolution, the association of family lawyers, have written an open letter addressing some of their major concerns. The letter can be found here. Hopefully, its contents will help reassure MPs and the Bill will pass, without significant alteration.

Before we get too carried away, however, it should be pointed out that the new law is unlikely to come into effect until some months after the Bill receives royal assent. There will be a lot of regulations to be made, and generally time will be needed to prepare for the new system.

Still, hopefully we will soon have a divorce system that does away with the ‘blame game’, thereby enabling couples to concentrate with less chance of animosity upon the issues that really matter, such as arrangements for children and sorting out finances.

UPDATE: The Bill passed its second reading by 231 votes to 16. It now goes to the committee stage in the Commons.

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Family Law Cafe’s accessible team of legal experts from various disciplines expedites the customer’s case and keeps them informed and in control 24/7 through a unique and secure online portal. Family Law Cafe is your start-point for getting matters sorted with strategy, support and security.

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Over the weekend a national newspaper reported upon a case in which a husband was aggrieved that the court awarded his wife nearly half of his pension pot, including the contributions he made during the years before they were married, and despite the fact that she ‘never bothered’ to save for a pension herself.

The report also suggested that the law regarding the division of pre-marital assets is about to change, which would help people retain assets built up before marriage.

So what exactly is the law now, and is it about to change?

Matrimonial property

The courts do distinguish between ‘matrimonial property’, i.e. assets acquired by the parties during the marriage as a result of their own efforts (which will usually include the matrimonial home), and ‘non-matrimonial property’, which includes assets acquired before the marriage, inheritances and gifts, and assets acquired after the parties separated.

As a very general rule, the court will only divide matrimonial property between the parties, unless the essential needs of one of the parties can only be met by including non-matrimonial property. Accordingly, if the needs of both parties can be met from the matrimonial property then each party can usually expect to retain any assets they owned prior to the marriage. (In the case referred to in the report above it may have been that the court could not meet the wife’s pension needs without including the pension that the husband had built up prior to the marriage.)

The practical effect of this general rule is that non-matrimonial property, including assets acquired prior to the marriage, is more likely to be retained in higher-money cases.

Of course there is a major proviso to this: it is not always easy to separate matrimonial and non-matrimonial property. Very often the two become mixed over time, so that it becomes impossible to quantify what is and what is not matrimonial property. If in doubt the courts are more likely to say that property is matrimonial, rather than non-matrimonial.

Law reform

The newspaper report made mention of both the Government’s Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, and Baroness Deech’s Divorce (Financial Provision) Private Members’ Bill.

The Government’s Bill will just introduce a system of no-fault divorce, without changing the law on division of assets on divorce. Baroness Deech’s Bill, as its name implies, is intended to change the law on division of assets, including essentially preventing the court from awarding one spouse a share of assets that the other spouse acquired before the marriage.

However, as the Baroness’s Bill is a private members’ bill it is unlikely to be passed. The law on division of assets is therefore likely to remain the same for the foreseeable future.

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The above is of course a very brief summary of what can be a very complex area of law. For more detailed advice you should consult an expert family lawyer. Family Law Café can put you in touch with such a lawyer – for further information, call us on 020 3904 0506, or click here, and fill in the form.

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Family Law Cafe offers a modern, agile and compassionate approach to family law, giving you a helping hand when you need it and guiding you through the complexities of this difficult and stressful area. Family Law Cafe is your start-point for getting matters sorted with strategy, support and security.

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When a couple get divorced they will obviously need to sort out what happens to the contents of the former matrimonial home. Unfortunately, this can often be a fraught process, as they argue over who should have what. Here are a few tips that might help make things easier.

1. Difficult as it might be, every reasonable effort should be made to agree the division of the contents with your spouse if you possibly can. If you can’t agree with them direct, then try to agree through lawyers or via mediation. To help you reach agreement, it may be useful to prepare a schedule, setting out the items and their values (see point 3).

2. If you can’t reach agreement, then the court can sort out who has what, but this can be very expensive and time-consuming.

3. It may have cost a considerable amount of money to purchase the contents originally, but their current (second-hand) value is the value that the court will use, and that should be used in any negotiation. Unless you own antique furniture or other items of special value such as paintings, the current value of the entire contents is therefore likely to be minimal. Accordingly, you will not usually want to spend a substantial sum on legal costs arguing over the division of the contents.

4. If you do have valuable items then if they are not divided equally (see the next point) the party who receives less may be entitled to financial compensation.

5. As with other property, equal division is the starting point (save for personal possessions, which each party should keep), although there may be other considerations, in particular if one party is to have any children living with them then their needs should be taken into account, for example they will obviously need to have the children’s beds.

6. If there are single items over £500 or collections over that amount the court can take them into account as assets. To establish what valuable items are worth a jointly instructed expert can be appointed by the parties or the court.

7. If agreement cannot be reached and there are no items of sentimental value, consider selling the items and dividing the proceeds, rather than going to the expense of getting the court to sort it out.

8. Lastly, all of the contents should usually remain in the matrimonial home until agreement is reached as to their division, or the court has decided the matter. If your spouse starts removing items from the matrimonial home without your consent then you should inform your lawyer immediately.

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If you require further advice regarding the division of the contents of the matrimonial home then you should consult an expert family lawyer. Family Law Café can put you in touch with an expert – call us on 020 3904 0506, or click here, and fill in the form.

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Family Law Cafe surrounds and supports the customer with both legal and pastoral care, end to end, from top barristers to case workers to therapists and mediators, to help the customer get the best possible result with the minimum stress. Family Law Cafe is your start-point for getting matters sorted with strategy, support and security.

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A ‘successful’ divorce should surely be the aspiration for anyone whose marriage has broken down. So what is the secret to achieving a successful divorce?

Before we answer that question we must first of all ask another: what exactly is a ‘successful divorce’?

What is a successful divorce?

What makes a divorce ‘successful’? Well, that may be a matter for each individual. Some may simply measure it by how big a financial settlement they achieved, or by how little the divorce cost.

But we would say that there is more to a divorce being successful than just money. Yes, a satisfactory settlement is important, as is keeping the cost to a minimum. But there are at least two other factors: making sure that the whole process is concluded as quickly as possible, so that you can get on with your life, and making sure that it is as stress-free as possible, so that you can recover emotionally as quickly as possible (marriage breakdown is stressful enough anyway).

All of which really points in one direction: agree matters if you can! By doing so you will (by definition) have achieved a satisfactory settlement, and you will have reduced the cost, stress and time taken to reach a conclusion.

But even if you can’t agree matters, then a measure of success is still possible. Yes, you might have to ask the court to sort things out, but you can still take steps to ensure that the court proceedings are concluded as satisfactorily, cheaply, and quickly as possible.

The most important thing

Of course, there is no one thing that will guarantee a successful divorce. But there is something that is perhaps more important than any other, and a clue to what it is was contained in the opening paragraphs of a recent High Court judgment.

In the case FRB DCA Mr Justice Cohen began his judgment with the following:

“I have been hearing over some 15 days cross-applications by the parties for financial remedy orders.  As this judgment will make clear the scope of this case has encompassed almost every issue that can arise within a matrimonial finance case.  In some ways that is hardly surprising.  I know of no other case where the breakdown of a marriage has engendered litigation on the scale witnessed in this case.”

He then said that the total legal costs incurred by the parties in what he called a “gladiatorial combat” between them exceeded £10 million, and went on to explain that the differences between the parties was in part reflected by the animosity that at least the husband felt towards the wife.

Animosity. That is perhaps the most important thing to avoid, in order to achieve a successful divorce. We realise that it is easy for a lawyer to say this, but it really can’t be emphasised enough: you should make every effort to put animosity to one side when you sort out your divorce.

A little animosity is quite natural and common when a marriage breaks down. But it can also be really destructive, as this case demonstrates. Remove the animosity, and you have taken a great step towards achieving a successful divorce: you can then just concentrate on what really needs to be sorted out, you will not be distracted by attempting to ‘score points’ over the other party and, above all, you will be far more likely to achieve an agreed settlement.

If you want to read Mr Justice Cohen’s full judgment, all 227 paragraphs of it, you can find it here.

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Of course, there is one other thing you need to achieve a successful divorce: an expert family lawyer, who will adopt an approach aimed at settling your case amicably, whilst simultaneously looking after your best interests. Family Law Café can put you in touch with such a lawyer – for further information, call us on 020 3904 0506, or click here, and fill in the form.

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Family Law Cafe offers a modern, agile and compassionate approach to family law, giving you a helping hand when you need it and guiding you through the complexities of this difficult and stressful area. Family Law Cafe is your start-point for getting matters sorted with strategy, support and security.

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Everyone is of course seriously concerned about the Coronavirus, and the restrictions that it is putting upon our lives. But what if you are contemplating divorce proceedings, or are in the midst of existing proceedings. How will the virus and the Government’s response to it affect you?

We are still here for you

Family Law Café continues to provide a full service, and we intend to do so for the duration of this emergency.

If you are an existing client then you can contact us as usual.

We are still taking on new clients, who can get in touch with us as outlined below.

And our service is online, so you can access it without having to leave your home. For further details of how our service works, see this post.

Expect delays

The courts are continuing to function. However, court hearings are now being conducted remotely, where possible.

In view of this, and possible court staff shortages as a result of the virus and the measures taken in response to it, you can expect cases to take longer.

Divorce proceedings can proceed entirely online, unless they are defended.

Children arrangements

Obviously, the restrictions upon movement will affect children arrangements between separated parents. The Government has, however, made clear that where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.

Of course, special care will need to be taken, and in some cases existing arrangements may have to be suspended. If you cannot agree matters with your (former) spouse, then you should seek legal advice. The President of the Family Division has issued guidance on compliance with child arrangements orders, which can be found here.

Financial remedies

You should also seek advice if you are concerned about the effect of the reduction in value of assets as a result of the financial instability caused by the virus.

Settlements that have not been finalised will normally take into account the current value of assets.

It is possible that settlements that have recently been finalised could be reopened, if there has been a significant change in the value of assets. However, this would be unusual – if you think it may apply to you, you should seek urgent legal advice.

Get in touch

For further information and advice upon any of the above matters, contact us. If you are a new client, call us on 02 03 9 04 05 06, or click the ‘Sign up’ button at the top of the page, and complete the form.

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Family Law Cafe’s accessible team of legal experts from various disciplines expedites the customer’s case and keeps them informed and in control 24/7 through a unique and secure online portal. Family Law Cafe is your start-point for getting matters sorted with strategy, support and security.

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Who wants to have to visit their lawyer every time they have something important to discuss with them?

And who wants a service where they have to wait for their busy lawyer to be available before they can ask them a question?

And who wants to have to wait until their lawyer’s office is open, and then have to telephone the office, just to find out the current position on their matter?

Well, you no longer have to put up with any of these things.

Family Law Café offers a revolutionary new type of legal service for anyone with a family law problem (not just divorce!). Now you can run your case online, from the comfort of your own home.

When you sign up with us you get access to our unique secure online portal, from wherever you want, and whenever you want, 24/7.

Via the portal you can see the current position in your matter, check for important upcoming dates in your case calendar, read and review documents. You can even request an answer to any question, and the answer will be there once a lawyer has logged in and considered it.

And the online portal can also be made available (with your permission) to anyone that you may need to help you with you case, such as an expert accountant – no need to spend time and money copying a paper file to them.

With Family Law Café you can truly run your case from home, at a time that suits you. For further details of our service telephone us on 02 03 9 04 05 06, or click the ‘Sign up’ button at the top of the page, and complete the form. We will contact you back in a way, and at a time, that suits you and can discuss how we work and what we can offer you.

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Family Law Cafe’s accessible team of legal experts from various disciplines expedites the customer’s case and keeps them informed and in control 24/7 through a unique and secure online portal. Family Law Cafe is your start-point for getting matters sorted with strategy, support and security.

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You have just been served with divorce papers. Perhaps you expected them, perhaps you did not. They may make you angry, they may make you sad.

Whatever, it is likely to be an extremely stressful moment, and that stress could colour how you respond. But it is essential that, no matter how tempting, you do not respond in the wrong way.

Here are five typical things that you should NOT do if you receive divorce papers:

1. Lose your temper with your spouse – As we said, receiving the divorce papers may make you angry. This could be because you don’t believe that the breakdown of the marriage was your fault, because you are unhappy about allegations against you contained in the divorce petition, or simply because you don’t want a divorce. You may lose your temper and want to confront your spouse. Don’t. It will not achieve anything, and is only likely to make things worse. Remember that under our present divorce system one party usually has to ‘blame’ the other for the breakdown of the marriage – your spouse may have had no other option.

2. Tear up the papers – Yes, it does happen. But it is not going to stop the divorce. Without going into the details, your spouse will still be able to proceed with the divorce, and your actions may just have increased the costs of the divorce, which you may have to pay.

3. Ignore the papers – This also does happen, all too often. But it is not going to make the divorce go away. Again, your spouse will still be able to proceed with the divorce.

4. Stop paying for things – You may still be paying for things that your spouse benefits from, for example the mortgage on the matrimonial home, or the repayments on the car that they are using. Receiving the divorce papers may tempt you to stop paying these things. But doing so may cause you further trouble. Don’t have a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction – take advice first, and as quickly as you can.

5. Defend or cross petition without thought – This is often the first thought of anyone who doesn’t want a divorce, or who is aggrieved at being blamed for the breakdown of the marriage. Yes, in some (rare) circumstances it may be the best thing to do, but it may also be a huge mistake, which will only cause the divorce to drag out and be much more expensive.

Of course, what you SHOULD do if you receive divorce papers is take expert legal advice. Family Law Cafe can organise your response and sort out everything that needs to be done. For further information about what we can do for you call us on 020 3904 0506, or click the ‘Sign up’ button at the top of the page, and fill in the form.

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Family Law Cafe offers a modern, agile and compassionate approach to family law, giving you a helping hand when you need it and guiding you through the complexities of this difficult and stressful area. Family Law Cafe is your start-point for getting matters sorted with strategy, support and security.

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Divorces are taking longer than at any time since December 2014, when the Ministry of Justice began publishing quarterly Family Court statistics.

The latest statistics, for the quarter April to June 2019, show that for those granted Decree Nisi in that period, the mean average time from the date of the divorce petition was 33 weeks, up 5 weeks from the same period in 2018, and the mean time from the petition to Decree Absolute was 58 weeks, up 3 weeks compared to the same period in 2018.

The statistics also show a decrease in the number of divorce petitions issued. There were 28,144 divorce petitions issued between April and June 2019, down 13% from the same quarter in 2018. Financial remedy applications also decreased by 5%, but private law children applications (primarily for child arrangements orders) increased by 3% compared to the equivalent quarter in 2018.

Private law children applications are also taking longer. In April to June 2019, it took on average 28 weeks for private law cases to reach a final order, up 3 weeks from the same period in 2018.

Elsewhere, other statistics published by the Ministry of Justice revealed that more family cases are being resolved by mediation. In the quarter April to June 2019 mediation starts increased by 22% and outcomes increased by 13%, compared to the same period last year.

You can find the Family Court statistics here.

If you would like advice about taking divorce proceedings, Family Law Café can help. To book a free initial consultation with us click the green button at the top of this page and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

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Family Law Cafe surrounds and supports the customer with both legal and pastoral care, end to end, from top barristers to case workers to therapists and mediators, to help the customer get the best possible result with the minimum stress.

Image: Calendar, by Dafne Cholet, licensed under CC BY 2.0.