If a same-sex couple wish to formalise their relationship then they have two options: to enter into a civil partnership, or to get married.

A civil partnership gives legal recognition to same-sex relationships, putting the civil partners in a similar legal position to married couples.

A civil partnership is formed by having the partnership registered. The formalities and procedure are not dissimilar to those for marriage.

Civil partnerships may be dissolved in the same way as marriages, save that the term ‘dissolution order’ is used instead of ‘divorce’. The grounds for a dissolution order are the same as for divorce, save that a civil partner may not rely upon adultery to prove that the civil partnership has broken down irretrievably. The procedure is similar to that for divorce.

As with marriage, civil partnerships can be annulled. It is also possible to obtain a ‘separation order’, which is the equivalent of judicial separation between spouses.

When a civil partnership is terminated, the court can make the same financial orders as it can when a marriage is terminated. The factors that the court takes into account when deciding what orders to make are similar, and the procedure is much the same.

Since March 2014 it has also been possible for same-sex couples to get married.

A same-sex marriage can be dissolved in the same way as an opposite-sex marriage. However, it should be noted that only conduct between the respondent to the divorce and a person of the opposite sex may constitute adultery for the purposes of divorce. Accordingly, if the respondent had sex with someone of the same sex that would not be adultery, although it would be unreasonable behaviour.

The court can make the same financial orders on the dissolution of a same-sex marriage as it can on the dissolution of an opposite-sex marriage.

For further advice contact Family Law Café by clicking the Contact link above and filling in the form, or by calling us on 020 3904 0506.

Image: Wedding Celebration, by Hotlanta Voyeur, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Most family disputes on divorce or relationship breakdown, such as disputes relating to finances or arrangements for children, are resolved out of court. In fact, contested court proceedings should be used only as a last resort, if you are unable to resolve the dispute by agreement.

Most agreements are reached either between the parties direct, or more commonly in negotiations between their lawyers.

If it is not possible to agree matters direct or between lawyers then there are three main other possibilities to consider before issuing court proceedings (or even after proceedings have begun). These ways of resolving disputes are often referred to as ‘Alternative Dispute Resolution’. They are:

Mediation – Whereby an independent trained mediator will help the parties try to reach an agreement. Mediation will normally involve several ‘round the table’ meetings between the couple and the mediator. If the parties are able to reach an agreement then the mediator will prepare a document setting out the terms of the agreement, and send copies to the parties. If, on the other hand, the mediator does not believe that there is any possibility of an agreement being reached, then they will bring the mediation to an end. Note that any agreement reached in mediation is not binding – the parties are entitled to take legal advice upon the terms of the agreement before it is finalised, for example by a court order. Note also that mediation is completely voluntary, and not all cases are suitable, for example, most cases where there has been domestic violence. There is a fee for mediation, although legal aid is available, subject to eligibility. Since April 2014 it has been compulsory to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (‘MIAM’), at which it is assessed whether the case is suitable for mediation, before taking a family dispute to court.

Collaborative Law – Collaborative law requires each party to instruct a specialist collaborative family lawyer, i.e. a lawyer who has undergone special training to do collaborative work. Once this has been done, the parties and the lawyers sign an agreement to work together as a team to resolve issues without going to court. If either party should then start court proceedings, the collaborative process will end and the collaborative lawyers will cease to act for either party. Once the agreement has been signed, the parties and their lawyers will then attend four-way ‘face to face’ meetings, at which they will endeavour to reach a settlement. If a settlement can be reached, the lawyers will draw up an agreed document that is then submitted to the court, for approval.

Arbitration – Whereby the parties agree that their case will be decided by a trained arbitrator (the parties can also have their own legal advisers). The decision of the arbitrator will be legally binding, and may be made into a court order. The arbitrator will charge a fee, which will normally be shared between the parties. Advantages to arbitration over court proceedings include that the process is usually much quicker, that it is usually cheaper and that it is confidential.

If you would like any further information about Alternative Dispute Resolution Family Law Café can help. To contact us click the Contact link above and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

There are a number of possible financial orders that the court can make on divorce. The most common types of orders are the following:

Maintenance orders, also called ‘periodical payments’ orders, requiring one spouse to pay maintenance to the other spouse. The maintenance may be for a fixed time, or until the receiving spouse should remarry.

Lump sum orders, requiring one spouse to pay a lump sum of money to the other spouse. The order will state by when the money should be paid.

Property adjustment orders, adjusting the ownership of property, for example transferring the former matrimonial home from the joint names of both parties into the sole name of one of the parties.

Orders for sale of property, for example ordering that the former matrimonial home should be sold. The court will also order what should happen to the net proceeds of sale of the property.

Pension sharing orders, ordering that all or part of one party’s pension should be transferred into a pension in the other party’s name.

Note that the court can also make a child maintenance order, where the maintenance is agreed. If the maintenance is not agreed then the parent with care of the children will have to make a child support maintenance application to the Child Maintenance Service.

If you would like any further advice about financial orders on divorce, or about what orders may be appropriate in your case, Family Law Café can help. To contact us click the Contact link above and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

Image: Pound coins, by J D Mack, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Business assets are taken into account by the court when considering financial arrangements on divorce, so it can be a great cause of concern to the business-owning spouse what will happen to the business.

The first thing to say is that the court will, if possible, leave the business in the hands of the business-owning spouse, compensating the other spouse by giving them a greater share of other assets, if appropriate. The court will also not want to divide the business, if this means that the business is damaged such that it is no longer viable.

On the other hand it may be that some of the business assets can be safely realised in order to pay a lump sum to the other spouse. Another possibility is that the business can be used to raise funds to pay the other spouse.

Whatever, if you have an interest in a business you will have to declare it to the court before the court decides upon the financial settlement. This means disclosing recent accounts for the business, together with such other information and documentation that the court may require.

It will also be necessary to ascertain the value of the business. This may involve obtaining the opinion of an expert, such as an accountant. If the valuation cannot be agreed with the other party then the court will decide how much it is worth, on the basis of the evidence before it.

Obviously, sorting out what should happen regarding business assets on divorce can be a complex area, and if you would like further advice then Family Law Café can help. To contact us click the Contact link above and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

Image: Accounts book, by Alexander Baxevanis, licensed under CC BY 2.0.