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Legal Solutions

By | family, Legal

All Your Legal Worries Answered

In each issue of ABC, one of Brighton’s leading firms of Solicitors, Dean Wilson LLP, covers a topic of interest to parents everywhere. In this issue, Jennie Apsey, Solicitor in the Family Department, discusses the impact of Covid-19 on Child Arrangements.

As Family lawyers, of all the issues we have been asked to advise on over the last year, the issue of child contact arrangements throughout the Coronavirus pandemic has come up time and time again.

What are the Government guidelines concerning child contact arrangements during the pandemic and can parents alter contact arrangements even if they are the subject of a Child Arrangements Order?
Government advice throughout the pandemic and lockdowns has been that children may move freely between parents’ households, including between households situated in different Tiers. However, the President of the Family Division of the High Court noted that the guidance did not mean that children must move between homes, the decision being one for parents to take after assessing their individual circumstances, for example, the child’s health, the risk of infection and the presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in either household. Furthermore, the Department of Health and Social Care advised that if a child was instructed to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, where possible the child was to remain at the same address throughout the period of isolation.

The President of the Family Division gave further guidance that where Coronavirus restrictions caused the letter of a Child Arrangements Order to be varied by a parent, the spirit of the Order should still be delivered by making alternative arrangements for contact including facilitating video calls through FaceTime, Skype or Zoom.

What child contact issues have you encountered as a result of the pandemic?
Perhaps inevitably, the Government guidance gave rise to some uncertainty with parents questioning what they were permitted to do, and whether they could insist on usual contact arrangements being adhered to. A minority of parents attempted to exploit the situation to exclude the other parent from their usual contact.

What can I do if the other parent breaches the terms of our Child Arrangements Order?
Child Arrangement Orders made since 2008 contain a Warning Notice which explains the consequences of breaching an Order. The penalties that the Court can impose include fines or imprisonment for contempt of court, orders to undertake unpaid work in the community or orders for financial compensation. However, for those parents wanting to bring such breaches to the Court’s attention, an application for enforcement must be made, for which a Court fee of £215 is payable. Parents should also bear in mind, that under section 11J of the Children Act 1989, the Court can decide not to make an enforcement order “if it is satisfied that the person had a reasonable excuse for failing to comply with the provision.” Unfortunately, “reasonable excuse” is not defined within the legislation and is therefore open to interpretation and the Court’s discretion.

Other than making an application to the Court for enforcement, what can I do to ensure that I continue to see my children?
We cannot emphasise enough that now more than ever there is a need to work with the other parent and to look at alternative means of resolving issues that arise between you in relation to care of the children. In our experience, the Court system is currently so clogged up, you are very unlikely to obtain a swift resolution to your contact problem by making an application to the Court. The effects on the Court system of the Coronavirus pandemic are ongoing. Therefore, we would strongly advise only making an application to the Court as a last resort once all other avenues of communication and alternative dispute resolution have been explored.

In the first instance, we would suggest mediation as a means of attempting to resolve matters with the other parent. Mediation is likely to be cheaper, less stressful, and far quicker than the Court process. Furthermore, since you will need to continue to co-parent your children for the duration of their minority, minimising conflict and animosity between you is likely to be hugely beneficial, not only to yourselves as individual parents, but also to your children.

Looking forward not back is the way to help solve family problems

By | family, Legal, Relationships
by Marcus Stanton
Kingston & Richmond Family Mediation Practice

There is a popular TV programme that ends each week with a catchphrase I’m going to borrow, adapt, and use here: ‘Keep talking’. Parents who separate can achieve so much by talking and listening to each other. You might say, ‘well if they had been talking and listening to each other in the first place they wouldn’t now be separating,’ but parents separate for a number of reasons and just because they are no longer together doesn’t mean they should no longer work together to sort out their family finances and any future plans for their children.

The difficulty is that when a relationship ends it’s very easy to adopt a position in negotiations based on how the relationship has ended, how you feel you have been treated and your immediate concerns and worries. This can hamper your ability to have useful discussions with your former partner and can be made even worse by solicitors’ letters in place of face-to-face discussions. Getting entrenched in a position can of course slow down any progress towards a resolution.

It is much more helpful to move away from taking positions based around the past and instead to start discussing what each of your priorities, interests and concerns are now. Don’t be afraid of frank discussions revealing what have been, up to now, unspoken emotions. Getting out all those unsaid things usefully clears the air. Priorities, options and concerns give a starting point for you and the other parent to work on the possible options that exist to resolve matters mutually.

The advantage in getting to a position where you can explore options together is that you both remain in control of your future rather than giving the decision making to the court. This can be fundamental. Moving you from having to live with a decision, to working out the outcome for yourselves. An outcome reached together has more chance of lasting, and is usually better financially and emotionally for all members of the family.

Talking through options and problem solving are important for parents. That can be tough particularly when you have recently separated, but with the help of a family mediator to facilitate discussions it is a lot easier to achieve. A mediator can help you to identify those areas where you agree, where you might reach a mutually acceptable decision, and where there is no room to budge (just being clear about what’s not possible is a help in itself in moving forward!). This often means recognising what your former partner needs and feels. By looking behind any potential barriers you can often find common interests. As an example, A wants to be sure B doesn’t just leave the children with his sister when he has them, B meanwhile wants A to be less controlling when he has the children. In essence there is no disagreement over B spending time with the children and each knows the children will benefit in spending time with both parents, there is just a difference as to how that time is spent. There is clearly a starting point for discussions and the opportunity to reconcile differences.

You can work together to narrow down the options to reach an outcome that will work in reality and that both of you are comfortable living with. As well as facilitating these discussions a family mediator will reality check the outcome with each of you to see that it can work in practice. That is helpful, as you will want to have the solution you reach taken to your solicitors to be made into a Consent Order
so that it’s enforceable.

All of this means of course talking and listening to the other parent. Where there are young children, with the exception of particular cases, you are likely to have to communicate with them for some time to come. So, starting discussions in the room or face-to-face on Zoom is so much better than communicating through WhatsApp, text, email or solicitor’s letter. It’s very easy for words in a text or email to be misunderstood or meanings read into them.

Putting your priorities and concerns on the table for both of you to see and discussing them might help begin the process of moving forward.

Marcus Stanton is a Family Mediator at Kingston & Richmond Family Mediation Practice providing online mediation for separating couples in Surrey. www.kingstonandrichmondfamilymediation.co.uk
For further information email info@krfamilymediation.co.uk or call 020 8617 0210

Divorce is changing for the better

By | family, Finance, Legal, Relationships, Work employment
by Rachael House
Senior Associate Solicitor, Family Law, Mackrell Turner Garrett Solicitors

What is the current divorce law in this country?
Under current divorce law, if you and your spouse have not been separated for two years or more you can only get divorced by showing that your spouse has committed adultery or behaved in such a way that you cannot tolerate living with them (known as unreasonable behaviour). Only then will a court grant you a divorce.

Adultery and unreasonable behaviour divorces are known as ‘fault-based’ divorces and usually increase acrimony between spouses. For example, to demonstrate that your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot tolerate living with them, you have to write some unpleasant words about them and their behaviour. For your spouse who is at the receiving end of these unkind words it can cause them distress and make them even more unhappy with you, when tensions may already be running high. This type of divorce is especially unhelpful where there are children of the family, as relationships between parents can deteriorate further at a time when it is more important than ever for parents to work co-operatively.

Over the years, the Government has been reluctant to reform divorce law, believing that making it easier for couples to divorce would somehow undermine the sanctity of marriage and increase the rates of divorce.

What is changing?
In 2017, a national survey carried out by the Nuffield Foundation found that in fault-based divorces 62% of petitioners (those instigating the divorce) and 78% of respondents (those at the receiving end of a divorce) said that using fault had made the process more bitter, 21% of respondents said fault had made it harder to sort out arrangements for children, and 31% of respondents thought fault made sorting out finances harder.

In 2020 the Government passed the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill following lengthy campaigning by family lawyers. The Bill paves the way for a new divorce process where blame does not have to be attached to one party.

The general consensus amongst family lawyers is that the changes do not make the physical process of divorce any easier and certainly no quicker than the current system. The huge benefit of the changes, however, is that the process will be far less acrimonious and emotionally damaging for all those involved.

When can I get divorced under the new law?
The new law will come into force in autumn 2021 (no exact date has been set as yet) so there is still some time to wait.

Once the new law is in force, you will be able to proceed with a divorce by providing a ‘statement of irretrievable breakdown.’ The current two-stage process, decree nisi and decree absolute, will remain and a minimum timeframe of six months will be set from the date of the petition to decree absolute. There will also be an option for you and your spouse to issue a joint divorce petition.

What if I still want to get divorced now without blaming my spouse?
If you want to press ahead with a divorce now without attributing blame, then if you have been separated for two years or more you can get divorced on the basis of ‘two years separation’ – provided your spouse consents. If your spouse is not going to consent then you can only get divorced without attributing blame if you have been separated for five years or more.

If the above routes are not a viable option for you but you still wish to formalise the financial matters of a separation immediately, then you can enter into a separation agreement with your spouse – provided they co-operate – to divide up the finances of the marriage with a view to divorcing once the new law comes into force. At the point of divorce, your separation agreement can be converted by a family lawyer into a court order. It will then become legally binding under matrimonial law once a judge approves the order.

What shall I do next?
If you are unsure as to whether to press ahead with your divorce or to wait a while, it is important to find out more about the legal options available to you by contacting a family lawyer for advice.

Rachael House is a specialist family solicitor at Mackrell Turner Garrett, an established firm of experienced Solicitors based in Woking. www.mtgsurrey.co.uk

Legal Solutions

By | family, Legal, Relationships, Uncategorized

All Your Legal Worries Answered

In each issue of ABC one of Brighton’s leading firms of Solicitors Dean Wilson LLP, covers a topic of interest to parents everywhere. In this issue, Julian Hunt, Partner of the Family Department, aims to set out some of the practical issues you should consider if your relationship has broken down.

The breakdown of your relationship is a distressing and emotional experience. The following summary aims to set out some of the issues you should consider if your relationship has broken down. Of course, every individual case is different and therefore it is advisable that you discuss the situation with your Solicitor.

Here are some general tips about issues, which you will need to consider right away:
• Children – decisions need to be made about who will care for the children. Many parents are able to make arrangements between themselves which is always the best way. If you encounter difficulties consider a referral to Mediation. Court proceedings should only be a last resort.
Take note that the Children Act provides a presumption that the involvement of each parent in the life of the child will further the child’s welfare. ‘Custody’, ‘Residence’ and ‘Contact Orders’ are terms which no longer apply. Instead the Court will make a ‘Child Arrangements Order’ to define the amount of time that the child would spend with each parent.
• Inform your children jointly of the decision to separate and emphasise that it is not their fault and that both parents love them equally.
• Child Support – try to reach a voluntary arrangement with your ex-partner for a weekly or monthly payment. Go to www.gov.uk/child-maintenance and use the child maintenance calculator to assess how much your ex-partner should pay.
• Ongoing financial Support – (‘spousal maintenance’) – if you are married you could apply for maintenance for yourself. If you are not married your partner does not have a duty to support you once the relationship ends, only to pay child support if applicable.
• Property – if there are children involved it is always better for parents to come to a mutual decision about who will leave
the home so that it will cause the least disruption for the family. If you jointly own the property you cannot simply change the locks and exclude the other from the property. If you are a non-owning spouse you have rights of occupation and a right not to be evicted from your home. Application can be made to the Land Registry to protect your occupation and prevent your spouse from disposing of the property.

If you have been subjected to
or threatened with physical abuse by your partner you may need to consider making application for a Court Order
to have them excluded.

If you are in rented accommodation and you are moving out of the property, you should see if you can be removed from the Tenancy.

On Separation:
• Contact the Local Authority Council Tax Section as you may be eligible for a Council Tax reduction, or if you are moving out of the property to ensure that you are not liable for any subsequent payments.
• Contact the Benefits Agency if you are in receipt of benefits, as separation may affect your entitlements.
• Contact the Tax Office if you are receiving Universal Credit or Tax Credits to reassess your entitlements, or otherwise to see if you are now entitled to Child and Working Families Tax Credits.
• Contact your banks, building societies especially if you have a joint account. It may be advisable to consider freezing the account to prevent your partner from withdrawing some or all of the funds without your agreement, or at least change the drawing arrangement so that withdrawals require both your signatures.
• Contact all credit card companies especially if you have joint credit cards because you are jointly responsible for any expenses incurred. You do not want a situation whereby your partner could run up further debts because ultimately the credit card company could also pursue you for these as the card is in your joint names.
• Consider changing your Will if you have appointed your ex-partner as the beneficiary of your Estate. If you have not made a Will then you may want to consider making one to ensure that your Estate does not automatically pass to your spouse, or you may want to make specific provision for any children to ensure security for them.

As an ABC reader you can call the Private Client Department on 01273 249200 to arrange a no obligation telephone discussion and, if required, a fixed-fee meeting.

couple

Marriage, civil partnership or living together?

By | family, Legal, Uncategorized

Here Rachael House, Senior Associate Solicitor in Family Law at Mackrell Turner Garrett Solicitors in Woking answers questions to explain the different options so you can work out what’s best for your own relationship.

Can couples of the opposite sex enter into a civil partnership?
Yes. Since the end of 2019, couples of the opposite sex have been able to enter into a civil partnership to cement their relationship in law. This is something that was previously only allowed for same sex couples.

Why not just get married?
People have their own personal reasons for not wanting to get married but they may still want to have the same legal rights afforded to them as married couples. Allowing opposite sex couples to enter into a civil partnership enables them to benefit from the same legal rights as though they were married. This applies to money matters such as tax benefits, pensions and inheritance.

I am happy living with my partner, why bother with either?
Bear in mind that there is no such thing as a ‘common law’ husband or wife. This means that just because you have lived together for a number of years, you do not have the same legal rights as married couples or those in a civil partnership. This can create financial hardship in the event of death or separation if careful planning is not taken at the outset or during the relationship. There are important matters to consider to protect your legal rights for example, if you own your own home or are going to invest unequal amounts into a property. With legal advice, a co-habitation agreement can be prepared setting out how money will be treated in the event of the relationship ending but it can also include provision about the day-to-day running of the household during the relationship. However, as the law currently stands, you will not have the same automatic benefits as married couples or those in a civil partnership.

What do I need to consider before getting married or entering into a civil partnership?
Whether you are getting married or entering into a civil partnership, it is sensible to consider entering into a pre-nuptial agreement, particularly if this is a second marriage or partnership for you – as you may have assets from a previous relationship you wish to protect should this current relationship break down.

Can I convert my civil partnership into a marriage in the future?
Currently only same sex couples can convert their civil partnership into a marriage. Conversion for opposite sex civil partnerships is not yet available, but it is likely to become law in the future.

What if my marriage or civil partnership breaks down?
You must have been separated for a year or more before commencing divorce or (in the case of a civil partnership) dissolution proceedings. Upon the ending of a civil partnership, you are entitled to the same financial provisions as those available in a divorce. The provisions deal with selling or transferring property, payment of a lump sum of money from one party to the other, ongoing payments to support one party to help them live day-to-day, and entitlement to receive a share of the other party’s pension. These may sound like simple matters but the practicality of applying them to the assets is often complicated, and so legal advice is beneficial. Taking early legal advice can often avoid costly court proceedings.

What if I do not want to go to court?
There are different routes to achieve financial settlement without attending court. Many couples go through mediation (legal aid is still available in some circumstances to cover the cost). Another option is the collaborative route where parties meet in the same room with their respective legal teams and pledge not to go to court. Arbitration can be entered into where couples require a court-like decision without actually going to court. It is also possible to arrange private court-like meetings to obtain the expert view of a person acting as a judge. The ‘judgement’ is then used to guide the parties towards reaching agreement swiftly. Your legal advisor can discuss which route is most appropriate for you.

Rachael House is a specialist family solicitor at Mackrell Turner Garrett, an established firm of experienced Solicitors based in Woking. www.mtgsurrey.co.uk

No fault divorce

By | Education, family, Finance, Legal, Relationships
by Carrie Crown
Mackrell Turner Garrett Solicitors

Under the current law, if you and your spouse have separated within the last two (or sometimes even five) years you must provide evidence that your spouse has either committed adultery or otherwise behaved in a way that you cannot tolerate to live with before the Court will grant permission for you to get a divorce.

These ‘fault-based’ divorces were thrust into the public eye last year when the case of Owens vs Owens, came before the Supreme Court to consider whether Mrs Owens could divorce her husband on the basis of his unreasonable behaviour towards her. Mr Owens defended the divorce.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court reluctantly agreed with Mr Owens that his behaviour during the marriage had not been unreasonable and therefore Mrs Owens is forced, for the time being, to remain married to him.

As a result, neither Mr or Mrs Owens can ask the Court to make a decision regarding the division of the assets of the marriage, as a financial application in divorce can usually only be dealt with once the Court has declared that the divorce can proceed and decree nisi, often called the ‘first stage’ of the divorce has taken place.

Although Mr and Mrs Owens had no dependent children, the law as it currently stands can be particularly onerous for parents of young children who find themselves unable to divorce and therefore unable to sort out the matrimonial finances for several years after separation has taken place. This can result in significant delay in being able to provide a stable home for children and suitable arrangements for their ongoing care. All of this will inevitably impact upon the emotional wellbeing of the children.

People are often therefore forced to petition for divorce for one of the ‘fault-based’ reasons, submitting evidence to the Court as to why the behaviour of their spouse has led to the breakdown of the marriage. This often results in hurt feelings, anger and increased tensions between the parties.

Over the years, the Government have been reluctant to reform the UK’s divorce law, believing that making it easier for couples to divorce would somehow undermine the sanctity of marriage and increase the rates of divorce.

In 2017, a national survey carried out by the Nuffield Foundation found that 62% of petitioners and 78% of respondents in a divorce said that using fault had made the process more bitter, 21% of fault-respondents said fault had made it harder to sort out arrangements for children, and 31% of fault-respondents thought fault made sorting out finances harder.

In 2018, Resolution, an organisation which consists of 6,500 family lawyers (myself included), declared that there was a ‘divorce crisis’ in the UK and in November launched it’s ‘Good Divorce week’ seeking to highlight the impact upon children in particular of a system of divorce which attaches blame to one party.

Finally, following a 12 week public consultation, on 9th April 2019, Justice Secretary David Gauke announced that divorce law in the UK would be reformed and that, in future, the only ground for divorce would be that the marriage had ‘irretrievably broken down’ commenting that ‘hostility and conflict between parents leave their mark on children and can damage their life chances.’

The proposals will also dispense with the requirement to provide evidence of the ‘fact’ of adultery or unreasonable behaviour and substitute it for a ‘statement of irretrievable breakdown.’ The current two-stage process, Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute, will remain and a minimum timeframe of six months will be set from the date of the petition to decree absolute. The option will also be made available for parties to issue a joint-divorce petition.

Currently there is no set timetable for the legislative reforms to take place. Let’s face it, the Government have been somewhat busy of late! David Gauke has said, however, that
he intends the reforms to take place as soon as parliamentary time allows.

The changes do not, in my professional opinion, make the process of divorce any ‘easier’ and certainly no quicker than the current system. It will, however, make the process far less adversarial and emotionally damaging for all those involved.

Carrie Crown, Family Associate Solicitor at Mackrell Turner Garrett, Surrey, is a resolution-accredited specialist and is therefore committed to resolving family disputes in a non-confrontational and constructive manner wherever possible.

Email: Carrie.Crown@mtg.uk.net
Telephone: 01483 755609
www.mackrellsurrey.com

Flexible working

By | Legal, Work employment
by Emma Cleary
Ten2Two Sussex

Five steps to making a flexible working request – when you’re already in a role.

If you’re in a current job but you’d like more flexibility, what should you do? Well, there’s a set procedure as outlined by ACAS that both you and your employer must adhere to when making a flexible working request. The same goes for asking for Shared Parental Leave.

We look at how you can have those tricky conversations with employers about flexibility and work-life balance.

Emma Cleary, Partner at Ten2Two Sussex says, “When you’re in a role, it can be difficult to find the right moment to discuss any changes with your employer. If your company is large, it’s likely to have a Human Resources department handling any changes to an individual’s contract. If it’s smaller, your conversation could be setting a precedent and your employer may be entering new territory for the first time.”

Choose your moment
If you work for a small company, asking for flexibility or Shared Parental Leave may feel uncomfortable but you’re within the law and it’s your right to ask, as long as you fulfil the conditions of service.

Know your rights
Look at what your company’s policy says about how requests should be made. You can find further advice from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

To have the statutory right to ask for flexible working arrangements, you must: be an employee and have worked for your employer continuously for 26 weeks at the date on which you make your application. For Shared Parental Leave, this needs to be at least 26 weeks up to the end of the qualifying week (the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth). You must still be employed by the same employer in the week before any Shared Parental Leave is due to start.

Be clear about what you want
There are lots of ways flexible working hours can be packaged. Think about how you want to work the time. With flexible hours, these can be anything from staggered hours to nine day fortnights. If you’re not sure, the Ten2Two website outlines these, so have a think about what it is you really want.

If you’re making a Shared Parental Leave request, who will take what time off, and when will you do it? Are you asking to have time off during a particularly busy period? An employee is entitled to submit three separate notices to book leave. For example, you could choose to come back to work to help cover a particularly busy time for the company before going on leave again afterwards.

Set it out in writing
Flexible working and Shared Parental Leave requests must be made in writing. Follow the guidelines, date it and format it. Set out what you want and when you want it to come into effect.

If seeking flexible working, add how you think this will affect the existing business and how, in your opinion, this might be dealt with. You can only make a request for flexible working once every 12 months, so it’s important to get it right. Remember to provide solutions and benefits rather than present your employer with problems.

Expect a meeting to discuss it
An employer will likely want to talk through your request, although not always. A flexible working process needs to be completed within three months of the request being initially made. You can bring a work colleague to the meeting if you wish. A Shared Parental Leave request needs to be made at least eight weeks before the leave is due to be taken.

What happens if they say no?
Your flexible working request will likely be met by one of three outcomes – either it will be accepted or your employer will suggest a compromise. In the case of rejection, your employer needs to set out clear reasons for doing so. You can appeal this and you should be offered a meeting if you feel the application wasn’t handled responsibly.

When it comes to Shared Parental Leave, leave must be taken in complete weeks and may be taken either in a continuous period, which an employer cannot refuse, or in a discontinuous period, which the employer can refuse.

Emma Clearly, Director at Ten2Two says, “It’s traditionally viewed as simpler to ask for flexible working once you’re already in a role – but that is beginning to change. Many employers are realising that flexible working is becoming accepted as a standard work practice, and a key retention tool. It’s also an important employee benefit for businesses seeking to attract new talent as the skills gap squeeze begins to bite.”

If you’d like to find a flexible career role, talk to Emma Cleary at Ten2Two Sussex today.

Contact Emma at emma@ten2two.org or call us on 07810 541599.
Ten2Two is a flexible and part-time recruitment agency providing professional staff for forward-thinking companies across Sussex and
the south of England.
Register at Ten2Two.org

 

Employing a nanny – things you need to consider

By | family, Finance, Legal

We appreciate that employing a nanny to care for your little ones is a big decision. Once you have found your Mary Poppins, there are a number of things you need to think about from contracts and cars to wages and tax. It can seem a daunting prospect, but it doesn’t have to be!

On hiring a nanny, you will become an employer. As an employer, you have an obligation to pay tax, national insurance and provide a pension for your nanny.

Agree a gross wage
Most people’s salaries are defined in gross terms, but unfortunately in the nanny industry, net salary arrangements, that is, agreeing a take home pay figure, have been the traditional practice.

But beware, agreeing a net salary could end up costing you a lot of money!

If you agree a net wage and your nanny has a student loan or an outstanding debt with HMRC then the nanny’s monthly money in their pocket would remain the same but your costs would increase, as you would effectively be paying the nanny’s student loan or debt on top of their wages!

We would always recommend agreeing a gross salary as this then protects you the employer from any hidden costs.

But gross can be better for nannies too!

The tax-free allowance increases every year and net agreements will not see the benefit of this. The employer will see the tax saving, not the nanny.

Tax and National Insurance
As an employer, you are responsible for deducting and paying your nanny’s Income Tax and National Insurance contributions to HMRC.
You will need to register as a new employer with HMRC and set up a PAYE scheme but, don’t worry, a good Nanny Payroll company can do this for you.

Pension contributions
If your nanny is between 22 and state retirement age and earns more than £10,000 a year, you must set up a pension scheme for them.

You will have to make a contribution towards this pension scheme each month, based on your nanny’s gross salary.

Again, a good Nanny Payroll company can set up the pension scheme and administer it for you.

Employer’s liability insurance
When employing someone in your home, you will need to make sure your home insurance covers you for people working in your home.

Employer’s Liability Insurance is a legal requirement for all employers in the UK set by the Employers Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969. This protects the employer from any claim for compensation by an employee for illness/injury sustained as a result of their employment with you.

Nanny share
Nanny shares are becoming an increasing popular way of making nanny employment more affordable and accessible for many families. It can also be a good way of allowing an only child to socialise with other children without going to nursery.

Nannies can often work for two or more families, by caring for the children all at the same time or by splitting the week between them.

It is important to remember that however many families the nanny is working for, each will be considered an individual employer and as such have the individual responsibilities, even if all the children are being cared for at the same time.

Other bits and pieces…
You must provide your nanny with a payslip every week or month, showing their earnings and any deductions that have been made.

You must pay your nanny at least the national minimum wage. This is currently £7.83 per hour for employees aged 25 and older, £7.38 for employees aged 21 to 24, £5.90 for 18 to 20 year olds, and £4.20 for under 18s. However, it’s likely you’ll be paying them much more than this.

You should issue a written contract to your nanny before they start work, or within two months of their start date. It should include the salary, hours, days worked, notice period and holiday entitlement, plus a description of their duties.

All employees, whether full or part-time, are entitled to pro-rata 28 days paid holiday per year including bank holidays. You can offer more than this, as a way of obtaining the best nanny!

You are responsible for paying your employee’s statutory sick pay; statutory maternity pay and holiday pay. If you wish the nanny to accompany you on holiday, then please note that this does not count towards the nanny’s annual leave and she will need to be paid as normal. Also, if you want the nanny to take some of her holiday when you take holiday, this should be specifically stated in the contract.

You must check that your nanny has a legal right to work in the UK. Check your applicant’s identification documents, such as passport, birth certificate or identity card before making a formal offer of employment.

DBS (formerly CRB) checks are essential for anyone who wants to employ a nanny to look after their children. When checking your nanny’s references, always ask to see their DBS check which must be valid within 12 months.

Hopefully, this article highlights all the big things you need to think about when employing your nanny. It may seem like a lot but a good Nanny Payroll company, can handle it all for you from as little as £18 per month.

If you have any further questions or would like to sign up, please email us at payroll@payrollfornannies.co.uk or give us a ring on 01273 446595.

Marriage vs Cohabitation Understanding your legal rights

By | Education, family, Finance, Legal, Relationships, Uncategorized
by Deborah Bailey
Gowen & Stevens Solicitors

Marriage, or indeed a civil partnership, which is treated the same as marriage upon breakdown, is not for everyone. Even though there have been changes in the law allowing same sex partners to marry, a growing number of couples still regard it as old-fashioned and believe they have no requirement for ‘a piece of paper’ to confirm commitment to each other. Living together or ‘cohabiting’ remains the fastest growing family arrangement.

Often, it is only when facing the breakdown of a relationship that unmarried couples realise how that seemingly irrelevant piece of paper could have altered their situation. Furthermore, even if you remain blissfully together, there are still potential pitfalls for cohabiting families as time passes. Read on to find out how you can protect yourself and your children.

Even if you have lived together for a long time or have children together, the law will not protect you if you break up. Despite the media’s love of the term common-law wife, or indeed husband, this is not a recognised term in law. The fact that your relationship even existed, when it comes to the law, may be irrelevant. Often, the only issue to resolve in a breakdown of a cohabiting relationship will be what happens to the home. The fact that there may be children to re-home may not be a consideration and you could end up in a desperate situation.

Conversely, when looking at how to distribute a family’s assets on divorce, a spouse can call upon the matrimonial law to look at all the relevant circumstances of the relationship, often before but certainly during and after the marriage. The goal in these circumstances is to seek a result that is fair to both spouses with the welfare of the children being treated as a primary consideration. The future living arrangements of all involved will be a concern as will the financial position of each spouse following the divorce.

Whilst campaigners are lobbying for a change in the law to protect unmarried families, until this happens, people need to be aware and take steps wherever possible to protect themselves and their children. So what can you do?

Property
If you own property together and both names are on the property register, then you probably had a discussion with your conveyancing solicitor about how you would own the property so there is a chance that your ownership will already be clearly defined.

Matters become more complicated if the property is owned by only one of you. However, the non legal owner may still have an interest in the property dependant upon how finances were arranged during the relationship and what agreements you had. Seeking legal advice in this scenario is essential and can help determine your interest and how you can realise this.

If you are buying a property in which you intend to live together, speak to your solicitor about the ways in which you can own the property and how you can protect yourself.

Maintenance
If you are looking after the children, you can claim maintenance following a break-up from your former partner for your children. If this cannot be agreed, apply to the Child Maintenance Service.

Unlike divorce, unmarried former partners cannot claim maintenance for themselves from the other partner, even if they are the stay-at-home parent looking after the children.

Inheritance
As cohabiting partners, unlike married couples, there is no automatic right of inheritance if your partner dies without making a will. Whilst you and your children could make an application against your partner’s estate if they were maintaining you prior to their death, this could be a stressful experience at an already difficult time. Making a Will could avoid a lot of anxiety and uncertainty for your loved ones.

Partners should also think about taking out life assurance.

Consider also making Lasting Powers of Attorney. If you become ill and incapable of managing your own affairs a cohabiting partner has no legal right to make decisions on your behalf. This could cause difficulties with the wider family who may or may not know your wishes. Appointing your partner as your Attorney could avoid such difficulties.

Cohabitation Agreements
It’s not very romantic but thinking about your arrangements before you buy a property or move in together can save a lot of heartache if things go wrong. A cohabitation agreement is strongly recommended and a solicitor can help you consider all the issues that could arise and, provided it is properly drafted, could protect against costly court proceedings.

Ultimately, every situation is different but being aware that living together is very different from being married means that you can take steps to avoid problems later if things go wrong. Always seek advice from an experienced solicitor who specialises in this complex area of family law.

An established practice for over 120 years with offices in Cheam, Banstead and Sutton. Offering a highly personal service tailored to all aspects of your family and business life.
www.gowenandstevens.com

What you need to know before considering mediation

By | Education, family, Finance, Legal, Relationships, Uncategorized
by Sarah Brookes
Brookes Family Mediation

The mediator will not tell you what to do or make any decisions for you
The mediator’s role is to support you both towards reaching joint decisions, on the issues that you each identify as needing resolution. Whilst the mediator will help you to reality test any proposed agreements; to ensure that they will work as intended, in meeting and protecting each of your needs; they will not seek to influence the final decisions that you make. You will be supported to jointly take responsibility for the shape of your future. This approach reduces conflict and minimises the need to compete; unfortunately, the exact opposite is true of court proceedings. It is for this reason that mediated arrangements have proved less likely to break down than court ordered arrangements.

Mediation is more likely to be successful if you keep an open mind
Whilst it is helpful to give some thought to what you would like to achieve through mediation; you will also need to be able to consider ideas and proposals put forward by the other person. This approach enables all options to be explored, in order to find the best solutions for you both. Agreement is usually reached quickest when both people feel that they have been fully and equally involved and listened to within the process.

A mediator does not make moral judgements
Mediation is not about raking over the past to decide who was right and who was wrong. It is about dealing with the here and now, and the practical arrangements and decisions that need to be made, to enable you both to move forward in the best way possible. The mediator will remain impartial and committed to helping you both equally, throughout the process. Emotional outbursts are fairly common within mediation, and will not affect the mediator’s ability to remain entirely impartial.

A mediator is not a passive observer
The mediator will take an active part in your discussions, and whilst they will not give advice, they will often make suggestions, flag up points that have not been considered, and give relevant information. Where necessary, the mediator will also refocus the conversations, to ensure that they are constructive and moving forward towards solutions and agreements.

Where there has been domestic abuse, mediation may still be
the best option
It is the mediator’s duty to provide a safe environment where you are able to freely express your views, without fear of harm. If you do have concerns relating to your safety, the mediator will be able to asses and advise as to whether or not mediation is appropriate in your circumstances. If you don’t feel able to sit in the same room as your former partner, mediation can take place on a ‘shuttle’ basis, which is where you will sit in separate rooms, with the mediator moving between you. The mediator will usually also arrange staggered arrival and departure times. There is even the possibility of mediation taking place through Skype, so that you do not have to be in the same building.

Sarah Brookes spent 16 years working as a family lawyer in Eastbourne, before setting up Brookes Family Mediation. Sarah is passionate about the benefits of mediation. If you are uncertain about whether mediation is right for you, or if you have any questions, give Sarah a call on: 01323 411629 or email her: sarah@brookesfamilymediation.co.uk
Or for more information go to: www.brookesfamilymediation.co.uk