Family Law Inverness Latest News

Latest family law and divorce news and updates from Family Law Inverness. Telephone: 01463898650

Cohabitation Laws Criticised in Review of Scots Family Law

The Scottish Government recently published a review of Scots family law. The study considered the way the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 has worked in practice in the ten years since it was introduced.

The Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 is one of the major pieces of family law legislation. It introduced rights for cohabitants and reformed the rights of unmarried fathers in Scotland. When the act was passed into law it was commended for modernising Scots family law and recognising the way the family dynamics have changed over time. However, many solicitors and stakeholder groups have criticised the Act for being unclear, poorly drafted and not going far enough to reflect the realities of modern family life.

The review was led by the Convener of the Justice Committee, Christine Grahame MSP, and heard evidence from a broad range of interested parties, including members of the legal profession, politicians and pressure groups such as Families Need Fathers.

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Guardianship Orders and Powers of Attorney

A recent Court of Session case has demonstrated the importance of Power of Attorney and Guardianship Orders when someone becomes unable to take care of their affairs.

Mary Gallacher died on the 31 March 2011 at the age of 96. She had been suffering from advanced dementia at the time when she signed a deed of disposition to transfer the ownership of her home to other family members. Her niece, Shelia Ritchie, was the executor of the estate and sought a reduction of this disposition on the basis that her aunt was incapax (lacking capacity) when the property was transferred. The executor is the person nominated by the deceased to wind up the estate by making a calculation of the estate, paying debts and paying out to the beneficiaries in accordance with the will and succession law. Ms Ritchie argued that her aunt did not have the mental capacity necessary to grant the disposition due to her dementia.

After hearing evidence from various medical professionals, the Judge, Lord Clarke, ruled that Ms Gallacher did not have the necessary mental capacity to transfer the ownership of her home and granted a deed of reduction. Lord Clarke said, “The medical evidence given by the pursuer’s medical witnesses, I found to be compelling and persuasive both in content and in the manner of its presentation . . . the appropriate mental capacity in July 2007 for granting a disposition of the kind with which the present proceedings are concerned, did not exist.”

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Recent Case Highlights Why Separating Couples Should Divorce

Many couples will separate and then wait many years before they get around to divorcing. A recent English case has demonstrated why separating couples should endeavour to end their marriage with divorce sooner rather than later.

Joy Williams, aged 69, had lived with Norman Martin for over 18 years when he died of a heart attack in 2012. The couple owned a house together as tenants in common, and this property was valued at £320,000.

Although Mr Martin lived with Ms Williams, he remained married to his wife. When Mr Martin died, his estate passed to his wife. There was no cohabitation agreement in place, and Mr Martin’s will had not been updated to reflect his relationship with Ms Williams.

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Court Rules Elderly Woman’s Sons Exercised ‘Undue Influence’

Lord Uist has granted a decree of reduction for properties that an elderly woman disposed to her sons on the grounds of “undue influence” and “facility and circumvention”.

The court heard how Mrs Audrey Matossian died at the age of 83 in 2010. She had been divorced and her previous husband had died in 2003. Mrs Matossian had three sons, Berj, 60, Richard, 57, and Alexander, 55. Alexander did not have a good relationship with the elder brothers.

Mrs Matossian had been the owner of three properties in Glasgow: the adjoining houses at 99 and 101 Drumover Drive and a flat at 592 Tollcross Road.

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Divorce Rates Highest in North of Scotland

Statistics released by the Scottish Government have revealed that divorce rates are highest in Shetland, one of the most northerly parts of Scotland. The average divorce rate across Scotland was found to be 2.8%, but this was more than double in Shetland with a divorce rate of 5.7%.

Other areas above the national average included South Lanarkshire at 4.7% and Glasgow at 3.6%.

The statistics are the result of the Scottish Government’s Scottish Surveys Core Questions which pooled data from three major surveys and interviewed over 21,000 people. This is the largest survey of its kind in Scotland and it aims to provide unprecedented insight into the lives of Scottish people.

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New Scottish Government End of Life Care Proposals

The Scottish Government’s Strategic Framework for Action on Palliative Care has pledged that all patients in Scotland will be offered high quality end of life palliative care, regardless of their age, socio-economic status, diagnosis or where they live.

The framework is backed by £3.5 million of Scottish Government funds and aims to create a more open discussion of death, bereavement and end of life care. It addresses the need for patients to have the chance to discuss their end of life care before their condition deteriorates. Health professionals who work closely with patients and families will be offered improved training to help them give better palliative care.

The proposals have been met with support from various charities and health campaigners.

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Rise in Cohabitation

Family structures have changed dramatically over the past 40 years. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that whilst the married couple family remains the most common type of family in the UK, the cohabiting couple family is the fastest growing category. Between 2004 and 2014 the numbers of cohabiting families grew by almost 30%.

The rise in cohabitation has been coupled with a steady fall in divorce rates. The most recent ONS figures have shown that there were 114,720 divorces in England and Wales in 2013. This was a decrease of almost 3% compared to the previous year.

The ONS directly related the fall in divorce rates to the rise in couples deciding to cohabit rather than marry.

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Royal Assent for children's Bill welcomed

Children’s charity Children in Scotland has welcomed the granting of Royal Assent to the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act on 27th March.

Commenting on the new Act, Jackie Brock, Chief Executive of Children in Scotland, acknowledged the mixed feelings that were likely to be raised by the official passing of the Act, but welcomed the fact that some positive changes would result.

This included the “joining up of children’s services and sharing of information amongst professionals, as well as some considerable improvements for care leavers.”

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Action on police response to domestic violence

The Home Secretary will be leading widespread action to improve the police response to victims of domestic violence and abuse after a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found systematic failings.

HMIC was commissioned by the Home Secretary in September 2013 to review all 43 police forces in England and Wales.

Findings from the report included a lack of visible leadership, frontline officers without the knowledge or experience to spot dangerous patterns of behaviour and a failure by some forces to collect evidence properly.

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Same sex weddings to happen soon in England

Same sex couples in England and Wales who wish to be among the first to marry have been able to give notice to their local register office from 13th March.

The UK Government has issued a reminder to couples that for most marriages or civil partnerships, couples need to give at least 16 days’ notice at their local register office, and there might be different rules for religious ceremonies.

Same sex couples who married abroad under foreign law and are currently treated as civil partners will be recognised as being married in England and Wales from 13th March 2014.

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Births, deaths and other vital events figures released

Provisional figures for births, deaths, adoptions, marriages and civil partnerships registered during 2013 have been published by the National Records of Scotland.

The statistics show that there were nearly 3,000 fewer marriages in Scotland in 2013 compared to 2012. The fall of around 10% takes the annual total to just above the level in 2009, which saw the fewest marriages in over a century.

The provisional figures also show that:

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Under-reporting a major issue for tackling domestic abuse

A new report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) entitled ‘Violence Against Women’ has revealed that around one in two women in Britain has been physically or sexually assaulted.

Commenting on the report’s findings, Citizens Advice has said that its research suggests there could be as many as half a million people who have not reported abuse.

"Domestic abuse can tear families apart and wreck lives. Ongoing physical and emotional abuse can be made worse by acute financial pressures,” said Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy.

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The secret to finding love

The secret to finding love and sustaining a happy relationship is about being able to balance the books, not about how you look, according to consumer research conducted by NEST (National Employment Savings Trust).

The research, which surveyed UK adults in long term relationships or with recent experience of a long term relationship, found that almost half of us (45%) see good financial management as essential in our ideal long term partner. In fact ‘someone who manages their finances well’ comes ahead in the list of desirable qualities above some more obvious factors, such as good looks, wealth, the car they drive or whether they own their own home.

Once you’ve found The One, it seems managing your money is the way to keep them, with 89% saying ‘good financial planning’ is important for happy relationships.

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Most British couples are happy together

New analysis by NatCen Social Research has found that 86% of couples are happy in their relationships, although half of them admit to bickering occasionally.

As well as high levels of happiness in relationships, very few British couples are apparently thinking about breaking up. The research found that slightly under three in four (73%) never regret their marriage or having moved in together, and three in four (75%) said they had never considered separating from their partners.

The analysis of the ESRC funded Understanding Society survey also reveals how couples in the UK are getting on day-to-day:

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Child maintenance changes receive Parliamentary backing

The UK Parliament has passed Government plans to introduce charges for single parents who need to use the new Child Maintenance Service (CMS), says single parent charity Gingerbread.

The Government wants separated parents to come to their own private arrangements, without using the new Government service. Crucially, it will be closing all existing CSA cases – almost one million of them – and says that charging to use the new service will ‘incentivise’ parents to collaborate in this way.

The Department for Work & Pensions will introduce a £20 application fee to access the CMS and get a maintenance calculation. If the other parent fails to pay maintenance, parents with care of their child face losing 4% of every payment for their child in collection charges if the new service has to step in to collect the money.  Those parents who fail to pay maintenance will be charged an additional 20% ‘collection fee’ on top of their children’s maintenance, which the Government will keep. 

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Watching films can cut divorce rate

A recent study from America has found that watching films about relationships can be just as effective at preventing divorce for couples as other, more traditional forms of marriage counselling.

Researchers at Rochester University found that where couples watched and discussed five relationship films over a month, the divorce or separation rate fell from 24% to 11% after three years.

"We thought the movie treatment would help, but not nearly as much as the other programs in which we were teaching all of these state-of-the-art skills," said Ronald Rogge, associate professor of psychology at the University of Rochester and lead author of the study.

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The effect of parental conflict on children

A recent study by relationship charity OnePlusOne has found that witnessing parental conflict can have a profoundly negative effect on the mental health of children, and leave them with behavioural, social or emotional issues.

The study set out to examine why some children are more negatively affected by inter-parental conflict than others, what can be done to improve psychological outcomes in the short and long-term, and how early identification and management of negative behaviour patterns in families can prevent escalations and alleviate psychological distress and later psychological damage to children.

The researchers hope their findings will be of help to professionals working with children and families where inter-parental conflict is a common feature of family life.

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Japan signs up to child abduction convention

Japan has become the 91st country to sign up the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

The 1980 Child Abduction Convention applies typically where one parent has moved a child abroad without the consent of the other parent and without the permission of a court.

In such a case, the “left behind” parent may apply through the Hague system for the prompt return of the child, and a “return order” will be issued unless the “taking parent” can establish that one of the exceptions found in the Convention should be applied.

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Many single parents are out of work

Of the 1.8 million single parent households in the UK, 650,000 – almost one in four  – are not in any sort of work, with the average single parent household claiming twice as much in benefit support as the average two parent household.

A new Policy Exchange report says that the proportion of lone parent households UK is the fourth highest in the EU – trailing only Estonia, Latvia and Ireland.

The paper found that the level of unemployed single parents can partly be attributed to when they had children. Over half (52%) of lone mothers who had their first child as a teenager (16-19) are not in work or looking for work, compared to 40% who had their first child aged 20-23 year olds, 29% of those who had their first child aged 24-29 and 19% who had their first child in their early thirties.

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Many new foster families needed across the UK

New figures released by the Fostering Network have revealed that at least 8,600 new foster families are needed across the UK during 2014 to provide stable, secure and loving homes for the record numbers of fostered children.

Looking at the figures in more detail, they show that an additional 7,000 foster families are needed in England, 200 in Northern Ireland, 850 in Scotland and 550 in Wales during 2014.

More foster families are particularly needed to provide homes for teenagers, children with disabilities and sibling groups. Around 38,000 of the young people in care in England are aged 10 or older, and over 2,000 children with disabilities are currently in care because their parents couldn’t fully support their needs at home. Last year around 450 fostered sibling groups in England were separated, where the aim was for them to live together.

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