Click. Reboot. Whirr.

We are going through a process of re-evaluating the purpose of the Mogers family law team blog.

For now we have replaced the original title “About Family Law” with the new title “Just Families”

That may or may not stick. We might here on WordPress, on this URL or relocate elsewhere.  We’ll be sure to let you know.

Our thoughts are that we want our blog to have a wider mandate to discuss and share issues which are not simply about family law.

We realised that when people talk about family, they are talking about the day to day living, the highs and lows, the changes, the challenges and the stability.

We can be a funny lot, us lawyers.

When we talk about family we tend to think of divorce, separation, contact, prenuptials, cohabitation.  That is far removed from the normal sense of the word.

We felt it was out of step.

What are we going to do about it?

Bear with us and we hope to build something different shortly.  We look forward to sharing it with you.

Till Death Do Us Log Off – Dividing Virtual Assets Upon Divorce

Facebook profiles, websites and even gaming characters such as those from unbelievably popular games like World of Warcraft will become increasingly important when couples consider divorce.

It sounds ludicrous but is probably inevitable.

In a draft paper written by Sally Brown Richardson, which you can find here, the prospect of these online issues is considered.  Sally does so against a backdrop of considering which online assets are accrued prior to and during the marriage, and also in the context of American law, but the fascinating paper clearly has application here.

What happens to the Facebook profile and the hundreds or thousands of friends?  This might be more relevant where specific group or business pages have been set up.  Can a value be attributed to them, and how?

What about website addresses and the websites themselves?  Do these have a value, or potential value?

One partner might have created a blog which has gone on to become valuable in its own right.

The truly chilling thought, though, for most lawyers will be the prospect of having to argue, in front of an irritated and bewildered district judge, who gets to keep the 72nd level Orc called Elf-Smiter post separation.

That is not a day that I, for one, am looking forward to.

The report linked to above is recommended reading.

If you have questions about this or other more conventional divorce matters, including collaborative law, then do not hesitate to contact the family law and divorce team at Mogers, in Bath.  You can visit our contact page here.

With thanks to leading social media and communications expert Diana Railton for alerting us to this paper.

When Is A Clean Break Not A Clean Break?

The question sounds like a bad Christmas cracker joke and is just as unfunny.

The phrase “Clean break” sounds simple enough.  We go our own way and have a clean break between us.

I have no obligations to you and you have none to me.

Very often, a clean break will be made possible by one party or the other having paid a lump sum or transferred a house, with a clean break after that.

But, and this is very important, it is impossible to have a clean break in relation to the obligation to pay for children of the relationship or marriage.

This means that even though you might give everything to your partner with a view to having a clean break, your partner, if they are caring for the children, can still claim for maintenance for the children.

Couples are encouraged to bear this in mind when attending mediation or negotiating between themselves.

If you would like help in knowing how to negotiate a settlement upon separation then please do not hesitate to contact the family law team at Mogers, Bath on 01225 750000.

When Snow Stops Contact Taking Place

The current snowstorms will be threatening many families’ plans this Christmas. This can cause real problems for children and parents who have made arrangements for Christmas contact.

The snow and travel conditions might make it impossible for contact to take place in some cases.

Christmas contact, as with any contact arrangements, should be stuck to if at all possible. Certainty has the following benefits

  • The children themselves know what is happening and what to expect
  • The children get to enjoy as full a relationship as possible with both parents
  • The children get to experience Christmas traditions and rites with both parents
  • The serious conflict arising from unfulfilled arrangements is avoided

But what happens if contact simply cannot take place because the travel required is too dangerous?

Many parents will have made plans for how they are going to spend Christmas when their children are with them.  These arrangements may well have been only possible as a result of expensive and painful applications through the courts.

If contact does not take place as arranged then there will be an overwhelming sense of disappointment.  It is likely that frustration and anger will also feature strongly.

Both parents need to be extremely careful and take careful views on the following

  • Is travel safe or not?  Remember, just because it is possible might not mean that it is safe.
  • Is it possible to agree on who or how travel safety is determined?  BBC road reports?  The AA?
  • Has travel been made impossible by some other authority, such as closed airports or cancelled trains?
  • What will the children’s experience of travel be?  Will spending many hours on a snow jammed motorway in the dark be a positive experience?
  • How might experience of this Christmas and forced Christmas travel colour a willingness on the part of the children to travel next Christmas?
  • What alternative arrangements can be put in place, if any? Can we move contact back by a few days, even if that means either or both parents changing their plans?

Parents should ensure that they do all that is reasonable to ensure that contact takes place.

A parent who has a track record of not allowing contact to take place who is seen as having used very slight snowy in their area as an excuse, is likely to be strongly criticised by the court.  Their actions must be seen in the broader context of past conduct in frustrating contact.  It will be tempting for such parents to simply say “It’s snowing, therefore no contact.”  That alone will not be good enough.

Similarly, a parent who is very upset that contact arrangements are not taking place will be very tempted to see this as further evidence of the other parent’s attempts to block contact and undermine the relationship between them and their children.  Care needs to be taken that that frustration does not spill over into aggressive behaviour

As I write this it occurs to me that immediately accessible telephone mediation processes should be made available for families who face these difficulties over the Christmas and New Year period.  I wonder if any mediation firms have thought of that?

Mogers Solicitors will be open in between Christmas and New Year on the 29th and 30th December.   We hope you will not need us, but if you do then we will be here.

 

About Gay Marriages and Heterosexual Civil Partnerships

Current law states that lesbian and gay couples are entitled to have their relationship recognised and protected as a “Civil Relationship.”

The rules surrounding civil relationships – and what happens when civil relationships end –  are very similar, but not identical, to marriage and divorce.

Civil relationships represented a large step forward in equality for lesbian and gay couples but many say that the law did not go all the way.  They argue that having any distinction between civil relationships and marriage continues prejudice and differentiation.

The other side of the argument states that any distinction between civil relationships and marriage is purely one of wording.

The BBC website are now reporting on the “Equal Love” campaign that will see four same-sex couples taking their cases, to be allowed to marry, to the European Courts.

In a neat twist, four heterosexual couples who do not want to be married, but do want civil relationships, are also taking their case to court.

For more information, see the BBC report here or follow the Equal Love campaign here.

 

Goodbye Legal Aid. Hello Divorce Insurance.

What is Divorce Insurance?

Thanks to Martin Bamford of Informed Choice IFAs for this blog post on how private “Before the event” insurance might become the answer for the latest massive Legal Aid cuts announced by the government yesterday.

Legal aid is about to be withdrawn for most family law cases, except in the case of domestic violence or forced marriages.  Legal aid will still be available to fund mediation costs.

It is not yet clear how these proposals will pan out.

What Will Legal Aid Cuts Mean?

What happens to a party whose spouse or partner has the means to go through the court process and chooses to shun mediation?  Will the non-funded partner be left to fend for themselves, unrepresented?  Or will there be subsequent changes to the costs rules compelling the party with funds to pay for both parties?

As the BBC report linked to above says, the level of debate is currently rather muted.  Some commentators have expressed concerns that these proposals may well be passed with an inadequate level of debate at best, and, at worst, no debate.

What are your views on the cuts, or the idea of private insurance?

More News From The International Collaborative Practice Forum

The International Academy of Collaborative Practitioners annual forum in Washington DC is going from strength to strength.

Yesterday’s session on forgiveness within family law was really powerful.  It drew on material written by Fred Luskin whose website is here http://learningtoforgive.com/

Forgiveness is not a concept that we are comfortable with, I would suggest.  It has religious overtones and also suggests weakness, or giving up in the face of a perceived wrong.

This material taught us that we do not need to keep hold of a grudge, of blame and anger, to pursue a right and justifiable settlement. If, instead, we can forgive, then we are more free to fully consider a full range of possible solutions, instead of being tricked into seeking retribution.

What are your thoughts?  Do you think there is any room for this thing called forgiveness in family law?  Is it possible to forgive safely?

This morning was fun.  I met a long time friend from Twitter, a fellow collaborative lawyer from Seattle called Jeff Bean.  We shared coffee before the day’s program began.  Jeff is starting to take collaborative law practices into civil disputes.  He has agreed to guest in my Collaborative Law and ADR podcast over the coming months to tell us a bit more about that approach.

9am saw fellow Brit presenters Duane plant and William Hogg deliver their workshop looking at the Bedrock of Collaborative Law processes.  How can future-focussed questions prepare the couple,a s well as the lawyers to be more productive in their discussions.  An example?

“Think about your children when they are in their in their 20′s.  How would you like them to view both of their parents and how you managed your separation?”  I guess that kind of question can certainly focus on the future.  The session was very well delivered and received.

At midday, the forum was greatly honoured to be addressed by one of the leading lights in modern negotiating thinking.

Robert Mnookin (great name!) is the author of Beyond Winning and was today speaking on his new book Bargaining with the Devil

His book asserts that there is no hard and fast rule on whether we should always or never try to make peace with those we perceive as being evil, or the enemy.  Instead, it points out some of the negative traps we fall into, or the assumptions that we make which colour our decision whether to negotiate or not.

His talk was entertaining and thought provoking.  As I write this, he is downstairs signing copies of his book.  I think I need to get a copy.

More classes this afternoon.  More updates to follow.



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