Leading in Childcare, Family, and Housing Law

Family Law Advice from Specialists in London

At Gillian Radford & Co in London, we have specialists in family law and offer a sympathetic and prompt service in this emotionally sensitive area. Our services cover everything from divorce law to childcare and domestic abuse specialities, and everything we do is tailored to you. For information on our services, read on or get in touch!

What We Cover

Divorce and Relationship Breakdown

We offer advice on the termination of relationships and ancillary matters, including the procedure of divorce and associated matters such as finance and property. We can walk you through every stage of this process, helping you to reach an equitable solution.

Civil Partnerships

Here, we offer advice on all civil partnership issues. We are experienced in covering all agreements, including those regarding pre-civil partnership, parenting/donor, separation, and termination of the partnership.

Childcare

We can assist in areas such as parental responsibility, residence, contact, special guardianship, and Prohibited Step and Specific Issue Orders. In the case of local authority disputes, we can help you deal with Emergency Protection Orders, Care and Supervision Orders, Secure Accommodation Orders, and Child Protection Investigations.

We are also experienced in dealing with adoption issues covering all aspects of the adoption process, including any problems with contact.

Domestic Abuse

Our all-female duty solicitor rota means that we can offer immediate advice. We can protect you, and your children, by many means including Non-Molestation Orders and Occupation Orders.

Relationship Breakdown

The breakdown of any relationship is often extremely distressing. You may have been living with someone, been married, or been in a civil partnership, but many of the issues are the same. You will have emotional issues to deal with but we are here to help with the practical side. We try to deal with this sensitive area of law in a manner that minimises distress to all parties.

Our approach is friendly, positive, and conciliatory. We aim to provide a caring and compassionate service, advising on the financial and legal implications of relationship breakdown. We can advise on divorce and civil partnership dissolution as well as claims between cohabiters.

Where children are involved, we can lodge applications for financial claims for children under the Children Act 1989. If there are other issues, involving, for example, contact, we can also be of help.

We are members of the Law Society’s Family Law Panel and the Law Society’s Advanced Family Law Panel, which confirms that our solicitors are qualified to a high standard, governed by the Law Society and confirms our expertise in this area.

Divorce

In order to get divorced in England and Wales, you have to be married for at least one year. There is only one ground for divorce; that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The person who starts the divorce proceedings is known as ‘the Petitioner’ and his/her spouse is called ‘the Respondent’.

To satisfy the court that there has been an irretrievable breakdown the Petitioner must prove at least one of the following five facts:

  • That the Respondent has committed adultery and the Petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the Respondent.
  • That the Respondent has behaved in such a way that the Petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the Respondent.
  • That the Respondent has deserted the Petitioner for a continuous period of at least two years immediately before the start of the divorce.
  • That the parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years immediately before the start of the divorce and the Respondent consents to a Decree being granted.
  • That the parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least five years immediately before the start of the divorce.

Divorce Procedure

The first step is to prepare the Divorce Petition. This is sent to the court with the original marriage certificate and a fee of £550. The court sends a copy of the Divorce Petition by post to the Respondent with an Acknowledgement of Service Form. Usually the Respondent then has seven days to return the Acknowledgement of Service Form to the court.

Assuming that the Respondent does return the Acknowledgement of Service Form, the court will then send us a copy. The Petitioner will then need to swear an affidavit in support of your petition that is sent to the court and if everything is in order, the Judge will set a date for the Decree Nisi to be pronounced. After the Decree Nisi is pronounced it is necessary to wait six weeks and one day before applying for the Decree Absolute. The Decree Absolute is the final stage and once it is pronounced, the marriage is dissolved.

However if the Respondent files an answer to the Petition then the proceedings will become more complicated.

Financial Remedy Proceedings 

This is the name given to financial and property matters associated with divorce. The Court considers all the circumstances of the case, gives first consideration to the welfare of any children of the family under the age of 18 and, in particular, has regard to the following matters:

  • The income, earning capacity, property, and other financial resources which each spouse has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future including, in the case of earning capacity, any increase in that capacity which it would be, in the opinion of the Court, reasonable to expect a person to take steps to acquire.
  • The financial needs, obligations, and responsibilities, which each spouse has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future.
  • The standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage.
  • The ages of each spouse and the duration of the marriage.
  • Any physical or mental disability of each spouse.
  • The contributions which each spouse has made or is likely to make in the foreseeable future to the welfare of the family, including any contribution by looking after the home or caring for the family.
  • The conduct of each spouse, if that conduct is such that it would, in the opinion of the Court, be inequitable to disregarded.
  • The value to each spouse of any benefit which one spouse because of the divorce will lose the chance of acquiring (most usually pension or provision).

The aim of the court is to achieve fairness. Often a key factor is the reasonable needs of yourself and your spouse. Both you and your spouse have an absolute duty to each other and to the Court to disclose fully your financial position so that a proper financial arrangement can be made.

It is preferable in these matters to try to come to an agreement between the parties rather than commencing court proceedings. However, sometimes court proceedings are unavoidable.

Pre Nup Agreements

This is an agreement before marriage and can give peace of mind to both parties. Although unromantic, it is a sensible thing to do and is especially important if one party to the marriage has more assets than the other.

Civil Partnerships

The Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force on December 5th 2005. This Act allows same-sex couples to enjoy the same legal treatment as heterosexual couples in most, but not all ways. It is important to understand the distinction between civil partnership and marriage in legal terms.

This means that if you are planning a civil partnership, it makes sense to clarify your legal position. You both need to understand your legal positions before making such a serious commitment. A civil partnership is not to be undertaken lightly, but we can offer you advice on every aspect of civil partnership and explain the implications of each stage.

Pre-Civil Partnership Agreements

These operate similarly to pre-nuptial agreements before marriage and can give peace of mind to both parties. Although unromantic, it is a sensible thing to do and is especially important if one party to the partnership has more assets than the other.

Parenting/ Donor Agreements

Within same-sex relationships, the relationship between partners and their children can be more complex than in traditional marriages as the biological relationship may be to only one partner. Formalising agreements at an early stage can minimize any future problems and iron out any potential difficulties.

In the unhappy event that problems occur in the relationship, we are experienced in the following.

Separation Agreements

If partners in a civil partnership decide to separate, even on a temporary basis, we can advise on any issues whether they are related to finances, housing, or childcare. It will determine what happens to your finances and your children if you separate and wish to delay or are undecided whether to separate permanently.

Termination Agreements

Should your partnership break down, we can take you through the process of dissolution as painlessly as we possibly can. We aim to provide professional and supportive advice at all times. An experienced member of our Family Team can take you through the relevant issues in a sensitive manner.

Childcare

Any issues relating to children are extremely emotional and we fully appreciate that. Our solicitors are used to dealing with every childcare issue imaginable. We can offer sensitive, supportive, and professional support whatever your problem.

We cover all areas of childcare issues from contact, residence, and other Section 8 applications to international child abduction, care proceedings, and numerous other issues where Social Services are involved with families. Do not hesitate to get in contact with us, as we are sure we can offer you an appropriate solution.

You can have confidence in our expertise as we are members of the Children Act Panel and have Resolution-accredited specialist status. To become a member of the Children Act Panel, we have shown the Law Society that we have and will maintain a high level of knowledge, skills, experience, and practice in the area of children law.

The Law Society Children Law Accreditation Scheme covers all types of children law. Resolution specialists are members who have submitted themselves to a rigorous assessment to demonstrate the highest levels of knowledge, practical application of the law, and best practice.

We are proven experts in a range of areas of the law arising from family breakdown. We are able to represent you if you are a parent, grandparent, or related family member in both private and public law Children Act proceedings.

Parental Responsibility

Every mother and father has rights and responsibilities relating to their children. The sharing of these rights and responsibilities needs to be agreed by the parents and we can help you achieve resolution.

Child Arrangements Order

A Child Arrangements Order replaced residence and contact orders. A Child Arrangements Order is an order of the Court determining how much time a child should spend with each parent.

Special Guardianship

In some circumstances where neither parent is able to care for a child, the court can appoint a special guardian. This must be an adult and may be a grandparent, family member, or even a family friend.

Prohibited Step and Specific Issue Orders

These orders cover elements of parental responsibility and range from the choice of school, the country, and religion in which the child is brought up. In some circumstances, medical treatment may be contested. Or one parent may object to a change of name and want to take action to prevent it.

Local Authority Disputes

Emergency Protection Orders

An emergency protection order is made when a child is in immediate danger and may have to be taken away from home quickly. This might be because someone has called the police if they are worried that a child is being hurt, or it could be because a child has told someone like a teacher that they are being hurt. Alternatively, a child might already be in a safe place, like a hospital.

Care and Supervision Orders

Care and Supervision Order proceedings are cases brought when a local authority believes that a child is suffering from abuse or neglect by their parents which is causing the child significant harm. They can bring a case to a family court to try to protect the child, by making sure that the child's surrounding environment has the appropriate measures in place to ensure their safety and wellbeing are being met on all levels and, if not, to act accordingly.

These cases, also known as public law cases, generally involve a number of different court hearings. At the final hearing, the judge or the magistrates will make an order which will decide who should look after the child from that point onwards. If the child remains with their parent, the Court may make a supervision order to the Local Authority for a specified period of time.

Secure Accommodation Orders

Secure accommodation is accommodation where a child is locked up. A Secure Accommodation Unit is a residential placement where a child is locked in or prevented from leaving.

A child can only be locked up for a period of 72 hours (3 days) without the court's permission. If Social Services think that a child needs to stay in secure accommodation longer, they will have to ask the Court to make an Order giving them permission to keep the child there.

Child Protection Investigations

These are conducted when Social Services receive information that a child may be at risk. This investigation is called a Child Protection Investigation or Enquiry and is conducted under s47 of the Children Act 1989. Social Services have a duty to make enquiries and assess the situation when they receive a report that a child may be at risk of significant harm or abuse. When Local Authorities make these enquiries, they should follow the Government Guidelines set out in 'Working Together to Safeguard Children 2006'.

Adoption

Adoption is the assumption of full legal and parental responsibility for a child; it is supported by an adoption order, granted through the Court. An adoption order severs all legal ties with the birth family and transfers parental rights to the new adoptive family. The child becomes a full member of the adoptive family, takes their surname, and assumes the same rights and privileges as if they had been born to that family, including the right of inheritance.

Many children maintain contact with some members of their birth family. This may be letterbox contact with a birth parent, visits to a brother or sister who live elsewhere, or some direct contact with other members of the birth family.

In every decision made about whether contact should continue, the child’s safety and wellbeing are of paramount importance. Contact, and the parents’ views about it, will be a part of the discussion during the preparation, assessment, and matching process.

Domestic Abuse

Domestic violence is a complex and distressing issue. We have many years of experience in getting clients through this very difficult time.

Our solicitors operate an all-female duty solicitor rota every day so that we can always see you without an appointment. An experienced member of the Family Team is always available to discuss a family emergency needing legal assistance.

We can arrange emergency applications without delay so that we can protect you and prevent further distress. We can also act to protect your children in relation to residence or contact, or to prevent their removal from the UK.

Non-Molestation Order

There are two ways in which you can apply for an injunction, if the need arises, namely with or without notice. A without notice application (known as "ex-parte") is one made without your partner knowing about it. Such applications can only be made in an emergency where there is a real and immediate danger of serious injury and irreparable harm. The court will have regard to all the circumstances of the case, including any risk of significant harm to you if an Order is not made immediately. The Court will also consider whether or not you would be deterred to make an application at all if an immediate Order is not made.

If an application for a Non-Molestation Order is granted, the injunction will forbid your partner from:

  • Using or Threatening Violence against You
  • Instructing, Encouraging, or in Any Way Suggesting That Another Person Should Use or Threaten Violence against You
  • Intimidating, Harassing, or Pestering You
  • Instructing, Encouraging, or in Any Way Suggesting That Another Person Should Intimidate, Harass, or Pester You

Occupation Order

If the need arises, you may also make an application to the Court for an Order requiring your partner to vacate your property permanently and to prevent that person from returning to the property, if appropriate. This is known as an Occupation Order. It is not normally made where the other party does not know about the application as it has serious consequences. Your partner would normally be given the opportunity to make representations to the Court before such an order is made.

The court will have regard to all the circumstances including:

  • The Housing Needs and Resources of Each of You and Any Children
  • Your Respective Financial Resources
  • The Likely Effect of Any Order or of Any Decision by the Court Not to Exercise Its Powers on the Health, Safety, or Wellbeing of Each of You and Any Children
  • The Conduct of Each of You in Relation to Each Other or Otherwise

The court will also apply what is known as the "balance of harm" test. If it appears to the court that you or any children are likely to suffer significant harm attributable to the conduct of your partner, the court must make an Occupation Order unless it appears to the court that you or your children are likely to suffer even greater harm if such an Order is made.

If such an order were to be made in your favour it could be for a specified period, until a specified event, or until another Order is made. If it is for a specific period, it is usually six months.

Our expertise in housing and childcare mean that we are ideally placed to help you with what are likely to be two of your most immediate problems. Public funding is available for this type of work subject to a means assessment by the Legal Aid Agency. However, if you are in receipt of low-income state benefits, you will automatically qualify.

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