Q&A with director of family law at The Co-operative Legal Services

BlacklawsChristina Blacklaws, director of family law at The Co-operative Legal Services, answers your questions and offers advice on legal issues that affect the family, such as having children, breaking up, financial issues and domestic abuse. 

Christina has over 20 years experience in all aspects of family law. Before joining The Co-operative Legal Services, she founded and managed the largest specialist family law practice in London. She qualified as a solicitor in 1991 and is a higher rights advocate and solicitor specialising in complex child care cases. She is a Law Society Council member, chair of the Society's Legal Affairs and Policy Board and chief assessor of the Children Panel.

Wills | Divorce and separation | Access to children | Child maintenance | Moving or living abroad after separation | Other



Q. Ohnomyfoot: What's the best way to sort out a will when one person has children from a previous relationship? Our only joint asset is the mortgaged house. I'm thinking of all the various scenarios, and if it makes a difference that the older children are adults, while the second family ones are dependent.

A. Christina: When you make your will, you'll need to consider appointing guardians and trustees for the dependent children. If the house is owned by you both as 'beneficial joint tenants' this means that on the death of one party, his or her share passes automatically to the survivor. It's possible to change this so that you own the property as 'tenants in common'. As tenants in common you can own the property in equal or different shares - for example, if one of you has contributed more to the purchase price.

If you do own the property as tenants in common you can leave instructions in your will for how you want your share to be dealt with. For example, some couples may decide they want their surviving partner to have the right to live in the house with the dependent children until they cease full-time education. It would only be at that stage that the property would be sold and the monies distributed. Other couples may want the surviving partner to have the right to live there for the rest of their lives. There are many options and we can help you choose the one that's right for you and your family.

Q. Bintang: If a married couple in England separate or divorce, do they have to re-do their wills, even if all beneficiaries will remain the same?

Co-op legalA. Christina: If you separate, it's very likely that you will want to reconsider how your estate should be dealt with in the event of death. It's not only a question of your will, but also to consider how you own your home.

In some cases, depending on how the property is owned between you, it could automatically be transferred to your spouse in the event of death before you divorce. Once the divorce is finalised (by the granting of the 'decree absolute') any appointment of your spouse as an executor and gift to him or her is cancelled. We would always recommend that you seek legal advice on your separation to decide what is best for you.


Divorce and separation

Q. Nettletea: I divorced my husband in 2002 when my daughter was two. Contact was sporadic, as was maintenance, but due to a number of unpleasant incidents, contact between my daughter and husband dwindled until 2009, when he tried to resume contact.

I took out a prohibitive steps order, which was granted in 2010. At the hearing he pressed for contact, and we agreed to supervised contact for two hours fortnightly with my mother (which he often misses). 

During one of these visits, he told my daughter (now nearly 12) that he was going to seek more contact, and asked her for her address, and pressured her to agree. She is scared by this. I went to seek help from a solicitor but my income is too high for legal aid, and I am left fearing that I will have to represent myself against the man who emotionally and verbally abused me for years. Can you advise me what I should be doing, and if there is anywhere that I might apply for legal assistance?

A. Christina: Firstly, you'll need to check the terms of the contact order made by the court, otherwise you may be in breach and your former husband could apply for the order to be enforced. A court can enforce an order in various ways - for example, for serious breaches there are a variety of measures it can take which include imposing a fine, making a suspended order for committal or even committing the parent in breach to prison. 

If your former husband does make an application to the court, your daughter's own wishes and feelings will be taken into consideration as she is now nearly 12 years old.

Q. Ninilegsintheair: I'm considering separating from my husband of three years. We have a two-year-old daughter. He is emotionally and financially abusive, and has been physically abusive also in the past (the police are aware of this). One of the major reasons I am feeling unable to leave at the moment is because we still have a fixed-term rate on our mortgage until Dec 2013, with a penalty clause if we sell before then.

Ideally, I'd like to stay in the house with my daughter, without my husband, until the fixed rate expires and then sell the house. But I know he would never agree to that. I can't afford to move out and rent. We have separate bank accounts and pool our money only for joint purchases/bills. He earns more than me and has savings; I have a few thousand pounds worth of personal debt. Would he have to agree to this set-up in order for it to happen?

A. Christina: Whilst it's always preferable to try to agree what should happen by agreement, there are often pressures which make this very hard. Sometimes, it's easier when an independent mediator becomes involved, although this only works when you are both committed to working things out. Otherwise, you could try negotiations through solicitors.

If you are able to reach an agreement by one of these means, then the terms can be incorporated into a written document known as a Separation Agreement. Provided you have each had independent legal advice, this document is legally binding.

If there are divorce proceedings, then the agreement between you can be incorporated into a consent order, which you can ask the court to make. A consent order can usually be made without the need for you to attend court.

If you can't reach an agreement, then you may have to make a court application for financial orders within the divorce proceedings. The court will expect both of you to exchange full information about your financial circumstances and will try and encourage settlement where possible, to avoid both the financial and emotional cost involved in a hearing.

The court has regard to a number of factors when making financial orders. The factors will carry different weight depending on each case. The court's first consideration is the welfare of any child of the family who has not reached the age of 18. The needs of the child of the family often mean providing a home for the child of the family and meeting their income needs. You can ask the court to defer an order for sale to after the date that a fixed rate has expired.

Q. Olgaga: With the recent announcement that the definition of domestic abuse is to be widened to include emotional/financial abuse and coercive, controlling behaviour, do you think this will have an impact in Family Law in the consideration of Residence/Contact (Child Arrangements) Orders?

At the moment, it seems that abuse short of physical violence is routinely overlooked by the courts. Some legal professionals appear to collude in this, as we see from many posts on Mumsnet that people involved in these proceedings are often told it isn't worth raising this 'low level abuse' as an issue, because the courts will ignore it and they themselves will be seen as 'unreasonable'. This leads to children and resident parents being subjected to contact with former spouses who routinely engage in such behaviour.

Do you anticipate a much-needed culture change in the Family Courts now that the damaging nature of 'low level abuse' has been formally acknowledged?

A. Christina: The new definition of domestic abuse, which is to be implemented by March 2013, is: "Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse:

  • Psychological
  • Physical
  • Sexual
  • Financial
  • Emotional

Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour. Coercive behaviour is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim."

It is not a legal definition, but is to be used by government departments for the purposes of, for example, targeting support services. Nevertheless, it is likely that the widening of the definition will have an impact in Family Law in residence and contact proceedings, and will lead to a change in culture for lawyers and the judiciary.

"The new definition of domestic abuse as of March 2013 is any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality."

Q. Poster: I wish to leave my partner due to emotional and financial abuse, and we have a two-year-old daughter. He owns the house and pays the mortgage and most bills. I am a stay-at-home mother, which we both agreed on. I have no money of my own. I plan to go back to work, but may have to just walk out with my daughter sometime soon. We can stay with family but not for long. It will be nasty and he will fight for custody. Does he have to provide a roof over our heads or just pay maintenance for my daughter?

A. Christina: If there has been a recent incident of domestic abuse you may have grounds to make an application to the court for an Occupation Order under the Family Law Act 1996, removing your partner from the property. This can be obtained on an urgent basis without giving notice to him if there is a risk of significant harm to you or your child if the order is not made. You could also ask the court to make a Non Molestation Order, which protects you from violence or threats of violence and pestering, and breach of such an order is a criminal offence.

If there are no recent incidents you could still instruct a solicitor to write to him asking him to leave, and if this did not work you could make an application on notice to him for an Occupation and Non Molestation Order. These orders are commonly known as injunctions. You can also ask the court to include a clause that he pay towards the bills, although this is not enforceable.

When deciding what action to take, the court takes into account a number of things: e.g. your respective housing needs and resources of each of you and any child, your the respective financial resources of the parties, the likely effect of any order on the health safety and wellbeing of you both and any child, and the conduct of the parties. The balance of harm test also applies, so if you or your child are likely to suffer significant harm if the order is not made, the court will make the order unless the respondent will suffer harm if the order is made and that harm is greater than the harm which would be suffered by you.

You do not mention whether you are married, so I am working on the assumption that you are not. Please note if you are married, the law in respect of finances (below) will be different. As an unmarried partner, you could potentially make an application under the Trusts Of Land And Appointment Of Trustees Act 1996 if there was an intention that you be considered a shared owner of the property.

Depending on your partner's income, you may also be able to make an application for maintenance under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989, although this would only be relevant if he is a high earner. Aside from this, if you are not married the only thing your partner will be liable for is maintenance for a child through the Child Support Agency. You can access their calculator here.

If you can't agree which of you own a child's residence, either of you could apply for a Residence Order under the Children Act 1989. The court will consider your child's welfare first of all, then look at the other factors in the Children Act 1989 when determining whether to make an order, which are the wishes and feelings of the child (which will be less important the younger the child is), their needs, the effect of a change in circumstances, their characteristics, any risk of harm, how capable the parties are of meeting their needs and the range of powers available under the Act.

If further incidents of abuse occur, you should first consider calling the police as they may impose bail conditions, which could protect you and avoid the need for an injunction. You could also contact Refuge for practical advice on 0808 2000 247. 

I suggest that you find out if you are eligible for legal aid, which you can do by calling Community Legal Advice on 0845 345 4345. If you are eligible they can give you free advice and refer you to a solicitor in your area.


Access to children

Q. NumbThumbs: I am a stay-at-home mum, and not married to my partner yet. We have a young daughter, and I'm pregnant with our second. Our mortgage and all bills are in joint names, as I was earning the most before we had children. If we split (hopefully this will never happen but worth thinking about), what will happen to custody of the children? Do I automatically get it because I am the primary caregiver or does he because he earns the money?

"Custody is no longer used as a legal term. It is now called residence and what used to be called child access is now contact."

A. Christina: Custody is no longer used as a legal term. It is now called residence and what used to be called child access is now contact. You will not automatically be granted residence, but you can make an application to the court if you both can't agree who the children should live with primarily. It is always best to try and resolve any issues amicably if possible. However, if negotiations and/or mediation fail, then court proceedings could be considered. The court will follow the welfare checklist when considering an application for residence. This consists of:

  • The wishes and feelings of the child
  • His or her physical, emotional and educational needs
  • Likely effect of any change in the child's circumstances
  • Age, sex and background of the child
  • Any harm the child has suffered or is likely to suffer
  • How capable each of the parents are

The court can also make an order sharing residence. This does not necessarily mean 50/50 but is a way to recognise the equal importance of both parents. 

Q. Fifi782005: My partner and I are respondents to a court application for paternal grandmother's request to see our son, which we oppose for various reasons. We have no relationship to protect and, as adults, we've had no contact for a number of years.

CAFCASS has recommended only indirect contact until our son is of an age to possibly want to pursue a relationship, but my mother-in-law isn't happy, so we're going to final directions hearing. Is there any way to prevent further applications being made, to protect our son's childhood being dragged through the courts ?

A. Christina:You have confirmed that your case has been listed for a final hearing. This means that all parties will be required to give evidence. It may be that you are asked questions by the grandmother's legal representation and/or the judge. The judge will then make their decision and provide reasons for their judgment.

It's important that you look carefully at the order to make a note of the time and date of the final hearing and to see if you are required to do anything before the hearing (such as prepare a witness statement).

It appears from your enquiry that CAFCASS has produced a report and has made a recommendation that the grandmother is to have indirect contact with your son until he is of an age to decide whether he wants to pursue a relationship with her. CAFCASS reports are highly persuasive to a judge, although he or she is not bound by the recommendations in the report. However, in most cases the judge will follow the recommendations. Once the judgment is made, this becomes the final order, which generally ceases to have effect when the child reaches 16 years of age. However, the court has power in exceptional circumstances to make or extend a specific issue, contact or prohibited steps beyond the child's 16th birthday.

It is possible to prevent further applications being made to the court in respect of your son. However, these orders are only made in exceptional circumstances. The court takes great consideration when making these orders, as to impose a restriction is a statutory intrusion into the right of a party to bring proceedings before the court and to be heard in matters affecting the child.

It is generally seen as a 'weapon' of last resort in cases of repeated and unreasonable applications. If you wish to apply for this order, you will need to make an application to be heard at the next hearing. However, as you are not represented the court may deal with the matter at the final hearing without a formal application being made by you. It is also possible that the court can make such order on its own initiative.


Child maintenance

Q. LadySybilDeChocolate: I need to get a REMO order, but I can't afford a solicitor to sort this out. Is this something that I can do myself? There's no original court order in place and the non-resident parent is in the Irish Republic.

A. Christina: You can make a REMO application without a solicitor. As a UK resident you should approach:

  • Your local magistrate court (or county court where the order was made) if it has an existing court order for maintenance
  • Your local magistrate court if there is no existing order

The REMO application form can be found here. The court guidance on completing the form is useful too, and you can view this here. Court staff will help you forward your application to the relevant authority. The authority will then check your application and send it to the foreign authority or court for registration and enforcement against the person living there.

Q. jigsawmum: My daughter's biological father reduced his monthly payment unilaterally. I was trying to communicate with him via lawyers, as he has no contact, but he has 'disappeared' from all sources and I can't trace his businesses either.

What's the best way to trace him and find out what he has done with his companies, as I think he is 'hiding' resources as he now has two more kids? I also can't find out if my daughter's grandad is alive still as he's no longer on electoral roll.

A. Christina: If the monthly payment you were receiving from your daughter's father was in respect of your daughter you should first of all visit the child maintenance options website. Here you can access the child maintenance calculator which will give you an indication of what child maintenance to expect.This is only intended to be an estimate and if you choose to arrange child maintenance through the Child Support Agency (CSA) they may calculate a different figure, based on a statutory formula and more exact data. However, this is subject to finding out where your daughter's father is.

With regards to tracing the father, you may wish to instruct a process server. A process server may be able to locate the father on your behalf.

If the father's businesses are limited companies, you may also wish to carry out a search via Companies House. It holds a directory of all limited companies.

With regards to your daughter's grandfather, you may wish to contact his local register office who can carry out a search to see if he has passed away.

Q. PostBellumBugsy: I got divorced in 2005, and had to take my ex-husband to court for a financial settlement, as he wouldn't attend mediation or attempt to reach an out-of-court agreement. At court, as well as the split of the house, maintenance was agreed. After a short period of spousal maintenance, so I could remain part-time while the children were pre-primary, the maintenance was set at 20% of his salary, as it was in 2005.

Since then our eldest son has been diagnosed with autism and he now attends a special school. The school is fee paying, and is financially crippling for me. My ex says that he does not have to contribute to these fees because they are 'discretionary' and our son could go to a state school. To add insult to injury, his children by his second wife have just started at a very expensive prep-school. My ex has also done very well in his job, and has been promoted a number of times in the past seven years, which I would imagine means a salary increase, too.

  1. Should I consider approaching the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC) to see if I could get more money from him?
  2. If I did get more money via CMEC, would this negate the financial order made in court?
  3. Our son is not registered disabled, but does have a proper diagnosis of autism, made by an NHS child psychologist - does this have any bearing on his contributions?
  4. Should I consider going back to court?

A. Christina: You could approach the CSA in order to make enquiries as to the likely contributions your ex-husband would be required to make, yet this could not be accurate as you would not hold any information relating to your husband's income. Although you believe he may have had an increase in salary there is not enough information for the CSA to carry out an assessment.

  1. The short answer to this is no, the financial order would be upheld and this will continue to be the case until steps are taken to amend this order through the court.
  2. One of the reasons that may result in a change in the level of ongoing child maintenance is an increase in care and medical costs. The circumstances as a whole would need to be considered to determine whether there is a sufficient change in the care of the child that would warrant an increase in maintenance expected from your ex-husband. The fact that your son is not registered disabled may be a factor, but as will the attendance of your son at a special school. The reasons for this would need to be considered as well, as to whether there is good cause to amend the level of maintenance as a result.
  3. You should only consider going back to court as a last resort. In the first instance we would advise you to speak to a solicitor who can discuss the matter further with you in order to advise you as to the prospects of your application. As it would appear likely that your ex-husband would challenge the increase as matters stand, your matter may need to be returned to the court to be determined.

Please note that this information is based upon the brief summary provided by yourself as there may be a provision included within the previous financial order to allow the matter to be returned to court.

Q. Wittsend13: If you get a court order for maintenance in the Republic of Ireland and the amount granted by the judge is far less than it should be because the non-resident parent who lives in the UK has lied and hidden money - and you can prove this - can you then go to the CSA if both parents are resident in Great Britain, and have it recalculate the payments? Or must you stick to what the court decided?

A. Christina: The CSA retains jurisdiction for child support payments. If the circumstances have changed you should contact them and ask if they are able to investigate.

Q. Caliente62: My husband is agreeing to 30% deferred equity in our house until our youngest daughter finishes her A-levels. His solicitors have added my cohabiting with someone for more than six months as a trigger to his repayment. Do I have to agree? He is not currently paying me any child maintenance and has paid me nothing at all for 12 months. I have been left to pay all bills, mortgage and all costs relating to our children.

A. Christina: This is normally a standard trigger to end any spousal maintenance obligations. You do not have to agree it, but it is likely the court will order it to end on either parties' death or your remarriage in any event. You can make a child maintenance claim through the CSA and you can apply to the court (on divorce) for spousal maintenance.


Moving or living abroad after separation

Q. momnotmum: My husband and I are separated. What permission or documentation might I need to move abroad with my children? 

A. Christina: As you were married, your husband has parental responsibility with you for any children you have had together under the age of 18. Parental responsibility is defined as "all the rights and responsibilities for the children, including the right to make decisions such as educational and medical decisions". It also means that you cannot remove the children from the UK without his consent, or you will be committing a criminal offence.

I would recommend you first of all try negotiating with your husband since, if he will provide his consent in writing to the move, you will not need to go to court. 

If negotiation doesn't work, then you could try mediation. Mediation is where you both meet with an independent third party who will discuss the issues with you and try and help you come to an agreement between yourselves.

If it isn't possible to reach an agreement through mediation you will need to make an application under the Children Act 1989 for a Specific Issue Order. You would need to issue three copies of a C100 form at your local county court with the £200 issue fee. Check that they deal with family matters before issuing. The court will look at the welfare principle (that the children's welfare is the most important consideration) as well as the welfare checklist under the Act. This consists of the wishes and feelings of the children, their needs, the effect of a change in circumstances, their characteristics, any risk of harm, how capable the parties are of meeting their needs and the range of powers available under the Act.

The court will consider your reasons for wanting to move and your husband's reasons for not wanting you to go, and the impact any move will have on contact. The court will place emphasis on the wishes and feelings of the children provided they are old enough. They may also consider proposals for practical arrangements for relocation, any history of abuse, the history of the family and quality of current care, pre-existing residence or contact determination, the impact of the grant or refusal on the children in the light of their extended family and any other circumstances the judge deems relevant.

"Parental responsibility is defined as all the rights and responsibilities for the children, including the right to make decisions such as educational and medical decisions. It also means that you cannot remove a child the UK without the father's consent, or you will be committing a criminal offence." 

Q. RememberImAWomble: My British friend lives in Turkey with her husband and two children. She suffers physical abuse from her husband. The home is shared with her husband's extended family, who support her husband. She has no independent means or family, and feels she can't safely go through the divorce process here, and while she might ultimately succeed in divorcing and win custody of the kids she can't house or feed herself or them in the meantime.

She's sole carer, the husband has put the kids at risk while attacking her, and the kids are less than one, and nearly three years old.

If she gets the kids to the UK (where she would undertake divorce and custody proceedings while living with her mum), would she have any defence if her husband invoked the Hague Convention to try to get the kids back?

A. Christina: If your friend brings the children to the UK without the husband's agreement or permission from a court in Turkey, she could be subject to an application for the children to return to Turkey by her husband. As a respondent to this application, the only defences available to your friend would be: 

  • Consent/acquiescence
  • Child's objections
  • Grave risk of physical or psychological harm

The purpose of the application will be limited to getting the child to the country taken from. Once the child is returned, the court can then consider who the child should live with. A welfare-based consideration will not apply.

Q. lolo99: The father of the child I am carrying has emailed me to say he is refusing any contact and will hopefully be moving abroad soon. Will the CSA still be able to help me get child support payments? (This will be why he is opting to work abroad.) I'm worried that they won't be able to find him. What do I do? 

A. Christina: In respect of finding your ex-partner, the Child Support Agency (CSA) will ask you for information first. If you don't or can't provide information, it can ask other people and organisations for the information it needs. This includes:

  • The non-resident parent's employer, accountant, companies or partnerships that they provide services to
  • Government organisations, such as Jobcentre Plus, HM Revenue & Customs and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency
  • Prison services and local councils
  • Organisations that have information about the non-resident parent's financial history, like banks and building societies, credit reference agencies and gas and electricity suppliers

The CSA can help with child maintenance payments if your ex-partner moves abroad. If your ex-partner moves to a country in the EU, the country in which they live must enforce court orders for child maintenance or decisions made by the CSA in respect of child maintenance.

Arrangements for child maintenance can be enforced if your ex-partner moves to a country in the EU and you remain in the UK.

If you have a court order for child maintenance, you can attempt to enforce this in the country your ex-partner moves to. You could also ask foreign authorities to create an order for child maintenance on your behalf.

The UK has agreements with more than 100 countries in respect of child maintenance. These arrangements are called Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders (REMO). If a REMO is put in place, it means that:

  • Child maintenance orders made by UK courts can be registered and enforced in other countries
  • Child maintenance orders made in foreign countries can be registered and enforced by UK courts

If you want to try to put a REMO in place, you should either contact the court where the order was made if you already have a court order for child maintenance, or contact your local court if you do not already have an order.

The court will then send your case to the REMO unit, which will deal with the foreign court on your behalf. A point to note is that EU countries can only make non-resident parents pay any CSA arrears if the money owed was from when both parents lived in the UK.

Q. mum21boy: My husband has dual citizenship, so if we were to divorce how would I prevent him from taking our two children back to his home country? What rights would I have in regards to custody? I'm classified as the primary carer, but I earn less than he does. Would it make more sense for me to make a separate will if we have different views, especially on matters concerning our kids? And if I won the lottery whilst married and we were to split, does that mean he gets rights to that money? I understand that everything after a marriage is usually split 50-50.

A. CLS:You could make an application for a prohibited steps order if you are worried that your husband would leave the country with the children. Regarding custody or 'residence', this would involve negotiations, then mediation and then a court application, but this is normally made by the non-resident parent. The welfare checklist would be considered as part of this. 

In relation to wills, it would make sense to have your own will. The Co-operative does offer a free initial advice service which may be useful to you as a starting point. 

If you win the lottery, then there is a general presumption of a 50-50 split, but a court can deviate from this depending on the circumstances, ie. the welfare of any children and for them to be housed.



Q. CremeEggThief: My husband's grandfather passed away soon after we separated. I haven't filed for divorce yet. Would I, or better still, my son, be entitled to a share of any inheritance?

A. Christina: If your husband is a beneficiary under his grandfather's estate then any assets inherited will be included as part of the matrimonial assets. The court has a very wide discretion in dealing with financial claims in a divorce, the first consideration is the welfare of any children under the age of 18. The inheritance could, therefore, be very relevant to the settlement between you.

If your husband does not agree to let you know the details of the inheritance, then you could obtain a copy of the Will which will give you more information about the gift.

Q. Emmasonny: How much does it cost to go to court to sort out access, parental responsibility, etc?

A. Christina: In all children matters, it is best to try to resolve matters by either negotiation or mediation first but, if this is not successful or appropriate, an application can be made to court to try to resolve the issue.

The court fee for an application to court for contact (what used to be known as access) is £200. An application for Parental Responsibility (PR) is also £200 although if applying for both then the application for PR would be included in the application for contact, and therefore it would only be one court fee of £200.

In terms of solicitor fees, this can vary greatly. Many solicitors operate on an hourly rate that can vary from £120-250 per hour and the costs and number of hours of work involved can easily escalate.

We have fixed fees for such applications, which are as follows:

  • £500 for preparing the application to court, position statement and preparing for the first hearing
  • £1,500 for the work involved following the initial hearing and up to the first review hearing (including preparing statement, obtaining reports)
  • £1,000 for all further work between each hearing (which can cover a period of between 3-6 months)

There will also be separate advocacy fees for representation at these hearings.

The number of hearings needed will vary largely depending on the case. If there needs to be a Fact Finding hearing (for example, where there are allegations of domestic violence), or a final hearing (where no agreement has been able to be reached throughout the proceedings with the help of the court), then there will be additional fees for the work done to prepare for this.
Please be aware that if you are on a low income, you may be entitled to Legal Aid to fund such an application and the work involved. You should contact the Community Legal Advice service on 0845 345 4345 to assess your eligibility for legal aid.

Please note that mediation will have to be attempted first in most cases in order to get funding to make an application to court. We have a legal aid contract for making such applications to court, if you are eligible and need to go to court. Our contact number is 0844 728 0420.

Q. MrsJRE: How does my daughter go about getting support from her father towards university fees? When is the best time to apply to court and how much percentage of his income could she expect? I couldn't get it on court order at final hearing, as I was told his circumstances may change. I have no idea where he is living. 

A. Christina: Your daughter may be able to make an application for financial orders for help towards university fees under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989. Unfortunately, locating her father may be difficult, practically speaking.

Q. NicJohn: I am guarantor for my daughter's mortgage. She is not paying the mortgage - she hasn't paid for two months now and is refusing to take my calls. I am paying two mortgages of my own and I am facing redundancy at my work for the second time in a year. I have tried to explain to her that she is ruining my credit rating but she is not interested in that. I can't handle the stress and I am very worried about my finances. Help - what can I do?

A. Christina: Unfortunately, as the guarantor you are liable for the mortgage. If you haven't done so already, contact the mortgage company and explain your circumstances, and let your daughter know that if you can't pay the mortgage, the lender may start proceedings to have the property repossessed. One solution is that it may be possible for you to apply for an order for sale of the property. 

Last updated: 24-Sep-2013 at 3:00 PM