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Advice to help my friend in her divorce.(12 Posts)
My friend has just left her abusive husband after 15 years of marriage - a whole heap of dreadful stuff is coming out. They have 4 DC together. She is very, very wobbly at the moment and I am trying to give her some support.
Her exDH has a property that was put into his name (transferred title deed) by his parents prior to their marriage around 20 years ago, so legally he owns it and it is rented out, but she thinks his parents get the rental income. They also have a family home which is in joint names.
Lots of awful behaviour going on with her ex, but among it all he has told her that he has seen a solicitor who said that as my friend has worked part time for 13 years she is only entitled to 25% of their joint house equity, none of his savings and pension and none of the other property he owns. I know this isn't right, but at the moment she is so scared of him that she wont talk to a solicitor herself and believes he must be right.
I know she needs to see her own solicitor for a detailed view, but I wondered if there is any general legal advice that I could use to persuade her to see her own solicitor and whether she needs one who has specialist experience of abuse.
Bare minimum she is entitled to 50% of joint assets, but if she is going to be resident parent and if she sacrificed her career to look after the children it could be a lot more. A solicitor will allow her distance from her Ex and help her to see that even by this suggestion he is still abusing her.
Bare minimum she is entitled to 50% of joint assets
That is not necessarily true. She is entitled to a fair share of the assets of the marriage. That includes everything owned by either her or her ex regardless of whose name it is in. Whether or not 50% is a fair share depends on a range of factors. However, his claim that she is only entitled to 25% of the joint house equity and nothing else is very unlikely to be true.
She must see a solicitor.
Thank you, I will try and persuade her and seeing what others write might help.
Apparently, the abuse has been documented with police and social services on several occasions - does she need a solicitor experienced in abuse as she is clearly not ok to mediate?
Agree with prh47bridge that there is no fixed percentage that someone is entitled to on divorce, but that the court will award what is fair in the circumstances. For a long marriage where both parties have contributed (whether financially or non-financially), that is often 50%. However, it could be more, it could (sometimes) be less.
I recommend that your friend finds a solicitor through www.resolution.org.uk. Resolution members are family law specialists and ensure to help to resolve disputes in a constructive manner. She really needs to know where she stands. Maybe offer to go along with her to the first appointment for moral support. That way you will also be informed and able to support her through the process.
Before issuing an application for a financial remedy, the parties have to attend a Mediation Information and assessment meeting (MIAM). Most mediators agree that where there is a history of abuse or control that mediation is unlikely to be a good option.
Oh and I highly doubt that her ex's solicitor said that thing about 25%. He probably hasn't even been to see a solicitor and just spent a few hours cruising Fathers 4 Justice sites and reading about 'bitches stealing money and children'.
Also, she doesn't need to ask for someone who has a specialisation in abuse. Nearly all family solicitors will have some experience of dealing with cases where there is or has been domestic violence. It is better that she finds someone who is experienced in financial remedies matters and someone she has trust and confidence in. Word of mouth recommendations are always good or she can shop around a bit if any of them offer free appointments (although many good and experienced solicitors will not offer a free appointment so don't just go on this).
I could be wrong but if she has documented evidence of domestic abuse she would be entitled to Legal Aid for solicitors costs, which sounds like it could be helpful in this case if he is controlling the money. It may be worth her choosing a legal aid solicitor to act for her.
In relation to legal aid, maybe, but the documented evidence must take a particular form- i.e. police reports, criminal court conviction, letter from GP. It must also be recent.
In addition, legal aid for finances is mean-tested and for example as the OP's friend has a half share in the home, this could potentially make her ineligible.
She can use the legal aid calculator to get a better idea: www.gov.uk/check-legal-aid
Also, for finances, any legal aid must be repaid from a financial settlement. If you can't repay it (for example you need all the money to buy a house), the Legal Aid Agency can put a charge on your house which will accrue interest.
Thank you so much. This is really helpful, I am seeing my friend tomorrow and will show her this thread. I am trying to help, tell her what paperwork to get together regarding both properties, pensions, accounts etc and I will try to get her to a solicitor. Will pay for it myself if necessary (very old friend and I am feeling particularly rubbish about this all being new news to me).
Violence is long term, documented with GP as well as the police and recent (he has been arrested twice this year).
I think someone other than me saying she is likely to be entitled to more will be helpful as at the moment she has used up all her energy to kick him out. I know that running and prh47 are legal professionals (apologies if others who have kindly posted are too), so will tell her that too. I have picked up a lot reading legal matters, but am not involved in the profession.
His viewpoint is that because he is in his fifties and wants to retire soon, he will likely get both properties and he is being generous with his 25% offer.
You sound like a good friend. Well, if there is recent evidence of DV, then do use the calculator to check eligibility for legal aid. Even though she has to repay the money, legal aid rates are lower than private ones. The downside is much less choice of solicitors- most firms have stopped doing this kind of work unfortunately. But there are other funding options, such as litigation loans.
For her first appointment with the solicitor, she needs to bring ID, proof of address and if she could get a rough idea of values of all assets (doesn't have to be precise, for example she could look at Zoopla for sold prices of similar properties). This will give the solicitor a much better idea of the overall picture. At some point, her husband will need to give full disclosure so she shouldn't worry if she doesn't know exactly what he has (value of pension for example).
You can also reassure her that going to a solicitor does not obligate her to do anything. If she wants to take her time, she can do. It is understandable that she is feeling like this after years of abuse. But what it does give her is some power and control, because she will have information about what she is potentially entitled to. That way, at least she can consider her options properly.
Tell her to read carefully the link that heddagarbled posted above. It is long but it is absolutely the best freely available plain English guide to divorce law out there - published by the Family Justice Council - senior judges and family law experts.
I have been sending it to all my clients and litigants in person on the other side
It's long but she should read it cover to cover and get educated and pay attention to the case examples at the back and treatment of pension and sharing of equity in the marital home.
It is absolutely not the case that she will get less equity than him because she worked part time
She can use the guide to back her up and I would suggest, if it is safe for her to do so in terms of backlash, she sends him a copy too to show she knows what she is talking about
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