Common questions about family law

Can you get legal aid for family law?

Legal aid is now only available for family law matters under very limited circumstances – essentially where social services have become involved with you or your family, or where you or your children have been victims of domestic abuse.

To help you keep control over the cost of dealing with family law matters, we offer a number of options such as fixed fee divorce where appropriate. We also offer every client an initial fixed fee consultation so you can get a clear picture of your legal options before committing to a course of action and additional cost.

What is common law marriage?

Many people are under the mistaken impression that if they live together with their partner without getting married or entering a civil partnership, they have legal rights under the principle of ‘common law marriage’. However, there is no such thing in English law as a common law marriage and unmarried partners have no automatic legal rights if they separate or if one partner dies.

To protect yourself when living together with your unmarried partner, we strongly recommend creating a cohabitation agreement. This can allow you to set out what rights each of you has over shared assets, such as your family home and savings if you later separate. We also recommend creating or updating your Will to make sure your partner will be provided for if you pass away.

What happens in family dispute resolution?

A key goal of resolving family legal disputes is usually to avoid unnecessary conflict. Not only does this make the process less stressful, it can also allow you to reach a resolution and move on faster while saving you a lot of time.

Side-stepping court proceedings can also make things easier on children and allow you to maintain a better relationship with your former partner – something which can be very beneficial if you have children together.

There are various options for non-confrontational family dispute resolution, but the two most common are mediation and collaborative law.

  • Mediation involves you and your ex-partner meeting with a trained mediator to discuss the practical issues you need to resolve as part of your separation. The mediator acts as a neutral third-party to facilitate the discussion and defuse any potential conflict, helping you to voluntarily agree on issues such as how your finances will be divided and what will happen to any children you have together. Find out more about our family mediation service.
  • Collaborative law offers an alternative to mediation where there are more complex issues to resolve or you simply want the reassurance of having your own legal adviser alongside you when negotiating the practical details of your separation. The process involves you and your ex-partner sitting down to make a voluntary agreement, each supported by your own independent lawyers, who must have specific training in collaborative law. Find out more about our specialist collaborative lawyers.

What is a Consent Order?

When you voluntarily agree a financial settlement following divorce or civil partnership dissolution (e.g. through mediation or collaborative law) the agreement is not automatically legally binding. This means either party could simply decide later not to honour the agreement and you would not be able to apply to a court to enforce the terms of the agreement.

Applying for a Consent Order allows you to legally record the details of your settlement and makes that agreement legally binding. This means both parties will need to stick to the terms of the agreement and a court can take enforcement action if either party fails to abide by the terms of the agreement.

A Consent Order can cover all of the details of a divorce financial settlement, including how money, property, investments and other assets will be divided, as well as any maintenance payments that either party has agreed to make to the other.

To apply for a Consent Order, you will have needed to have started the legal process of ending your marriage or civil partnership, but not yet have applied for the decree absolute/final order that officially ends your marriage/civil partnership.

Contact our friendly, expert family law solicitors

If you require help and advice concerning a family, matrimonial or child related matter please contact the Family Team directly, email or call your local Hunt & Coombs office:

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