The right to equality in fertility treatment
When it comes to family life, the LGBTQ community has historically faced additional challenges. While these challenges have begun to lessen in recent years, a trend which we very much hope will continue, the current state of the law still impacts on LGBTQ families. Our family lawyers, working within our firm’s LGBTQ & allies network, prioritise creating an open and inclusive environment within which our clients can receive the advice they need for their specific circumstances.
We are experienced in advising on all family law issues which affect members of the LGBTQ community. We recognise that for LGBTQ families in particular one size does not fit all, and we therefore work with our clients to understand their background, circumstances, needs and concerns, in order to achieve the right outcome for their particular family.
For issues regarding relationships, there is very little difference in the law that applies to mixed-sex couples and same-sex couples. We have many years of experience in assisting clients through the toughest times of their lives and will tailor our approach to ensure you receive the support you need while navigating the relevant legal processes.
Due to the incremental introduction of civil partnerships and marriage for same-sex couples, we have acted for LGBTQ clients who have been in long term relationships which were never legally formalised. If you are considering moving in with your partner, contributing to a mortgage or renovating a house together, you may wish to consider preparing a Cohabitation Agreement. Alternatively, if you own a house with your partner and are concerned about your rights on separation, we work closely with our property litigation team to advise our clients on their position. More information can be found on our Cohabitants and Unmarried Families and Moving in with Your Partner pages.
If a marriage or civil partnership is on the horizon, you may want to consider preparing a Prenuptial Agreement or Pre Civil Partnership Agreement to protect your assets in the event of a separation. Alternatively, if you have a pre-civil partnership agreement in place and are planning to convert your civil partnership into a marriage, you may wish to update your existing agreement so that it reflects the new status of your relationship. We have a long history of preparing agreements for clients with international connections, or where they are bringing significant assets into the relationship.
The breakdown of a marriage or civil partnership can often be stressful and confusing, particularly where, for example, one party is leaving a heterosexual relationship behind. Our lawyers understand the sensitivity required and will work alongside you to minimise the distress the end of a relationship can bring. We can advise you on all aspects of relationship breakdown:
There are now a number of ways in which LGBTQ couples (and singles) decide to start a family, whether that is through a co-parenting arrangement, donor conception, surrogacy or adoption. We have assisted many LGBTQ clients on their journey to become parents and are very aware of the how special, emotional and sometimes stressful the process can be.
When having a child through surrogacy, it is the surrogate and their spouse, rather than the intended parents, who are considered the child’s legal parents under English law. A parental order must be obtained from the court to change this position and extinguish the surrogate’s parentage.
Our team of family, immigration and private client lawyers work closely to assist our clients on all aspects of international and domestic surrogacy arrangements and more information can be found on our Using a Surrogate page.
Where a sperm donor is used, the child’s automatic legal parents are dependent on a number of factors such as the status of the intended parents’ relationship and the method of conception. Advice should be taken at the earliest opportunity, particularly if there is a concern over your status as ‘parent’.
Sometimes disagreements can arise in relation to arrangements for children, their upbringing, where they should live or how they should be financially supported. Our family lawyers have considerable experience of advising on these issues, approaching them in a child-centred way to reduce conflict and ensure they are resolved as quickly and amicably as possible. We can advise you on all matters concerning your children:
Talking to children about separation, or LGBTQ-related topics like a parents’ sexuality or gender identity, can be a significant worry for clients. Children can be confused and apprehensive about change and we understand that parents want to approach discussions in a way that minimises any negative impact and encourages healthy adjustment. We work closely with other expert professionals (for example, child and family therapists, counsellors, mediators and child psychologists) to support parents where relevant.
The law continues to struggle to keep pace with social change and this unfortunately affects the trans and other non-cis gender community most of all. We are sensitive to the issues faced by our clients and can provide clear and reasoned advice on any difficult circumstances in which our clients find themselves.
Issues can arise, for example, where a transgender person wishes to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate and their spouse or civil partner will not consent, or where a person’s gender is legally changed while they are carrying a child but when registering the birth the traditional ‘mother’ and ‘father’ titles on the birth certificate just do not fit the way they see their family. We assist clients to understand the current state of the law and help them to navigate any challenges it presents.
Gender can also be relevant to wills and inheritance and we work closely with our private client team to assist clients where there is concern about the impact of a change in their gender identity.
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Professional Support Lawyer
Family proceedings are generally conducted in private due to the personal and intimate nature of those proceedings. There have been increasing concerns that the lack of transparency regarding family proceedings reduces accountability and confidence in the court system. Despite repeated pushes towards more openness over the last two decades, the reality is that very little has changed.
On 6 April 2022 family lawyers celebrated the long awaited arrival of no-fault divorce. Couples looking to bring their marriage to an end now no longer face a choice between apportioning blame, with a fault based petition, or facing a delay of two or five years to avoid the need to play the “blame game”.
The Children Act 1989 (the “Act”) is a significant piece of legislation in the history of family law. It brought together existing legislation and strengthened protections for children, placing a greater emphasis on their needs and interests. Parents, guardians and those with parental responsibility can apply to the court for a child arrangements order, a prohibited steps order or a specific issue order under section 8 of the Act, without permission from the court.
The long awaited “no fault divorce” has finally become a reality in England and Wales following the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act (2020) coming in to force on 6 April. This brings with it significant changes to the way in which married couples separate in this jurisdiction, all with the aim of reducing the opportunity for conflict.
From 6 April 2022, the divorce process in England and Wales will see wide-ranging changes as a result of the provisions of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 taking effect. This came about following decades of campaigning by many including Resolution to help families navigate the process in a less adversarial and more constructive way. For those contemplating divorce, and for non-family law professionals and loved ones advising and supporting them, the new process and the depth of legal analysis and commentary can feel daunting.
As a Ukrainian living in London with a 9 year old child, I know first-hand how much the children are affected by the recent developments and it is often much more than we realise. My father was in Kyiv when the war started. It was a very difficult decision to leave everything behind…and go. They left in day five after an oil plant was shot just outside of Kyiv. There were five of them in the car, with only one backpack per person: a scared cat, an oil tank, ropes and blankets took priority over personal belongings. Having only had less than five hours of sleep in the four days prior to that, they drove to the border through the very many checkpoints with armed military, in the dark and in the snow to reach the Carpathian mountains and then to cross the border.
In April 2022, long over-due law reform will take blame out of the divorce process, but we need to go further now to address the way divorce and separation impacts the entire family, not just the parents.
I am regularly asked to advise French and international couples on the protective agreements available to them before they marry and whether they need an English or French drafted agreement. They are often surprised to learn that it isn’t possible to draft a global prenuptial agreement which would be enforceable throughout the world, wherever they move to in the future. It is all the more surprising to French clients who learn that their trusted and routine contrat de mariage is not automatically enforceable in divorce proceedings in England.
Despite no longer living full-time in the UK, it is often the case that expats are still subject to the English court system in the event they divorce, says Stacey Nevin, senior associate in the Family & Divorce team at Kingsley Napley.
Anyone who has visited a family lawyer will be aware that it is a highly discretionary area of law. Part of the reason for this is that much of what guides a judge’s decision, and indeed a lawyer’s advice, are the cases that have come before them. Of course, there are statutes and binding law that judges must follow, for example S1 (1) Children Act 1989 ‘[…] the child’s welfare shall be the court’s paramount consideration’, but case law provides invaluable guidance to family practitioners. Our judicial system allows flexibility so that when it comes to the interpretation of statute the courts can evolve and progress in line with society.
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 (the DDSA) comes into force on 6 April 2022, bringing about no fault divorce, dissolution and separation. It is the biggest change to the divorce process in almost 50 years, aiming to reduce the opportunity for conflict in relationship breakdown.
As family lawyers we help clients through challenging times when they may struggle to manage the overwhelming emotional impact of divorce. Until recently, they could be entitled to assume that any court proceedings would be heard in private and it would be highly unlikely for them to be reported in the media or for any documents to be available for any third party to inspect.
Anthony Bailey, former fundraiser to Tony Blair and PR guru knows how to spin a headline… ‘The Princess and the Pauper’ he claims from the comfort of a luxurious villa in Portugal following the High Court’s decision to hand him a 12 month prison sentence for contempt of court.
Most of my clients and the lawyers and experts with whom I work know far too much about my beautiful dog, Charlie. Yes, I am that kind of dog owner who over shares information about my four legged soul mate, and I have occasionally been guilty of referring to myself as his mummy. I make no apologies for this, but nor do I judge any raised eyebrows from those who think me slightly kooky as a result.
In December 2021 a judge in London ordered Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, to make a payment of £554 million to his former wife, Princess Haya. In July 2017 Tatiana Akhmedova was ordered a divorce payout of £453 million and following four years of litigation, the parties reached a settlement in July 2021. Boris Berezowsky and Sir Paul McCartney were also divorced in London. There is a reason why London is often called the “divorce capital of the world”; it has hosted some of the world’s messiest and most expensive divorces.
Tim Whitney and Connie Atkinson are both mediators and members of a Family Law Agreements Group in which they share ideas and expertise in respect of pre and postnuptial and other family agreements. In this blog Tim and Connie explore the use of mediation for couples entering into a prenuptial agreement.
As Family Mediation Week draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting on how far we’ve come over the past year. And I’ve decided to be optimistic.
As Mediation Week draws to an end, it is worth remembering in this celebrity culture, that another big draw to mediation, particularly for those high profile individuals who want to keep their family matters away from the prying eyes of the media, is that mediation takes place in private, and, if matters can be agreed, never needs to go before a judge sitting in court.
The traditional family mediation model sees clients agree on the identity of one qualified mediator, and meet with that person together. One of the big advantages of mediation compared to a court approach is the flexibility that can be offered to clients, with a number of mediation models and styles from which to choose. With the agreement of the couple and their mediator, a mediation can be tailored to meet the needs of the individuals and to help them explore different issues with the right level of support.
According to the ‘Holmes and Rahe stress scale’, divorce is the second most stressful life event after death of a spouse. Marital separation is third.
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