Inspiring separating couples to make their own informed decisions

Archive for December, 2012

Government’s New Sorting Out Separation App

Having to go through separation/divorce can be classed as one of the most stressful experiences in your lifetime.

Some would say that it is far more difficult to cope with than the bereavement of a close family member or friend – it is a ‘living bereavement’.

Whilst there are grave concerns about the impact of the cuts to family legal aid that come into force in April 2013, thankfully there is help at hand for those of you who will not qualify for family legal aid as a result of the cutbacks and cannot afford the services of a solicitor.

The Government has launched an online application/website  for separating couples to give you much needed help, support and guidance. It covers the following topics with useful contact information, tools, videos and links to help you make informed decisions after a break-up:

  • Children &  Parenting
  • Health
  • Housing
  • Legal
  • Money & Finance
  • Relationships & Conflicts
  • Work & Benefits

By answering a series of questions, the web app will give you a personalised action plan. Click here to check out the new sorting out separation web app.

However, where  you are unsure about your respective rights and responsibilities or where there are complex issues arising out of your separation, a word of caution, it is always sensible to get specialist legal advice. Many solicitors offer an initial fixed fee service, which can prove to be invaluable.

To help you and your ex-partner have a dignified and amicable separation allowing for future co-operative parenting, family mediation, when suitable, can be a better way of reaching out of court agreements.

Related articles

 

Advertisements

Child Maintenance – More Changes!

The Government has introduced a new scheme for the calculation and enforcement  of child maintenance that will be managed by a new organisation, called the ‘Child maintenance Service’ (CMS). This service will in time replace the current or old system that we have all become familiar with, the Child Support Agency (CSA).

The scheme will be phased in over the next few years with the aim of converting all cases into a single system by 2015.

The calculation under the new scheme will based on the non-resident parent’s gross income as opposed to net income (as per the CSA scheme) to make the calculation simpler. There is in turn, changes to the percentages to be applied.

For a gross annual income of up to £41,600 (or £800 per week) the percentages applied will be:

  • 12% for one child;
  • 16% for two children; and
  • 19% for three or more children.

However, any excess of income over £41,600 per annum will be subject to the following extra rates:

  • 9% for one child;
  • 12% for two children; and
  • 15% for three or more children.

Gross income above £3,000 per week (£156,000 per annum) will be outside of the jurisdiction of the CMS and in these high income cases you will  need to seek Court intervention in the event that you cannot reach your own agreements.

If you are unable to agree terms of voluntary child maintenance then you may have to invoke the services of the CMS. The Government plans to introduce fees for using this service for calculating the assessment and requesting payment through the service/enforcement. For more information please click here.

The idea behind the new scheme is to encourage separating parents to agree their own arrangements outside of the statutory system by entering in to ‘Family Based Arrangements’ (FBA’s).  Most parents who are able to communicate and agree arrangements think this is a better option as it allows for flexibility, remains private and no one else gets involved. FBA’s are quicker and easier to set up, with no other costs. For for more information please click here.

Parents are encouraged to use family mediation services to reach agreement on all issues relating to the breakdown of their relationship/marriage and often mediators can help separating couples reach  agreements on child maintenance issues avoiding the bureaucracy of statutory systems, delays and costs.

New FM1 Form For MIAM’s

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has issued the following press release regarding the new FM1 form for MIAM’s.

The MoJ anticipates that the press release will highlight the wider plans to reform the family justice system, which encourages more people to consider mediation and other types of out of court resolution.

Having considered the new form, whist it has the benefit of giving additional information about mediation, for completing the form and on sources of help (on pages 4 & 5), the wording in some parts of the form could have been written better for people to understand.

Press Release

On 1 December 2012 the Ministry of Justice is launching a new version of the Family Mediation Information and Assessment Form (FM1).  The form should be completed by anyone applying to the Courts for assistance in resolving a dispute about parenting or finances following relationship breakdown.

This requirement forms part of the Pre-Application Protocol for Private Law Proceedings, issued by the President of the Family Division in April 2011. This asks that parties involved in disputes of this nature attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to learn about mediation before making an application to the Courts.

A Self-Represented Litigant, their legal representative, or an accredited family mediator trained to carry out a MIAM, must sign the relevant section(s) of the form confirming that either an exemption applies, mediation is not suitable or mediation was attempted but failed. The form should be filed at court on application.

Legal and mediation practitioners are reminded of the need to advise their clients – potential applicants and respondents – of the current requirements.

The new version of form FM1 will be available on the HMCTS Form Finder from 1 December 2012.

To support the launch of the revised form, Guidance for HMCTS has been provided to assist court officers in processing private law applications and to provide advice on what to do if an applicant has not completed form FM1. While there is at present no legal requirement to file form FM1 on application we anticipate a more robust approach across the Courts in implementing the requirements of the Pre-Application Protocol. 

Changes to form FM1

Changes to the form include highlighting the requirement for Part 2 of the form to be signed off by an accredited mediator, one who is affiliated to one of the Member Organisations of the Family Mediation Council and trained to carry out MIAMs. This will, we believe, help to direct potential clients to quality mediation services.

The Form also now includes notes and information about mediation, for the benefit of Self-Representing Parties. Links are included to the Family Mediation Service Finder, legal aid information and the recently launched Sorting Out Separation web app.

Background

Changes to the form have been brought about following collaboration between the Ministry and the Family Mediation Steering Group, HMCTS and the Family Procedure Rule Committee.

The primary aim of the changes is to encourage more people to consider mediation and other types of out of court resolution. This comes as part of wider plans to reform the family justice system, following the Family Justice Review which concluded in November 2011.

%d bloggers like this: