James Maguire & Co are a specialist in divorce and family law practice. They advise on all aspects of family law and are leaders in this field, as is reflected by the independent legal directories to the profession and our strong track record. Our mission is to guide, support and advise clients through one of the most challenging period of their lives.
You may have seen on Real Housewives of Cheshire this week that Hanna Miraftab and her husband-to-be are considering entering into a pre-nuptial agreement prior to their marriage. It is however a topic which is often misunderstood. People discuss entering into one generally and think that they know the legal implications of doing so, but actually there are a lot of misconceptions concerning pre-nuptial agreements that people may not be aware of.
For example, people generally think that if they enter into a pre-nuptial agreement and then the marriage breaks down, that the agreement will be legally binding. This is not actually the case. Either party could still make an application to court for a Financial Order (to determine how the matrimonial assets are divided) within later divorce proceedings. Pre-nuptial agreements are more commonly being upheld by courts upon marriage breakdown and are a factor that any court would consider when determining how to divide assets. The English court however always retains discretion to see what is fair when dividing those assets.
To provide the best chance of a pre-nuptial agreements being upheld in later court proceedings, there are numerous procedural safeguards which need to be adhered to and the agreement should be fair to the financially weaker party.
Guidelines have therefore been developed and such an agreement may carry little or no weight before an English Court if any of the following circumstances were found to apply:
Where there is a child of the family born.
Where the agreement is unenforceable i.e. it attempts to lay an obligation on a third party who has not agreed in advance.
Where one or both of the couple did not receive independent legal advice before entering into the agreement.
Where the court considers that the enforcement of the agreement would cause significant injustice (to one or both of the couple or any child).
Where one or both of the couple have failed to give full financial disclosure of assets and income before the agreement was made.
Where the agreement is signed very shortly before the wedding. Previously, the guidance suggested at least 21 days before but the Law Commission have since recommended at least 28 days before.
Where there is evidence that one party was placed under undue pressure to sign the agreement (this may be linked with the timing of the signature and evidence about what legal advice was taken).
Pre-nuptial agreements are also always subject to any future change in law.
There are of course cases where upon marriage breakdown, separating couples may decide to simply divide assets in accordance with the pre-nuptial agreement and without any dispute. However people are often not aware that to then make that division of assets legally binding, and prevent an individual making any further financial claims against their ex-spouse, a Consent Order should then be drafted to which the court must subsequently approve.
Pre-nuptial agreements are a complex area of law and it is vital that full legal advice is sought. If you are considering entering into a pre-nuptial agreement, at Maguire Family Law we are able to ensure that the agreement is drafted in accordance with the procedural guidelines outlined above and provide you with full advice as to your legal options.
Domestic abuse is not always obvious. In fact, the majority of abuse will take place at home or in private spaces where the perpetrator can’t be seen. Victims are often put in situations where they feel helpless.
Many try to record the abuse on their phones or tablets, but then get questioned – ‘are you filming me? Let me see your phone!’. If you are caught texting your friends about what has happened, or taking photos of your bruises on your phone, you may worry that is only going to make matters worse. So then you end up back to suffering in silence and the horrific cycle of abuse continues.
What if there was a way of documenting the abuse, without your partner being able to see it?
Domestic abuse charity, The Cithrâh Foundation (based in Northern Ireland), has developed an app which lets you record information such as the date, location and images but the information then disappears from the phone and is stored remotely. It is essentially a ‘cloud’ diary which is password protected.
The foundation has used funds from Comic Relief to create the app, which was developed with the assistance of a former police officer. Liz Gibbons has recalled countless occasions where she has visited households and over time seen a pattern of abuse. However, when victims finally come forward, it is difficult for them to piece together a timeline of what has happened as they often push it to the back of their minds. This app offers the opportunity to keep a record of what happened as it happens.
Many victims have been known to keep diaries of what is happening to them. This app will help with this, but also offer the opportunity to keep the evidence stored out of reach for when that person feels strong enough to come forward.
Not only will the app be helpful in terms of evidence for criminal proceedings but also in family law situations where the app could be used to document a pattern of behaviour which could ultimately impact on children as well as the victim.
If you, or anyone you know, is experiencing domestic abuse, this app may be a safe way to create a record of what is happening. This may be so that there is a record as a ‘sanity check’ in the case of someone being gas-lighted or where there is potentially going to be contact with the police and or children’s services in the future.
Here at Maguire Family Law, we see many cases of domestic abuse but we are often only introduced to these cases when things reach a head and the victim (or a third party) seeks advice. Apps such as this one help to support you throughout your relationship.
We have not included the name of the app for the safety of those using it. If you wish to download it, get in touch with the Cithrâh Foundationor contact them by email or on Facebook.
Please think carefully before downloading the app. Although the app is discrete in how it is displayed and labelled on your own phone, we are aware that many families have a linked account for the AppStore or Google Play Store. This may mean that the account administrator or other connected users can see the apps that you download. Although this may not automatically enable them to view the content you have created in your own app from a different device, the product description (which anyone can potentially see) refers to domestic abuse and the purpose of the app being to provide a safe and secure way for victims of abuse to record the behaviour they experience.
We have written a number of articles on domestic abuse which will give you further guidance on the legal remedies which may be available to you. Click the links below to read further information.
It is also important to remember that if you are in any danger, you should contact the police immediately on 999.
Be careful when accessing internet resources on these topics on a shared computer or linked devices. Many websites have an “exit page” button to enable you to close the webpage quickly, but you should also check your browser history to make sure that there is no trail left of the pages you have visited. Women’s Aid has put together a helpful guidance webpage which you should read to ensure that you protect yourself as much as possible.
The divorce laws in England and Wales look like they may finally change to a “no fault” basis.
Justice Secretary David Gauke said that the changes would help to end the “blame game”.
The present law is some 50 years old and to show that a marriage has irretrievably broken down, a spouse needs to show one of five “facts”:
Two years separation with the other party’s consent; or
Five years separation
In my experience, the common basis for a divorce is “behaviour” and whilst the divorce process has become streamlined and paper based, nevertheless allegations of behaviour, or cross-allegations, can make a very difficult and upsetting split become even more acrimonious and expensive.
Not only that, but the emotions can run very high and inevitably over-spill in relation to the financial or childcare arrangements. This is not always a conscious intention but in my experience, the basis of the present law does negatively impact and makes resolving family law matters much more difficult and expensive.
The argument against the proposed change in law is that it undermines the sanctity of marriage and therefore allows spouses an easy route out; therefore making a marriage more disposable.
However, the new rules will actually include a minimum time frame of six months from the divorce petition stage to the decree absolute, which is the final divorce order. At the end of this period, the spouse asking for the divorce will need to affirm their decision to seek a divorce. The Government says that this will give a “meaningful period of reflection” and the “opportunity to turn back” i.e. it is a bit of a cooling off period, which I think is sensible.
Another interesting aspect of the proposed new laws is that there will be an option to allow couples to apply for a divorce jointly.
Why now? Many commentators will say that society has moved on and the divorce laws are now outdated. This is true but of all the years, I have been in practice, some 20 +, there has always been noise about changing the laws together with various campaigns, for example, via Resolution, which is a national body for family lawyers.
The fault-based system of divorce in England has always created acrimony in my view; and the change to a “no fault” basis is very welcomed but long overdue. What I have seen in the last 10 or so years is certainly a shift by the Government and the courts to divert people away from the court system e.g. to use mediation and to look to resolve their disputes in a more conciliatory way. However, this has always conflicted with the ‘fault’ based divorce and the bad feeling created as a result especially where the parties start “mudslinging” from the outset. That does not create a sound foundation to reach a resolution whether in terms of the divorce, the finances and the children.
Hopefully, by overhauling the divorce laws, this can help prevent or avoid some conflict between parents, and to reduce the negative impact it has on the children and their own futures. Hostility and bitterness should be kept to a minimum and everyone should be looking at how to sensitively and sensibly end the relationship and move on; keeping in mind always the best interests of the any children.
The divorce plans follow a 12-week public consultation and unsurprisingly there has been overwhelming support for a ‘no fault’ divorce. Mr Gauke has stressed that the new divorce laws will be introduced as soon as possible “when parliamentary time allows” but we all know that Parliament has other priorities, such as Brexit, It is, however, very important that the proposed divorce law changes continue with this momentum.
It has been reported this week that Mackenzie Bezos, ex-wife of Amazon owner Jeff Bezos, has become the world’s third richest woman with a divorce settlement of $35billion dollars (£26 billion).
After a 25 year marriage and four children, the couple originally announced their decision to proceed with an amicable divorce in January by way of a joint statement:
“As our family and close friends know, after a long period of separation, we have decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends. We feel incredibly lucky to have found each other and deeply grateful for every one of the years we have been married to each other. If we had known we would separate after 25 years, we would do it all again. We’ve had such a great life together as a married couple, and we also see wonderful futures ahead as parents, friends, partners in ventures and projects, and as individuals pursing ventures and adventures. Though the labels might be different, we remain a family, and we remain cherished friends”
On announcing the dissolution of their marriage, Mr Bezos released a statement thanking his friends and family for their encouragement and love. Mr Bezos publically described his ex-wife as being an extraordinary partner, ally and mother and stated she is both resourceful and brilliant. Whilst thanking Mrs Bezos for her support and kindness during the process, Mr Bezos said he was very much looking forward to their new relationship as friends and co-parents.
Mrs Bezos released her own statement also thanking her ex-husband for his support, along with those that had supported them both. Mrs Bezos stated she was happy to be giving all of her business interests and voting control of her shares to support Mr Bezos in his continuing development of the companies. Mrs Bezos said she felt grateful for her past as she looked to what comes next.
As divorce lawyers, you might assume we would want to focus on the overwhelming amount of money involved in this divorce settlement and therefore discuss the fairness of the financial outcome arising from the Bezos’ divorce. However, just as Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos are not a “typical” divorcing couple, we are not “typical” divorce lawyers and as a boutique law firm, we do things differently.
We would like to focus on the Bezos’ decision to publicly praise and thank each other for their support; as well as their decision to celebrate their marriage and focus on positively embarking on a new relationship together as friends and parents.
At Maguire Family Law we firmly believe that whilst the decision to divorce is a difficult one, it doesn’t have to be acrimonious.
Our firm Directors, are advocates of “good” divorce and are an example of a divorced couple who made the decision, like Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos, to remain friends, to continue in a business partnership and to co-parent their children.
We appreciate that the decision to divorce is difficult but we believe that it does not have to be an entirely negative experience. It can be human instinct to blame the other person for a marriage breakdown and letting go of a relationship can be one of the most difficult things to do.
We are not saying that making the decision to divorce and move forward in your relationship as friends is automatic or easy, and as the saying goes, “it’s okay to have a meltdown, just don’t unpack and live there. Cry it out and then refocus on where you are headed”.
At Maguire Family Law we are here to support you, work with you and represent your best interests throughout your divorce; and to ensure you are stepping into your future with your best foot forward.
How cagey is Nicholas being about his 4-day marriage?
You will no doubt have seen the recent news stories about Nicholas Cage’s fourth wedding, this time to makeup artist Erika Koike.
Nicholas was caught on video applying for a marriage license at a Clark Count House Marriage License Bureau in downtown Las Vegas on Saturday. He appeared to be very ‘out of it’ and speculators thought he was drunk.
Cage was allegedly making such a scene that he and Erika were taken into a side room and left brandishing papers. He was caught shouting ‘she is going to take all of my money!’ and screaming that Erika’s ‘ex-boyfriend is a drug dealer’. Erika reportedly told him that she ‘never asked [him] to do this – seemingly meaning get married.
Many of the news stories are incorrectly stating that Nicholas is now filing for divorce. It appears, however, that he has in fact issued court proceedings to file for annulment.
The law in Las Vegas is very different to that in England and Wales. If Nicholas had the legal basis to be able to start his case in the jurisdiction of England and Wales (i.e. because he or Erika had some sort of connection here), he would potentially need to file a petition for nullity, which is based on there being a fundamental problem with the marriage or the capacity of either himself or Erika.
The steps Nicholas would need to take would very much depend on the status of his marriage. What might appear to be a marriage can potentially be:
A valid marriage is of course the most common. This is where a couple have knowingly and willingly entered into the marriage and complied with all of the relevant legal and religious requirements (if applicable) to constitute a marriage. If the marriage were to break down, the natural next step would be divorce.
A void marriage is when, although there has been some resemblance of a marriage at some stage, the courts treat it as never having taken place due to there being some fundamental flaw. Examples include one or both parties being under the valid age (16 with parental consent, 18 without) or one or both parties already being married or in a civil partnership with another.
If a decree of nullity for a void marriage is declared, financial, pension and property orders are still available. Children born into ‘the marriage’ will still be deemed legitimate and either party may still be able to claim against the other’s estate.
There are several factors which may cause a marriage to be deemed ‘voidable’. This is where the marriage exists unless and until one of certain grounds is established. These include; non-consummation due to incapacity or wilful refusal, no valid consent and lack of mental capacity.
The financial claims noted above are also still available in these circumstances.
A non-marriage would only apply if the couple had undertaken a ceremony that, in no way, constituted a marriage and so there are no legal consequences if it breaks down.
But what about Nick?
From the news stories, it looks as though Nick might be applying for a similar decree to a decree of nullity in England and Wales. Sky News has reported this morning that Nick is arguing that he was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the ceremony and therefore he is questioning his own ability to validly consent to go through with the marriage. Time will tell whether the court finds in his favour, or whether Nick will have to divorce a fourth wife; and whatever the route taken, what the financial consequences of this would be.
A very “hot topic” at the moment appears to be the trials and tribulations of being a “working mum” or “working dad”. This has prompted me to write this blog about my experience as being a “part time mum and part time family lawyer”.
At Maguire Family Law there are a number of us with children and we all work various hours. We have a working dad who works full time but starts the day later to accommodate school drop offs. We also have both full and part time working mums with also various start and end times to accommodate child care arrangements.
The old fashioned Dolly Parton’s notion of working ‘9 to 5’ is not so much of a reality any more.
But how does being a working mum help me with my clients who are going through what can be deemed as one of the most stressful times of their lives? As a family lawyer at a niche family practise based in Cheshire, we deal with those who are going through a separation or divorce on a daily basis.
The majority of these cases also involve children of various ages where we also assist parents with trying to reach amicable child care arrangements. Some cases unfortunately, despite our efforts or a mediator’s effort, end up having to be dealt with by a judge at court if the parents cannot reach an overall agreement.
Before I became a mother, I could empathise with clients who were struggling to come to terms with the end of their relationship or marriage. Suddenly not only were they uncertain about their future financial security, but they were also having to deal with not being able to see their children on a daily basis, as well as worrying about how they would provide for their children in the future.
However this all changed as soon as my daughter was born about two and a half years ago. Suddenly I was faced overnight with whole new challenges, emotions and a situation that no one had ever warned me about that would be life-changing.
Because of this experience I can relate, understand and empathise more with both fathers and mothers who are going through a separation and how they may be feeling.
Whilst it is easier for me to relate to a mother’s emotions at the fear of having to “let go” of their children for a number of days so they can spend time with their father, I can also see it from the father’s point of view. This is knowing how much my husband adores his little princess and how over time she has become a “daddy’s girl”. I know he would be devastated at the thought of not being able to see our daughter every day, even if on some days it is just for a few hours in the evening before bedtime. Quality time over quantity can sometimes be the key.
A family law solicitor will always repeat the mantra to a parent, “the court will do whatever is in the child’s best interests” when deciding what the child care arrangements should be. But what does this mean? What about the parent’s interests?
The solicitor will look out for the parent’s interest but the judge has to consider what decisions are best for the children as someone needs to look out for them in an impartial way without letting emotions and principles cloud their judgement.
The court will always promote a relationship between the parents and their children as long as it is safe to do so, because they recognise how important it is to a child’s emotional and psychological welfare. Children should never be “piggy in the middle” over the child care arrangements and made to choose or witness any hostility or ill feeling between both parents. Already a child will be anxious at the thought of not being able to see both parents in the family home on a daily basis. This does not need to escalate further.
Therefore while I can sympathise with parents about how they may be feeling and have an idea about what it must feel like to go through a separation, I would not be doing my job properly if I did not provide honest and realistic advice as to what could happen if an agreement could not be reached and the matter had to be left in the hands of a stranger at court to decide.
Lots of child care arrangements therefore can be resolved by considering work schedules for example. Any “lost time” can be made up over school holidays for example. Parents become fixated with achieving exactly a 50/50 split of the child’s time but this can be impossible in reality. You have to assess practically what will work for everyone involved to make the transitions from home to home as smooth as possible.
Finally, I can also see how trying to juggle a career, full or part time child care, managing the day to day household and general life jobs can be difficult and potentially even more daunting if you are a single or separated parent. I can also relate to financial worries. At Maguire Family Law we give you legal advice and options surrounding divorce, separation and children involved. We can also give you practical tips and guidance and offer referrals to other relevant professionals.
If you are a parent who is going through a separation and would like more advice then please contact any one of our specialist family solicitors on the numbers below.
Adultery in Cheshire is booming according to a survey conducted by a leading dating site for married people.
Illicit Encounters report up to 14,236 people in Chester are having an affair. An increase of over 2,000 people last year.
Illicit Encounters claims to have more than one million registered users and asserts a 25% surge in registrations in the last five years.
Statistically, the site claims the number for people currently cheating on their spouses in Wilmslow is 958, whilst in Nantwich the number is 600, in Crewe 512 and in Knutsford 508. The good news is there appear to be happier marriages in Northwich with just 338 registered users.
Not meaning to sound sceptical, we aren’t entirely convinced that if you were having an affair that you’d be honest in such a survey?
Christian Grant (not Grey) a spokesman for Illicit Encounters said “Lots of couples in Cheshire cannot afford to divorce due to the cost of establishing two new homes, so they are sticking with their spouse and adding some spice to their marriage by discreetly having an affair”.
It is no secret that divorce can be costly, but is that a reason to put up with your spouse’s extramarital activities?
The first thing we would say to clients considering a divorce is that it does not have to cost you your life savings; and above all, the aim should be to keep any legal costs proportionate to what it at stake.
At Maguire Family Law we provide clients with regular cost updates and offer reasoned cost estimates regarding any anticipated work. We also inform clients of the hourly rate of every fee earner who will be involved in their matter and delegate appropriate tasks to junior fee earners (where possible) in order to keep costs to a minimum. This ensures that clients are kept informed of the costs as their case progresses. Our Solicitors range in experience and personality and it’s important to establish the best possible working relationship between you and your family lawyer. Meet our team here.
Having reassured our client’s from a cost perspective, we hopefully then have the opportunity to focus on our legal advice. There are technicalities about what constitutes adultery. The definition of adultery is that a spouse has had sexual intercourse with a member of the opposite sex and that the other spouse cannot continue to live with them. Because the court takes into account whether or not you can bear to live with your spouse once you have discovered the adultery, there are time limits in place in terms of when you find out the adultery and continuing to live together afterwards.
At Maguire Family Law, we generally only recommend to petition on the grounds of adultery if your spouse is prepared to admit to it. This is because where a spouse denies adultery matters can become protracted and costly, requiring you to provide proof and potentially attend hearings in order to get the court to accept your petition.
One of the most common assumptions around divorce is that if a spouse has had an affair, that it will impact on any financial settlement. Conduct is something that the court will only consider where it would be unfair to disregard it. The courts have generally found that adultery per se does not constitute conduct that should be taken into account. Sometimes issues connected to the affair may be relevant – for example if vast amounts of family money have been diverted as part of the new relationship. For all cases, regardless of the cause of the breakdown of the relationship, the starting point for division of assets is 50 / 50 and the court will then take into account all the individual circumstances of the case, with first consideration being for any children under 18 and a significant focus on the parties’ respective needs.
At Maguire Family Law we know the decision to separate from your spouse is difficult and life changing and we are here to support you. We also recognise that often an initial enquiry takes courage and once sought there is never any pressure to pursue a path of action until it is right for you. If you would like to speak to a member of the team please contact us.
It is no secret that society is becoming increasingly reliant on technology in our everyday lives. Although most technology has been designed for the greater good, it isn’t always risk-free, especially when it falls into the wrong hands.
The rise in the use of technology is mirrored with the rise in reports of domestic abuse and recent years have shown that the two may interrelate.
What is ‘tech abuse’?
“Modern technology gives perpetrators ever-growing ways to stalk, isolate and control women using the tools of everyday life” – Refuge
Over the past few years, there has been an increased awareness about the various types and forms of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse can not only be physical, but it can be emotional, financial and psychological. ‘Tech abuse’ is the term used to describe incidents of domestic abuse which have been facilitated through the use of technology. According to Refuge (a charity designed to combat domestic abuse), tech abuse comes in many forms. A few examples include:
Harassment by a perpetrator including constant text messages and telephone calls and the use of social media. This can extend to direct contact though personal or work technology, or via your friends and family;
A perpetrator preventing your access to technology or to the internet, or monitoring your use of technology (for example, going through your phone or reading your emails);
Revenge porn (i.e. where the perpetrator threatens to post indecent or confidential images of you, or messages / information about you, online without your permission);
Using technology to monitor your whereabouts, who you talk to and the content of your conversations. This may include tracking you via GPS, installing tracking apps on your personal devices without your permission (or lying about their motives for installing such apps), stalking you via social media and, in some cases, hiding cameras around the house;
Controlling your finances via online banking accounts or apps.
In a recent article posted by the BBC entitled Domestic abusers ‘sewing GPS trackers into teddy bears’, survivors of tech abuse discuss the levels their perpetrators went to in order to control and stalk them. In one case, a lady called Ellen talks about how her ex-partner hacked into her Gmail diary and turned up unexpectedly at a get-together between Ellen and her friend. You can read the full article here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-47623436.
What options are available?
Tech abuse is not only an invasion of privacy, but it is a form of coercive control and manipulation. This brings it under the definition of domestic abuse and means anyone who is suffering from tech abuse should seek help and support where possible.
Refuge’s Tech Abuse and Empowerment Team work closely with survivors in order to help them overcome the impacts of tech abuse and feel comfortable using technology as they begin to shape their new lives. They are also heavily involved in campaigns to raise awareness of tech abuse and to detect and prevent it.
Other charities and organisations who offer support and guidance to victims of domestic abuse include:
National Centre for Domestic Violence
Men’s advice line
Unfortunately, the majority of support services available to people are online. This can deter victims of tech abuse from getting the support they need out of fear that their online activities are being monitored. Many websites have an “exit page” button to enable users to close the webpage quickly, but they should also check their browser history etc. to make sure that there is no trail left of the pages visited.
Victims who are currently in abusive relationships may not be in a position to access these services, either because they have no online access or because the repercussions of having their research detected are too severe. In these situations, support may be available via telephone (if you have access to one), a medical professional or the police (particularly in emergency situations).
At Maguire Family Law we are frequently asked to liaise with clients in a way which prevents their partner from finding out about what’s going on. This can include calling from a withheld number, providing a mobile telephone number which has not been published online and cannot be traced to the firm and only contacting clients at an agreed time or arranging to meet with clients via a friend. Our offices in Wilmslow and Knutsford are both discrete and buildings shared by other businesses, in the hope that clients will feel able to visit us without any passers by knowing where they are going and why.
I read today with interest (and more than a little envy) of the 58 year old man from Hereford who last week scooped more than £71 million on the Euro Millions Jackpot.
The winner’s former mother-in-law is quoted as saying that her daughter “knows she might be entitled to a large slice of his win but said she doesn’t want a penny”. The former wife apparently also said that as far as she is concerned “he can keep the lot”.
However, as admirable as the former wife’s standpoint may be, whether she is indeed entitled to a “large slice” of the lottery winner’s vast fortune depends completely on whether a court order was made in relation to the couples finances when the parties divorced several years ago.
If the parties did enter into a financial agreement at the time of their divorce, and that agreement was approved by the family court making it legally binding on them both, and if that court order gave the husband a clean break (or in other words cut off any financial claims that the wife may have in the future) then the ex-wife is completely wrong to think that she could seek a further capital settlement or a share of the winnings.
If, however, there was no court order made to ratify any financial agreement or indeed there was a court order which required the husband to pay ongoing spousal support to his former wife then there is a potential for the former wife to seek a further financial award from him.
Where there is an ongoing spousal maintenance obligation then the former wife could potentially seek to increase the amount she receives but more likely given the quantum of the lottery win, the court would award her a capitalised sum paying off the ongoing maintenance obligation in one go.
The example of a big lottery win being received post-divorce is often used by family law solicitors when advising clients of the necessity to give serious consideration to obtaining a financial court order as well as dissolving the marriage by way of a divorce. It is a common a misconception that dissolving the marriage and getting divorced also automatically cuts off all financial ties and claims between ex-spouses. However, this is not the case and a financial claim can be made after divorce which is why it is imperative to give serious consideration to ensuring that all matters, including financial matters, pertaining to a marriage breakdown are properly and legally dealt with and ratified by the family court.
Olly Sheridan and his Mother, Ellie Yarrow-Sanders, have been found.
Back in January 2019, we wrote a blog about the disappearance of Ellie Yarrow-Sanders and her young son, Olly. Olly is currently the subject of ongoing court proceedings which is focussed on his care and whether he should live with his mother or father. However, shortly before the last court hearing in July 2018, Olly and his mother disappeared. Ellie left behind a letter explaining why she had fled, which mostly focussed on her desire to protect her son and her fear of losing him to foster care. You can discover more about the background to the case in our blog ‘A Mother on the Run’ – https://www.family-law.co.uk/mother-on-the-run/.
In a desperate plea to locate Olly, the court made the exceptional decision to release details of the case to the public. This was followed by Mr Justice Williams making a public appeal on Twitter for Ellie to return home with Olly.
After the pair had been missing for six months, Olly’s father (Patrick Sheridan) stated that his only focus was on the return of his son and that he would not want Ellie or members of her family to be punished for their role in Olly’s disappearance. Members of Ellie’s own family later joined the appeal in the hope that the pair would return safely. Although, their participation was subject to certain conditions, for example, that Ellie would be pardoned for running away with Olly and that he would not be removed from her care on their return.
Having now been missing for eight months, Olly and his mother have been found. At this stage, only limited information has been released to the public and their exact location remains confidential. However, the public has been informed that the pair have been located outside of the UK and that Essex Police have now officially called off their search. Upon their return, it is expected that the court proceedings will resume, although the proceedings will take place in private and it is unlikely that any significant details will be released to the public.
Although Olly’s circumstances are somewhat unusual, we see many cases where parents separate and a question arises as to where in the world a child should live and also whether or not a child should travel abroad for a holiday, for example. In cases such as these, it is important that parents keep each other informed of any planned trips. In the majority of cases, it will be necessary to obtain the consent of the other parent before taking a child outside of the UK.
Where consent has not been given, careful consideration needs to be given to the appropriate steps to be taken in each and every case. In some instances, the trip abroad may just be a poorly communicated holiday; in others, it could be the first signs of a permanent abduction to another country.
Each case is different and the individual circumstances of each child will need to be considered carefully. We regularly advise the ‘left behind’ parent of their options to secure their child’s return to England. We also advise parents where their child has been brought to England but there are questions as to where the child is and / or whether the child should be returned to their home country. In many situations, there is a pressure of time to locate a child and to obtain protective orders. We have experience of making urgent court applications (whether to the local court or to the High Court) where it is necessary to obtain protective orders without delay.
In Ellie’s case, we very much hope that a practical and safe route can be established for her and Olly to return to England and to allow the courts here to conclude their consideration of what’s best for Olly. It is recognised on an international scale that the court which is best placed to consider the welfare of a child is the court in the country that the child is habitually resident in. From what we know about the circumstances, for Olly this would most likely be the court in England.
If Ellie does not now take the steps to voluntarily return to England then there are potential legal routes to be followed in the country that Olly is in to require Ellie to return him to England, but this very much depends on which country they have travelled to.