Grayfords is a leading boutique law firm based in Fitzrovia, London. Our solicitors are experts in English and International Family Law and specialise in all matters regarding divorce, marriage and child matters.
If you are a follower of celebrity news, it is unlikely you missed the reports that Britney Spears and ex-husband Kevin Federline are back in court in Los Angeles.
Federline is seeking an increase in the current $20,000 he receives monthly in child support payments for their two sons, aged 11 and 12. Court documents indicate that Federline has experienced a recent decrease in salary, earning less than one percent of Spears’ annual income, and therefore requires more child support in order to provide some balance between the lifestyle the sons experience with him and that experienced at their mother’s residence.
Federline’s pleadings exemplify the lifelong obligation that marriage brings with it – an obligation most of us will be unaware of when happily in love and thinking of betrothal. Even upon divorce, it is often difficult to sever all ties with the other party, especially where there are children involved. Situations such as the one Spears is currently experiencing can be difficult as a parent will wish to provide for their child, but also wishes to see evidence that the child support payments are being used towards the children and not for the personal use of the spouse, as is currently being requested by Spears’ lawyers.
In the UK, unless the non-resident parent is a very high earning (over £3k per week) then the court has no jurisdiction. Instead, the Child Maintenance Service is the governing body. However, it uses a similar approach to the US courts, identifying the parent’s income and basing child support on that.. There is little or no discretion, and it is difficult to change the amount being paid unless a change in salary can be shown – time will tell whether Federline will be able to assert his change in salary in court.
Spears and Federline join a long list of celebrities whose child support obligations and legal battles have been publicised; examples include Madonna and Guy Ritchie, Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger and many more. Matters become even more complicated if, as in the circumstance of Madonna and Guy Ritchie, the couple live in different countries and custody and payments must be determined by a court in one jurisdiction and then approved in another.
A simple internet search will reveal the multitudes of celebrities as well as everyday individuals who have had to navigate themselves through the court systems with regard to child support obligations. Courts do not take these payments lightly, and it is important to know what one’s child support obligations are as they are likely to continue until the child in question turns 18, if not longer.
Few can forget the excitement of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston’s engagement and the subsequent shocking split that resulted in his relationship with then co-star, Angelina Jolie.
‘Brangelina’ went on to become one of Hollywood’s iconic couples. However, it is now almost 2 years since their divorce. Whilst much of the news has died down, Jennifer Anniston’s recent divorce from Justin Theroux have revived the age-old debate of whether Brad and Jen will ever get back together. What would happen to the pair’s respective fortunes, what legal protections would they be afforded through cohabiting, and how will the issue of custody be resolved?
Brad and Angelina had 6 children together, 3 of whom are adopted. The issue here is that the pair have yet to finalise their custody provisions, although Brad has reportedly secured the right to have his children stay with him during key holidays (Christmas and Thanksgiving) according to a report in InTouchWeekly. Whilst there could be lingering tension from the circumstances of Brad and Jen’s previous breakup, it is likely that Brad and Angelina respectively would want to ensure that they are on good terms with one another for the benefit of their children.
Both Jennifer and Brad have their homes in LA, so relocating would be relatively simple. However, with Jen owning her £15 million mansion jointly with her former husband, this will undoubtedly add complications in deciding where the couple may relocate to, and Jennifer’s right to retain her marital home in her divorce proceedings.
Protecting their assets
Both Brad and Jen are established figures in their acting careers (with both being worth $240 million and $200 million respectively) and both experienced the effect of a marital breakdown. It is unsurprising then that if the pair do decide to tie the knot, a prenuptial agreement would be a good way to protect their considerable assets. Protecting their assets could well be a priority, as a large proportion of their respective wealth would have been earned prior to their potential marriage. This would be a particular concern for Brad, given he had been living with Jolie for a number of years before their 2014 marriage. Unlike in the English and Welsh courts, prenuptial agreements are far more established in the United States of America, and since neither have specific ties to the jurisdiction of England and Wales, it is likely that any prenuptial agreement will be upheld in California, where the two currently live.
Currently, there are no plans for the couple to re-kindle their old romance. However, if you are in a similar situation and would like advice, Grayfords’ experienced solicitors can provide you with legal guidance.
Cohabiting, the act of living together whilst not being married (or in a civil union), is an increasingly popular choice, especially amongst younger generations.
Recent surveys carried out by the Office of National Statistics estimate that the number of cohabiting couples has more than doubled in the past 20 years, from 1.5 million cohabiting families in 1996 to 3.3 million in 2017.
The rise in cohabiting couples brings with it a new dimension of relationship breakdown. If a couple is married or in a civil union, the adequate property distribution to each individual will be assessed by the court in which they filed for divorce or dissolution. In the case of cohabitation, however, the matter will never go before a court, and the property will be divided in terms of legal ownership – meaning that whoever is registered on a deed or lease will become the legal owner. English law does not contemplate a “common law marriage” wherein a couple can become de facto married by virtue of having lived together for a certain period of time (certain States in the U.S., for example, do envision this type of marriage).
It is frequently stated that couples do not consider the legal ramifications that a relationship breakdown may entail when they enter into the relationship. As such, it is common that, upon breakup of a cohabiting couple, one person may not have legal recourse to the property they jointly lived in and will be unable to gain any financial support in finding a new home from the other individual either.
In certain jurisdictions, such as Scotland, the Scotland Family Act 2006 provides that a court may determine that each individual has an equal share in a property in which they cohabited and may need to equally divide up their assets and property. This is contingent on a showing of stability and reliance in the relationship, as well as subject to any agreements the couple may have entered into with each other. Nonetheless, it provides legal recourse where one individual may be surprised by the sudden loss of any claim to a property they always jointly cared for. Under the current system in England and Wales, the newly single individual not listed on a lease or deed may only be able to rely on equitable remedies provided for by property law, which may create further evidential issues and legal costs. A 2007 Law Commission Report recommended the implementation of legal certainty in England & Wales for cohabiting couples, and Baroness Hale has further been vocal on her support for legal effectuation of cohabitation. Nonetheless, Parliament has not chosen to act on the issue so far and, with Brexit on the table, it is unlikely cohabitation will become a top priority anytime soon. If you and your partner are cohabiting, considering moving in together or have recently ended your cohabitation, Grayfords can help you find a sustainable, durable legal solution.
In this week’s spotlight, we focus on Usher’s divorce from Grace Miguel.
Earlier this Spring, the couple announced their separation to Us Weekly after two years of marriage, stating they ‘remain deeply connected, loving friends who will continue supporting each other through the next phases of our lives’. The couple originally started dating in 2009 and have no children together. Therefore, this article will focus on the potential reasons for the separation and how their assets may be split.
Usher’s dating history shows that he has previously been divorced. In 2009, Usher separated from Tameka Foster after two years of marriage with a highly-publicised child custody dispute spanning over three years, with the Judge eventually awarding Usher primary custody.
With an estimated net worth of $180 million, Usher’s assets will be a primary concern in this split.
Potential reasons for the separation
In July 2017, an online rumour surfaced alleging that Usher carried the herpes virus and infected a partner with the virus in 2012. One claimant, Laura Helm, filed a $20 million lawsuit against the singer but her claim was later proved to be false. Throughout this ordeal, Miguel remained quiet. However there have since been several reports that Usher and Miguel have been arguing, indicating ‘irreconcilable differences’.
How assets will be split
It is unclear whether Usher and Miguel have a prenuptial agreement which would protect each partner’s assets in the event of a divorce. Prenuptial agreements are not automatically legally binding in England and Wales as they are in certain American states, but they can be used to protect pre-acquired assets and provide the couple with confidence about what would happen if they later separate. In the case of Usher and Miguel, a prenuptial agreement would protect his $180 million fortune, avoiding the uncertainty of separation of assets. If you wish to protect your assets prior to marriage, our solicitors can assist you in drafting a suitably tailored pre-nuptial agreement.
Due to the couple having no children, the separation of matrimonial assets would be the most challenging issue to deal with. Since the online rumour surfaced, additional rumours have transpired claiming Usher has had several affairs. In England and Wales, cases involving an extra-marital affair or affairs mean that a divorce petition can be issued on the grounds of ‘adultery’ or ‘unreasonable behaviour’.
A Judge will usually try to ensure broad equality of division of all assets and liabilities accrued during the marriage, and if necessary to meet the parties’ need, assets accrued prior to marriage. There are many factors that affect the distribution of assets and liabilities some of which include employment, each party’s health circumstances, the duration of the marriage and any children. Therefore, equitable distribution means that the division of matrimonial assets will be carried out as fairly as possible, with all circumstances taken into account. The courts of England and Wales have a famously wide discretion in this area, far more so than other comparable jurisdictions. In the case of Usher and Miguel, the assets subject to division are likely to include Usher’s earnings and property.
There are many factors that affect the distribution of matrimonial assets including employment and the duration of the marriage. At Grayfords, we deal with international complex cases as well as those solely relating to England and Wales. Our solicitors are happy to offer advice on pre-nuptial agreements as well as guide you through the process of divorce or separation.
CAFCASS, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, which represents children in Family Court cases in England and Wales recently reported a decline in new private law cases.
They compared the number of new cases received in both February and May 2018 with the same months in previous years. How, then, can such a decline be explained? It would not be surprising that many might want to avoid the often lengthy and costly court process. Or, perhaps, is it the result of cuts to legal aid that are impacting on the number of parents taking up the court’s service, which in itself raises difficult questions about access to justice and the impact on families.
The Rise of Mediation
The decline in new private law cases could, in part, be explained by an increased acceptance of mediation. Mediation is a voluntary process through which personal disputes are resolved using an independent third party (a “mediator”) to help facilitate an agreement. The Family Court of England & Wales has been advocating for the use of mediation before turning to court for a long time. This is because mediation can can often lead to resolution more quickly and cost-effectively than going through court proceedings. Additionally, the more cases that are resolved out of court results in the added benefit of reducing the significant caseload of courts around the country. When considering mediation, it is advisable that you seek legal advice first. This is something Grayfords can help with.
Costs and Cuts
However, the decline cannot be totally explained through an increase in embracing an out of court approach. There is another, perhaps more immediate, reason to explain the drop in private law cases. The decline in cases going to court can also be explained by the significant cut to legal aid eligibility for private family law disputes. As such, it may be that separated parents can simply no longer afford to attend court.
Looking to CAFCASS’ broader data, new cases received by the courts have dropped from 10% of all total cases between April 2015 – March 2016 to a significantly lower 3.8% between April 2017 – March 2018. As such, it will be interesting to follow these statistics over a longer period of time to determine whether annual figures continue to decline.
TV presenter, Ant McPartlin of ‘Ant and Dec’, has been a standard fixture in most of our own homes over the last decade. His participation in programs such as “Britain's Got Talent”, “I'm A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!”, and “Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway” has made him well-known in the entertainment world.
With fame comes an increased public interest in a celebrity’s personal life. So, it is no surprise that the media have shown interest in his 23-year-long relationship with make-up artist Lisa Armstrong. The couple met in 1994 during a performance on the “Smash Hits tour” in Newcastle and married in 2006. However back in January 2018, after 11 years of marriage, the “I’m A Celeb” host confirmed that he would be filing for divorce.
There has been speculation as to the reasons why the pair decided to go their separate ways. In June 2017, Ant entered rehab, having become addicted to prescription painkillers and alcohol. He has admitted that his issues with addiction and depression had put a strain on his marriage, so much so, that he did not reunite with his wife after rehab. Instead, he moved into a rented house not far from his marital home. Moreover, their difficulties in trying to start a family are thought to have also placed the couple’s relationship under strain. Both have publicly declared they intend an amicable split.
Since announcing his divorce, Ant has re-entered rehab for a second time after a drink-driving accident. He was recently fined £86,000 and now has a criminal record. Ant left rehab last week and has been remorseful for his wrongdoing. Meanwhile, his soon to be ex-wife, Lisa Armstrong, appears to be active on social media, liking tweets that are related to finding new love. The pair seem to be ‘out of the woods’ after a tough few months.
Is an addiction grounds for divorce?
The current law in the UK does not allow for ‘no fault’ divorces unless the couple has been separated for more than two years, and is very strict on the grounds on which a divorce can be granted prior to two years’ separation.
Drug-taking and alcohol abuse are considered amongst the factors that would generally constitute behaviour considered by the courts as sufficient to end a marriage, so they can be a valid ground for divorce in UK law. However, it really depends on the circumstances of the case whether or not it will be granted. For example, the fact that Ant entered rehab and has since steered clear of falling back into bad habits could prove a problem for his divorce proceedings because it demonstrates that the unreasonable behaviour does not exist any longer and as such should not create additional friction in the relationship which would lead to its irrevocable breakdown.
Splitting up the property
Because of the couple’s high net worth, the settlement of financial assets is going to be one of the crucial matters in the divorce - Ant's net worth alone is estimated to be around £62 million. It is likely one of the most substantial assets the couple has is their £6 million mansion in West London. Many couples have difficulties in turning one household into two, but it is likely that Ant and Lisa will have enough assets to do so fairly easily.
While Lisa has had a successful career of her own, it is more than likely Ant who has earned most of the matrimonial assets. The courts treat marriage as a partnership and consider all money, regardless of who earned it, as joint matrimonial property, so it is likely that Lisa could be entitled to around 50% of the assets in the marriage. If Lisa’s solicitors did push for a 50% split, this would make it one of the highest pay-outs in the history of UK celebrity divorces.
In an Instagram post on Valentine’s Day nearly two months ago, Olympic diving medallist Tom Daley announced that he is expecting his first child with husband Dustin Lance Black via a surrogate.
The couple shared an ultrasound of their son, expected to arrive later this year, and have expressed that their primary reason for using surrogacy was to have a ‘biological connection’ with their child. The couple do not wish to know who the biological father of their child is.
After conducting research on using surrogates, the pair made the decision to use an American surrogate as opposed to one based in England and Wales. The couple have criticised surrogacy law in England and Wales for being more stringent that in the US, and have stated that, while their home country is progressive in areas such as marriage and housing, there is room for improvement on the issue of surrogacy. This frustration is understandable. In England and Wales, surrogate mothers are not permitted to enter into a commercial surrogacy agreement. Therefore, receiving payment before, during or after a surrogacy agreement has been entered into is illegal. Reasonable expenses, however, incurred by the surrogate mother are permitted – such as travel expenses or loss of earnings.
Surrogacy & parental rights
Under the law of England and Wales, a surrogate mother and her spouse will acquire Parental Responsibility and will be regarded as the legal parents of any child born by surrogacy, even if they are not genetically related to the child. However, Parental Responsibility can be transferred by way of a Parental Order. Thus, for Daley and Black to acquire Parental Responsibility and to become the legal parents to their child in England and Wales, a Parental Order will need to be obtained.
In certain states in the USA, however, commercial surrogacy contracts are legally binding and, furthermore, the intended parents may also become the legal parents of a surrogate child from the outset. These are two of the reasons why parents turn to the USA when considering surrogacy.
In a recent podcast, the couple have stated that, despite going through the USA to have their surrogate child, they intend to ensure that their surrogate mother is involved in their child’s life as they grow up. Until then, Daley and Lance Black remain excited for the arrival of their child who will surely make a big splash into the couple’s life together.
Neil Graham, a Partner at Grayfords, comments as follows:
“Altruistic, rather than commercial, surrogacy agreements have been legal in England and Wales since the mid-1980s. However, Parental Responsibility for the child under the law of England and Wales lies initially with the surrogate Mother (and her spouse if she is married) rather than with the intended parents, irrespective of the terms of the surrogacy agreement and irrespective of whether the child is born in England and Wales or abroad. It is, therefore, extremely important to ensure that Parental Orders are obtained in accordance with the law of England and Wales to ensure that Parental Responsibility for the child passes to the intended parents of any such child. Often the need for Parental Orders is overlooked, especially where a child is born under the terms of a surrogacy agreement entered into abroad, which may cause significant difficulty later on, particularly if the relationship between the intended parents subsequently breaks down.
Since December 2016, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Mitochondrial Donation) Regulations have made it possible for a child to be conceived with the DNA of three individuals if limited and specific medical criteria require it. Whilst the law of England and Wales currently recognises that a child only has two parents Parental Responsibility can, of course, extend to more than two individuals.”
Here at Grayfords, we have the expertise to advise on surrogacy agreements and their implications under the law of England and Wales, whether entered into here or abroad, in addition to all areas of fertility law. Please do get in touch if we can be of any help in advising on these or any other issues relating to Family Law.
Chloë Grace Moretz, American actress and model and Brooklyn Beckham, first child of famous footballer David Beckham, have been dating since the two met at Paris Fashion Week in 2014.
Their relationship has continued to bloom ever since, despite some original speculation of being on-again off-again. It would seem the couple are now as serious and committed to each other as ever. This leaves us asking, what would their marriage look like?
Protecting their assets – Prenuptial Agreements
As of June 2017, Chloë was estimated as being worth $12 million, a fortune she would most likely wish to protect through the use of a prenup. Figures put Brooklyn at $8 million, excluding any assets he shares with his siblings and parents, Victoria and David Beckham.
Depending on the jurisdiction in which a marriage is entered into, prenuptial agreements are not always enforceable. In England, Brooklyn’s home country, for instance, it is at the discretion of a judge to find a prenup valid, although the court will be more likely to do so if it has been entered into with both parties having consulted independent lawyers, the agreement not manifestly disadvantaging either party, and the terms being reasonable in the circumstances. Regardless, as both Brooklyn and Chloe currently live in the United States they could easily be married there. In Californian state law – where Chloe lives – prenups can be upheld in court with a degree of certainty not possible in the UK. Most of the wealth of the couple has been generated in the period before their relationship and therefore, it is likely a prenuptial agreement would be entered into to ensure both parties protect their hard-earned assets.
What’s in a name?
Both Beckham and Moretz have undoubtedly succeeded at achieving name recognition, and it is likely they would both wish to keep their current last name so as to maintain that recognition. Having separate last names and both parties keeping their last name has become increasingly common and would not require any additional legal steps.
Home Sweet Home
Upon getting married, most couples will soon have a designated ‘marital home’ which is the house they choose to live in and spend the majority of their time at. This can change throughout the marriage as the couple moves homes or even countries. As Moretz is also located in L.A., it is likely they would choose a property located in Los Angeles, perhaps even Moretz’ current $3.4 million home. Whether the property gets written into the aforementioned prenuptial agreements will depend entirely on Moretz’ lawyers.
At the young ages of 21 (Chloë) and 19 (Brooklyn) the couple do not need to be in any rush to get married and seem to be enjoying their current relationship together. Nonetheless, if they do decide to tie the knot in the future, it will be crucial they consider their individual assets and brands in case the marriage sours down the road.
In this week’s spotlight, we take a closer look at the new Secretary of State for Justice and what his appointment might mean for the legal sector.
On 8th January 2018, Theresa May appointed David Gauke MP as the new Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor to her cabinet. Gauke has been appointed at a time of heightened instability in the legal system but, on further examination, his background and expertise suggest an appointment that is suited guiding the legal system through these tricky times.
One unexpected result of the recent reshuffle is that May has appointed the first ever solicitor to become Justice Secretary. Gauke’s appointment has marked the end of a run of four consecutive non-lawyers to hold the post.
Unlike his predecessor, David Lidington, Gauke’s past career as a solicitor indicates he has the experience to face challenges specifically related to the legal profession. Although he has not previously mentioned any interest in justice matters, the recent family law developments suggested by Gauke show that he has been pro-active in listening to family law professionals and moving with the times.
Since his appointment, Gauke and May have launched a consultation on domestic abuse, assessing whether stronger powers are necessary to protect and support survivors. This new approach allows courts to impose fresh conditions on abusers, including electronic tagging to monitor the abusers’ activity and ordering compulsory alcohol treatment. These new powers have brought real change the current legal system because there is now better protection for victims with the potential to bring more perpetrators to justice.
In addition, Gauke has strongly suggested that the current fault-based system for divorce may be subject to change. After a campaign from The Times (amongst others), Gauke acknowledged the need for reform and will review the evidence supporting change. Lord Mackay, one of Gauke’s predecessors, embraced the review and recognised that it has been over 20 years since parliament passed a bill removing the need for making allegations of fault in order to obtain a divorce more quickly, but this was never implemented.
Within the legal sphere, Gauke’s recent recommendations have been met with extensive approval from family lawyers. On Twitter, Phillip Marshall QC, who is representing Tini Owens in her appeal to the Supreme Court, responded with the hashtag #hurrah. Whilst Sir Paul Coleridge, chairman of the Marriage Foundation, welcomed a ‘full public and parliamentary debate’ on the current system of fault based divorce.
Despite Gauke only recently being appointed, his fresh approach to family law is welcomed, especially as there is a need to reform the traditional family law system to encompass and represent the changing dynamic of modern families. If you want further information on how to successfully navigate yourself through divorce, our solicitors can assist you today.
Oscar-winning actor Gary Oldman’s son, Gulliver Oldman, has issued a statement in defense of his father after multiple media outlets reported on domestic abuse allegations brought against the actor by ex-wife Donya Fiorentino.
In his open letter, Gulliver outlines the hurt and distress he feels over the resurfaced allegations brought by his mother in a recent interview, arguing that the claims had long been dismissed as false. Concretely, he argues that his father would not have been awarded full and sole custody of his children during the divorce if there had been any evidence before a court that he Oldman had displayed abusive tendencies.
This sentiment displays the impact even allegations of domestic abuse can have on children. Often voiced in divorce proceedings, where a court may request the children to be in attendance, such allegations can make their way into the record and cause turmoil for a child’s relationship with the accused and the accuser.
Witnessing their parents go through a divorce is a stressful time for most children, and having such nasty claims come to light can make the situation even more dramatic. In considering the welfare and best interest of the child, it is therefore crucial that such allegations are not made lightly.
Gulliver’s open letter raises interesting questions, however, with regard to the extent to which children should be looped in to what is happening between their parents. While the offspring of less famous individuals may not see allegations against their parent being thrown around as publicly as is the case for Oldman, it is nonetheless true that such rumors could also be brought up by a neighbor, family friend or other acquaintance.
Moreover, where children are direct witnesses of the alleged events, as is the case here, courts, solicitors and families need to be able to question the children on what happened if needed, as well as be able to counsel and reassume them in an appropriate manner. In his statement, for example, Gulliver defends his father’s character by saying that he was present during the alleged event, and therefore knows that the allegations are false. Again, this raises questions on the impact that children may have if they are forced to be witnesses and are therefore thrown into the middle of all the allegations.
As we move towards a society where speaking out on abuse is expected (as it should be) there are indeed more allegations that may surface, especially in the context of divorce proceedings. It is important that both our legal system and our families decide and establish how they will ensure that children remain as unaffected as possible from such allegations of domestic abuse.