Alison Fielden & Co. - News

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April 2019Legal News

New Law proposed to end the need to find fault or wait for years for a divorce

Divorcing couples will no longer have to blame each other for the breakdown of their marriage as the Justice Secretary today (9 April 2019) announced a new law to help reduce family conflict.

The move follows a public consultation where family justice professionals and those with direct experience of divorce voiced their support for reform. New legislation will therefore be introduced to Parliament to update our 50-year-old divorce law which has been shown to exacerbate conflict.

Ministers are acting to change the law after responses also revealed that the current system can work against any prospect of reconciliation, and can be damaging to children by undermining the relationship between parents after divorce.

Current laws demand proof that a marriage has broken down irretrievably and force spouses to evidence 'unreasonable behaviour' or years of separation, even in cases where a couple has made a mutual decision to part ways.

Marriages are not saved by the ability of one spouse to 'contest' a divorce in court. Very few divorces are contested but this practice is known to be misused by abusers choosing to contest a divorce purely to continue their coercive and controlling behaviour. The government therefore proposes to remove it.

Proposals for changes to the law include:

  • retaining the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage as the sole ground for divorce
  • replacing the requirement to provide evidence of a 'fact' around behaviour or separation with a requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown
  • retaining the two-stage legal process currently referred to as decree nisi and decree absolute
  • creating the option of a joint application for divorce, alongside retaining the option for one party to initiate the process

As always the devil will be in the detail, we await sight of the legislation. It is not yet known when these proposed changes in the law will take place and people should defer taking legal advice on their situation.

February 2019Office News

Cyber Essentials

As from 6 February 2019 we are accredited for Cyber Essentials which is an accreditation scheme to ensure certain basic standards of internet security.

November 2018Special Update

Update for all Clients on Cyber Security

In the context of evermore sophisticated cyber crime we are taking additional steps to protect clients' money with immediate effect. We will now no longer send our bank details by electronic means in any circumstances. Bank details will be confirmed to clients by telephone, in person, by letter or by fax. Bank details will often be sent with our initial Terms of Business and should be kept safely for future reference. If in any doubt please telephone us to double check that any bank details you have are correct before transmitting funds.

To reiterate: please note that from now on any bank details apparently or purportedly sent from us by email should not be acted upon. Check details with us first. Be Cyber Safe.

Please also see our new leaflet: Our Procedures For Holding Your Money In Client Account.

June 2018Office News

Cake sale to raise funds for CHYP

We are holding a cake sale on Friday 29 June 2018. Cakes will be available on our forecourt from 9.30am until they run out. All proceeds will go to Cirencester Housing for Young People. Please come along to our office and enjoy some delicious treats to support CHYP!

May 2018Legal News

GDPR & Privacy

The new data protection regime (GDPR) is in force as from 25 May 2018. This means that everyone who controls or processes data must update their procedures so as to safeguard any personal information they hold. For more details please see the ICO website.

Our own Privacy Notice, showing how Alison Fielden & Co comply with the law to protect personal data which we hold, can be accessed via the link at the bottom of each page of this website, or here.

February 2018Office News

New Staff Member

We are pleased to welcom Graeme Gaston as a new arrival to the firm. Graeme is a highly experienced Licensed Conveyancer who will be assisting Alison in the firm's Property & Business department. Graeme previously worked for five years with a local firm before leaving to embark on a prolonged period of travel, and is very much looking forward to re-establishing previous contacts, as well as to making new ones.

December 2017Office News

Cirencester Sparkles

We were delighted to be part of the town's advent celebrations again this year. The event seemed better than ever and was supported by a large number of businesses and organisations. We were the main sponsors and very much enjoyed celebrating with everybody who had contributed time or effort to make the event a success. The switching-on was performed by This Country stars Daisy and Charlie Cooper and entertainment was provided by various local musicians.

Alison Fielden holds the button as Daisy Cooper and Charlie Cooper prepare to switch on Cirencester's Christmas LightsAlison Fielden holds the button as Daisy Cooper and Charlie Cooper switch on Cirencester's Christmas Lights
Photographs by Elliot Dyer

November 2017Legal News

Concessions for first time buyers

There are new concessions for SDLT for first time buyers. Please see here for details.

November 2017Office News

New Staff Member

We are pleased to welcome Kim Hathaway as a new member of staff. She is the secretary of the Wills/Probate department, assisting our Wills/Probate solicitor, Tina Amid.

October 2017Legal News

Marriage law reform will have to wait, Justice Minister Dominic Raab says

Now is not the right time to fundamentally reform marriage law, the Ministry of Justice has said, after sitting on a government-commissioned Law Commission report for nearly two years.

In December 2014 the government asked the commission to review the law governing how and where people can marry in England and Wales. The commission published a scoping paper a year later, which concluded that the current law is 'outdated, uncertain and needlessly complex'.

However justice minister Dominic Raab told Professor Nick Hopkins, a law commissioner, that 'now is not the right time to undertake further work on such fundamental reform'. Raab, in his letter dated in September, said the family justice system 'is under significant pressure at present from a sustained increase in public and private law cases', which the government is trying to alleviate.

'Accordingly, we need to focus on reforms in this area of the system in order to meet the unprecedented increases in demand. Any opportunities for primary legislation will need to support that aim,' he added.

'I realise that this decision may be disappointing, but I am not ruling out the option of further work in this area in a future programme of work, and I am happy to keep this under review.'

Responding to Raab's letter, Hopkins said this week that the pressure to change marriage law, or at least comprehensively review legislation, 'is unlikely to diminish'.

Hopkins highlighted high-profile campaigns by humanist groups, who have successfully challenged weddings legislation in Northern Ireland, and those concerned about religious-only marriage, which is being considered by the sharia law review, set up by Theresa May when she was home secretary.

He added: 'This is a complex area of the law with a need for wide consultation, so any law reform options would take time to formulate.

'Allowing the commission to undertake work would help to identify the issues and have solutions ready for implementation in the medium term, if government agreed at that stage that reform was warranted. Our work could be structured to give government options for reform, including more limited reform that could be implemented via the special parliamentary procedure for Law Commission bills.'

October 2017Legal News

Figures show rise in divorce for opposite-sex couples

The number of opposite-sex couples divorcing in England and Wales increased by 5.8% in 2016, according to the latest statistical bulletin released today by the Office for National Statistics.

The figures show that there were 106,959 divorces of opposite-sex couples in 2016 and that the divorce rate for opposite-sex couples was highest among men aged 45 to 49 and women in their thirties (ages 30 to 39). There were 112 divorces of same-sex couples in 2016; of these 78% were among female couples.

October 2017Legal News

Supreme Court find local authority vicariously liable for abuse committed by foster carers

In Armes (Appellant) v Nottinghamshire County Council (Respondent) [2017] UKSC 60, the Supreme Court held Nottinghamshire County Council were vicariously liable for the physical, emotional and sexual abuse committed by foster parents to the appellant (Armes) during her time in foster care. The local authority can be held vicariously liable only in situations involving placements with foster carers, such vicarious liability does not extend to the local authority in situations involving child placements with family members.

Armes was placed in the care of Nottinghamshire County Council between the ages of seven to 18. The council placed her into foster care with two families:

  • Mr and Mrs A between March 1985 and March 1986; and
  • Mr and Mrs B between October 1987 and February 1988.

Armes was physically and emotionally abused by Mrs A, and sexually abused by Mr B. In both cases the abuse took place in the foster home in the course of day-to-day care.

The High Court and the Court of Appeal dismissed claims that Nottinghamshire County Council was vicariously liable or in breach of a non-delegable duty.

Supreme Court decision

The Supreme Court had been asked to rule on whether Nottinghamshire County Council was liable for the abuse suffered by Armes, on the basis of being in breach of a non-delegable duty, or whether it was vicariously liable for the wrongdoing of the foster parents.

The judgment considered the threshold to be passed to establish a non-delegable duty of care. The council was found not to have reached the threshold for a non-delegable duty to ensure that reasonable care is taken for the safety of children in care while they are in the care and control of foster parents. The court deemed this to be 'too broad, and fixes local authorities with too demanding a responsibility'.

However, following principles established in Cox v Ministry of Justice [2016] UKSC 10, [2016] All ER (D) 25 (Mar), the court found the council vicariously liable for the acts of the foster parents. This was for reasons including, among others:

  • integration and business activity - the abuse committed by the foster parents against the Armes was committed by the foster parents in the course of an activity carried on for the benefit of the local authority
  • the local authority carried out the recruitment, selection and training of foster parents, paid their expenses, and supervised the fostering. Therefore, the foster parents were not carrying on an independent business of their own
  • creation of risk - children are particularly vulnerable to abuse as they are placed with foster parents creating a relationship of authority
  • control - the local authority exercised a significant degree of control over the foster parents; it exercised powers of approval, inspection, supervision and removal. Micro-management, or a high degree of control, are not necessary for the imposition of vicarious liability.

Vicarious liability is only of practical relevance in situations where:

  • the principal tortfeasor cannot be found or is not worth suing;
  • the person sought to be made vicariously liable is able to compensate the victim of the tort.

As most foster parents have insufficient means to meet a substantial award of damages, 'the local authorities which engage them can more easily compensate the victims of injuries which are often serious and long-lasting'.

July 2017Office News

Alison Fielden & Co victorious in the UK Supreme Court

On 26th July 2017 the UK Supreme Court delivered its Judgment in the case of Birch v Birch finding that the Court did have jurisdiction to hear the Wife's Application to discharge her Undertaking, which would have required the sale of the family home, where the Wife and children live, as she had been unable to secure the release of the Husband from the mortgage.

Alison Fielden & Co acted on behalf of the wife in an Appeal against a decision that the Court had no power to make such an Order. Stephen Hockman QC and Jane Campbell, instructed by Alison Fielden & Co, succeeded in persuading the country's highest Court to reverse the decision of the Courts below, a District Judge, a Circuit Judge and the Court of Appeal, that there was no power to hear the Wife's Application.

The case will now return to the Circuit Judge for further consideration.

For further details of the Courts decision click here.

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Alison Fielden & Co.
The Gatehouse
Dollar Street
Glos. GL7 2AN
DX 39418 Cirencester
Tel 01285 653261
Fax 01285 885372