Parental Alienation

Parental alienation, where a “child’s resistance/hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent” (CAFCASS definition), can cause utter devastation to a family. The consequence can be a complete breakdown in the child’s relationship with a parent, a rejection which they feel is justified, and ultimately, cessation of contact.

The Family court has found 3 elements to parental alienation:

1.            The child is refusing, resisting, or reluctant to engage in a relationship with a parent or carer.

2.            The refusal, resistance, or reluctance is not as a consequence of the actions of the non-resident parent.

3.            The resident parent has engaged in behaviours that have directly or indirectly impacted on the child, leading to the child’s refusal, resistance, or reluctance to engage in a relationship with the other parent.

What is alienating behaviour?

  • Repeatedly criticising or belittling the other
  • Unjustifiably limiting or undermining contact
  • Forbidding discussion about the other parent
  • Creating a false impression that the other parent does not love the child or has harmed them
  • Denying emotional responsiveness to the other parent

This list is not exhaustive but offers examples of how a child can be manipulated into turning against a parent. This is tantamount to emotional abuse.

Early Intervention is vital

Early intervention, in cases of parental alienation, is vital. An application for a child arrangement order, citing concern about alienation should be brought to the attention of the court so that it can consider how best to determine the truth of such allegation.

It is within the power of the Family court to order a fact-finding hearing, to determine the truth; and to appoint a Rule 16.4 guardian to provide the child with his/her own independent legal representation whose role is to offer balance to the court, which will assist the Judge in making a determination. The child’s solicitor will likely recommend a joint instruction of a child psychologist to undertake a detailed assessment of the child, in particular to consider whether the child has been alienated, and how best to overcome this emotional hurdle whilst seeking to preserve the child’s relationship with both parents.

The law assumes that it is in the best interests of a child to have a relationship with both parents. If one parent is taking steps, whether consciously or subconsciously, to undermine and damage the child’s relationship with the other parent, the court can ultimately make an order transferring residence from the alienator to the alienated, if it believes that to do so will result in the child enjoying the benefit of a relationship with both parents.

If you are concerned that your child may be suffering from parental alienation, you can secure confidential advice from one of the Family Team members at Bevirs Law. We have vast experience in managing such cases and will offer impartial, expert legal advice. Call us on 01793 532363 or email michelle.bowyer@bevirs-law.co.uk

Grandparent’s rights

Grandparents can play a pivotal role in children’s life, from emotional and financial support to practical help in offering unpaid care to enable both parents to work or babysitting to give the parents a much-needed break. Despite the importance of their role, and the affection in which they are held by many children, grandparents can often find themselves ostracised when the parent’s marriage breaks down, or when their relationship comes to an end.

The Grandparents United for Children launched a report at the end of 2023 highlighting the plight of grandparents and their research found that where there are no safeguarding issues, grandparents within a court process generally have gaps of over a year or more before any contact with their grandchildren.

What are your rights?

A grandparent has no automatic right to contact with a grandchild. However, you do have the right to apply to the court for permission to pursue a child arrangement order, and if you have otherwise had a loving relationship with your grandson or granddaughter, it is highly likely that you will be granted such permission.

Permission criteria

The court must have regard to:

• The nature of the proposed application

• The applicant’s connection with the child

• Any risk of disruption to the child’s life to such an extent that the child would be harmed by it

• Where the child is looked after by the local authority: the authority’s plans for the child’s future; and the wishes and feelings of the child’s parents

Child Arrangement Order

The Children Act 1989 governs the way in which the court considers arrangements for children with a fundamental principle being that the child’s welfare shall be the paramount consideration of the court.

Once permission is granted, your application will be listed for a first hearing at which all parties who have parental responsibility will be invited to attend. The court will carefully consider the merits of your application and will likely appoint a CAFCASS officer to undertake safeguarding checks, and who may also be ordered to establish the ascertainable wishes of the child. If the court considers it to be in the best interests of the child to have contact with you, it will grant the order, with the timing of contact being subject to other commitments the child will have, such as contact with an absent parent.

Practical Advice

If you are being ostracised, try your best to maintain indirect contact with your grandchild by way of sending letters and cards, emails, or text messages. Let them know they are loved without involving them in the dispute you may have with one of their parents. Offer support to the parents and try not to take sides. Consider mediation as an alternative method of dispute resolution: a mediator will help you to discuss arrangements for contact, and if a consensus is still not achieved, your attempt at mediation, will permit your application to the family court.

If you need advice in relation to contact with your grandchildren, the family team at Bevirs Law can offer you constructive advice and we will do our best to secure a positive outcome not only for you, but for your grandchildren as well. Call us on 01793 532363 or email michelle.bowyer@bevirs-law.co.uk

Pension Sharing Orders

A pension sharing order is a legal mechanism used by the family court to ensure a fair division of retirement savings, upon divorce. Such order can only be made within divorce proceedings and is not binding until the terms have been approved, and until the final divorce order has been made.

It is often the case that pension funds are the most valuable asset of a marriage, second to equity in property, but they can often be overlooked if parties have conducted their own divorce and agreed to divide their cash assets between themselves and without involving the court.  This can lead to one party suffering to their detriment, when they reach retirement age and have failed to obtain a fair share of the combined pension savings.

The court has the power to make the following orders:

1.            Pension sharing – where a percentage of one party’s funds are transferred into the other party’s pension pot.

2.            Pension attachment and earmarking orders – which redirects part or all of one party’s pension benefits to the ex-spouse when it comes to be paid, at retirement age.

3.            Pension offsetting – where the value in pensions is offset against other assets, for example,  one party retains greater pension benefits in exchange for a smaller percentage of the equity in the family home.

It is imperative that a fair valuation of all pension funds are obtained. This will include every workplace pension you are a part of and can also include your state pension entitlement (in relation to which you can secure a forecast by completing BR19 application form and submitting it to the DWP). The court require the CEV (cash equivalent valuation) to determine the overall value of all pension funds and will likely need the expert guidance of a PODE (pensions on divorce expert) to assess how to divide the pensions to provide a fair division in retirement. Actuarial factors such as gender, age and health will be taken into account and a report will be produced which will confirm the precise percentage required, to achieve equality in retirement.

The court expects, and you are entitled, to be on an equal footing in your respective retirement. It would be inequitable for one party to languish on the minimum state pension income whilst the other enjoys the spoils of a working lifetime of privately accrued pensions.

If you have divorced without thinking about division of pensions, or you are in the process of divorce and you require advice, our Family team at Bevirs Law can offer you expert guidance in relation to your potential entitlement. We offer a fixed fee initial appointment for £75 + VAT at which we will appraise your matrimonial finances and offer advice about how best to safeguard your retirement income.

Call the Family team on 01793 532363 or email michelle.bowyer@bevirs-law.co.uk

Don’t forget your finances!

The 2-year anniversary of the reform of divorce laws is upon us this Spring, and the ONS (Office for National Statistics) records 80,057 divorces granted in 2022, down from 113,505 the previous year. The decline may be due to the new rules imposing a 20 week “cooling off period”.

The cooling off period was intended to be utilised by parties, to negotiate the terms of their financial settlement and/or living arrangements for their children. At Bevirs Law, we are encountering more and more clients who have quietly (and as quickly as the rules allow), obtained their divorce but they have failed to address the financial aspect of their separation.

Failing to negotiate financial arrangements, or obtaining a clean break order, at the conclusion of your divorce puts you at risk of the following:

  • The remarriage trap – which will prevent you from applying for a lump sum, property adjustment or periodical payments order against your ex-spouse, if you remarry
  • Missing out on securing a fair share of pension income – the current approach of the court is to provide equality in retirement, and it will make a pension sharing order transferring a percentage of the greater pot, into the other spouse’s pension fund, to place them on an equal footing at retirement age
  • Losing the right to apply for a pension sharing order if your spouse dies (taking his/her pension fund with them)
  • Missing out on a fair division of cash savings and investments before they are depleted by the spouse who is holding those funds which would otherwise be available for distribution
  • Failing to secure appropriate housing for you and your children
  • Failing to obtain provision for either spousal maintenance or nominal spousal maintenance (which keeps the option “live” for future use, should your circumstances change)
  • Failing to prevent a claim upon your own assets, including future acquisitions and inheritances

A short-term investment in legal advice will not only save you considerable funds in the long-term and ensure that you recover what is rightfully your fair share of matrimonial assets, but will also protect you against future claims by your ex-spouse.

We have vast experience of handing matrimonial financial cases at Bevirs Law. We offer a fixed fee initial appointment for £75 + VAT, at which we can offer initial impartial advice focusing on your own circumstances and we can assess the options available to you for resolution of your case.

Call the Family team on 01793 532363 or email michelle.bowyer@bevirs-law.co.uk

Fabulous work Rebecca!

Congratulations to Bevirs Law partner Rebecca Scammell who recently represented the foster carers, pro bono, in Gloucester County Council v a Mother & Ors [2024] EWFC 38 (B)

The local authority were seeking to place the child with extended family, but the expert evidence supported the child remaining with her current carers, her foster parents.

The Court found that the Local Authority’s attitude towards the foster parents was dismissive and critical, lacking respect for them as the child’s carers. The Court took the very rare step of making a Special Guardianship Order followed by a Care Order, on the basis that it was in the child’s best interests and afforded the foster parents a status that the Local Authority could not provide, recognising their role as the child’s permanent carers.

A pro bono costs Order was also made for Rebecca’s legal costs to go to the Access to Justice Foundation to hopefully help other individuals who desperately require legal representation but are unable to afford it.

Prospect Hospice – a fabulous cause

We are thrilled to announce that the inaugural Bevirs Law and Supermarine Bowls Club quiz evening raised £216 for Prospect Hospice in Wroughton. It was a pleasure to visit their lovely facilities to present the cheque.

Thanks to all who attended the quiz from Supermarine and Bevirs, especially to everyone who bought a ticket.

Shadavia’s Journey

As it is currently National Apprenticeship Week we wanted to showcase our latest talent Shadavia Rodriques embarking on their career progression. In Shadavia’s own words:

“I started working at Bevirs Law in June 2022 as a Trainee Assistant.

After a year as a trainee, I transitioned to the role of Legal Assistant within the Family Care Team. I have enjoyed the additional responsibilities that I have been given and the tasks that I am set to work on. Not only has this helped to develop my skill set but it has evoked a passion and ambition to train and qualify as a Solicitor.  

I have since been supported to apply for the Solicitor Apprenticeship and I enrolled with BPP in January 2024. I am on my 3rd week of lectures and will also be building a portfolio alongside my learning to showcase my work experience.”

We wish Shadavia all the luck in her continuing studies and will support her in any way we can.

Fundraising quiz at Supermarine Bowls Club

Friday evening saw Supermarine Bowls Club hosting a fabulous Quiz evening for their members along with Bevirs’ partners and staff in their inviting clubhouse.

With much jollity and polishing off the brain cells we had a fabulous evening, with the winning team taking home bragging rights and a goody bag.

The raffle, with prizes donated by Bevirs, went down a storm with more than £200 raised for Prospect.

Step Back in Time

Recently we were lucky enough to have this historic photograph shared with us by a local gentleman.  It features his aunt Miss Doreen Mary Breeze and uncle Lance Cpl J. W. Wake on their wedding day in 1956, and the accompanying newspaper article.

With a little bit of digging through our history archives we believe that the location of the photograph was outside our then Bevirs & Co Solicitors offices at 122 Commercial Road, Swindon, which is now a smart looking barber shop.

We know the gentleman on the left worked at Bevirs & Co and acted as a witness to the marriage at Swindon Registry Office situated inside the then Town Hall, with its clock tower which is still as impressive today.  It may be a Mr Major, who was associated with the Registrar of Births Marriages and Deaths, or a Mr Rees who worked hard to build up Bevirs & Co Swindon office after the war and was appointed Superintendent Registrar.

Thank you Tony Gregson for sharing this fascinating glimpse into history.