Legal Updates

No-Fault Divorce Update

We last reported on the topic of no-fault divorce in October of last year following the sad case of Tini Owens. The case highlighted a longstanding problem with divorce law which forces parties to find blame if they want to guarantee that the court can give permission for a divorce. Mrs Owens found herself in the ludicrous situation of trying to leave a loveless marriage described as “wretched” by one judge, however it was not found to be  wretched enough to satisfy the irretrievable breakdown requirement of current divorce legislation.  

Cohabitation Agreements

Last autumn we considered the impact of a 2018 ruling by the Supreme Court about the state of relationships in Britain. Specifically we reviewed how the law on civil partnerships was to be changed to allow couples of the opposite sex who did not wish to get married to have some legal recognition. In the case, the Supreme Court made a declaration that the current law was not compatible with Human Rights legislation. As a result, the government confirmed that it would change the law to allow any couple to register as civil partners. Unfortunately the rules contained in the Civil Partnership Act 2004 (CPA 2004) have not yet been changed.

Changes to Rules for Solicitors

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) was established in 2007 as an independent body responsible for regulating the 180,000 Solicitors in England and Wales. The SRA’s purpose is to protect the public by ensuring that Solicitors and those working for them meet very high standards. The key way that the SRA does this is by publishing and enforcing Principles for the profession and a Code of Conduct contained in the SRA Handbook. This month we will be considering the biggest change to the Handbook since it was introduced in 2011.

Civil Litigation – Proportionality

Ever since the concept of proportionality was introduced to legal costs as part of the Woolf reforms in 1999, the courts and legal practitioners have wrestled with what this actually means. As part of Lord Justice Jackson’s package of reforms in 2007 the test was set out in the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) Part 44. This part of the CPR provided that only costs which were considered proportionate to a case would be allowed. Costs which were considered disproportionate would either be disallowed or reduced even if the costs were reasonably or necessarily incurred.

To give a bit more clarity about what the courts consider when deciding whether costs are proportionate, they will look at:

(a) the sums at issue in the proceedings;

(b) the value of any non-monetary relief in the proceedings;

Conveyancing – The Process is Going to be Easier

Conveyancing Update.jpgThis month we are considering a further push by the government to make the conveyancing process quicker and cheaper. Currently the home buying process takes, on average, between three and four months from the date an offer is accepted until the transaction is completed. Part of the reason it takes this amount of time is because buyers and sellers can struggle to communicate basic initial information. In addition, this failure to communicate well can affect the number of transactions that fail to reach the completion stage. 

Family Practice - No-Fault Divorce Update

Divorce.jpgThis month we are returning to the topic of no-fault divorce. When we last wrote about this, we examined the sad case of Mrs Tini Owens who was not given permission to divorce her husband despite it being an entirely loveless marriage.

In the Owens v Owens Supreme Court case from July 2018, the current failings of the system were highlighted. The Supreme Court ruled in July that the 68-year-old could not divorce her husband and escape her loveless marriage until a period of five years had elapsed. She and her husband, Hugh Owens, had been living separate lives since 2015. Mrs Owens will have to stay married to her husband until they had been separated for five years before she will be allowed to divorce him.

Family Practice – Civil Partnership

Civil partnership (1) .jpgThis month we are examining the impact of a June 2018 ruling by the Supreme Court on the state of relationships in Britain. More to the point, we are considering how the ruling could lead to a change in the law on civil partnerships.

A civil partnership is a legal union between same-sex couples. If you are a civil partner, you are entitled to the same treatment as a married couple on a wide range of legal matters. The problem that the case highlighted was that only same-sex couples can enter into a civil partnership. Those opposite-sex couples who do not wish to get married but want some kind of legal recognition are not allowed to form a civil partnership. Now, however, this may change.

Japanese Knotweed, Conveyancing and the Law of Nuisance

Japanese Knotweed.jpgThis month we are considering a case recently heard in the Court of Appeal involving the law of private nuisance. The case is significant because it is likely to affect how those working in conveyancing deal with some of the searches that are obtained when property is purchased.

The key facts of the case were as follows:

•           Mr Williams and Mr Waistell (“the Claimants”) were the owners of two adjoining semi-detached bungalows located in South Wales.

•           Network Rail owned the land immediately behind the Claimants’ properties.

•           On an embankment on Network Rail’s land was a large stand of Japanese knotweed.

Wills and Probate – Inheritance Tax Reform?

Inheritance Tax.jpgThe UK’s complex Inheritance Tax (IHT) system could shortly be due for reform depending on the results of a review by the Office for Tax Simplification (OTS). Chancellor Philip Hammond has written to the OTS asking it to review the IHT regime and he said: 

“IHT, and the system within which it operates, is particularly complex and I would like to request that the OTS carry out a review. I would be most interested to hear any proposals you may have for simplification to ensure that the system is fit for purpose and makes the experience of those who interact with it as smooth as possible.”