A New Era for Divorce Law

Yesterday came the long awaited announcement from the government that divorce laws in England and Wales will be changed as soon as parliamentary time becomes available to introduce “no-fault” divorces. This will remove the need for a person to blame their spouse in divorce proceedings where couples wish to divorce in the first two years after separation.

After previous plans to introduce “no fault “ based divorces were shelved in 1996, currently, if couples wish to divorce in the first two years of separation they are left with no option but to blame the other by proving either an adulterous relationship or unreasonable behaviour. If one spouse will not agree to a divorce or admit blame, under the current law a person would have to wait for a 5 year period to have passed before a divorce can be granted. This can inevitably lead to additional upset, stress and acrimony and have a lasting impact on their future relationship. This is particularly relevant where there are children, and parents need an ongoing relationship to effectively co-parent their children.

Under the new laws, there will be a minimum timeframe of 6 months from the date of the petition to the marriage being ended to give all involved a period of reflection on their decisions.

The news has been welcomed by all involved in working with and supporting separated families.

Partner, Karen Beevers of Evans Derry said:

“Whilst some have expressed concern over whether the new laws will make divorce too easy, my experience over the last 20 years is that nobody makes the decision their marriage has ended lightly. It usually follows many weeks, months and possibly years of trying to work out whether the marriage can be saved.

Having been involved in several collaborative family law cases where couples have shown great dignity in working out amicably, round the table with the assistance of their lawyers, all of their proposed future arrangements in respect of both their children and finances, it is an unnecessary and harmful exercise to then explain how one needs to find blame against the other for a divorce to be granted currently within the first two years of separation. The focus needs to be on resolution, and avoiding unnecessary acrimony to help families function post separation. The new proposed laws seem to strike the appropriate balance, whilst not undermining the sanctity of marriage”.

As at yet there is no formal date for the proposed changes, but it does now finally seem the end is in sight of the “blame game”.

For further information please contact Karen Beevers at karenbeevers@evansderry.com

New Job Opportunities

We are always on the lookout for talented, enthusiastic individuals to join the Evans Derry team.

If you believe you’ve got what it takes, or for more information, please send your CV and covering letter to richardholt@evansderry.com

Divorce: The End of the Blame Game?

As specialist family lawyers we have long been supporting a change in divorce law to stop the need for separating couples having to assign blame to each other within divorce proceedings at a time when they are often struggling emotionally, and seeking to resolve financial issues, as well as arrangements for their children.

Under current divorce law, where couples are seeking to divorce within the first two years of separation, they are forced to prove their marriage has irretrievably broken down by relying on either adultery, or citing the behaviour of their spouse as being unreasonable to the extent they cannot reasonably be expected to live with them.

Picture this. The couple have been working amicably in either mediation, the collaborative process or otherwise to reach a resolution on all issues arising from their separation. Having been able to work and reach consensus on significant issues, such as the future of the family home and the proposed time the children will spend with each of them, they are then faced with the scenario where they are having to allocate blame as to the fault behind the marriage breakdown.

How can this be consistent with encouraging people to deal with matters as amicably as possible and to reduce acrimony in the interests of their children?

It appears the recent Supreme Court case of Mrs. Owens and the publicity surrounding it has thrown the issue right into the spotlight, and helped the campaign for “No Fault” Divorce gather momentum. Having been married for 40 years, she sought to divorce her husband on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour on the grounds that she was unhappy and that it was a loveless marriage. The divorce was opposed by Mr. Owens, and whilst the court had great sympathy with Mrs. Owens, the law as it stands was clear and her appeal rejected, leaving her in a most unfortunate position until at least 2020.

The announcement the Government is to launch Consultation on introducing “no -fault” divorces is most welcome. If it enable couples to separate with less acrimony and quicker, this in turn can only benefit people emotionally and in particular where children are involved.

Here’s hoping a landmark moment on the road to “no-fault” based divorce has been reached.

For further information please contact Karen Beevers by email at karenbeevers@evansderry.com, or by telephone on 01675 464 400

Bright Future at Evans Derry Solicitors

Julie Bennett promoted to Partner

The Partners at EDS are delighted to announce the recent promotion of Julie Bennett to the management team as Partner.

Since she joined the practice in 2015, Julie has further developed an impressive reputation as a leading specialist in personal injury work and HS2 claims.

“Julie encompasses all the values that are so important at EDS and which upon our reputation is built. She is personable, effective and committed to quality client care with a strong passion for achieving fairness. We are delighted to welcome Julie to further strengthen the management team.”

Speaking of her appointment Julie shared:

“I feel extremely privileged to be given the opportunity to join the partnership at Evans Derry. The firm has a long history of offering quality legal services in the local and to be such a part of its future is an honour.”

For further information please contact Julie Bennett by email at juliebennett@evansderry.com

Civil Partnership… A New Era?

Heterosexual couple win civil partnership case

Just over 3 years ago, Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan attempted to register a Civil Partnership in their local Registry Office.  Having been involved in a long-settled relationship since 2011, with 2 young dependant children, they wished to enter into a Civil Partnership to “cement our commitment and strengthen the security of our family”.

Their request was refused and they were told they couldn’t form a Civil Partnership because they were not the same sex.

For Rebecca and Charles, marriage was not felt to be an option. They felt the legacy of marriage was one which ‘treated women as property for centuries.’

‘We want to raise our children as equal partners and feel that a Civil Partnership- a modern symmetrical institution- sets the best example for them,’ they explained.

Rebecca and Charles felt the refusal was unfair and discriminatory. After a legal battle lasting over 3 years, the Supreme Court have now unanimously agreed with them. In a landmark judgment, they have ruled that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 which currently only applies same-sex couples is unfair.

So what is a Civil Partnership & how does it differ from marriage?

Unlike marriage, a Civil Partnership has no religious connotations. Crucially, it confers the same legal treatment in terms of tax, inheritance, pensions and next of kin arrangements as marriage. In addition, it provides legal and financial protection in the event of the relationship ending.

Since March 2014, same sex couples have a choice of whether they wish to enter into a Civil Partnership or to marry; a choice not currently available to mixed sex couples. The Supreme Court have agreed the law to be discriminatory & that the difference cannot be justified.

So what now?

Time will tell. Whilst the judgement does not oblige a change in the law, the pressure is now on for the government to respond to extend Civil Partnerships to all.

Currently, with over 3 million cohabitees having little or no legal protection, this landmark judgement offers an opportunity for Civil Partnerships to be extended which in turn will automatically provide similar protections that marriage does.

Karen Beevers
Partner @ Evans Derry Solicitors
Collaborative Family Lawyer & Family Mediator.

Photo: From The Times

Power of attorney fee refund scheme launched

Under a new Government scheme, if you paid to register a Lasting Power of Attorney in England and Wales between 1st April 2013 and 31st March 2017, you could be entitled to a refund of up to £54.

Those who paid a registration fee for a Lasting Power of Attorney in that period can apply for a partial refund as they were charged more than was necessary.

What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?

A Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document that, once registered with the Office of the Public Guardian, grants permission to your appointed attorney such as a trusted friend or relative, to make decisions in your best interest on your behalf.

There are two types of Lasting Powers of Attorney:

Property and Financial Affairs.

This document will allow your attorney to make decisions on your behalf concerning the management of your bank accounts, payment or management of benefits and/or pensions, and if necessary deal with any property you may have. This document can be registered to come into effect immediately or a restriction can be placed into the document preventing it from being used until a medical professional has certified that you no longer have capacity to make decisions for yourself. You can also include guidance and conditions in the document that your attorneys must bear in mind when making decisions for you.

Health and Welfare Decisions.

This document will allow your attorneys to make decisions regarding life sustaining treatment, where you should live and what care you should receive. Unlike the Property and Financial Affairs Lasting Power of Attorney, the Personal Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney cannot be used until it has been proven that you lack capacity to make these decisions for yourself, and only then will your attorneys be asked to make the decisions on your behalf. Guidance and conditions can be placed into this document for your attorneys to consider, for example, you may not wish to be given a blood transfusion or to be kept alive on a ventilator.

The Ministry of Justice sets the Office of the Public Guardian fees, and during 1st April 2013 and 31st March 2017, the operating costs came down as more people applied to register a Lasting Power of Attorney and the process became more efficient. However, the application fee charged (£110) was not reduced in line with this and the reduced fee (£82) did not come into effect until the 1st April 2017.

How much can I claim?

How much you get depends on when you paid the fees and if you paid a fee remission ie, a reduced fee, you will be entitled to half the refund.

When you paid the fee Refund for each power of attorney
April to September 2013 £54
October 2013 to March 2014 £34
April 2014 to March 2015 £37
April 2015 to March 2016 £38
April 2016 to March 2017 £45

You’ll also get 0.5% interest, and currently, there is no deadline by which you must apply.


You can make a claim if you were the donor (the person who made the Lasting Power of Attorney) or the Attorney (the person appointed by the Donor), however, the refund will be paid to the Donor.

Making a claim is quick and simple using the online service (www.gov.uk/power-of-attorney-refund) of you can contact the Office of the Public Guardian’s helpline on 0300 456 0300 and select option 6 to be put through to the refunds team.

If you are interested in making a Lasting Power of Attorney, please feel free to contact Helen Green helengreen@evansderry.com or Faye Scotter fayescotter@evansderry.com telephone 01675 464400 / 0121 770 1721.

All your questions answered on HS2 Home Owner Payment Scheme.

You may be eligible for a payment if you live in the homeowner payment zone.

Who can apply?

Your house or 25% of the total area of your property must be in the homeowner payment zone and you must be the owner occupier of a residential, agricultural or commercial property.

An owner occupier must:

  • be the freeholder or a leaseholder with at least 3 years
  • be the freeholder or a leaseholder with at least 3 years left on the lease
  • be living in or running a business from the property or have done so for at least 6 months in the last 18 months if the property’s currently empty
  • have bought the property before 9 April 2014 for Phase 1 and before 30 November 2015 for Phase 2a when the proposals for the homeowner payment were announced.

have bought the property before 9 April 2014 for Phase 1 and before 30 November 2015 for Phase 2a when the proposals for the homeowner payment were announced.

Your commercial property won’t qualify for homeowner payments if it has a rateable value of £34,800 or more.

What you’ll get

Distance from line of the route

Between 120m and 180m – £22,500

Between 180m and 240m – £15,000

Between 240m and 300m – £7,500

You’ll be eligible for the band in which your residential dwelling sits if your land is covered by more than one homeowner payment band.

You may be eligible for the £7,500 band if your dwelling is outside the bands but your land is within them.

You’ll be eligible for the higher payment if the dwelling itself is in more than one band.

Most people who receive money under the homeowner payment scheme would not have to pay tax on it.

You can accept payment and still be eligible for the Need to Sell Scheme – the value of the payment (plus statutory interest) will be deducted from the purchase price.

Q & A



What is the HS2 Home Owner Payment Scheme?

This is a discretionary lump-sum payment if your property is near the proposed High Speed Two (HS2) route



I’ve received a letter from HS2 about the Home Owner Payment Scheme. Does that mean I can claim a payment?

Almost certainly. If you have not received a letter but still think you may be entitled to the payment, check the eligibility criteria online or call the HS2 Helpdesk on 020 7944 4908.



How much could I get?

You could receive a payment of either £7,500, £15,000 or £22,500 depending on which homeowner payment band you’re in.



Will this effect any other claim I may have against HS2?

No. This payment is totally separate to any other claim you have against HS2.



Is there a deadline to apply?

Yes. You will have until one year after Phase One is open to the public, currently expected 2026, however we would encourage you to apply as soon as possible.



How do I apply for my payment?

You can either fill in the application form yourself or we can do this for you and send it on your behalf, just call us to book an appointment.



Will I definitely need a Solicitor?

Yes. Whilst you can make the application yourself if you wish, you will need to instruct a Solicitor if your application has been successful.



Who pays the Solicitors fees?

HS2. We will invoice them separately and they pay us directly. You will not need to pay us any money in advance.



How long will it take for me to get paid?

HS2 will try to make the payment within 40 working days from the point the application is received. Your payment will be made directly to us by BACs. Once we receive the funds, we will release the payment to you either by bank transfer or cheque, whichever you prefer.

Julie joined EDS in the spring of 2015 from a leading national firm where she had been working as a defendant personal injury lawyer. Julie now brings her wealth of knowledge and experience to her role as solicitor in the personal injury department.

If you have any questions or queries, please get in touch on 0121 770 1721, or juliebennett@evansderry.com


Ilott v Mitson – Supreme Court Ruling


For the first time, the Supreme Court has heard a case involving legislation that was passed 42 years ago! The decision, which is said to support the principles of testamentary freedom, has been passed today. The unanimous judgement was handed down by the Supreme Court in the final chapter of the ongoing saga that is the case of Ilott v Mitson. The appeal of the charities has been allowed, and the order of the District Judge in the first instance has been restored.

The case has made headlines in recent years due to the various appeals made by the parties to the case but a summary of the background is this:

  • Mrs Ilott was the only child of Mrs Jackson, whom she had been estranged for 26 years. Mrs Jackson died in 2004 having made a valid Will leaving her estate worth approximately £486,000 to various animal charities. Mrs Ilott was married with 5 children and received benefits. She brought a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 for financial provision.
  • In the first instance, it was held that the Will did not make reasonable financial provision and she was awarded £50,000. Mrs Ilot appealed and the charities cross appealed.
  • The High Court disposed of Mrs Ilot’s claim, awarding her nothing and the charities succeeded. Mrs Ilot brought a second appeal.
  • Mrs Ilot succeeded and the case was sent to the High Court for them to decide how much she should be awarded. However in 2014 the High Court dismissed Mrs Ilot’s appeal on the value of her claim and so Mrs Ilot appealed again.
  • The Court of Appeal overturned the original award of £50,000 and replaced it with an award in favour of Mrs Ilot in the sum of £143,000 (to purchase her home) and a capital sum of £20,000 – sums intended not to impact on her state benefits entitlement. The charities appealed this time.
  • The appeal was allowed and the original award of £50,000 was reinstated.

The importance of the decision is that it provides clarity on claims being brought by adult children under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. The Supreme Court has highlighted the importance of limiting financial awards to adult children, and gives weight to the wishes of the testator and the period of estrangement. The Court also recognised the importance of charitable legacies, highlighting that they “…depend heavily on testamentary bequests for their work”.

Whilst the decision is clearly a victory for the Charities, it will no doubt have an impact on adult children contesting a Will, making it more difficult and potentially less likely for them to succeed.

From Faye Scotter in Probate Department following the significant judgement in the Supreme Court today.

If you have any questions or queries, please get in touch on 01675 464 400, or fayescotter@evansderry.com

Good Divorce Week …. Is it Possible?

Reflections of a Divorce Lawyer and Family Mediator.

In amongst all the excitement of the introduction of “Buster the Boxer” and the bombardment of Christmas adverts, it may be easy to overlook “Good Divorce Week ”, between 28th November & 2nd December 2016. Many will wonder, is there really such a thing?

As the world recently came to terms with the news that Brangelina are no more, the media spotlight returned on all issues arising surrounding separation. As I listened to the media outpourings of some truly dreadful experiences people have been through, it reminded me why I’m glad to also practice as a Collaborative Family Lawyer and Accredited Family Mediator, able to undertake Direct Child Consultation where appropriate. By doing so I am able to promote and encourage solutions that consider the needs of the whole family and in particular the best interests of children.

Everyone knows a friend or family member who has been “scarred” by a painful family breakdown, the subsequent damage, both emotional, financial and at times physical, which can unfold in the midst of heightened emotions. But the good news is , it really doesn’t have to be like that.

“Good Divorce Week” aims to raise the profile where circumstances fit to use alternative methods to court.

So Why Keep it Out of Court?

It may be entirely appropriate for a case to be taken through the courts to ensure a child’s welfare is safeguarded or to prevent financial assets being disposed of, but all too often the Courts are seen as the first place to turn , rather than exploring alternative options first. With the court system under unprecedented pressure due to the wide scale removal of legal aid and impact of austerity, court proceedings can be very lengthy, expensive and leave both participants feeling disillusioned and upset. That’s before counting the emotional impact upon people who often need to be able to continue to co-parent their children for years to come. Of course it is a way of bringing closure and imposing outcomes where no agreement can be reached , but surely there must be a better way?

Over the years family law has evolved significantly, with a sea change of the attitudes of the majority of specialist family lawyers and professionals practising in this area. On the whole, family lawyers now focus on supporting and helping people and their families find family focussed solution to their problems. Collaborative Law enables families to come around the table to explore all issues with the support of their specially trained Collaborative Lawyers and such other professionals as may be appropriate to work for the whole family. An end to difficult lawyers letters being sent and no delays. Instead face to face communication. It may not be cheaper but can be much quicker and emotionally help people to reopen communication channels.

Alternatively, people may prefer working together with the benefit of a trained Mediator to work through solutions that work for their family. Mediation gives people a constructive opportunity to communicate to explore all options available. Where appropriate, Mediation can prove significantly cheaper and significantly can ensure the voice of a child is heard when important decisions are being taken effecting their future.

So, if you, any family members or friends are considering separation or indeed have already separated, remember there is such a thing as a “good divorce”

Karen Beevers is a Partner at Evans Derry Solicitors having practised in family law for over 18 years. She is a Collaborative Family Solicitor and Accredited Mediator qualified to undertake Direct Child Consultation.

If you have any questions or queries, please get in touch on 01675 464 400, or karenbeevers@evansderry.com

Buy to Let Landlords – beware the new legal requirement for ‘Right to Rent’ checks!

In these days of low interest rates and poor returns on your cash, many have turned to ‘Buy to Let’ to supplement their income or provide a retirement nest egg. However, in recent months, residential landlords could be thinking they are under siege, with so much happening to make their investment less attractive. The Autumn Statement added a 3% stamp duty land tax ‘surcharge’ on a property purchase; the withdrawal of higher rate tax relief on mortgages (to start in 2017), and other tax relief changes, were announced previously.

Being a landlord already has a number of responsibilities, some of which carry very serious penalties for non- compliance: such as annual gas checks, smoke and CO detectors, EPC’s, even carrying out a legionnaire’s disease risk assessment. Now there is another one.

From 1 February 2016, all private residential landlords will have to check that new tenants have the right to be in the UK before renting out their property.

The Immigration Act 2014 prohibits private landlords of residential properties from allowing certain people to occupy those properties based on the immigration status of the occupiers. This duty has already been put into effect in some parts of the Midlands and will now come into force everywhere else in England.

Landlords will have to check the status of prospective tenants, and other proposed occupiers over 18, whether or not named in the tenancy agreement, to ascertain whether those parties have the right to occupy the premises before granting a tenancy. Landlords must also make sure that someone’s right to occupy the premises does not lapse. Breaching the prohibition could lead to a penalty of up to £3,000.

Briefly, a person is disqualified from occupying property under a residential tenancy agreement if they:

  • Are not a “relevant national”, which is a British citizen; a national of an European Economic Area State; or a national of Switzerland.
  • Do not have a right to rent in relation to the property. A person does not have a right to rent if they require leave to enter or remain in the UK and do not have it; or they have leave but it is subject to conditions that prevent them from occupying the premises.

Under right to rent, landlords should check original accepted identity documents and take copies before they allow them to occupy. Broadly, the documents are in two lists similar to those requested to check that a prospective employee has the right to work here.

Currently, there are no plans (apparently) to force landlords to do right to rent checks on existing tenants: this only applies to tenancies that commence on or after 1st February 2016

Evans Derry Partner Richard Holt comments:

These are important new requirements for any residential landlord: if a tenant cannot first provide you with the correct right to rent documents, your safest course is not to let to them: don’t rely on copies or on them being sent on afterwards

If you have any queries about the above, please contact me on 01675 464400 or email me at richardholt@evansderry.com