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Keep Christmas for the children


Christmas celebrations for children are often marked by family divisions when relationships break down. According to statistics from the ONS around 100,000 children per year see their parents divorcing, with many of those families separating immediately after a last Christmas together. Family lawyers see a surge in new enquiries for divorce each New Year.  Alongside this are those, children who will be affected by family breakdown, but who are not shown in those statistics, as their parents are not married.


Whilst a separation may offer hope of ending a difficult time, too often it marks the start of a new challenge, with couples engaged in a drawn-out and difficult process, instead of collaborating to find common ground.


For many families, the final Christmas will be marked by arguments and behaviour that may be used as an example of the unreasonable behaviour in a divorce petition.  To proceed with a divorce, the marriage must be shown to have irretrievably broken down, with adultery and unreasonable behaviour being the most common grounds which enable a party to proceed immediately with divorce proceedings. It is possible to wait for a period of at least two years separation immediately preceding the issue of the divorce petition, which will require the other party to consent or five years separation without the other party’s consent. Separate living arrangements can be difficult to achieve before assets have been divided through the process of divorce, highlighting why adultery and unreasonable behaviour are the most commonly used grounds. Whilst the separation for unmarried couples appears to offer a simpler exit strategy, it underlines the lack of legal protection for cohabiting partners.


There have been calls for a change in the law to allow for ‘no fault’ divorce without a long separation, with those advocating the change arguing this could reduce animosity and provide a better environment for children.  Most recently Baroness Hale, the first female President of the Supreme Court, spoke out to say that the law should be changed to address injustices, including ‘no fault’ divorce, statutory backing for Pre-nuptial Agreements and greater rights for cohabiting partners, who have been shown to be at greater risk after a  separation, with fewer routes for financial protection.


Many people who have been living together for any length of time, sharing a home and bringing up children, think they have some special rights through a ‘common law marriage’, but unfortunately there are no such protections unless an asset is legally owned by the parties, for instance  if your name is on the title deeds for a property, as joint tenants or tenants in common, if you have a jointly named savings account or you have contributed to the purchase price of the family home which is owned by the other party.


The lack of financial remedies for cohabiting couples is often the biggest issue.  While a parent can be made to contribute to the maintenance of their children, there is no such protection for a former partner to claim maintenance if they cannot work while bringing up the children of the relationship.  Similarly, they may find themselves with nowhere to live.


Whether starting out or in a committed relationship, whether married or cohabiting, it is sensible to think about protecting assets through a Pre or Post nuptial agreement or a cohabitation agreement.  For many couples, simply having the frank discussion that goes into making such an agreement can help to create a positive, open attitude in a relationship from the start.  While Pre or Post nuptial agreements are not yet legally binding in the UK, they have increasing weight after being tested in the courts.


For those couples anticipating their last Christmas together, the advice is to seek a collaborative approach to arrangements for both children and financial matters.  For divorcing couples, mediation will usually involve reaching an arrangement separately from the actual divorce proceedings, with the resulting agreement being presented to the Courts for a formal consent order to be  approved.


Collaborative Law and mediation are the best way to  lessen  the pain of separation.  Most couples find these options a way to resolve matters more quickly and easily which assists in putting the children’s interests first.  The actual process of divorce has become much simpler in recent years and many couples are taking a DIY approach, but involving a specialist mediator, and receiving advice from a solicitor concerning what is a fair settlement, can make the difference between a good or bad separation, particularly where children are involved, and this is true for cohabiting couples also.


For advice please contact a member of our Family Team.


Web site content note: 

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.



Bournemouth Food Bank Appeal

This Christmas we have been collecting provisions for the Bournemouth Food Bank appeal.

The Trussell Trust supports communities and churches to open food banks across the UK.

The Bournemouth food bank is part of The Trussell Trusts’ network of 428 food banks, working to tackle food poverty and hunger in our local communities, as well as across the UK.

The Foodbank Network was founded in 2004 after four years of developing the original food bank based in Salisbury. Since then The Trussell Trust has helped communities work together to launch food banks nationwide in a wide range of towns and cities.

In 2016/17, The Trussell Trust’s Food bank Network provided 1,182,954 three-day emergency food supplies and support to UK people in crisis. Of these, over 430,000 went to children.

No-one in our community should face hunger. The food bank provides 3 days’ nutritionally balanced emergency food, and offers support to local people in crisis who are referred to them by support agencies.

Initially each office was given one large box to fill but by the end of the appeal we had several boxes and bags filled to the brim with a variety of food.

On 20th December 2017 the boxes were taken to the Bournemouth Food Bank depot in Charminster where we were met with a team of packers, collectors, distributors and coordinators who were busy arranging food parcels for those people in the local area who rely on this much needed service.

It is fantastic to know that over the Christmas period and into the New Year local families, the elderly and vulnerable people who need the Food Bank will not go hungry.

Bus Stop Club Christmas Hampers

Over the last few weeks Aldridge Brownlee have been collecting items to donate to the Christmas Hampers being given to local families by the Bus Stop Club in Ferndown.

Sarah Jenking and Nicola Bennetts of Aldridge Brownlee delivered the donated items to the Bus Stop Club on Tuesday morning and helped wrap boxes and pack the Christmas hampers for those less fortunate over the festive period. The Christmas hampers contained mince pies, Christmas puddings and the essentials to make a Christmas meal, little treats and presents for the families, young people, parents and elderly people who use the Bus Stop Club.

The Bus Stop Club offers local support services and a listening ear to families in crisis. Aldridge Brownlee have been supporting the Bus Stop Club for the last few years and are marvelled by the excellent job Susan Sutherland, who runs the charity, is doing. The Bus Stop Club is making a huge difference to many people’s lives within the local community.

If anyone would like to help or donate to the Bus Stop Club, please visit here for further details. If you or someone you know requires assistance themselves from the Bus Stop Club over the festive club please contact Mrs Susan Sutherland on 07866 692528.

Bournemouth Hospital Charity Will Fortnight

We are once again very happy to be supporting the Bournemouth Hospital Charity Will Fortnight this year. Until the 22 September we are taking appointments to prepare Wills and participants are invited to make a donation to the charity.

Every year the hospital benefits greatly from the generosity of people who have left gifts in their Wills. This is a great opportunity to remember a department or help fund additional equipment, staff training and improvements to the hospital environment for patients.

Spaces are limited so if you are interested in supporting this worthwhile charity please follow the link below to the charity website:


Swing Unlimited at Highcliffe Castle Sunday 3rd September 2017


Swing Unlimited Big Band and the Swing Unlimited Community Big Band are back by popular demand at Highcliffe Castle on Sunday 3rd September 2017 1pm to 4pm, and we are again sponsoring the event. Bring a picnic and enjoy a wide variety of music from Glen Miller & Count Basie to Jools Holland & Michael Buble. Three Counties Vintage & Classic Car Club will also be in attendance. Fingers crossed for fine weather and a fun afternoon for the whole family.

For more information about SUBB: http://www.subb.co.uk/

Registered Office: 13 Christchurch Road Bournemouth BH1 3JY. Authorised and Regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Aldridge Brownlee Solicitors LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England number OC334502

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