|Sarah Lucy Cooper in London, England|
|Thomas More Chambers of Barristers on 2013-03-24|
I am a specialist family lawyer and in the next few months I shall be dealing with some of the most important issues affecting Latinos who are divorcing or separating here in London. I have lived in Colombia and speak fluent Spanish as a result of which I have had a lot of experience with Latino clients and their particular needs. I can only give general advice in these articles. If you have any detailed questions you will need to seek your own specific legal advice.
Let’s Start with the Basics: Bienvenidos a Londres, la capital de divorcio del mundo!
The starting point is that the courts of England and Wales are very open to applications made in relation to family law disputes by people not born in the UK. This is particularly so where the case involves a child who is living here.
Can I get divorced here?
If you are living here, it is likely that you can get divorced here, regardless of your nationality or where you got married. Article 3 of the EU Council Regulation 2201/2003 sets out when divorce proceedings can be brought in the UK.
You need to be aware that you may be able to get divorced in another country as well as England and so you will need to decide as soon as possible where the divorce will happen as the financial consequences may be very different between the countries. Within the EU it is the first person to issue divorce proceedings who will have the right to bring the divorce. It is therefore very important to take proper advice fast on the pros and cons of divorcing in England or overseas.
What happens if I am not legally married?
There is no status of a common law wife or husband in England – either you are married or not. The law on unmarried partners is very different to that for married people or gay people in a civil partnership. I will be dealing with this in detail in the next weeks.
Will separation affect my immigration status?
If you separate from your partner it may well affect your immigration status depending on how long you have been in the UK. There are some exceptions for cases of domestic violence and when there are children. If your immigration status is not yet finalised you need to take very expert immigration advice prior to taking any steps in the family dispute if at all possible.
How do I deal with child maintenance?
This is normally not dealt with by the courts when both parents are living in the UK. Instead an institution called the Child Support Agency deals with child maintenance whether or not you have been married. This will be replaced by the Child Maintenance Service which will perform a similar role. Further information is provided on the Child Maintenance Options website - www.cmoptions.org
Who can advise me?
In England and Wales there are two types of lawyers – barristers and solicitors. Barristers have historically dealt with more of the court based work and are specialist advocates. The rules have changed so you are now able directly to seek advice from either type of lawyer in relation to family law – look for barristers who advertise themselves as doing Direct Access work.
Unfortunately Legal Aid has been cut for family cases save in cases of domestic violence. You will therefore either have to pay for advice in most cases or you have the option of representing yourself in court. If you think you may be entitled to legal aid have a look at the Resolution website which lists specialist family solicitors offering legal aid – www.resolution.org.uk.
There are also various charities which may be able to assist you including Women’s Aid, Casa Latina and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
What are my options for resolving a family dispute?
As well as going to court to resolve your family dispute “litigation”, there are other options available.
Mediation is a process where you and your partner sit down with a qualified mediator to see whether you can come to an agreement about issues without needing to involve a court. This can often save a lot of money and time and I think is particularly good for disputes about children. Again Resolution has a list of mediators and there are many organisations offering free mediation services.
Another option is that of collaborative law where both you and your partner instruct lawyers but deal with disputes in a less confrontational way which involves everyone meeting up together. Further information about these options is available on the Resolution website – www.resolution.org.uk
Over the coming weeks I am going to deal with the following in more detail –
How do English Courts deal with division of money on divorce?
I am not married. What are my rights?
Can I take my child back home?
Can I enforce my order in my divorce case between countries?
Can I ask for more money in England after getting divorced abroad?
I got married abroad – does this affect the financial division?
If there any other issues you would like me to deal with, please feel free to email me at contact@LatinosinLondon.com Please remember that nothing in these articles is intended to replace specific legal advice.
Sarah Lucy Cooper
Family Barrister and Mediator
Thomas More Chambers www.thomasmore.co.uk
About the writer
I am a specialist family lawyer and in the next few months I shall be dealing with some of the most important issues affecting Latinos who are divorcing or separating here in London. I have lived in Colombia and speak fluent Spanish as a result of which I have had a lot of experience with Latino clients and their particular needs.