Same Sex Couples

LGBTQ+ Family Law Solicitors

In the eyes of the law, same sex couples receive the same treatment as any other couple. However, family law is about people, and understanding the individual circumstances of you and your partner can be essential in getting a fair outcome.

McAllister Olivarius is a proud champion of the Queer Community. Our team will be happy to offer you and your partner dedicated legal advice that reflects your own particular needs.

We have considerable experience in advising LGBTQI+ individuals and couples on all areas of family law. 

Queer Rights Lawyers (QRL) is our dedicated practice providing specialised and focused advice to those who have been discriminated against or harassed within the Queer community.

Our Family Law Services

Financial Cases & Division of Assets

Disentangling your family’s finances is always challenging, especially when it comes to deciding who gets to live in the marital home or keep the family pet. Separating couples often disagree on what constitutes a fair split, which is why many divorces turn nasty. To ensure discussions remain amicable, it is always a good idea to involve a solicitor as soon as possible.

Broadly speaking, all matrimonial assets owned by either party can potentially be divided following divorce, including investments, savings, pension entitlements, business interests and debts.

Establishing how your finances and assets should be divided is not part divorce process itself, and it can take a long time for a mutually satisfactory agreement to be reached. If you and your former spouse or civil partner cannot reach an agreement, you will have to apply for a judge to make the final decision on your behalf.

While there is no simple formula for dividing assets, the family courts will aim to reach a fair outcome for all parties, especially where children are involved. However, what the court deems to be a fair financial settlement may differ from your own views. It is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible so you understand the likely outcome before deciding how to proceed.

Children & Child Arrangements

Going through a divorce can be one of the most stressful times in a person’s life, especially when children are involved. Divorce proceedings do not address the living arrangements you and your children will face. Under English law, both parents will normally continue to share parental responsibility for their children following divorce, with the expectation that, where possible, parents will come to an amicable agreement on what is best for their children.

If you and your ex-partner can come to an amicable agreement, our solicitors can help you to draft a Parenting Plan setting out the agreement you have reached. Typically, any such agreement will not be contested by the courts.

Of course, it is not always possible to come to an agreement that works for both parents. How your children will be raised, which school they will attend, and how they will be cared for can be hotly contested questions, and you may need to explore alternative options to have your voice heard. If this is the case, we can help you to undergo mediation with your ex or apply to have the matter determined in the family courts.

For international couples, these issues can be even more difficult to resolve. Our solicitors are experienced in cases involving relocation and Leave to Remove and can advise both the parent who wishes to move or the parent opposing this on their legal options.

Whatever stage you are at in these negotiations, our solicitors will be happy to advise you on the options available to you, ensuring your children’s interests are considered before any decision is reached. We will evaluate your situation and advise you of all your options under the law, helping you to protect the best interests of your children.

Cohabitation & Unmarried Couples

Understanding your rights and entitlements as an unmarried person can be tricky, particularly if disagreements arise over property, finances, or children.

Contrary to the common misconception, unmarried couples who live together are not “common-law partners” in any legal sense. Under English law, cohabiting couples have fewer legal options compared to those who are married or in a civil partnership, no matter how long they have lived together.

Typically, if you and your partner are not married or in a civil partnership you will not be entitled to financial maintenance or a share of your partner’s property (unless you are the legal joint owner of the property or can show that you contributed toward its purchase or improvement). Any disputes over property ownership will be settled in reference to trust and land law rather than family law.

Where children are concerned, the same laws will generally apply regardless of your marital status, and it may be possible to claim financial support from the other parent.

Unfortunately, relationships can and do break down, and it is important for unmarried couples to plan for every eventuality. There are several legal options to protect your rights should the worst happen, including entering into a cohabitation agreement, which formalises your relationship and clarifies each partner’s entitlements. For a cohabitation agreement to be binding, you and your partner must have received independent legal advice. You may also wish to sign a Declaration of Trust specifying how any property will be divided if the relationship breaks down.

As all relationships are unique, our family team will need to speak to you about your personal circumstances before offering advice that meets your needs. We have guided hundreds of people through cohabitation disputes and will be able to support you through even the most challenging legal issues, including complex financial arrangements.

Prenuptial Agreements

Signing a prenup may feel like its dooming your marriage to failure, but many couples find that discussing their finances helps them plan for a life together. A well-drafted prenup provides clarity on what you and your partner can expect from marriage and sets out how you will be treated in the event of divorce.

Prenups can also be a good vehicle for partners to understand their financial circumstances and prospects at marriage. Indeed, many couples find that discussing their finances helps them plan for a life together.

There are other reasons why you might wish to consider a prenup. The reality is that divorce does not just impact the separating couple. A messy divorce can have a devastating impact on your friends, family, colleagues and employees. A well-drafted prenup can remove the uncertainty of settling your financial affairs. There are many situations in which it is particularly important to have a prenup in place, including:

  • Where one or both partners owns a business – a prenup can protect the underlying value of your business, preventing cash and business assets from being drawn into any post-divorce financial settlement.
  • Where one or both partners spends considerable time outside the UK – for international couples, a prenup will ensure any future divorce proceedings are held in an appropriate jurisdiction. If assets are held in more than one country, your prenup will make it easier to achieve a reasonable financial settlement that reflects your life circumstances.
  • Where one or both partners are classed as high-profile/high-net-worth individuals – a prenup can ensure that details of your personal and financial circumstances remain private in the event of divorce.

Although pre-nuptial agreements are not legally binding in England and Wales, courts will likely uphold any agreement that was entered into freely and without duress, particularly if the agreement was made well in advance of the wedding date.

Our family solicitors have worked with hundreds of couples to draft prenups covering every sort of eventuality. In one case, a client who divorced her husband with our prenuptial agreement in place liked the results enough to ask us to draft another one when she decided to remarry.

If you think your relationship may benefit from the protection afforded by a prenup, contact us for a no-obligation initial discussion. If you decide to proceed, we will work closely with you to identify your needs and create a unique agreement.

Separation Agreements

If you are planning to separate but are not yet ready to start divorce proceedings, a separation agreement may be useful. It allows you to trial a “soft divorce”, giving you and your partner time to decide whether separation is the right move. Also known as a deed of separation, this document sets out how your money, property and responsibilities will be divided.

As well as giving you and your partner the opportunity to discuss important issues like financial and parental responsibilities in advance, having a well-drafted separation agreement in place can help ensure any future divorce proceedings run smoothly. While not technically legally binding, courts will often rule in favour of a fair separation agreement, particularly if it still reflects you and your partner’s financial circumstances at the time of divorce. While it is not necessary to consult a solicitor before drawing up a separation agreement, judges are more likely to uphold an agreement that was drafted following independent legal advice.

Same sex couples

In the eyes of the law, same sex couples receive the same treatment as any other couple. However, family law is about people, and understanding the individual circumstances of you and your partner can be essential in getting a fair outcome. McAllister Olivarius is a proud champion of the Queer Community. Our team will be happy to offer you and your partner dedicated legal advice that reflects your own particular needs.

We have considerable experience in advising LGBTQI+ individuals and couples on all areas of family law.

International Surrogacy

It is increasingly common for couples to start or grow their families through surrogacy, including through international surrogacy. Data from the family courts shows there has been a 350% increase in applications from couples who wish to enter international surrogacy arrangements over the last decade. However, couples wishing to consider international surrogacy should be aware of the considerable legal difficulties they will face.

There is currently no international convention on the recognition of laws relating to surrogacy arrangements. Under English law, the ruling principle is mater semper certa est (the mother is always certain) – i.e., the woman who carries and gives birth to a child is recognised as the legal mother. If she is married, her husband at the time of conception will be recognised as the child’s legal father, regardless of whether this is genetically the case. It should also be noted that a child born through international surrogacy does not automatically acquire British citizenship.

Couples in the UK who wish to have a child through international surrogacy must apply for a parental order to be formally recognised as their child’s legal parents. Commercial surrogacy is not permitted in the UK, and English courts will seek to determine whether payments beyond “reasonable expenses” were made to your surrogate mother before granting a parental order. It is also illegal for third parties to profit from facilitating surrogacy arrangements, and you must be able to demonstrate that your chosen surrogate mother was not contractually bound to give up her child.

The law is extremely complex when it comes to international surrogacy – you will need to speak to a solicitor before determining whether this is the best option for you. Our international team has a wide experience with the many complex issues you are likely to encounter, from dealing with immigration law to obtaining a parental order.

Financial Freezing Orders and Injunctions

When a relationship breaks down, it is not unusual for couples to disagree over who should get what. In some cases, this disagreement can become so extreme that your former partner will look to lessen your entitlements in divorce by hiding or squandering assets.

If you are concerned that your spouse or former spouse may be hiding, selling, or otherwise disposing of assets to which you are entitled, we can help obtain a freezing injunction from the courts. This is a special type of Court Order that prevents someone from disposing of their assets before a financial settlement is reached. A freezing order can used to protect a range of assets, including savings, property, shares, valuables, pensions and more. Freezing injunctions can be made ‘without notice’, meaning your spouse or former spouse will not be notified of your application before any order is granted.

Applying for a freezing injunction is not easy, and courts will ask you to provide evidence in support of your claims. A freezing order issued in the UK does not automatically apply to assets held abroad, so if foreign assets are involved you will need to have the order registered in the jurisdiction where those assets are held.

If you believe your spouse of former spouse is seeking to prevent you getting your fair share in the financial settlement, it is important to seek legal advice right away. Our family solicitors have considerable expertise in obtaining immediate freezing orders and will act swiftly to preserve any assets you are entitled to share.

Civil Partnerships

For many couples, civil partnership is an appealing alternative to traditional marriage. Initially introduced for same-sex couples in 2004, civil partnerships are now open to all couples, regardless of their orientation.

A civil partnership may not carry the same religious, cultural, and patriarchal connotations as marriage, but from a legal perspective it is fundamentally the same thing. While civil partners cannot say they are “married” on legal documents, they are treated in the same way as married couples when it comes to their legal rights, entitlements and obligations. If your partnership breaks down, you will be entitled to the same legal treatment as a married couple with respect to tax, pensions, financial support, financial maintenance and many other things.

If you relationship breaks down and you end up filing for dissolution (the equivalent of divorce for civil partners), you will likely face many of the same financial issues as married couples. As with marriage, the financial aspects of civil partnership are often the most complex issue couples will face. You may therefore wish to consider a prenuptial agreement before entering into a civil partnership.

Our team is experienced in advising on the complex financial issues that arise following dissolution of civil partnerships both in the UK and abroad. We can guide you through the process of dividing assets and property as well as complex issues such as dealing with business assets, trusts, overseas wealth (including property) and the division of pensions.

Domestic Abuse

Unfortunately, domestic abuse is still all too common in the UK. One in four women experience domestic abuse in their lifetimes, while one in five children live in an environment where domestic abuse occurs. Domestic abuse does not always take the form of physical violence. If your partner is behaving in a way that humiliates or intimidates you or is seeking to make you subordinate and/or dependent, you may be entitled to legal protection.

McAllister Olivarius has built an international reputation for representing survivors of discrimination and abuse, including in cases where victims and perpetrators are in different countries. We have helped many women and men experiencing domestic abuse, including through coercive and controlling behaviour. Our solicitors will prioritise your case to ensure you are removed from danger as soon as possible. We will also help liaise with police and emergency services, should you wish us to.

If you are a victim of domestic abuse and want to discuss the legal protections available to you, we will be happy to arrange a consultation in the strictest confidence. Our family law team will help you arrange swift protection through Non-Molestation Orders and other court remedies.

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What are the grounds for divorce in England and Wales?

As of April 6, 2022, there has been no need to specify grounds for divorce in the England and Wales beyond the irretrievable breakdown of marriage. The no-fault divorce rule allows married persons or civil partners to apply for a divorce without the need to identify bad behaviour or prove fault on the part of their spouse.

Divorcing couples can file for divorce by citing the irretrievable breakdown of their marriage. This is done by submitting a sole or joint application under which both parties agree to dissolve their relationship. If only one party wishes to file for divorce, they may submit a sole application which can no longer be contested by the other party, save for rare technical legal grounds such as legality or jurisdiction of marriage.

However, a no-fault divorce only ends your marriage. It does not address complexities that are likely to arise from the division of finances, assets and property. What happens to the matrimonial home? If the home is sold, how should the proceeds be divided? When should spousal maintenance be paid, for how long and how much? Should any pensions be shared? If so, how? For divorcing parents, it will be necessary to establish who the children will live with, how much time they will spend with the other parent and when.

These are typically very challenging questions that can have a big impact on both partners’ lives. Contact us if you would like to discuss any of the above issues in confidence with one of our solicitors.

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What are the alternatives to divorce?

If you feel your marriage has irretrievably broken down but are not ready to commit to divorce proceedings, a legal separation can offer you the time and space to decide what’s right for you. A legal separation does not end your marriage. You and your spouse will be recognised as legally married, and you will retain some of the legal benefits to which married couples are entitled.

Often, couples use legal separation to determine whether divorce is really the right decision. Legally separating couples will have to deal with the same issues as divorcing couples, from the division of assets and debts to parenting and childcare rights and responsibilities. However, any such agreement that is formalised in a separation agreement can be carried over if you do decide to get divorced.

If you would like to discuss whether legal separation is right for you or have questions about financial or parental issues related to a legal separation, contacts us now for a free initial consultation.

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Meet Our Divorce & Family Law Team in Maidenhead