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Women Get Right To Reopen Divorce Settlements

Divorcing spouses must fully disclose their assets and income or risk their financial agreement or order being set aside at a later date. 

Elianne Edgington

Elianne Edgington

This is the result of the landmark decisions of the Supreme Court in the joined cases of Sharland and Gohil delivered on 14 October 2015.

In the case of Gohil, the husband had deliberately concealed his true wealth saying that the majority of his assets were held on behalf of others. In Sharland the husband lied to the Court in evidence about his plans to float his company on the stock market and significantly undervalued his shares.

Both cases had originally been settled by agreement but the wives later made applications to set aside their financial orders when evidence of their husbands’ deceit came to light. Now both wives have been successful and new hearings will consider what financial awards should be made in all the circumstances.

The Sharland case is interesting because the wife had already received a very good award, to include 30 per cent of the net proceeds of sale of the husband’s shares, whenever that took place.

The earlier Court of Appeal decision in the same case was based on the view that even if the husband had not been fraudulent, it was unlikely that a substantially different order would have been made.

However the Supreme Court overturned that decision, ruling that ‘fraud unravels all’ and that the wives should have the benefit of a full and fair hearing.

In my view this is absolutely right. A husband or wife who is deliberately dishonest about their financial position should not be allowed to benefit from that dishonesty. These decisions now provide an opportunity to other spouses who may have agreed a settlement in the past but now suspect their husband or wife of deliberately providing misleading or incomplete information.

If you would like further information please contact Elianne Edgington on 01235 771234 or

Written by Elianne Edgington

October 20th, 2015 at 3:30 pm

Can I change my child’s surname?

Several clients have recently asked me this question. The short answer is not without the written consent of the other parent or a Court order.

Why the problem? 

Elianne Edgington

Elianne Edgington

Most usually a child is registered at birth with their father’s surname; whether this was because the parents were married or thought that they would marry in the future, or to reflect the biological link between the father and the child, or for reasons of tradition. On the parents’ separation or some time later the mother may seek to change the child’s surname to that of her own. Perhaps the parents were never married, or the mother has decided to revert to her maiden name. She may have remarried and had further children with the result that all the other members of the household have the surname of her new husband. She may perceive it as being difficult for the child, particularly once they start school, to have a surname which is different to hers if she is the primary carer. 

What should be done? 

A child’s surname can only be changed legally if all those with parental responsibility for the child provide their consent in writing. A father will have parental responsibility if he is named on the child’s birth certificate or was married to the mother when the child was born. If a father will not agree to the change of name, then an application to the Court will need to be made. 

How does a Court decide? 

The most important consideration for the Court is the child’s welfare. The Court will listen to the arguments of both parties and consider all the circumstances of the case, with particular regard to the welfare checklist set out at Section 1(3) of the Children Act 1989. This includes the child’s own wishes and feelings, although the weight attached to these will depend upon the age and understanding of the child. Other factors listed under Section 1(3) include the child’s needs (including emotional needs), the likely effect on the child of a change of circumstances and any harm that the child may be at risk of suffering, amongst other factors. 

The fact that the child’s surname is different to the mother’s does not on its own carry much weight. It is now not uncommon for school children to have a different surname from their mother. The fact that the name represents a link to the biological father of the child is an important factor. The level of commitment to the child and involvement of the father in the child’s life is likely to be significant. If he has disappeared or shown no interest in seeing the child, or if there is a history of serious domestic abuse or similar then this could well tip the balance in favour of the mother. 

Sometimes a parent causes a child to be known by a different surname informally, without applying for a deed poll or Court order. Whilst this may be done for some purposes, it is likely to be looked upon unfavourably if the other parent brings it to the Court’s attention, and therefore it is advisable to obtain the permission of the Court. If that is not done, the Court may not allow the change of name and this could cause further confusion and upset for the child. 

A common compromise is to allow a mother to give the child a double-barrelled surname, encompassing both parents’ surnames. This still requires the written consent of the father or a Court order, but is more likely to be successful.  

Once a child is 16 it is not necessary to make a court application and a child can apply to change their own name by deed poll.

Please contact us if you would like advice about your own circumstances or assistance with a Court application.

For more information or to arrange an appointment, please contact Elianne Edgington ( in the Wantage office (01235 771234).



Written by Elianne Edgington

September 26th, 2015 at 12:26 pm

A warning to those who try to avoid financial responsibilities on divorce

In an unusual case a wife has been awarded 100% of the family assets, consisting of the home worth £250,000 and savings of over £300,000. Although the usual starting point for dividing assets on divorce is based on equality, this was a case where the husband, Mr Aly, had moved to Bahrain a year after the parties separated, since which time he had paid no maintenance or child support for his son and daughter. 

Elianne Edgington

Elianne Edgington

A judge found that there was no real prospect of the husband paying maintenance in the future, he had effectively “washed his hands” of his family in the UK and started a new family in Bahrain. He was out of reach of both the Child Support Agency and the British Courts meaning that any order for maintenance would be difficult to enforce. With this in mind, the judge decided that the only way to ensure that the children were properly provided for was to award the wife 100% of the assets. The decision was made in July 2014 and has now been confirmed by the Court of Appeal. Mrs Aly had previously secured a freezing order over the husband’s assets so that they could not be dissipated before the hearing.  

The case should serve as a warning to those who try to avoid their responsibilities that the Courts may find other ways to achieve a fair outcome. 

In another recent decision, Charles Williams-Wynn, a wealthy aristocrat who will in due course inherit part of a £2 million estate and was receiving a proportion of his family’s income, was jailed for 28 days for refusing to pay child support and building up arrears of £4800. 

A further two cases in which husbands Mr Sharland and Mr Gohil were found to have deliberately concealed their true wealth in divorce proceedings, has recently been heard by the Supreme Court. The wives argued that husbands who lied about the value of their assets in such proceedings should be subject to greater penalties for fraud and that their settlements should be renegotiated as a result. A decision in these cases is still awaited but could have significant consequences for husbands or wives who try to hide their true financial position.  

Surely it is correct that spouses who lie to the other party and to the court should not be allowed to keep the settlement that was awarded as a result of such deceit. 

However, it remains the case that spouses should not go “digging” for a truth they believe has been hidden. In yet another recent decision the Court of Appeal upheld a decision of a judge not to look at evidence that had been obtained by a wealthy banker, Mr Arbili, who had illegally hacked into his wife’s emails, in an attempt to prove that she was wealthier than she had claimed. This leaves spouses who suspect dishonesty in a tricky position.

For more information or to arrange an appointment, please contact Elianne Edgington ( in the Wantage office (01235 771234).


Written by Elianne Edgington

July 17th, 2015 at 2:18 pm

Family Law Is Changing – For Better or Worse?

What changes have already taken effect?

Since April 2013 legal aid has not been available for family law advice, other than for victims of domestic violence. This has meant that many people simply cannot afford a family lawyer and more individuals are choosing to represent themselves. This may leave some people vulnerable, without knowledge of what their options are and what they can expect to happen.

Elianne Edgington

Elianne Edgington

In December 2013 the new Child Maintenance rules came into effect. These introduced a different and less straight-forward formula for calculation, but more significantly for families, introduced a charge payable for a calculation of maintenance (£20) and further ongoing fees payable by both the paying parent (20% of maintenance) and the receiving parent (4% of maintenance) if the Child Maintenance Service is asked to collect and enforce payments. These charges, while designed to encourage parents to reach agreement and pay voluntarily, have the unwarranted effect of depriving the child of often much needed funds if parents are unable to sort out child maintenance between themselves.

Separating parents in modest income families often struggle due to the same income having to fund two households rather than one. Further, ongoing changes to welfare benefits may mean that separated parents are on an even tighter budget than before. If both parents need to or wish to work, the high cost of childcare is a particular problem. This is an issue on several of the parties’ election manifestos and hopefully will see some additional government funding in the future, which would help separated parents to return to work.

In April 2014 there were further family law reforms, aimed at stream-lining procedures and encouraging the involvement of both parents in a child’s life. The terminology for orders relating to children was changed again and these are now called Child Arrangements Orders, but are in real terms very much the same as before. It was also made compulsory for parties wishing to issue court proceedings in financial or children matters, to attend a meeting about mediation before doing so, save in exceptional circumstances.

Other reforms which have been proposed by the Law Commission, in relation to the rights of cohabiting couples, and enforceable prenuptial agreements have been shelved for the time being despite much discussion.

Future reform

Resolution, the family lawyers’ association, has produced a Manifesto of reforms it would like to see promoted in the next parliament. These are designed to provide more support and guidance for couples going through divorce or separation and put children’s interests first. Some of the reforms which Resolution is promoting are:

  • That the £20 fee payable for a Child Maintenance assessment is abolished, along with the 4% fees charged to the receiving parent when the Child Maintenance Service is asked to collect the payments. It is also proposed that the 20% fees charged to the paying parent for collection of payments be reconsidered.
  • Make it is easier for those with limited funds to have some government funded initial advice from a solicitor to help them consider their options.
  • Introduce a “Parenting Charter” to set out what children should expect from their parents when they are separating, and what separating parents need to do in the interests of their children, which includes points such as the right to “a childhood, including freedom from the pressure of adult concerns such as financial worries” and the right to “be at the centre of any decisions made about their lives”.
  • Allow people to divorce without blaming each other, scrapping the need to show adultery or unreasonable behaviour, which currently sets proceedings off in an unnecessarily acrimonious way and has no effect on the issues at stake whether financial or relating to children.
  • Clearer guidance on how finances might be dealt with on divorce, with guidelines on how much maintenance might be payable and for how long, and how the assets and pensions might be divided, with pre-nuptial agreements to be enforceable (with some safeguards).
  • Greater rights and responsibilities for unmarried cohabiting couples, so that eligible couples are able to apply for some financial orders on separation, unless they have previously “opted out”.

All of these changes would have a positive effect for separating couples and parents in particular, as they need to continue to work together for the benefit of their children.

The family team at Charles Lucas & Marshall are all Resolution members and are committed to helping families to deal with relationship breakdown in a constructive and non-confrontational way. We offer an initial fixed fee interview for £120 (including VAT) to enable clients to access some early advice and consider their options armed with some knowledge of the law and procedure. We are also able to help and advise at various stages throughout the procedure on a “pay as you go” basis should a client prefer to deal with the proceedings themselves.

For more information or to arrange an appointment, please contact Suzy Hamshaw ( or Mark Chapman ( in the Newbury office (01635 521212) or Elianne Edgington ( in the Wantage office (01235 771234).

Written by Elianne Edgington

May 11th, 2015 at 3:17 pm

Divorcing Couples Turn Away from Mediation

Suzy Hamshaw - Divorce Specialist, Family Law Expert and Financial Claims on Divorce

Suzy Hamshaw

Divorcing couples are turning their backs on mediation and once again resorting to the courts to sort out their divorce, says Newbury lawyer, Suzy Hamshaw.

Figures from the Ministry of Justice show that between April – June 2013, the number of divorcing couples attending a mediation information and assessment meeting fell by 47 per cent, compared to the same period in 2012.

Additionally, the number of couples starting family mediation sessions fell by 26 per cent over the same period.

Suzy Hamshaw, a family law specialist with Newbury firm, Charles Lucas & Marshall, says the fall in mediation coincides with cuts to the Government’s legal aid budget which has meant legal aid is now only available to divorcing couples in cases where domestic violence is involved.

“The numbers show that the Government has achieved exactly the opposite of what it intended to do,” says Suzy Hamshaw. “The intention was to persuade couples to attempt mediation before applying to the court. However, by this stage it is often too late in the process.

“It also failed to appreciate that many couples are only made aware of mediation when they visit a solicitor, who can act as the middleman in getting the mediation process underway. Due to the absence of legal aid, fewer people are seeking the advice of a solicitor.”

Statistics show mediation can be a quicker and more cost effective way of settling divorce cases with a high success rate of 85 per cent. Agreements reached via mediation are also likely to last longer than those made in courts. However, to be successful it has to take place at the right time and the parties need to have the benefit of legal advice to ensure any agreements are fair.

“With the cuts in legal aid , many people no longer have access to legal advice and have fewer options – this is resulting in more applications to the court, often with people acting as litigants in person,” added Suzy Hamshaw.

“Mediation is not a cure for all – but its benefits should not be overlooked and the need for legal advice at an early stage is essential .”

For further information contact Suzy Hamshaw on 01635 521212 or

Written by Suzy Hamshaw

December 9th, 2014 at 11:58 am

Grandparents – We Are Worried We Will Lose Our Relationship With Our Grandchildren. What Can We Do?

Question: My son has recently separated from his partner who is refusing him contact with his children. I am worried we will lose our relationship with our grandchildren. What can I do?

Suzy Hamshaw, family law specialist, Charles Lucas & Marshall

Suzy Hamshaw - Divorce Specialist, Family Law Expert and Financial Claims on Divorce

Suzy Hamshaw

It is a well known fact that after a relationship breakdown, up to one in three children lose touch with an absent parent within three years – normally the father –  and do not see that parent again.

What is often forgotten is that these children also lose touch with their grandparents.

The time spent with grandparents is an integral part of a child’s upbringing which can provide a child with experiences that cannot be derived from other relationships. The loss of this relationship when a child is going through the distress of family separation is therefore devastating for that child.

If possible, the first step is to encourage your son to resolve his own contact arrangements as normally a grandparent’s contact can develop as part and parcel of those contact arrangements.

If this is not successful then you should try and talk with the children’s mother and explain to her that despite what might be going on between her and your son, your wish is only to maintain a relationship with your grandchildren and not to take sides.

However, if the relationship is too strained, then a referral to family mediation may be an option. This would require the agreement of all parties and would involve a series of meetings with an independent mediator who will help you to try and reach an agreement through structured negotiations.

Failing this, a child focused and amicable letter from a solicitor setting out why it is important for you to maintain your relationship with your grandchildren may be all that is needed to bring an agreement.

If none of the above lead to a resolution then an application to court for a Contact Order will be needed. Presently grandparents do not have an automatic right to apply for a Contact Order so you will have to apply for leave (permission) from the court to make the application. You will have to demonstrate that you have a meaningful connection with the children in order to be granted permission but this should not be a hurdle.

For more information please contact Suzy Hamshaw on 01635 521212 or

Written by Suzy Hamshaw

December 9th, 2014 at 8:55 am

Husband Tells Court His Wife Must Be Mad To Want To Divorce him

A rejected husband attempted to stop his wife divorcing him by telling a court that she must be mad to want to leave him. This article appeared in the Daily Telegraph and can be accessed here:



At first glance one might be inclined to chuckle at the bravado of the husband. However, on closer inspection this is a deeply sad story and an all too common tale of a marriage breakdown.

Peter Savva, said that his wife of 34 years, Niki, must be “ill” or “confused” to want to end their marriage and asked the Court of Appeal to order a psychiatric assessment of her. The judge, Lady Justice Black, did not agree stating that the wife showed no sign of being mentally unstable but that Mr Savva was unable to accept that the marriage was over.

As a family solicitor it is a common occurrence to find that one party believes the marriage to be at an end and the other does not. This creates difficulties for all involved. We family solicitors are often portrayed as ruthless and unprincipled characters – the reality is very different. The majority of us are members of Resolution who are committed to handling family matters in a sensitive, constructive, amicable and cost effective way. I will always discuss with the client the possibility of reconciliation and direct them to marriage guidance where possible.

However, the simple fact of the matter is that if one party is set on obtaining a divorce there is little, if anything, the other party can do to prevent that. It is only right that the person who feels the marriage has irretrievably broken down has the right to bring it to an end.

Mr Savva was also of the view that there be a “cooling off” period before any party could go ahead with the divorce. The parties often reach different stages of emotion at different times. Many can be initially angry or distressed and perhaps not in the best frame of mind to conduct serious proceedings at first. Whereas others may have been thinking of separation for a long time and adjusted to the prospect of a separation. There are a mix of emotions following a separation and each situation needs to be handled sensitively. I actually think this is a sensible suggestion but the technicalities would be difficult. When would the “cooling off” period start (many parties cannot even agree on their date of separation!) and how long should it be?

Mr Savva has stated that he would now seek a judicial review of the laws governing the process of divorce. I wish him luck – but sadly this is an area of the law that many governments have tended to leave alone.

For expert and specialist advice please contact Suzy Hamshaw on 01635 521212 or


Written by Suzy Hamshaw

December 9th, 2014 at 7:20 am

Company Assets in a Divorce

Expect Fewer ‘Hiding Places’ – Wealth Protection in Company Structures

Will Not Be Safe in a Divorce

Suzy Hamshaw, a family lawyer with Charles Lucas & Marshall, believes courts will look more closely at how company assets are held in a divorce and in particular whether they are being held on trust for a spouse.

Suzy Hamshaw - Divorce Specialist, Family Law Expert and Financial Claims on Divorce

Suzy Hamshaw

The Supreme Court has unanimously allowed an appeal by an oil tycoon’s former wife – reversing the decision of the Court of Appeal. The case addressed whether the court could treat properties belonging to a limited company as if they were assets belonging to the husband where he was the sole shareholder of the company.

In the original proceedings the High Court found that the husband had sole control of the companies and could deal with the assets as he wished and so they should be treated as belonging to him. The Court of Appeal reversed this decision, applying company law that a company and its shareholders are separate legal entities and that the assets of a company belong to it and not to its shareholders.

The Supreme Court reversed this decision but applied different principles to the High Court. In deciding the case, the court used trust law rather than company law to declare that the properties were on the particular circumstances of the case, not owned by the company but held on trust for the husband and therefore formed part of his assets on the divorce.

In doing so the Supreme Court upheld the company law principle that the corporate veil can only be pierced in very limited circumstances and that assets held by a company are not owned by the shareholders unless it can be shown there had been a fraudulent or dishonest use of the company to avoid an existing obligation.

This was an important decision both for family lawyers and company lawyers. The court was clear that the relaxed approach of family courts to ownership of assets cannot continue and that the strict interpretation of the law of property applied across all legal divisions.

However, it also sent a clear signal that the court will look closely at assets in the ownership of a company and how they came to be and that attempts to hide assets from the divorce courts by transferring assets into a company will not necessarily succeed.

This should pose no problems for properly run companies and the court has reaffirmed the law on the piercing of the corporate veil which will only happen in very rare circumstances. However, directors may wish to take this opportunity to examine their company’s asset portfolio to determine in what capacity the company assets are being held.

For further information contact Suzy Hamshaw on 01635 521212 or

Written by Suzy Hamshaw

December 9th, 2013 at 11:57 am

Proposed Legal Aid Cuts will Place Vulnerable At Risk

A Newbury solicitor who specialises in family law has warned that forthcoming cuts to legal aid will place the vulnerable at risk, particularly women and children.

Suzy Hamshaw - Divorce Specialist, Family Law Expert and Financial Claims on Divorce

Suzy Hamshaw

It will also lead to an increase in people representing themselves and clogging up the court system – resulting in couples having to wait longer for their family dispute to be resolved.

From April 2013, legal aid will no longer be available for divorce, financial disputes and disputes in relation to children, except in cases where domestic abuse is involved.

Suzy Hamshaw, a family lawyer with Newbury firm, Charles Lucas & Marshall, says that once legal aid is removed from family cases, it will particularly affect women who have little or no income if they are caring for children.

“They will not be able to afford legal advice compared to their working husband or partner, placing them at a disadvantage,” he says.

“This will lead inevitably to more couples representing themselves in court. This always slows down the legal process.”

Cases involving domestic abuse will still get funding under legal aid. While this is to be welcomed it also raises concerns.

“It could lead to some people making unfounded allegations in order to obtain legal aid, and that fathers, in particular will not be able to fight to see their children,” added Suzy Hamshaw.

However, as well as violence there may be other concerns, such as alcohol or drug misuse within a family. These issues may never reach the surface because but they are not in the public domain.

“One person in the relationship is aware there is a problem but cannot afford to contest the matter,” said Suzy Hamshaw, “They may give in, which could lead to children being exposed to risk of harm.

“Yet if the case was to go to court, there are simple tests available to check for alcohol or drug misuse and the court can ask for thorough risk and psychological assessments to be conducted. Previously the costs of these would have been covered by legal aid – but how will these costs be met now?”

Suzy Hamshaw is a member of Resolution, a national organisation of family lawyers who are committed to conducting family disputes in a constructive and non-confrontational manner.

“Although the aim should always be to keep family disputes out of court, there are going to be cases where court intervention is in the best interests of children and one or both of the parents,” he added

“There are many cases where legal aid is a genuine need and many couples will soon be denied access to it. The fallout could lead to social and economic problems which far outweigh the savings the government is attempting to make from the legal aid budget.”

For expert and specialist advice please contact Suzy Hamshaw on 01635 521212 or

Written by Suzy Hamshaw

December 9th, 2013 at 11:10 am

Funding your Divorce

How the costs of a divorce are to be financed is an issue for all clients and it is essential you make the right choice about how to fund your case at the earliest opportunity. 

Suzy Hamshaw - Divorce Specialist, Family Law Expert and Financial Claims on Divorce

Suzy Hamshaw

As of 1st April 2013 legal aid is no longer available for family law cases unless there is evidence of domestic violence. Even if this is the case, legal aid is only available if you have a low income and limited capital.

You should also be aware that the legal aid advice given is not always “free”. Depending on your level of income you may have to pay a monthly contribution to your funding and/or pay your fees from your settlement at the conclusion of your case.

There are a number of options available:

1. Your Own Resources

If your income exceeds your outgoings or you have access to savings then this is the most accessible way of funding your divorce. If you have assets you may want to consider selling these to meet your ongoing costs. However, consider this carefully – as any such disposal might be viewed by the court as an attempt to prevent your spouse from having a share of that asset and you could be penalised as a result.

A loan from a friend or family member is another option. The benefit of such loans are that they are usually interest free with no fixed date for repayment. They are also good for those with a bad credit rating as no credit check would be needed.

However, such loans can be viewed by the court as a “soft loan” (ie one that the individual is not considered to be obliged to repay). A loan agreement should be entered into and possibly security taken to cover the loan.

2. From a Third Party

If you are likely to recover assets in your divorce then you may consider incurring some temporary liabilities with a view to repaying them when you receive your settlement.

Credit card/Overdraft

Nil or low rates of interest may be available on a short term basis but this needs to be considered carefully as they can revert to high rates of interest very quickly.

A Personal Loan

You may decide to take out an unsecured personal loan from a financial institution. However, consideration will need to be given as to whether you have sufficient surplus income to meet the monthly repayments.

3. Litigation Loans

A litigation loan is a specialist loan where the lender will assess the prospects of your case and the likely level of your settlement. If their lending criteria are met then they will release the funds direct to your solicitor to cover legal fees as they fall due.

The loan that will be redeemed from any settlement before any funds are released to you, once the divorce is finalised. Some lenders also have other strict requirements including security being given for a loan, by a charge being registered against a property.

4. Insurance

Consideration should be given to any existing insurance policies you may have as some include an optional extra of legal expenses insurance. If you are in any doubt you should review your insurance cover and contact your insurance provider.

5. Arrangements with your solicitor

If there is capital which may not be accessible until the case is resolved, in some circumstances it may be agreed with your solicitor that costs are paid at the end of your case from the settlement.

Such arrangements are usually dealt with under a legal contract known as a Sears Tooth Agreement in which you contract to pay the solicitor’s fees from your capital settlement at the end of the case. An interest charge will normally be made and security such as a charge over your property might need to be given.

Such arrangements are not freely available as there can be risk of non-payment. Each case would be assessed on its own circumstances as to whether funding in this way is appropriate.

6. From Your Spouse

This could be by way of an agreement to pay some or all of your legal costs. Alternatively if an agreement cannot be reached with your spouse then, in some circumstances, you could make an application to the court for a Legal Services Order. This is an interim order requiring your spouse to make financial provision for your legal costs.

A formal application to the court is required and a judge will consider various factors before granting or refusing the request. In particular, the judge will consider your income and available capital and those of your spouse.

Also a Legal Services Order will not be made unless there is no other source of funding available to you. You could only obtain funding via this method if none of the above options are available to you.

For further information contact Suzy Hamshaw on 01635 521212 or

Written by Suzy Hamshaw

December 9th, 2013 at 10:25 am