FAQs after an accident at work

February 22, 2017By BPS Family LawBlog

Sefton Kwasnik, Partner, Serious Injury/Medical Profession, Defence and Inquests, delivers a guide on FAQs regarding workplace accidents.

Have you had an accident whilst at work? If you have, it’s important to know what your legal rights are regarding compensation and retaining your employment.

Here’s a helpful guide about what you need to know if you’ve been in a work-related accident.

What to do if you’ve been in an accident at work

You should immediately:

  • Make sure you seek medical advice from your GP or hospital at the earliest opportunity, explain to them exactly how you were injured and ensure that the required amount of medical care needed is provided e.g. a trip to the hospital.
  • Try to make sure that the accident has been properly recorded, both by the employer and by you. Make sure the ‘accident book’ or your work’s equivalent recording source is filled in – this should be held by all employers, and will be proof of your accident.
  • For your own purposes, make a note of any witnesses in the area and any equipment or machinery being used at the time.
  • If you are absent from the workplace, ring in and confirm the position by letter or email at the earliest opportunity.

Can you claim for loss of earnings?

All businesses are required to have employee liability insurance in case of an accident, meaning any claim will go through the company’s insurance policy. If a mistake by your employer has happened and you have been injured as a result, you are entitled to receive compensation.

How long do I have to make a claim?

There is a standard limit within the UK of three years when making a work-place accident claim.  If after three years you decide you want to take action, your case may be considered time-barred and you won’t be able to carry through with your claim.

If the accident has happened to a young person (18 or under), you have until the day before their 21st birthday to make a claim.

We would advise making the claim as soon as you are aware that your workplace is the reason behind your accident, as it’s easier to prove the link between the accident and the injury.

At BPS Family Law, we work closely with people who have been in workplace accidents. We offer practical advice along with a compassionate approach. Our aim is to achieve the best possible outcome for our clients.

If you’re looking for a lawyer to help you with any of the issues mentioned above, then you can get in touch with Sefton at [email protected] or by telephone on 0161 834 2623 or 078 3663 0889.

How to protect your financial assets is you are going through a divorce

February 22, 2017By BPS Family LawBlog

Caroline Swain, Partner, Matrimonial and Family Law provides a guide on how to protect your assets if you are facing a divorce.

If you are getting a divorce or ending a civil partnership, particularly an acrimonious one, you will need to act fast to ensure your assets are protected. Here’s a helpful guide to ensure you know how to protect your assets when you’re going through a divorce.

Property

If your home is owned in your spouse’s sole name, you can register your interest in the home to make sure it can’t be remortgaged or sold without your knowledge.

If your spouse owns property which is not the family home, you may be able to register a ‘restriction’ at the Land Registry. This is particularly useful if you’re going through a hostile divorce, in which you think your partner may try to sell the property or secure debt against it.

If the property is held in joint names with your spouse as “joint tenants”, you may want to change the way it’s owned. By changing how it is owned you can prevent ownership transferring to your spouse in full should you die before the divorce, or before the dissolution has been finalised.

Businesses

If you feel like your marriage may be breaking down, make sure you do not transfer assets out of the business, as this will be seen as a strategic move and be detrimental to you. In family court, you’re required by law to make full financial disclosure prior to your divorce settlement. If you’re caught out trying to transfer assets, it could be considered as an attempt to avoid your spouse’s financial claims. The Family Court will not look kindly on this, and you could be held accountable of litigation misconduct. By going through the divorce process legally and fairly, you are in with a much greater chance of achieving a fair and sensible settlement.

Pensions

Do your homework –  Find out exactly what type of pension(s) you have, and what the laws pertaining to these are. You should make enquiries as to the CETV for each of your pensions at an early stage as it can take many weeks for pension providers to provide this information. It might be useful to get some professional help from a pension advisor if you have one.

What to do if a spouse tries to hide assets

Courts have great powers available to ensure that there is full financial disclosure in every case. If one or both of the parties to a divorce are found to be hiding assets, they can penalised by being ordered to pay the other side’s legal costs.

If it comes to light that all assets were not disclosed, the case can be reopened and a different order can be made. Equally, courts have the power to get assets back after they have been transferred, should the need arise.

If you’d like to find out more about how to protect your assets during a divorce and the options available to you then you can get in touch with Caroline at [email protected] or by telephone on 0161 926 1430.

A guide to handling an inquest after the death of a loved one

February 9, 2017By BPS Family LawBlog

Sefton Kwasnik, Partner, Serious Injury/ Medical Profession, Defence and Inquests, delivers a guide on dealing with an inquest after the death of a loved one.

Death is a difficult situation to deal with and come to terms with, particularly when it’s the death of a very close friend or relative. The loss can affect your emotional and physical well-being, and the occurrence of an inquest could lead to an added feeling of grief, uncertainty, fear or a delayed feeling of grief.

An inquest is opened in roughly 10% of deaths when a coroner has reason to believe that a death has not happened from natural causes.

With this guide we hope to help you through this process.

If you’re reading this because you’re currently dealing with this, then we’re truly sorry to hear of your loss.

What exactly is an inquest?

An inquest is held to find the answers to four main questions:

  • Who the deceased was
  • When and where they died
  • The medical cause of their death
  • How they came by their death

The inquest is not there to place blame on anyone, it is solely used to find out how a person died. The coroner cannot legally deal with any other matter.

What happens at an inquest?

The family of the deceased will need to give a statement to a police coroner officer – the officer will speak to someone who is able to give the necessary information and who feels able to cope with the questions.

Along with the family statement, there may be reports from doctors, police officers or eye witnesses, depending on the nature of the death.

Once these reports are compiled, there will be a hearing. Inquests are held in an open court, so any friends and family that wish to attend can do so – bring as much support as you need.

Also, note that because it’s an open court, you may find journalists and press at the hearing. They may try and ask you questions as you walk to and from the court, however you don’t have to answer them if you don’t want to.

The hearing

The coroner will begin by explaining what an inquest is and what issues they’ll be covering. Witnesses will then be brought forward and go through their statement, normally starting with family members.

Once all the witnesses have given their sworn statements, the coroner will give their conclusion. Depending on the nature and seriousness of the death, there may be a jury who will have the concluding decision.

Inquest hearings last anything from 30 minutes to several days, depending on what issues need to be explored – most inquests last about half a day.

Will I find out if someone is responsible for my loved one’s death?

An inquest is not the same as a trial. You will not find out about guilt, blame or compensation – it’s solely focused on finding out the cause of the death. Any other issues will be dealt with separately in civil or criminal court. There will be no sentencing or penalties given to anyone by the coroner.

How do I prepare for the inquest?

Be ready to find out information that you might not want to hear

Get ready to hear some potentially unpleasant things. An inquest may discover findings that could shock or upset you, so be prepared and make sure you have a good support system around you to help you deal with this. You are entitled to receive advanced notice of the evidence that will be presented, so you should ask for it as soon as possible to enable you to prepare.

Be prepared to feel like your feelings aren’t being taken into consideration

Because an inquest is a fact-finding process, the coroner will be to find out all the information they need to close the case and ascertain the cause of death. You are entitled to ask questions of all the witnesses who attend, and object to statements being read. A coroner’s court can be quite daunting and families may well benefit from taking early professional advice upon all aspects of the matter.

Here at BPS Family Law we work closely with families at inquests. We offer practical advice along with a compassionate approach. We’re not about cashing in on people’s upset, we’re about achieving the best possible outcome for families.

If you’re looking for a lawyer to help you with any of the issues mentioned above, then you can get in touch with Sefton at [email protected] or by telephone on 0161 834 2623 or 078 3663 0889.

How to achieve an amicable separation

January 24, 2017By BPS Family LawBlog

Caroline Swain, Partner, Matrimonial and Family Law provides a guide to achieving an amicable separation.

Separation is a difficult situation to go through. There may be several reasons for your break up, and as such you could be harbouring some unresolved hurt or anger. If you successfully manage to achieve an amicable split however, your separation will be much easier for both you and your family.
There are no laws to follow on having an easy separation, however there are some methods you can utilise to ensure your separation is peaceful and stress-free.

Avoid open criticism

For your sake:
By talking negatively about your ex-partner, it will not only cause upset and unnecessary stress, but it will manifest your bad feelings towards them and heighten the chances of a tumultuous separation.
If you feel like you have nothing positive to say to them, it’s best to have as little communication as possible, outside of the potential legal proceedings you’re going through.
This helps to ease the load you may feel like you’re carrying, and will make the process a lot easier for you to deal with.

For your children’s sake:
It’s also important to remember that if you have children, openly criticising their mother or father in front of them can make them feel guilty for spending time with the other parent. It will be easier for you and your child if you aren’t negative in front of them – a separation for children may only as bad as their parents make it out to be.

Establish boundaries
Now that you’re no longer together, it is a good idea to lay down some ground rules regarding personal space and communication.
3 steps which you can follow to make this process easy for you are:

Discover WHY you need to set your boundaries:
You and your partner have separated for a reason, be it big or small, so you will need to focus on what the reasons were to work out what type of boundary you need. Did this person’s presence have a negative impact on your life? Did they make comments that were untrue or hurtful?
Working out why exactly you need to set your boundaries is the first step in achieving a peaceful life.

Discover HOW you need to set your boundaries:
Now that you know why you need to set boundaries, you can begin to set them in motion. If you’ve realised that your ex-partner was a negative influence on your life, the boundary you set could be to limit the amount of time you have to see them. If they were always borrowing money from you, you can tell them you’re no longer going to fund them.
Establishing and setting boundaries is a big step, so take the time to congratulate yourself for your strength.

Get grounded and take care of yourself:
Setting boundaries sometimes has two initial results: you may receive some backlash from your ex-partner, and you also might feel some guilt. Both things are totally normal, and it’s important for you to stand by your decisions and keep yourself grounded.
You’re not alone in this situation, so remind yourself that you’re making the right choice and to not be hard on yourself. Deciding to separate was a difficult decision and you probably put a lot of thought into it, so trust your own judgement. Focus on making your life as easy as possible.

You may still need to contact each other:
If you need to speak to each other, choose a way of establishing conversation that you both agree on, whether it’s sending a text message, calling or meeting face to face.

Mediate
In divorce mediation, you and your ex-partner – or in some cases the two of you and your respective solicitors, hire a neutral third party called a mediator to meet with you in an effort to discuss and resolve the issues in your divorce.
Mediation is less expensive than a court trial or a series of hearings, however if spouses are unable to resolve issues amicably, additional legal costs can occur.

If you’d like to find out more about how to achieve an amicable separation and the options available to you then you can get in touch with Caroline at [email protected] or by telephone on 0161 926 1430.

BPS Family Law annual ladies’ clay pigeon shoot

January 23, 2017By BPS Family LawBlog

Here is a selection of photographs from BPS Family Law annual ladies’ clay pigeon shoot, which was kindly hosted by Dominic Baldwin.

The shoot was held in Dominic’s beautiful home Moss Wood, which was the perfect setting for our guests.

In total 30 ladies attended the event. A morning of tuition culminated in a team competition, which was won by The Partridges! Congratulations!

The clay pigeon shoot provided a great opportunity to get clients and friends together to network and make new friends.

Check out the video below!

Guide to spousal maintenance

November 3, 2016By BPS Family LawBlog

Caroline Swain, Partner, Matrimonial and Family Law provides a guide to spousal maintenance.

What is spousal maintenance?

It’s a regular payment (usually monthly) made by a former husband, wife or civil partner to their partner from whom they are separated. It’s only paid where one partner is unable to financially support themselves without continued financial assistance. The amount received depends on an interpretation of need: including how much the ex-partner needs to live on; how much income they already have and, their future earning potential.

Spousal maintenance can make divorce cases complex. Many people don’t even realise that there is a duty from one spouse to another to financial support the other both after separation and after divorce.

When is spousal maintenance paid?

Spousal maintenance is not an automatic entitlement. Due to legislation, the court must consider if both parties can achieve a clean break or if spousal maintenance is required. A clean break ends all financial claims (apart from child support).

If the marriage or civil partnership is short (typically, less than five years), then spousal maintenance may not be paid at all or only for a short period through what is called a ‘term order’.

If the couple has been together for a long term or where an ex-partner is unable to achieve financial independence, then spousal maintenance can be paid for life.

How is it calculated?

Unlike child maintenance there is no set formula for the calculation of spousal maintenance. The level paid depends on financial needs.

There is not an automatic right to an equal share of income unless, through the disclosure process, it can be shown an equal share is “needed” (note that the concept of “need/ed” is not fixed in law).

During the disclosure process the couple draws up a list of their current and anticipated future outgoings. The list is used to achieve fairness and acts as a balancing exercise.

When determining whether spousal maintenance should be paid, how much and for how long, the court will look at some of the following circumstances:

• The length of the marriage
• Number of children and time taken out of work to care for them
• Standard of living before the divorce
• Both parties’ day to day financial commitments (including child maintenance)
• The need to house both parties
• Future earning potential
• Continued shared parental responsibilities

The appropriate amount of maintenance varies significantly from case to case.

When does spousal maintenance stop?

Spousal maintenance is paid for a fixed term or for the rest of a person’s life. Some term orders can be extended and some are prohibited from an extension of time.

Independence

Spousal maintenance is there to aid a transition to financial independence. Current legislation states that spousal maintenance should end as soon as it is just and reasonable. This could be when the youngest child is 18 or when the person receiving the payments remarries or enters into a civil partnership.

In certain circumstances the court may order spousal maintenance for a short term (two to five years) to enable someone to re-train or re-enter the workplace after raising children. However, if the person has been out of work for many years then the court may order ‘joint lives’ maintenance – spousal maintenance on a lifelong basis.

Nominal Order

This is where no substantive payment is made but there is no clean break. This leaves the door open for claims to be made at any time in the future.

Re-marriage

If the recipient remarries then spousal maintenance stops. However, it does not end by law on cohabitation as cohabitation does not create a legal commitment.

Spousal maintenance is complex. It offers financial support/compensation for ex-partners who have had the course of their lives changed and missed out on earnings by a change in their career or disability or bringing up children or running a household.

If you’d like to find out more about spousal maintenance and the options available to you then you can get in touch with Caroline at [email protected] or by telephone on 0161 926 1430.

Compassionate Leave: should there be a statutory right to take time off?

October 18, 2016By BPS Family LawBlog

Sefton Kwasnik, Partner, Serious Injury/ Medical Profession, Defence and Inquests, examines the case that there should be a statutory right to take time off on compassionate or bereavement grounds.

I have years of experience representing families at inquest and advising upon issues when a sudden (or any) death may occur. My aim is to provide support and guidance to grieving individuals and families at a very sensitive time in their lives. Over the years I have seen first-hand the effects of grief and as a result I’m the Honorary Legal Officer for The Compassionate Friends, a charitable organisation of bereaved parents.

I believe there should be a statutory right to take time off on compassionate or bereavement grounds and I was interested to see Will Quince, Conservative MP for Colchester raise this issue in Parliament recently.

Mr Quince asked Parliament to amend the law so parents who have suffered the loss of a child are entitled to two weeks off work, paid at the rate of maternity leave.

Current law

At the moment there is no statutory right to take time off on compassionate or bereavement grounds. Under the Employment Rights Act of 1996 employees do have the right to take immediate and a ‘reasonable amount of time’ off for the death of a dependent. But there is no set limit as to how many days can be taken and no statutory right to be paid during this ‘reasonable amount of time’.

Employers

While most employers are extremely understanding towards their bereaved staff, sadly not all are. I would offer the following advice when taking time off on compassionate or bereavement grounds. ***

Stay in touch

As leave is granted for a ‘reasonable amount of time’ it’s advisable to stay in regular contact with your employers. Ensure lines of communication with your line manager or HR manager are open and keep them up to date. This transparency will make it easier to ask for more time if you need it and also smoothen your return to work.

Information

Be clear about how much you want your work colleagues to know about your bereavement. This information is private under data protection legislation. Also be clear if you want colleagues to contact you during this time.

Returning to work

Do not feel pressured to return to work sooner than you feel comfortable. Every bereavement is different and while some people cope best immersing themselves in work, others don’t. There will be ups and downs and in some cases the full emotional impact may not be felt for some time.
Set up regular reviews with your line manager to discuss how your return to work is going. You can agree any adjustments which may need to be made and any temporary or long-term changes in hours or responsibilities, for example.

For those suffering the death of a family member it is a tragic experience. The grieving person should be entitled to a statutory right to take time off on compassionate or bereavement grounds.

Seek Extra Help

If you are taking time away from work to deal with the death of a loved one then you may find it helpful during this time to liaise with a medical or other health care professionals. There are a variety of counselling services on offer which may be available to support the bereaved family member.

While Mr Quince’s amendments to the Employment Rights Act 1996 will take their time to get through
Parliament, I hope they do bring about change that’s desperately needed.

*** ACAS FOOTNOTE CURRENT AS AT SEPTEMBER 27 2016
When someone close dies, the last thing most people want to do is trawl through their contract of employment to see whether they are entitled to any compassionate leave. Neither would most people relish the prospect of an awkward conversation with a line manager, having to explain who died in order to justify a short period away.

All employees are entitled to ‘time off for dependants’. This is a reasonable amount of unpaid time off to deal with unforeseen matters and emergencies involving a dependant, including leave to arrange or attend a funeral. A ‘dependant’ could be a spouse, partner, child, parent or anyone living in the household. It could also be someone who relies on an employee for their care or for help during an emergency, such as an elderly neighbour.

But what if the deceased is not a dependant? Many employers do have a policy for compassionate leave, which employees can find in their contracts or company handbooks. Experts maintain that writing paid compassionate bereavement leave into a contract can be a major support to employees, and have a long-term positive impact on their relationship with employers. Having a scheme in place is also helpful for managers, who can fall back on written policy and are spared the ordeal of having to assess the seriousness of the situation themselves.

Without such a scheme, it is up to employers to use their discretion, being as reasonable and as consistent as possible. Managers will have to have an eye on what the custom and practice has been in the past and apply precedents fairly and consistently. Even so, employees cannot expect to be granted leave automatically. When leave isn’t granted, they may have to use their holiday allowance.

At BPS Family Law we work closely with families at inquests. We offer practical advice along with a compassionate approach. We’re not about cashing in on people’s upset, we’re about achieving the best possible outcome for families.

If you’re looking for a lawyer to help you with any of the issues mentioned above, then you can get in touch with Sefton at [email protected] or by telephone on 0161 834 2623.

Father allowed only indirect contact with his children

October 13, 2016By BPS Family LawBlog, Uncategorized

A father who lashed out at his children in a restaurant has been told he can only have indirect contact with them for at least the next two years.

The case involved a couple who had three children together during their marriage.

Following the breakdown of the relationship, the father wanted to remove the children to Saudi Arabia but the court denied permission. He moved out of the family home to live a short distance away and direct contact was agreed.

During a contact visit with the two older children in a restaurant it was said that the father had lost control and kicked out at one or both of them, and had said things that had upset them greatly.

The father applied for a child arrangements order. The judge concluded that it was not in their interests to have face-to-face contact with the father and made an order for contact by telephone and Skype.

The children’s guardian recommended that the father be prevented from making a further court application for 12 to 18 months, but the judge made an order for two years.

The father appealed saying the judge had given too much weight to the restaurant incident and failed to provide a plan for working towards direct, unsupervised contact.

However, the Court of Appeal upheld the judge’s decision. It said several attempts at establishing contact arrangements had been made and had ended in a highly damaging incident in the restaurant. By the time that the case had gone back to court, the father had no longer been willing to participate in supervised contact.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of family law.

Wife awarded divorce settlement that reflects lavish lifestyle

October 6, 2016By BPS Family LawDivorce Settlements

A wife has been granted a divorce settlement that is fair to her husband but reflects her lavish lifestyle during the marriage.

The case involved a couple who had been married for 12 years. The husband was from Saudi Arabia and the wife was an American. Their matrimonial home had been in England, and the wife and daughter continued to live there.

The husband, who was terminally ill, had been extremely wealthy before the marriage and had paid for them to live a very lavish lifestyle. The wife had a London flat and a US property in her name. She sought £62.8m to buy a London property as her main home, additional funds to buy an English holiday home and to retain her US home, and capitalised maintenance of £127m.

The issue was the extent to which the exorbitant standard of living enjoyed throughout the marriage should be reflected in the court’s assessment of the wife’s future needs.

The court held that her needs had to be assessed by reference, among other things, to the marital standard of living prior to the breakdown of the marriage. However, it was also important to be fair to the husband.

This meant that that the wife should be awarded enough to provide a comfortable, even lavish, lifestyle, but not necessarily at the same exorbitant level that she had enjoyed during the marriage.

This meant she had no realistic entitlement to an annual income that replicated the marital standard of living. It was not appropriate to include either capital or income provision for a second home in the UK. She could not expect to continue to travel by private jet, or for the husband to pay for teams of staff at her various homes.

The court ordered that she should have a housing fund of £18m to buy a London property. She could meet her reasonable needs with a net annual budget of £2.5m, which would reduce by 33% after 10 years and by a further 25% after a further 10 years.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of family law.

Financial rights of married and unmarried parents after separation

September 29, 2016By BPS Family LawBlog, Divorce Settlements

Caroline Swain, Partner, Matrimonial and Family Law explains how there’s still a marked difference in the financial rights of married and unmarried parents after a separation.

Unmarried co-habiting couples are the fastest growing family type in the UK. With this family unit on the rise, it’s surprising the awareness of unmarried parent’s rights isn’t higher.

Most assume that they are in a ‘common law marriage’, and if they were to split, would share the same rights and responsibilities as married couples. Perhaps surprisingly, unmarried parents don’t have the same rights as married parents when seeking financial support for children after separation.

Married or not, separation and divorce can be a difficult time, with parents wanting to protect their children as much as possible. I’ve helped hundreds of married people through divorces and advised plenty of unmarried parents on their rights regarding separation.

Married or unmarried – key points to consider

Parental rights

For unmarried couples going through a separation, there’s one very important point to consider – parental rights.
Mothers automatically have parental responsibility for their children. Fathers only have this right if they were married to the mother when the child was born – if they weren’t then being the natural father is not enough to give parental rights.

There are actions that can be taken to acquire these rights, but if this wasn’t done before the break-up it can be difficult.

Legal obligation

It’s also important to note that married couples have a legal obligation to each other, and as a result, a divorce (to break that legal contract) can be a complex way to divide assets. For those who are unmarried, due to the lack of legal obligation, it can in some cases be easier to separate financial affairs. However, where children are involved, this can make it more difficult to assess the financial needs for children.

Financial rights

An ideal situation would be that both parents come to an informal agreement regarding child maintenance. Married or not, in most cases parents are required to pay child support. The amount payable is worked out by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS).

If you are married and get divorced there will (eventually) be an agreement as to how assets are divided. This will be decided through the courts. The parent with custody can ask the other parent to provide funds for a family home – and for married couples this money is given outright.

For those who are unmarried there will be no divorce to divide assets, so any payments will be decided through the CMS. However, this can be detrimental to an unmarried parent who has sole care for children with inadequate resources to do so.

There is a way around this. Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 states that an unmarried parent (the ‘parent with care’) can claim additional financial support from ex-partners to benefit the children. This is currently the only route available and not one which is well known.

However, if you are unmarried then any capital given to provide a family home is effectively a loan and not given outright. It’s lent to the parent with custody while the children are under 18. Once the children are legally adults the house must be sold and the other parent given their money back.

I’ve helped many parents claim the money they need and are entitled to this way. Not many people know about Schedule 1 claims and instructing a solicitor to act on your behalf can take away some of the pressure and worry at this difficult time.

It’s vital to understand all the options available to you. At BPS Family Law we pride ourselves on offering a compassionate and caring service putting the holistic situation for any family first. If you’re looking for a family lawyer, then you can get in touch with Caroline at [email protected] or by telephone on 0161 926 1430.