Violence Against Women

The murders of Sarah Everard, and Sabina Nessa in 2021, and the storm of media coverage and online conversation surrounding them. have once again brought the issue of male violence against women to light in heart-breaking fashion. Although these cases have quite rightly gained media and sparked a wave of protest, discussion and debate about the issue, it is certainly not a new phenomenon. This is particularly true for those engaged in representing parties in the family courts on a daily basis.

The World Health Organization reports that globally, a staggering 1 in 3 women are subjected to violence from, most commonly from an intimate partner. Recent reports into police handling of violence against women and girls concluded that there is currently an ‘epidemic’ of such crimes.

Further statistics make for grim reading. The Crime Survey for England and Wales for the year ending March 2020 identified the following:

  • 1.6 million female victims (aged 16–59) of domestic abuse in England and Wales;
  • 618,000 female victims (aged 16–74) of sexual assault (including attempts); and
  • 892,000 female victims (aged 16–59) of stalking.

Coercive and Controlling Behaviour

Alongside the enduring fact that women continue to face unacceptable risk of physical and sexual violence, there is also a growing understanding of what constitutes controlling or coercive behaviour. This is reflected in the development that such behaviour has been a criminal offence since 2015. Data shows that the victims of this behaviour are far more likely to be women, and the perpetrators likely to be men.

Many people struggle to define what coercive control in a relationship looks like, as it is far less easy to identify than signs of physical violence. It can include (amongst other signs) threats, deliberate humiliation, and attempts to isolate the victim from friends and family.

Work in family law has seen an increased focus on the effects of coercive control, which was recently highlighted in a significant judgement from the Court of Appeal in March of this year. Those working to represent clients in family law proceedings will need a full and clear understanding of what coercive control looks like, in order to best advise their clients on the best way forward.

Help Is Available

The reality is that society has a long way to go before meaningful change for women and girls is seen. An author of a recent review of police responses to violence against women has recommended a ‘radical change of approach across the whole system, which is unlikely to happen overnight’ However, there are practical steps that can be taken.

If you believe that you or someone you know is a potential victim of any of the behaviour set out above, you should first consider whether to involve the police, particularly if there is a risk of immediate harm.

A member of the team at Burd Ward can assist you in obtaining a non-molestation order, preventing the perpetrator from contacting you or coming near your address. Legal Aid is available for these applications, and a member of our team will be happy to advise you on your eligibility.

Laura Prysor-Jones, family law solicitorLaura Prysor-Jones, a member The Family Law Team at Burd Ward has established links with support services for victims of domestic abuse across Wirral. She is trusted by these groups to provide a sensitive and considerate service to our clients. You can reach out to us on 0151 639 8273 or contact her at lpj@burdward.co.uk for more information.


Government Announces No-Fault Divorce to be implemented by April 2022

A long-awaited change to the law governing divorce and dissolution of civil partnerships in England and Wales will at last come into force on 6th April 2022, ministers have announced today. The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act received royal assent on 25 June 2020 and became law but has yet to be fully implemented by the Government. The Act will introduce a number of reforms to current divorce law, most notably allowing for a ‘no-fault’ divorce. In practice, this will remove the need for a party applying for a divorce to rely on the conduct of the other person under one of a number of grounds in order to show that the marriage has broken down. Once implemented, the reforms will allow for any party seeking a divorce to simply file a statement confirming that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The other party in the marriage will not be able to contest the divorce once this statement is filed.

It is hoped that once these reforms are implemented, the divorce process will become quicker, simpler, and less immediately stressful for separating couples. The changes have long been campaigned for by family practitioners, as it is hoped that by removing the need to show fault on the part of the other party, both individuals can instead choose to focus on the important issues that come with the end of a marriage. In most circumstances, the issues of finances and arrangements for the children of the marriage will be at the forefront of people’s minds. By removing one layer of conflict from the situation, these reforms will hopefully allow for divorcing couples to be better placed to negotiate where appropriate and come to a swifter resolution for the benefit of both themselves and their children.

These reforms are the biggest shake-up of the divorce procedure in decades, and the delay in implementation has been caused part by the need to make sweeping changes to court forms, application processes and guidelines for family lawyers. However, the Government have now committed to an implementation date of April 6th 2021. Before then, couples wishing to divorce will need to continue to apply under the current law and procedure.

If you are looking for any further information or specific advice in respect of a divorce, the specialist family law team at Burd Ward are here to help. We offer advice in respect of all elements of family law ranging from divorce and finances to arrangements for children. For all new enquiries, please contact 0151 639 8273 or email info@burdward.co.uk


What can we learn from the Gates’ divorce announcement?

The announcement this week that Bill and Melinda Gates are to divorce after 27 years of marriage has made headlines globally. With an estimated combined worth of $130.5b, the couple’s separation looks set to be the most expensive in history, and may have lasting implications for the future of Microsoft and the extensive charity work undertaken by the Gates’ foundation. Whilst most of us will never experience anything close to the wealth this couple possesses, there are some general points we can all take away from the announcement.

‘Silver Splitters’

One trend that the Gates’ announcement has highlighted is the increase in couples aged 60 and over choosing to separate, which has been noted in both the UK and the USA. The Office for National Statistics reports that between 2005 and 2015, the number of male divorcees rose by 23 percent, and by 38 percent for women. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the ONS also reports that remarriages for over 65s also rose dramatically between 2007 and 2017. This trend raises the importance of careful pension planning, and is likely to mean that solicitors are faced with more complex cases as a result of lengthier marriages ,where the prospect of a pension sharing order or other direction from the court looms large.

Knowing where you stand

The Gates’ divorce is likely to be extremely complex, owing to the vast sums involved and the length of the couple’s marriage.  If nothing else, the case will highlight the need for any party to a divorce to have a solid understanding of their own finances, their earning capacity now and in the future, and any other non-financial contributions they may have made to the marriage. Having this knowledge is important before entering into any financial negotiation with the ex-spouse, or in court proceedings should negotiations be unsuccessful.  Seeking advice as early as possible from an experienced solicitor is crucial to beginning the process on the right footing.

Burd Ward’s Family Law team offer a sensitive, thoughtful and comprehensive approach to matrimonial issues. They are happy to advise and represent clients in respect of divorce, finances, and any issues relating to children. Contact our team for more details.


Time for “No Fault” Divorces?

In a highly publicised case, the Courts recently ruled that a 68 year old woman must remain married to her husband. Mr and Mrs Owens separated in 2015 and the wife issued proceedings based upon her husband’s unreasonable behaviour. The Court however felt that her reasons were “flimsy” and refused her application. The wife appealed, firstly to the Court of Appeal and then to the Supreme Court. They both held that the Judge was right to refuse the application but stated their unease at the situation. The Court of Appeal called for the introduction of no-fault divorces. As it stands, the wife now must wait until she has been separated from her husband for 5 years in order to petition without his consent.

We often see clients who have been separated less than a year who want to get divorced but they cannot find a suitable fact to rely upon. There may have been no adultery or unreasonable behaviour and the couple have simply drifted apart. In those circumstances they have to wait until they have been separated for two years (if both parties agree to the divorce) or five years if their spouse won’t agree. A recent survey found that 3 out of every 10 couples “bent the truth” about adultery or unreasonable behaviour in order to ensure their petition was accepted by the Court. More than a third said having to apportion blame in the petition increased their anguish at what is already a very difficult time.

At Burd Ward we are committed to helping you navigate a relationship breakdown in a sensitive manner. Whilst there is not yet a “no fault” divorce, our specialists can advise you on the law as it stands and guide you through all aspects of a separation.

If you are considering separating or starting divorce proceedings, it is well worth taking legal advice before you take any steps. We offer a fixed fee of £350 + VAT and disbursements for handling your divorce. There is a Court fee of £550 to pay however depending on your income you may be eligible for some relief from this. We can assist you to fill in a fee remission form which can be sent to the Court who will then assess whether you have to pay all, some or none of the Court fee.

Using a solicitor to handle your divorce gives you peace of mind to ensure that your divorce progresses as smoothly as possible. There are often issues around finances and children upon separation and our experienced family team and are able to advise and represent you through those aspects of a separation.

If you would like more information regarding divorce proceedings please contact Laura Prysor-Jones on 0151 639 8273.


Laura Prysor-Jones appointed director at Burd Ward

Laura Prysor-Jones works in the family law department and deals with a range of family work including children's matters, divorce and domestic violence and also wills.

Burd Ward Solicitors are happy to announce that Laura Prysor-Jones has been appointed a Director of the firm from January 2018.

She will be joining the existing management team of John Burd, Michael Ward and Victoria Syvret as the firm looks forward to the new year and beyond.

About Laura Prysor-Jones

Laura joined Burd Ward in January 2010 as a member of the family law department and deals with a range of family work including children matters, divorce and domestic violence and also wills.


Government still says No to “No fault divorces”

The Government has recently stated it has no plans to introduce a “no fault” divorce, despite lots of public pressure to change the Law. Many clients are surprised to learn that it is not as simple as asking for a divorce and being granted one. There is only one ground for divorce which is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. You are then required to rely upon one of five facts in support, namely adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years separation with consent or five years separation. In the case of civil partnerships, adultery isn’t available as a fact to rely upon.

We often see clients who have been separated and who want to get divorced but they cannot find a suitable fact to rely upon. There may have been no adultery or unreasonable behaviour and the couple have simply drifted apart. In those circumstances they have to wait until they have been separated for two years (if both parties agree to the divorce) or five years if their spouse won’t agree. This can be frustrating for clients. So why does the Government not introduce a “no fault” divorce?

The Government has said that they have no current plans to change the laws around divorce but they are looking at ways in which the family justice system can be improved. Resolution, an organisation promoting the resolution of family matters in an amicable way, has conducted research of its members which shows that 9 out of 10 family law solicitors support a no fault divorce. The Burd Ward family team are members of Resolution and we also support a no fault divorce being introduced. It is frustrating that at present there doesn’t appear to be any changes to divorce law on the horizon. Whilst Divorce isn’t something that should be entered into lightly, sometimes when couples have decided that they need to separate and want to do it amicably, it is unfortunate that they have to list their grounds for Divorce on paper. It would help separating couples deal with matters much more amicably if they were able to agree to a Divorce without having to wait 2 years.

If you are considering separating or starting divorce proceedings, it is well worth taking legal advice before you take any steps. At Burd Ward we offer a fixed fee of £350 + VAT and disbursements for handling your divorce. There is a Court fee of £550 to pay however depending on your income you may be eligible for some relief from this. We can assist you to fill in a fee remission form which can be sent to the Court who will then assess whether you have to pay all, some or none of the Court fee.

Using a solicitor to handle your divorce gives you peace of mind to ensure that your divorce progresses as smoothly as possible. There are often issues around finances and children upon separation and our experienced family team and are able to advise and represent you through those aspects of a separation. We are committed to trying to help you resolve your divorce amicably where possible, including the issues relating to your children and your finances. Sometimes, an amicable settlement isn’t able to happen and we will provide you with robust legal advice to guide you along the way and to protect your interests. Your case will be directly handled by one of our Solicitors giving you expert advice and guidance throughout.

If you would like more information regarding divorce proceedings please contact our family team of experienced solicitors John Burd, Victoria Syvret and Laura Prysor-Jones on 0151 639 8273 or email lpj@burdward.co.uk.

If you would like some initial guidance and advice regarding divorce or any other family matter, we offer an initial consultation with our solicitors for £60. Contact the office to make an appointment.


Burd Ward welcomes Jenna Ellison to the Family Law Team

Jenna Ellison, Family Law Solicitor

Burd Ward are pleased to welcome Jenna Ellison to our expanding Family Law team. Jenna finished her Training contract to qualify as a Solicitor at the end of June 2016. Jenna graduated from Liverpool John Moores University in 2012 obtaining a law degree and a post graduate diploma in Legal Practice.

Jenna joins Burd Ward from The National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS) who are a UK charity providing socio-legal services offering information, advice, advocacy and legal representation to children, young people and vulnerable adults. During her time at NYAS Jenna worked within the Legal Department and represented many children in both public and private law proceedings. Jenna has also assisted children making their own applications for contact with their siblings and provided assistance to children who are subject to care plans and special guardianship orders. Further to this Jenna has assisted young parents at pre proceedings meetings and assisted other young parents finding mother and baby units across England and Wales in order for them to be able to remain as a family unit. During her time as NYAS Jenna also worked as a Contact Facilitator within the contact centre and worked with families offerings supervised and supported sessions for children with non-resident parents, siblings and grandparents.

Jenna brings this wealth of experience and knowledge to the Family department and during the last year whilst she has completed her training at Burd Ward she has been able to represent both males and females who have been victims of domestic violence and has supported them obtaining orders to protect not only their own safety, but that of their children and home. Jenna works closely with the Family Safety Unit and the Refuges to be able to deal with these issues sensitively and effectively.

Jenna is also experienced in dealing with Private law proceedings where residence and contact have been an issue for parents, Jenna’s experience representing children have allowed her to assist both parents come to a child focused arrangement. Jenna has also had experience acting for both Fathers and Mothers when children have not been returned and offers an approach that is timely and professional.

Since joining Burd Ward Jenna has also gained an understanding of other family law matters such as divorce, wills and Lasting Power of Attorneys. Jenna has also worked alongside the Housing department and can assist clients on possession and eviction proceedings.

Jenna is a member of the committee in the Women Lawyers Division Merseyside and is also school Governor at the Emslie Morgan Academy

Jenna is also currently working with local Charity Brightside and offers a legal drop in Clinic for anyone requiring legal assistance with any family matter. Contact Jenna directly on 0151 639 8273 or at je@burdward.co.uk.


Hope for those penalised by “divorce tax”

One of the most common concerns clients have when getting divorced is how much it is going to cost them. At Burd Ward we aim to provide fixed fee services where possible so that client’s know exactly how much their case is going to cost.

In divorce proceedings the major cost that clients have to pay is the Court fee. The Ministry of Justice increased the Court fee for issuing a divorce petition from £410 to £550. This is despite the fact that the work the Court carries out on a divorce file only costs them £270! It seems that the Ministry of Justice is profiting from divorcing parties at a time when they are vulnerable. Thankfully they decided not to pursue their original proposal which was to increase the fee to £750 however we consider the increase to £550 to still be too high.

There is hope however for those hoping to obtain a divorce. The Justice Select Committee has recently called for the increase in the divorce petition fee to be rescinded. They concluded that it was “unjustified” for the Courts to charge people double what it costs them to provide the service. We at Burd Ward wholeheartedly support the recommendations of the Justice Select Committee and hope that the Ministry of Justice will stop “taxing” people to obtain a divorce.

If you are thinking of getting divorced then we can help you. Our fees for straightforward divorce proceedings are £350+VAT. As stated above, there is also the Court fee of £550 to pay however depending on your income you may be eligible for fee remission which would mean you don’t have to pay some or all of this fee. We will be happy to assist you with your application for fee remission as part of our service to you.

If you would like more information regarding divorce proceedings please contact Laura Prysor-Jones on 0151 639 8273.