Collaborative Law - Alternative dispute resolution for divorce matters

THE COLLABORATIVE APPROACH

Separation is possibly one of the hardest life events most people will ever experience.  Following separation, there are many matters to sort out.  This can often be stressful and the thought of having to go through costly and difficult court proceedings only adds to the pressure.

Court is not the only option.

The Collaborative approach is an alternative way of resolving disputes arising following separation and is particularly successful where there are outstanding financial matters which need to be settled, or where there are children involved and difficulties have arisen with regard to the arrangements for the children.

The Collaborative approach is not Mediation.

You will initially meet with your legal representative and will discuss your situation and the issues which have arisen, and what it is that you are hoping to achieve.  You and your ex partner, together with your legal representatives, will meet at a mutual place (such as your solicitor’s offices).  You will confirm your commitment to deal with matters in a cooperative way and discussions, with the aim of achieving a mutually satisfactory settlement, will take place.  Generally at least two meetings are needed.  You can meet as many times as is necessary to achieve a settlement, and you and your ex partner will be involved in setting the agendas.

When a settlement has been reached, this will be recorded in writing and an application for a court order to make your agreement legally enforceable is usually made.

The Collaborative approach has the following advantages:

•    It enables you to clearly express your views and proposals.
•    It enables you to meet your ex partner to discuss important issues with your own legal representative present to support and advise you in an unthreatening environment.
•    You have more control over the process than if an order were to be imposed upon you by a Judge in contested court proceedings.
•    You are not subject to the court timetable and you and your ex partner have control over the timescale for reaching settlement.

The Collaborative approach has a high level of success in resolving disputes, provided the separated couple both have a genuine desire to make it work.  Both you and your ex partner need to be represented by a lawyer who is Collaboratively trained.

Hartley & Worstenholme is proud to have Barbara Stevens, a Collaboratively trained lawyer, who would be more than happy to discuss the prospect of you resolving your dispute in a way which is growing more popular than ever.

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Land Registry consult Hartley & Worstenholme on new proposals

Hartley & Worstenholme Senior Partner, Chris Wilton, has been consulted by the Land Registry ahead of it’s proposals for reform to Local Land Charges.

The Land Registry is proposing widespread reforms of the way in which Local Land Charge records are searched – something which affects the vast majority of land transactions, from residential conveyancing to complex commercial property matters.

At present, if you were to buy property, your solicitor will carry out a ‘Local Search’ which searches records of the local authority for any ‘charges’ or entries which may affect the property. The response time of Land Charges departments can vary greatly, and it is increasingly important that the results are provided by the local authority quickly. Some local authorities provide an efficient service, often returning local searches within 24 hours. Other local authorities can take up to a month to provide results. Where such delays occur, this can often have a knock-on effect to the property transaction, and is extremely frustrating for clients and solicitors alike.

The Land Registry is now proposing a central service which searches the records of local authorities’ Land Charges departments, with a view to streamlining the whole process. The new system will provide a much quicker return, meaning that those dealing in property won’t be sitting waiting (and losing money) whilst local searches are carried out.

Senior Partner Chris Wilton (right) with Jamie Winch, Stakeholder and Policy Manager in the Local Land Charges Team at the Land Registry.

Senior Partner Chris Wilton (right) with Jamie Winch, Stakeholder and Policy Manager in the Local Land Charges Team at the Land Registry.

“The proposed reforms to Land Charges can only bring about a positive result for law firms and for clients. In today’s market, time is often the key factor in any transaction, with expectations on solicitors to complete matters within the shortest timeframe possible. The Land Registry is constantly trying to streamline their practices, and we are very pleased to continue to be consulted by the Land Registry in their proposals here.

“We were involved in the consultation process for the e-DRS system, which enables us to lodge applications online with the Land Registry, rather than having the post off cumbersome bundles of paper and deeds. We hope the new Land Charges system will provide similar benefits, in both time and cost, which our clients will ultimately benefit from,” Chris Wilton, senior partner at Hartley & Worstenholme and head of the Commercial Property department commented.

Hartley & Worstenholme now lodge 94% of dealings of whole by e-DRS which provides a 50% reduction in the fee charged by the Land Registry. This saving is passed on to clients on all matters which sets us apart from some other firms that continue to use the old ‘paper’ format. Using the e-DRS often means land is registered in the name of the new owner much more quickly, something that is increasingly important in a market where land changes hands so frequently.

 

To read more on this subject, please visit the Land Registry Blog.

Small Business Rate Relief - are you overpaying?

A survey by the Federation of Small Business (‘FSB’) in 2013 showed that 7% of small businesses were paying out more in business rates than they were in rent. Additionally, a further 6% said the business rates they paid were equivalent to rental payments.

Research has shown that many small businesses don’t know about the reliefs which they may be entitled to claim in respect of business rates. Reliefs can be up to 100% for some businesses, reducing overheads with a view to enabling continuing success and growth.

The Government recently announced extensions to these reliefs as part of it’s commitment to encouraging growth of small business. The FSB have welcomed the extensions with open arms and are confident that many small businesses will receive benefits from the reforms. A further review of the ratings system will also take place in the future, with a view to making the current system much more accessible, and reliefs more readily available.

 

Will you qualify?
Briefly, if you occupy one business property and the current rateable value of your property is less than £12,000, you will qualify for relief.
Your rateable value is decided by the ratings department of your local authority. If you are unsure of your rateable value, you should contact your local authority as soon as possible to avoid overpayments.

 

What reliefs can you claim?
If your rateable value is £6,000 or less, you can claim 100% relief – ie. you won’t pay any business rates up to 31 March 2015. This was previously 50% so small business should act soon to ensure they are getting the maximum relief.
For rateable values between £6,001 and £12,000, the relief tapers down from 100% to 0%.
If your rateable value is between £12,001 and £17,999, you won’t qualify for relief but you will still be deemed a ‘small business’ and you will be charged business rates on a separate scale to larger businesses.

 

How do you claim?
Applying for business rates is simple, and can be done either over the phone with your local authority or via your local authority website.
For businesses in the Wakefield district, more information on small business rate relief can be found here. The page also contains a downloadable form which can be filled in and submitted to claim relief. Businesses will be pleased to note that the form is only one side of A4 and isn’t time-consuming to complete.
Most local authorities will have similar guidance, so the above should help if you’re struggling to work out whether you qualify.

 

Small businesses should continue to monitor the changes in relation to business rates as any further reforms could mean entitlement to different reliefs. When the new system is introduced (whenever that may be), small businesses should be able to understand their position more clearly, thus being able to focus on running their business with minimal interruption.

If you would like any further information on the above, please get in touch with us via the Contact Us page.

Joint Ownership of Property – for couples and investors!

Joint Ownership of Property – for couples and investors!

If you are considering purchasing a property with your spouse, partner, relative or friend, either as a home to live in or an investment property, there are some important things you need to know.

When you buy a property with another, you will both be legal owners of the property. However, there are several ways in which you may ‘own’ the equity.

Beneficial Joint Tenants
With this type of arrangement, the equity is owned as if by ‘one person’; that is, each owner does not own a specified share of the equity. This type of arrangement means that, if one owner died, the property would pass by survivorship to the other(s). This type of arrangement usually suits the needs of spouses and partners.

Tenants in Common holding equal shares
A second common alternative is to hold the equity in equal shares; that is, each would own a specified 50% share of the equity. This type of arrangement means that, if one owner died, their share would not automatically pass to the other(s) by survivorship but would be administered in accordance with the deceased’s will (or under intestacy). This type of arrangement usually suits the needs of those who are purchasing an investment property where you have each contributed equal capital or similarly in circumstances where partners have contributed equal deposit monies.

Tenants in Common holding unequal shares
Finally, it is possible to own the equity in unequal shares; that is, each could specify exactly how much of the equity would be owned by whom. This type of arrangement would mean that, if one owner died, their specified unequal share would be administered in accordance with the deceased’s will (or under intestacy). This type of arrangement usually suits the needs of partners who are contributing unequal deposit monies or investors who are contributing uneven capital.

The need for a Will
Even when you own property as Beneficial Joint Tenants, the need for a will is vital when one is a property owner. A will allows you to have a ‘say’ in what happens to your property should the worst happen, as well as allowing you to make arrangements in relation to your other assets and even the guardianship of your children. We always recommend that you have a will.

If you are thinking about purchasing a property with another person, please contact our Conveyancing Department who will be able to provide further advice and a no-quibble quote.