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Cohabitation

In today’s society cohabitation is commonplace. In fact, according to the Office of National Statistics, there were 5.9 million people cohabiting in the UK in 2012. This is almost double the number of people who were cohabiting in 1996.Given the ever increasing number of cohabitants, it is no surprise that we are also seeing an increase in the number of disputes between cohabiting couples if that relationship breaks down.Many people still mistakenly have the belief that there is such a thing as a “common law marriage” and that their rights are therefore protected. This is not the case. When parties are married, the court has extensive powers and a wide discretion to manipulate assets in order to achieve a fair settlement. This is not yet the case for unmarried partners and you may find that your options and/or remedies are very limited if you did not take steps to protect your position from the outset. For instance, you might find that you have real difficulties asserting that you have a share in your partner’s property despite the fact that you have been making a contribution to the family.Cohabitation AgreementsA Cohabitation Agreement can be drawn up if you are considering moving in with someone or purchasing property together.The agreement can set out your intentions in relation to all future arrangements whilst you are living together i.e. who will be responsible for paying the rent/mortgage and bills, how you will deal with debts and joint bank accounts etc.It is sensible to carefully consider whether you might require a cohabitation agreement right from the outset because it can make the separation process far less stressful in the event that the worst should happen. You will have already thought about and decided what should happen in respect of financial arrangements in the event that the relationship breaks down and this can take away this additional burden at what is often a difficult and emotional time.A Cohabitation Agreement is not automatically legally binding but provided you are full and frank about your assets, income and finances and you enter the agreement with the benefit of legal advice - it is strong evidence of intention and the court will be reluctant to depart from it (save in exceptional circumstances).We will take information from you about what has been agreed and give you advice about the terms and whether it is likely to be seen as fair. We can also draft the cohabitation agreement for you.We can offer competitive fixed fees to draft a Cohabitation Agreement for you or to consider a Cohabitation Agreement with you that has been drafted by your partner’s representative. Please contact our specialist family law specialist for an informal chat on 020 7790 2000 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ownershipIf the parties are unmarried but own property together, the laws of trusts and land apply. These laws and rules are very rigid and cannot be departed from. Broadly speaking if the ownership of a property is plainly recorded, it will not be possible to depart from that (save for exceptional circumstances).In the event of separation, it is worthwhile trying to reach an agreement with the joint owner about what will happen to the property in the first instance. We can give you advice about the different options available to you to try to settle your dispute with the other party without resorting to court proceedings. We can assist you during this process and also advise you about the merits of any potential settlement you may be considering. Please see our alternative dispute resolution page for further information (link to ADR page)If both parties can agree, this agreement can be recorded in a Separation Agreement which can set out the main terms. Though not technically legally binding, if both parties provide financial disclosure and have the benefit of legal advice, the agreement will be strong evidence of intention and will hold a lot of weight in any future proceedings.If the parties cannot agree it may be necessary to consider court proceedings but we will explore all of the options with you first.The only remedies available are those governed by the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996. The most widely utilised application is for an order for sale of the property – often because one party wants to release their equity. It is also possible to make an application to the court for a declaration as to the nature and extent of your interest in a property.When considering whether to make an Order under this provision, the Court will take into account the following factors; the intentions of the person or persons (if any) who created the trust the purposes for which the property subject to the trust is held the welfare of any minor who occupies or might reasonably be expected to occupy any land subject to the trust as his home, and the interests of any secured creditor of any beneficiary.Where there is a dispute between parties who own property together but are not married, this is usually resolved in one of the following ways; one party buys the other party’s share – i.e. they acquire the whole property by buying the other owner’s share the property is sold and the equity is divided the property is retained subject to a charge to be exercised at a later date and the equity is then divided – a postponed sale is most often used where there are small children living in the propertyWe will assist you to come to an early agreement with the other party as soon as possible to save time and costs. In the event that it is not possible to reach an agreement and a court application becomes necessary, we offer very competitive prices and payment options to make the process as simple and affordable as possible.Free information meetingWe are pleased to offer all potential new clients a free, no obligation information meeting.The meeting will not normally be longer than 20-30 minutes and is designed to give us the opportunity to take a little bit more information from you and give you a general overview of what we can do to help and how much it might cost.We find that this works very well because it allows you to make an informed decision about whether to engage our services and gives you the opportunity to establish an immediate relationship with us in person.Next StepsFor more information, an informal chat or to book an appointment – call our family law specialist on 020 7790 2000 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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Children

At Adams Solicitors, we fully understand the importance of ensuring that the best interests of your children are prioritised at all times. Indeed, this is the approach that the Court will adopt when dealing with applications relating to your children – the best interests of the children are paramount.Unfortunately however, you may believe that the best interests of your children are not being currently being met by the present arrangement or situation for a variety of different reasons. It might be because you are not able to have regular contact with the children. It may be because they are at risk from one of their parents and they need to be protected. It may even be because there is a disagreement about where the children should live or go to school.It is important to seek advice so that we can tell you what can be done to ensure that the best interests of your children will be met. There are a number of issues which arise frequently and we explain these in more detail below.Parental ResponsibilityWhat is Parental Responsibility?Parental responsibility is defined at s.3(1) Children Act 1989 as:"All the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property".Essentially, it means making the day-to-day decisions regarding your child’s wellbeing whilst they are in your care and also involves the right to be consulted in relation to important decisions regarding their upbringing. It includes (but is not limited to) decisions regarding; your child’s education your child’s religion your child’s medical treatment where your child should liveWho has Parental Responsibility?The mother of the child will automatically have parental responsibility from birth. If you are the father of the child you may have parental responsibility, but it is not automatic. It is dependent upon the following factors; whether you were married to the mother the date on which the child was born and registered whether you are registered as father on the birth certificateWe can advise you in detail about whether you have parental responsibility and/or how to acquire it when we have this information from you.How can I acquire Parental Responsibility?If you do not already have parental responsibility, we can advise you about the different ways that you can acquire it. This may include one of the following; re-registering the child’s birth – both parties must agree to do this entering into a Parental Responsibility agreement with the mother making an application to the Court for a parental responsibility orderIt is also possible for step parents to acquire parental responsibility in some cases. Please contact our family law specialist to discuss the various options available to you.Child Arrangements OrderThe child arrangements order replaces what was formerly known as residence and contact orders. Both of those applications are now dealt with under the umbrella of the child arrangements order. It is possible to apply for a child arrangements order to determine a number of different issues including; where the children should live with whom the children should spend time, how often and whenIn most cases, the parents will agree about where their child should live and with whom. However, this is not always the case and there are sometimes good reasons why the child should move between parents.If all of the people with parental responsibility agree about where the child should live, there is no need to do anything unless you wish to have the agreement recorded in the form of a court order. If so, we can usually prepare this for you and the draft order can be lodged with the court for approval with both parties’ consent. If there is a dispute however, further action may be required.If the child arrangements order specifies with which parent the children are to live, that person will automatically acquire parental responsibility if they do not already have it.A child arrangements order can also specify where and for how long the applicant will have contact with his/her child. In many cases, the parents will agree about how much time the non-resident parent is to spend with the children and if this is working well, there may be no need to do anything (unless you wish to have this recorded in the form of an order in which case we can usually prepare and submit a draft order to the court for approval by consent).However if there is a dispute or the arrangements start to break down, further action may be required.Initially, we will try to help you to come to an amicable solution with the other party as we always believe that it is better for you to come to your own decisions about your children wherever suitable and possible. We have very good links to mediation services in many areas and we can therefore make referrals for you very quickly – please see our mediation page here for more information (link to mediation page)In the event that we are not able to resolve the disagreement in correspondence or mediation is unsuccessful or unsuitable, we can advise you about making an application to the court.What does the court take into account and how does the court make a decision?In the event that mediation is unsuccessful and you are not able to come to an agreement, you may wish to make an application to the court for a child arrangements order.When considering making any application for a s.8 Order (this includes an application for a child arrangements order) the court will take into account the following factors as set out in the Children Act 1989;the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his/her age and understanding);his/her physical, emotional and educational needs; the likely effect on him/her of any change in his circumstances; his/her age, sex, background and any characteristics of his/hers which the court considers relevant; any harm which he/she has suffered or are at risk of suffering; how capable each of his/her parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his/her needs; the range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question.However, the overriding principle which the court will adopt is that the welfare of the child is paramount. This is known as the “paramouncy principle”.When determining any application, the court must also give account to the “no order” principle such that the court will not make an order unless it considers that doing so would be better for the child than making no order at all.If it is not possible for the parties to reach an agreement in relation to the issue, the court may request that a s.7 report be prepared (amongst other things). This will either be prepared by CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) or Social Services if they are involved with the family.If a report is directed, an officer from CAFCASS or a social worker will be appointed.  They will generally meet with both parents and the child (dependent upon his/her age and understanding). They may also wish to observe contact as part of their investigations. At the end of the report, the reporting officer or social worker will make conclusions and recommendations. Those recommendations will have significant weight in the proceedings and the Judge must give reasons if he/she departs from them.What happens if a child arrangements order is breached?All new child arrangements orders now have a warning notice attached to them. Breach of the order is contempt of court and the warning notice makes it clear to the parent that must make the children available for contact that breach is a serious issue and that there are sanctions for doing so. If the order is breached, you may apply to the court for an enforcement order. If the other party is found to have breached the order without reasonable excuse, the court may apply sanctions including a fine, compensation for loss or community service. However, in the majority of cases the court’s priority is to ensure that contact resumes (unless there is good reason to suspend it).Other types of Section 8 applicationProhibited Steps OrderThis is an order preventing another person from doing something in relation to a child.These orders are most usually applied for when there is a concern that someone is about the remove the child from the care and control of their main carer or from the jurisdiction (i.e. take the child out of the country).If you suspect that the other parent or any other person is about to remove the children from your care or from the country, you need to contact us as soon as possible because we need to act very quickly.Specific Issue OrderThis is an application to ask the court to determine a specific issue in relation to the child.The most common applications are to change a child’s surname, to remove the child from the jurisdiction permanently (i.e. to relocate abroad) or to determine where the child should go to school if the people with parental responsibility do not agree. However, there are a number of other situations in which it may be necessary to apply for this order – please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss your matter so that we can advise you properly.Both prohibited steps and specific issue orders are made pursuant to s.8 Children Act 1989. As a result, all of the factors listed in the section “What does the Court take into account and how does the Court make a decision?” listed above also apply to these Orders.Special Guardianship A special guardianship order is similar to a child arrangements order which specifies with which parent the children are to live since it also names the person or people with whom the children are to live.The special guardians will be named in the order. It is intended to afford greater certainty for the children by helping to provide a secure and long term home for them during their minority.When a person becomes a special guardian, they acquire parental responsibility for the child (if they do not already have it). However, unlike a child arrangements order, a parent cannot apply for a special guardianship order. It is anticipated that other people who intend to care for the child in the long term may choose to apply for this order.For instance, you may be a relative and you may want to care for the child for the long term because his/her parents are not able to do so. Alternatively, you may be a foster carer wishing to provide long term care for the child or children living with you.Child Arrangements Order or Special guardianship order?As mentioned above, the two orders are similar in that they can specify the person (or people) with whom the children are to live and they afford parental responsibility to that person (or people).However, since special guardianship is intended to provide greater security and long term stability for the child, a person with a special guardianship order will be able to exercise their parental responsibility for the child to the exclusion of the other persons with parental responsibility (save for certain exceptions). As a result, it is not usually necessary to consult the other people with parental responsibility (usually the parents of the child) when making decisions about the child’s upbringing.Furthermore, a special guardianship order affords parental responsibility for the child until he/she reaches 18 years of age whereas a child arrangements order only affords parental responsibility until the child reaches 16 years of age (save for exceptional circumstances).The process for making an application for a special guardianship orderBefore making an application for a special guardianship order, you are required to give notice in writing to your Local Authority. This must be given three months before you apply for the order.After giving notice to the Local Authority of your intention to apply, they will then prepare a report for the court setting out all the necessary information to make a decision. The report will include the wishes and feelings of the child, information about the child’s birth family, information about contact arrangements and information about the proposed special guardians. Ultimately the report will conclude with a recommendation to the court setting out whether the special guardianship order should be made.When considering whether to grant the Order, the Court will take into account the factors set out at s.1 Children Act 1989, namely those described in the section “what does the Court take into account and how does the court make a decision?” above.You may also be entitled to financial support from the Local Authority if the special guardianship order is to be granted and we can help to ensure that this is explored and that the package is suitable.Our feesWe are able to offer very competitive, cost effective and flexible packages to suit your individual needs dependent upon how much or how little you would like us to do for you.Next StepsFor more information, an informal chat or to book an appointment – call our family law specialist on 020 7790 2000 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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Change of Name

Adult change of name (first and/or last names)As an adult, you are free to change your name whenever you like (save for exceptional circumstances).If you do decide to change your name, you may require legal proof of the change to obtain certain documentation such as a passport or driver’s licence.The change of name can be simply executed by the preparation of a change of name deed. We will take instructions from you in relation to the information required for the deed, prepare the change of name deed for you and we will tell you what you need to do to execute it.Change of name after a marriage (or civil partnership)After marriage, many people choose to adopt the name of their new spouse or civil partner. However, you may choose to keep your maiden name and there is absolutely nothing in law preventing you from doing so. You may even prefer to use your married name in a personal capacity whilst using your maiden name at work. There is nothing in law which says that you cannot do so.If you do want to change your name after you get married, you simply need to provide a copy of your marriage certificate (sometimes this must be a certified copy) and this will be sufficient proof. However, you may also want to prepare a change of name deed just to provide additional certainty.Furthermore, if you are adopting a double barrelled surname after the divorce e.g. incorporating the surnames of both spouses or civil partners, you usually do require a change of name deed for official purposes.Change of name after a divorce (or dissolution)If you should divorce, you can generally choose to retain your married name or change it to something else (quite often, reverting to a maiden name). However, there is no legal obligation to abandon your married name and you can use either.In the event that you do wish to abandon the use of your married name and revert to your maiden name, usually production of the Decree Absolute (the final document which brings the marriage to an end) or Final Order (in the case of civil partnership) will be sufficient proof to change your name on official documentation.However, if you wish to change your name before the divorce or civil partnership is completed or you are having difficulties changing your name, we can prepare a change of name deed for you.Changing your child’s surnameIf your child is under 18 years of age, everyone with parental responsibility for that child must consent to the change of name. Please see our children page to find out who has parental responsibility.In the event that you cannot get the consent of everyone with parental responsibility (e.g. one of the parties does not agree or will not respond to your requests) you will need to obtain an order from the court to change the child’s surname. Please see our children page for more information about applying for an order to change a child’s name.Our feesWe will charge a fixed fee of £90.00 plus VAT to prepare a change of name deed for you.If we are preparing a change of name deed for your child, we will require the consent of all persons with parental responsibility.Next StepsFor more information, an informal chat or to book an appointment – call our friendly family law specialist on 020 7790 2000 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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Mediation

We are always committed to helping our clients achieve the best possible outcome in their case.For many of our clients, this does not involve the need for court proceedings as we are often able to reach an agreement with the other party. We will always take time to consider and discuss alternative methods of resolving your dispute with you at a very early stage.We have direct links to local mediation specialists who are able to help you to resolve your dispute as amicably as possible. We can be on hand to offer advice and assistance to you throughout this process.What is mediation?Several of our senior solicitors are trained mediators and it is something we actively encourage our clients to consider as it can be a very cost effective method of resolving a dispute.Mediation is a third party service, not connected to solicitors or the courts. The aim is to assist people to come to their own agreements in relation to matters in dispute. A trained mediator will initially invite both parties for an intake session to discuss the main issues, explain the mediation process and the costs involved. If the mediator believes that mediation is appropriate in your circumstances and both you and the other party are willing to attempt it, you will be invited to attend a session together with a mediator present. At that session, the mediator will help you to reach agreement in relation to the elements in dispute. In relation to mediating on financial matters, both parties will be asked to bring financial disclosure to the mediation session(s). This process may take only one session or it may take several depending upon the issues in dispute. If you are able to come to an agreement with the other party, the terms can be recorded in a formal document prepared by the mediator and we can often then use this to prepare a consent order incorporating these terms so that the agreement can be made legally binding and enforceable by the Court.Mediation is not successful in every case but where it is successful, our clients generally find that it saves considerable time and cost. If you attempt mediation and it is unsuccessful, there is always the option to pursue the matter in the court if necessary. In any event, the court will look for evidence that the parties have previously attempted mediation when any new application in relation children or finances is made.Lawyer supported mediationWe generally find that this process works best when the parties have independent legal advisors to assist and advise them during the mediation process. Whilst we cannot attend the mediation appointments with you, we can explain the process to you and give you legal advice about any proposed agreements or settlements so that you can be sure that what you are agreeing to is fair and equitable (this is important since the mediator cannot give legal advice).Negotiations between the parties (or their legal representatives)If mediation is unsuccessful, inappropriate or you simply do not feel comfortable with that process we can try to come to negotiate an agreement with the other party in correspondence instead.However, even if it is possible to reach an agreement in correspondence with the other party (or their legal representative), it will not be legally binding and we will therefore need to discuss with you the various options for incorporating the terms into an order which, if approved, will make the agreement legally binding and enforceable.Next stepsFor more information, an informal chat or to book an appointment – call our friendly family law specialist on 020 7790 2000 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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Dilapidations at end of lease

Dilapidations are the costs to the tenant of putting a property back into repair, including reinstating tenant’s alterations, at the end of a lease. There appears to be an increase in disagreements between landlords and tenants about dilapidations. This is believed to be linked to leases generally becoming shorter in term, in which case any degradation to the property during the currency of the lease is harder to justify.In almost all cases a commercial tenant will have an obligation in its lease to return the leased property to the landlord in the condition and standard of repair dictated by the lease during its term and on expiry. If you are tenant looking to vacate the property at the end of a lease’s term, here are five key points: Check the lease and the lease plan so you understand what actually comprises the leased property. Cross-check the way the property is described in words in the lease. Where you are leasing the entire building there may not be so much of an issue. However, in a multi level or multi-let environment, it pays to be clear. Take a look at your lease to see whether your liability is linked to a “schedule of condition” or inventory of some kind agreed at the commencement of the term. This is potentially a list or may also be or include images. It should provide the information you need on the minimum standard of repair to which the property should be returned. Generally speaking, the obligation to repair means remedying any defects in the property by renewing or replacing parts of it.  It does not require the tenant to make improvements or renew or replacing the whole of the property. It should be noted that the contractual requirement to “to keep in repair” imposes an obligation on the tenant to “put” the property into repair. In reality this may mean putting the property in a better state it was in compared to when the tenancy commenced. At the end of the term it is possible that a landlord may make a claim for damages for dilapidations after the property is returned to it. If the landlord brings a claim of this nature, the damages may be for the cost of any required rectification works and potentially also for loss of rent while the works are being performed. It is a good idea to keep records of the state the property is left in by taking photographs to provide evidence to deal with any such claim. These may show that works are not required. Attempt to resolve any potential issues in a reasonable and appropriate period of time before the end of the lease. Contact your landlord so that you can have a reasonable dialogue about it, based on an objective assessment of the property. Where you have doubts, it may pay to consult a solicitor or a property surveyor. Mr. San This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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