Month: June 2018

Ruling on civil partnerships welcomed

The millions of people in a co-habiting relationship should have an alternative to marriage to protect their rights.

So we welcome today’s Supreme Court ruling that a heterosexual couple were discriminated against by not being allowed a civil partnership.

The UK’s highest court unanimously allowed an appeal by Rebecca Steinfeld, 37, and Charles Keidan, 41.

They were prevented from having a civil partnership because the Civil Partnership Act 2004 says only same-sex couples are eligible.

The judges granted a declaration that the 2004 Act was “incompatible” with human rights laws on discrimination and the right to a private and family life.

Merrick principal Amanda Merrick said: “It’s only right that this option is opened up to all couples.

“There are more than three million co-habiting couple families in the UK and it will be very interesting to see what happens next.

Government action needed

“The court was scathing on the Government’s failure to address the issue and we can only hope now for the required action.

“Undoubtedly within the millions of co-habitees there will be many others who, for whatever reason, do not wish to get married but would like their relationship legally recognised.”

She said there is a lack of legal protection for co-habitees and many myths surrounding their ‘rights’.

She added: “A high proportion of the population believe that if you cohabit with another person for long enough you will become their ‘common law’ spouse, with the same rights as if you were married. This is simply not true.

“There is no such thing as a common law marriage. No length of cohabitation will make you your partner’s ‘spouse’.

“Similarly, many co-habitees live in a property owned by their partner. They do not acquire any interest in the property simply by living there.

“When a marriage or civil partnership is dissolved, they would have an automatic right to seek a share of the other party’s property. Additionally, on death there would be inheritance rights.

“No such rights exist for co-habitees. As a result, it is quite possible on the death of the property owner or when cohabitation breaks down for the non-owning party to be left homeless.

“It’s only right and fair that the Government now takes note of the Supreme Court’s judgement and acts to level the legal playing field as soon as possible.”

Tolerance of discrimination on civil partnership

In today’s judgement, Lord Kerr said the Government did not seek to justify the difference in treatment between same sex and different sex couples.

He added: “To the contrary, it accepts that the difference cannot be justified.”

What the Government sought was “tolerance of the discrimination while it sorts out how to deal with it”.

He concluded: “That cannot be characterised as a legitimate aim.”

Lord Kerr said it was “salutary to recall that a declaration of incompatibility does not oblige the Government or Parliament to do anything”.

Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, who have two daughters aged nine months and two, had claimed the Government’s position was “incompatible with equality law”.

The court was told they had a deep-rooted ideological objection to what they saw as the historical patriarchy of marriage.

Previously the Court of Appeal had agreed the couple had established a potential violation of Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which relates to discrimination, taken with Article 8, which refers to respect for private and family life.

But, by a majority of two to one, the judges said the interference was justified by the Government’s policy of “wait and evaluate”.

Some 16 months later the Supreme Court decided the Government’s time is up.


We’re delighted to reveal that Merrick has won an award for its client services.

The practice has been named Divorce Law Firm of the Year in England in the Global Law Expert (GLE) Awards 2018.

Shortlisted candidates were judged on client testimonials, key cases, legal rankings, overall reputation, publication contributions, speaking engagements and the general performance and standing of teams and individuals.

GLE said it conducted an extensive nomination and research process for its 9th annual awards

Year of development

The recognition tops a busy year of development for Merrick which has launched a series of initiatives to transform the business.

To counter the erosion of legal aid available in divorce cases we’ve started #AccessUs.

This is a unique case-managed service supervised by our experienced team. It delivers advice where there is a case to answer and limited resources to meet it.

Our monthly Merrick Life newsletter gives practical support and advice for those going through relationship breakdown.

And we now take our services on the road to Cumbria and London. Our #LawtoDoor service means we can meet clients wherever is most convenient for them.

Principal Amanda Merrick said: “We know that relationship breakdown is tough. We want our clients to understand that we’re with them throughout the whole process.

“From the feedback we get we know that is very much appreciated. To have that approach recognised by a formal award is the cherry on the cake.”

Legal recommendations

A GLE spokesman said: “During the recommendations stage we received more than 180,000 responses. These were from business directors, in-house legal counsel, independent law firms, business consultants, high net-worth individuals, bar association members, visitors to the GLE website and LinkedIn users.

“These recommendations were combined with GLE’s own independent research in order to create a shortlist for each award category.”

Don’t struggle alone with financial information

Alison Porter, Managing Director of PennyWise Consultants, with some sage advice on how to get to grips with household finances in divorce.

Alison Porter: divorce finances
financial advice divorce

Financial stresses in divorce

Some of the most stressful situations we encounter in life are marriage, moving home, divorce and death.

During a divorce it is likely you will encounter two of these at once – divorce and moving home.

Divorce in isolation can be stressful, frightening, lonely, painful and heart-breaking enough, never mind having to move house as well. It is not something you want to do alone.

Some years ago, I managed a removal company. We provided a bespoke service and alleviated stress through providing an efficient, reliable and professional service.  Now, at PennyWise Consultants, we apply the same principles in helping our clients navigate the expenditure and income needs sections of their Form Es.

Filling in a Form E

For those who haven’t come across a Form E, it is the document which both spouses are required to complete if either applies to court about financial matters. It is a detailed document used to set out information about your financial position.

It is also frequently used by solicitors as the means of providing financial information when there are no court proceedings, as it ensures that both people give the same level of detail about their position.

PennyWise Consultants provide clients with an analysis and/or budget for their Form E.

With our considerable experience in this sector, we achieve outstanding results that consistently help secure our clients’ future financial security. Historically our budgets have been adopted by judges because they are clear, detailed, factual and impartial.

There are many aspects to consider when preparing for the financial element of divorce proceedings and it is important to be informed and in control of one’s finances.  Once you feel in control, you will also feel empowered and less panic-stricken, certain in the knowledge that you have completed your Form E to properly reflect your needs.

10 things to consider when approaching financial proceedings/settlement
  1. Gain access to and put in order all bank and credit card statements issued to you, or on your behalf, in the past 12 months.
  2. Also, start annotating your bank and credit card statements. You think you will remember what you bought in a given department store, but when it comes to analysing a year’s worth of expenditure you won’t.  Whatever the money was spent on it will need to be allocated to a category in your Form E.
  3. If this is not possible and you do not have access to any financial statements, start making a detailed list of your weekly expenditure. It doesn’t matter how insignificant the purchase might seem. For example, a medium Costa Coffee latte a day, five days a week, 48 weeks of the year equals £588!
  4. Cash withdrawals need to be allocated to categories in your Form E. Keep a note of what you spend your cash on.  Every penny.
  5. Make a list of the utility companies providing services to your home, e.g. gas, electricity, telephone, broadband etc. If possible, make copies of a year’s statements.
  6. If you pay your spouse’s or partner’s credit card bill, keep track of the amounts.
  7. When you have joint bank and/or credit card accounts with your spouse/partner start annotating their expenditure. It will make it quicker and easier to separate out later.
  8. If you are feeling dejected and depressed don’t stop your usual spending; it will affect your Form E expenditure analysis.
  9. Equally, do not start inflating your expenditure. You will be found out!
  10. If you are separated and the only adult over 18 in your household, contact your local council tax office and request a 25% discount. Some councils will backdate this to the date of separation. Refunds are always welcome!
There is no need to go through the divorce finances process alone

Our service is suitable for you if:

  • Your partner has submitted an inflated budget.
  • You think the budget you have created is insufficient and will not provide you with proper financial security.
  • Your partner is denying you access to financial statements.
  • You wish to secure adequate interim maintenance.
  • You believe you should be reimbursed for money your partner spent inappropriately.

If you would like some help, please call our friendly team on 01531 640988 or email us at

More on finances in divorce.

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