Family law concept image

Family law solicitors today

Family law solicitors that put your family first

At Foys, our family law solicitors understand the importance of legal family matters and the sensitivities of family disputes, especially where children are involved. We are committed to ensuring the best outcome for you and your family.

Family law at Foys Solicitors consists of three main areas: matrimonial,  child matters and financial arrangements. Within this falls areas such as child abuse or neglect, divorce, domestic violence, children legal issues such as guardianship.

A more complete list can be found below and also in our family law services section.

Family law today

We live in unprecedented times. The daily pressure faced by families and individuals caused by lifestyle restrictions, peer pressure and economic uncertainty, has driven some to breaking point. Perhaps the most visible effect of this pressure has been in the growth of mental health issues within the younger age groups, although not exclusively so. With parents beset with their own problems, such as increased cost of living due to inflationary pressures and possibly employment issues, the additional pressure of problems with children can end up being the breaking point.

The most immediate impact of this may be found within spousal relationships. As tensions grow, relationships deteriorate, sometimes to the point of abuse or even domestic violence. 2020 and 2021 saw a considerable rise in domestic abuse and violence cases, as well as separations and divorce. Naturally, this can have an even bigger impact on the metal state of any children involved, often leading to their own bad behaviour at home, anti-social behaviour outside the home, depression and in the worst cases, suicide.

Family law solicitors at Foys Solicitors, are very aware of the social trends causing problems within families. While we may not be social welfare councillors, our goal when clients come to us, is to be as empathic and sympathetic as we can, and not project a cold legal face to the disputing couples. We also understand that reconciliation, a preferable outcome, isn’t always possible where family and matrimonial disputes are concerned. We’d like to see couples and their families resolve their differences amicably wherever possible, but whatever the requirement, clients can rest assured that we will work to achieve the best outcome for both parties possible.

Why would you consider using a family law solicitor?

Hopefully, most people won’t need the services of our family law team, as they will enjoy a happy and stable family life. However, cases of family disagreements, issues with family estates when a loved one has died, divorce, domestic abuse and child support issues have all seen considerable increases in recent times. The pandemic period saw a significant increase in domestic abuse cases that required sensitive treatment.

Many families will try to resolve matters themselves, which is obviously preferable. But in some cases, professional help is required and advised.  Often times, mediation is recommended, as this can avoid expensive legal cases between the parties concerned, as it allows each side to present their position and with the help of a skilled family mediator, hopefully come to a more agreeable outcome that avoids much of the unpleasantness and stress associated with full blown legal action. This is especially important where children are concerned as the disposition and demeanour of the parents during such a contentious and stressful time can have a serious negative impact on any children involved.

Family law matters require specialist assistance and a lot of empathy

Family law can be complex as it covers a wide range of legal issues that address different matters. Therefore, it is important to understand the details involved in order to ensure the outcome you desire. We understand the stress and confusion such issues may cause, therefore, our experienced family team takes a sensitive approach to help you understand the legalities. We will support you through the difficult times and on your journey to securing a better future for you and your loved ones.

Any family disagreement, divorce, or child guardianship matters are likely to be hugely stressful on the family concerned. It is always of prime focus to ensure that the parties involved are made to feel safe; your welfare comes first. This means that our family law practitioners would not look to create additional stress, treating both sides with sensitivity and empathy through the process.

Our family team can advise and assist you with the following:

  • Divorce
  • Collaborative law
  • Civil partnerships
  • Separation agreements
  • Premarital agreements
  • Cohabitation agreements
  • Financial matters
  • Domestic abuse and injunctions
  • Children’s legal matters
  • Change of name

For more information regarding how we can help you, check out our recently updated ‘Family Law Solicitors‘ page. Here, we dive deeper into the areas of family law that we cover.

Contact Foys Solicitors for sound advice on family law today

To book an initial free consultation or to find out more about our family law services, call Foys’ family law solicitors on 01302 327136 to book your FREE initial consultation. Alternatively, you can send us a message via our Contact Form.

Changes to divorce law coming in 2022

Divorce law changes in April 2022 - the end of the 'blame game'.

The Divorce Law will be changing from April 2022 onwards. The current Divorce Act, which went into force in 1975, was due for an update after 40 years. Despite the introduction of the groundbreaking Children’s Act in 1989 not much has changed since the 1970s and earlier attempts to introduce changes failed in the 1990’s.

April 6th of April 2022 will see the biggest change to divorce law in England and Wales since that Divorce Reform Act was initially passed in 1969 and updated in 1975. This will finally see the introduction of a system of no-fault divorce, ending what many commonly refer to as ‘the blame game’ in divorce cases.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill was voted through with the overwhelming support of both houses in 2020 and saw the bill obtain Royal Assent in June of that year. It has been the hottest topic in the legal world for over a decade and now it will finally be implemented.

The old system of ‘defended divorces’ will disappear. That system required divorcing couples to prove ‘irretrievable breakdown of the relationship’ was the result of one of the following:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonably behaviour
  • Desertion
  • Two years separation with consent
  • Or, five years separation without consent

new life after divorceAs of April 6th 2022, all that is required to start divorce proceedings is for one or other of the parties to file a statement with a court to the effect that the marriage has irrevocably broken down. This statement will be accepted by the court as absolute proof that a divorce is genuinely sought.

This means that with the new Act, married and civil partners can be separated without either party having to petition with an accusation blaming the other party. This also effectively puts an end to a process whereby the other party could drag their feet endlessly, causing further distress and cost.

There is hope that the new process will improve the prospects of achieving an amicable divorce and reduce the hostility between separating parties seen in some cases., especially where there are children involved.

Final divorce may take a little longer though

Although there’s no requirement to wait for 2 or 5 years anymore, under the new system it can take a minimum of 6 months to achieve the final decree absolute. The new system is however, much simpler but requires a cooling off period of 20 weeks after the initial application, during which time the parties reflect on what is to happen. After 20 weeks, a ‘conditional order’ will be issued (equivalent to the decree nisi). A further 6 weeks after that, the court will issue the ‘final order’ (equivalent to the decree absolute).

Summary of the three key aspects of the changes in divorce law

  1. Couples can make a joint applications for divorce, although one party still can. This makes it easier for couples to emphasise their intent to split amicably.
  2. No blame is assigned to either party for the divorce, replacing the current system of five possible ways  to prove that a marriage relationship has broken down.
  3. There’s now a 20 week cooling off period between the application and conditional order, with another 6 weeks after that before the final order is issued. This means a minimum of 6 months for the process to complete.

Key wording changes

  • The ‘petitioner’ becomes ‘the applicant’
  • The ‘decree nisi’ becomes the ‘conditional order’
  • The ‘decree absolute’ becomes the ‘final order’

Why did the old system need replacing?

Unless both parties agreed to the underlying cause of the relationship breakdown, it could take either 2 or 5 years for the process to work through without accepting one of the other three reasons. This means that if the couples wanted a quick divorce, one or other has to accept ‘blame’.

Naturally, this could cause a lot of consternation and emotion, as to who should take the blame. Mistakenly, separating couples often believe that admitting guilt, whether made up or not, as part of the legal requirement for separation, that there’s potential for the blamed party to suffer financially as a result.

Having to wait two years will likely have a serious impact on the lives of people involved. Essentially, people cannot move on and in some cases, this found couples having to run expensive and separate financial affairs.

The system was also open to abuse should one party refuse to accept the relationship has ended.  This is because the grounds for proving ‘unreasonable behaviour’ meant one party could effectively drag out the process unreasonably, making it difficult financially and emotionally for the other party.

Reach out to Foys divorce solicitors

Talk to Foys and let our divorce experts guide you through a more amicable divorce settlement. We’ve been helping separating couples in the local communities around our regional offices work through the tricky process of separation and divorce for decades. Simply reach out to our sympathetic divorce team at one the locations nearest you or call our head office on  01302 327 136, and let them direct you to the appropriate divorce specialist to speak to.

covid-19 regulations for landlords

Everything commercial landlords should know about COVID-19 regulations

Everything commercial landlords should know about COVID-19 regulations

COVID-19 has had a huge effect on every industry but there can be no doubt that commercial landlordism has been dealt one of the toughest hands.

While many have talked of the damage towards retail and businesses that require the use of physical locations, what is often forgotten about is the systems and industries connected to these businesses – particularly commercial landlordism. With businesses lacking business and customers, the weight of the financial burden has been passed onto commercial landlords who have seen their powers to take legal action on tenants stymied by government intervention.

As well as landlords servicing the retail industries, it has also impacted upon those who are leasing to hospitality and manufacturing businesses, too. As such, it has never been more important for commercial landlords to be clued up on how they deal with tenancy issues brought on by the pandemic.

The regulations that you need to know

Aside from the regulations that all commercial landlords need to be aware of, the COVID-19 pandemic saw a new raft of measures brought in to try and help tenants in trouble. This started with Section 82 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 which set guidelines on how landlords should respond to tenants in arrears as well as the stopping on non-payment forfeitures.

Essentially, this stops landlords from being able to get back in control of their property from non-paying tenants until at least 25 March 2022 when the current restrictions end. This is also when the Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery (CRAR) process will resume to some level of normalcy.

Currently, due to measures brought in with the Taking Control of Goods and Certification of Enforcement Agents (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulation 2020, tenants can have arrears lasting up to 554 days as opposed to the one week of allowance before the pandemic hit.

Statutory demands (when a formal demand is written to a debtor) and winding up petitions (when legal action is taken by the creditor against the debtor) were also curtailed under the current legislation. While the rulings on statutory demands have now been lifted as of October 2021, winding up-petitions remain unavailable as an option until 31 March 2022.

One key thing has shifted in this process is that the level of debt required for such action to be taken has changed. Previously, the debt had to be above just £750 to be actionable. Now, it needs to be over £10,000. Stay of possession has also been resumed under the current regulations. However, the legal quagmires presented here mean that you need to engage with experienced legal representatives – such as our Commercial Property Team at Foys – should you want to examine how you can take action against a tenant.

The Government also issued a code of practice to be followed regarding commercial tenants and landlord relations which has now been replaced with a newer version as of November 2021. The code is based on the principles of “fairness, affordability, and viability”. The aim is to introduce a new arbitration process that is legally bound to help settle issues of rent debt following on from March 2022 as part of the new Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Bill.

Commercial landlords left bearing the front

Currently, there’s not a lot that commercial landlords can do to alleviate this burden. Aside from the measures mentioned above, which will be rare due to many not having a tenant with arrears sitting at above £10,000 but rather many tenants sitting under that amount, one temporary measure would be to dip into rent depoists. As long as this is within the terms of the lease, it is possible for a landlord to do this.

Market valuation on retail properties is down so while selling a property may be a solution, do keep in mind that you are likely to be selling under value. An alternative solution is to re-purpose your spaces – particularly any vacant office spaces – to serviced units for freelancers and small businesses to rent out in a shared office.

This requires you to contract or employ some basic staff for the front desk, janitorial and custodial work, but it has proven to be a fruitful endeavour for many who have taken it up. With so many people still working from home, but pining for any opportunity to get out of their house, many will look to this as their way to have a workspace away from their private life and the many distractions it offers.

Then there’s the opportunity to change the type of lease you are offering. You could choose to maintain it as a commercial lease but change it so that the amount paid per month is dependent on the tenant’s turnover. This means that if your tenant performs poorly, you can at least expect a set amount a month that you can always budget for while offering them a chance to recover.

On the flip side, a tenant performing well can offer returns exceeding the rent you would have expected from a standard lease. With the tenant being profitable, they are unlikely to complain either knowing that they will not be financially punished in future for any bad periods.

Lastly, there is the possibility of – if possible – converting the property into residential housing. As residential housing is never a market lacking in potential tenants, you have the ability to claw back some of your lost revenue over time from the struggles of your commercial operations.

Strained relations between commercial tenants and landlords

There can be no doubt that the current situation has further exposed an already weak point of commercial landlordism: relations to tenants. This has been an area that has already needed dramatic improvement. The problem even led to a new representative body for commercial tenants – the Commercial Tenants Association (CTA) – being set up in early 2021. A survey by the CTA found that about 75% of tenant respondents were not satisfied with the treatment they received from their landlords.

Check out our article on creating better relationships between landlords and commercial tenants here

The pandemic has only served to worsen this issue which is probably why the government has leaned so heavily in the new guidelines on the principle of fostering better relations between the two groups. As with any negative situation, there is always the potentiality to turn it into a positive one. And, in this case, perhaps that is the possibility of better tenant and landlord relations in the future.

Open and honest conversations between both parties can surely not only help the two reach conclusions and agreements that suit either participant, but can avoid expensive legal routes, too. Nevertheless, a rift remains on how both parties want the situation to go. A government survey showed that 50% of landlords and tenants believed that their counterpart was not following the spirit of the guidelines.

While the survey showed that most landlords wanted the protective measures to end sooner than March 2022, this was the least preferred option (from a total of six options) by tenants. Conversely, most tenants wanted there to be a binding non-judicial adjudication process and this was the least preferred option by landlords – again indicating the schism between the two.

The government has made its decision and the way forward should be a more collaborative approach to solve any issues surrounding arrears. However, should you suspect that your tenant is not being completely honest about their financial picture, you may want to take further action.

Foys is here to help guide you through Covid and Landlord issues

It’s going to take a lot of deft legal acumen and experience to navgiate these uncharted waters as we approach the March 2022 date which will undoubtedly unlock a flurry of legal action. It’s why you need a great commercial solicitor on your side such as Foys.

We have acted for landlords and management companies in all sorts of cases relating to leases and property disputes for over 50 years now. While the COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges to our team as we also come to grips with so many temporary (and, now, permanent) changes to the law, we have taken the negative and honed our skills to produce positive outcomes for our clients.

It has, arguably, never been more important to have an experienced team of commercial property solicitors on your side when dealing with these issues. With the courts facing delays, you’re going to want to be ready to go with any legal challenges come March 2022.

At Foys, we don’t just get our clients the decisions and outcomes in their favour, we also help them understand the issues at hand so they know what to do going forward. We have always prospered and adapted as the legal landscape changes and our can-do attitude is well-suited to commercial landlords with the same outlook.

Our legal advice is always on point, actionable and accurate on all matters relating to commercial properties and conveyancing. And you can get a taste of what you can expect with a FREE initial consultation with one of our Commercial Property Team to discuss your legal concerns. So get in touch with our team today on 01302 327136 or by email us at, alternatively, complete our Contact Form.

Enquire About Our Services Today

Book an initial FREE consultation or to find out more about our personal and business law services

Call the office nearest to you and speak to one of our professional specialists or fill out the form below

parenting through separation

New free parenting guide offered to separating families in Doncaster

New free parenting guide offered to separating families in Doncaster

Foys Solicitors is offering the guide for free to local families who are divorcing or separating. The Parenting Through Separation Guide is written by family professionals and advises parents of how to put their children first during a separation.

The guide is launched during Good Divorce Week which runs from 29 Nov – 3 Dec, run by national family justice organisation Resolution.

This year the focus of Good Divorce Week is parenting through separation.

parenting through separation A local firm of solicitors is offering parents in Doncaster and the surrounding areas of Sheffield, Rotherham, Worksop, Retford and Clowne  a free guide that contains advice and information to help them put children first during a separation or divorce.

Foys joins with thousands of family professionals to launch the Parenting Through Separation Guide during Good Divorce Week, an annual initiative by the family justice organisation Resolution to raise awareness of how families can separate amicably.

Anuj Makol said:

“We know that the pandemic has put huge pressure on families and even more so on those who are separating. Every parent wants to put their children’s interests front and centre, but all too often they don’t know where to turn for help and aren’t given the support they need in order to do this.

“It’s important for parents to have access to good, authoritative and professional advice that helps them to parent responsibly through their separation. We hope all local separating parents will use the Parenting Through Separation Guide, to help them find a better way forward for them, and for their children.”

The free guide is available to any parent seeking help during their separation. It contains advice about how to co-parent with a former partner, background on the common disputes that arise between separating parents, and how to talk to children about the painful topic of divorce or separation, plus much more.

Juliet Harvey, national chair of Resolution, said:

“I’m really pleased to have Foys support during Good Divorce Week. Resolution members like them do really important work in their community to help families separate in a constructive and amicable way. The more families who know about and use the free Parenting Through Separation Guide, the better equipped they will be to navigate the challenges divorce and separation brings, particularly when it comes to putting children first.”

Here’s an extract of advice contained within the guide:

Top tips for discussing divorce with your children

  • If your situation allows, try to have a joint conversation when all of your children are present. Keep this age appropriate.
  • Plan a series of conversations, including different follow up conversations, if your children are different ages. Be mindful that their reactions will depend on their age, developmental stage and their individual personality.
  • Reassure your children that it is okay to feel sad or scared and showing emotion is good. They can always talk to either of you and ask questions.
  • Remember you are a role model and your children are watching how you manage this situation. If they see that you are still their parents, making decisions together about them, then they will cope better.

Enquire About Our Services Today

Book an initial FREE consultation or to find out more about our personal and business law services

Call the office nearest to you and speak to one of our professional specialists or fill out the form below

Building better landlord relationships with commercial tenants

How commercial landlords can create better relationships with their tenants

One key to running a successful commercial landlord based business is in having good working relationships with your tenant.

Building a good relationship with your commercial tenants can not only reduce the amount of legal headaches that come your way every year, but may even benefit your annual revenue, too.

There is a stereotype of landlords as dispassionate or uninterested in their tenants – particularly due to the reported experiences of many with residential landlords. However, as with any walk of life, there are good and bad landlords and that is equally true in commercial landlordism.

While it is always possible to easily find new, short-term tenants for residential properties, thus reducing the necessity for even having relations at all, commercial landlordism should be all about forging relationships as many leases (as well as the financial benefits) are longer-term.

Landlordism in the UK today

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to many commercial landlords having to reassess their portfolio and relations with tenants as government legislation has hampered their ability to reclaim lost finances or even properties from tenants. As matters start to resume some normalcy, freeing landlords to take legal action again, there has never been a more important time to also reassess how you handle your tenants, too.

The Commercial Tenants Association (CTA) was launched in 2021 to represent commercial tenants – many of whom are unsatisfied by their landlords. However, these issues aren’t just stemming from the financial strain caused by the pandemic and lockdowns; rather, they are longer-standing issues that have been prevalent in UK landlordism for some time. COVID-19 has just served to further expose the weakness of landlord-tenant relations.

Of course, relations with your tenants isn’t exactly the only thing that makes a good commercial landlord. Knowing where to buy a property, finding the right location, knowing the right type of tenants that would be happy with the property for a longer period and consulting the right professionals are all very important aspects, too.

After all, as aforementioned, it’s all about the long-term with commercial landlordism given that an average lease can last between 5-10 years which, again, really does highlight why you need to take a different approach when it comes to commercial landlordism versus residential landlordism.

You should see good tenant relations as the proverbial ‘cherry on top’ of your landlordism. It could be the difference in keeping and losing a good tenant when they are faced with the possibility of moving. There is no guarantee you will get a better or equal tenant so maintaining relations, especially with loyal tenants, is so crucial to solidifying any revenue gains.

How to create a better relationship with your tenant

Experienced commercial landlords are not strangers to being left with no choice but to pursue legal action if a problem occurs with a tenant. However, because this is all we hear about, this is what we come to expect commercial landlordism should look like. As with anything in life, it’s the negativity that is always talked about or highlighted and rarely the positivity.

When was the last time you heard a news story about a commercial landlord and a tenant celebrating 20 years as business partners? The good stories about landlords are almost always never highlighted. This helps create the view that commercial landlords and tenants cannot trust one another.

One of the better ways to push back against this narrative is to go down the road of fostering good relations. It’s rarely mentioned in any commercial landlord guides, with more focus spent on location, legalities and bureaucratic tactics (which are nevertheless important), but landlord-tenant relations can be important in securing your long-term future as a commercial landlord.

This is a factor that should absolutely be taken seriously given the COVID-19 situation displaying how necessary it is for landlords and tenants to be able to work together to resolve a dispute rather than going down more expensive legal avenues.

The relationship process must start with a good, strong lease. Ideally, one that has been tailored specifically to the landlord and the tenant’s liking. Directly involving the tenant in the process can really be key in cementing a good, long-standing relationship as it shows you are open to their needs.

This is important as if a tenant comes into financial difficulty, a relationship will help your tenant feel more comfortable in breaking the news to you and allow you to prepare in advance for any financial setback, as well as work with the tenant to create a payment plan for any debts.

On the contrary, a poor relationship with a tenant will increase the chances that you will suddenly and unexpectedly be staring at a bank account figure sans a month’s rent from one of your properties. Fairly soon afterwards, the legal letters will begin to fly. Which of the two scenarios sounds more preferable – emotionally and financially – to the landlord and the tenant?

But, even before things get that far, it’s also important to perform rigorous vetting of your potential tenant – such as credit checks. If it’s a new business, ask to see the potential tenant’s business plan. If it’s a pre-existing business, ask for any additional business information or expectations on foot traffic. It also helps to know your property so your tenant can get the most out of it.

This also ensures you don’t slot the wrong tenant into the wrong property. If they do not find success at your property, you will soon be left without rent on a location that could be empty for months – as well as the probability of having to enter into commercial dispute resolution, or having to take expensive legal action against your previous tenant.

A collaborative approach can really pay dividends in the future – especially if the tenant is consistently covering their rent every month and offering you good, long-term rent and revenue security. Also, having a collaborative relationship allows everyone to know where they stand. A tenant will know their lease inside-out, as opposed to it being a generic legal paper, thus reducing the chances of miscommunication.

Ensuring you fulfil your end of the deal is important to building these relations, too. Maintenance and safety checks should be performed with regularity and you should always be readily available to your tenants should they have an issue. After all, if your tenant has an issue with the property, that could soon spiral into a financial issue for both of you.

How better relations can benefit commercial landlords

The most obvious benefit is that performing all of the above can lead to better quality tenants who are more likely to keep up their payments and who are more keen to communicate problems instead of letting them fester until they become an expensive legal matter.

A tenant who has good relations with you is more likely to treat the property with respect and care which, of course, ensures that it is kept in the best condition possible should it need to be put on the market at short notice. A property left in poor condition by a tenant will require extra maintenance and repairs which costs money and time.

It can also benefit you in other ways that often aren’t always immediately apparent. As well as providing you with the best possible revenue, a long-standing tenant who sticks around at a property will also bolster the value of the property. Evaluators are always keen to see previous tenants as this will absolutely factor into the value of the property. If you’ve had a long-standing tenant in place, it suggests satisfaction with the property and that it is conducive to delivering profits.

It’s also a great way to snag other quality tenants, too – either for the same property or as an example of your productive landlordism when you are looking to attract a potential tenant for another property in your portfolio. This is especially great if you have multi-property building that can house multiple tenants and allows you to introduce potential tenants to pre-existing, happy tenants who they will be sharing their space with. It’s a great way to close a deal.

This attentiveness also allows you to assuage any possible clashes that may arise from tenants sharing the same space in a building/complex as they may offer similar services to a new tenant. There is almost assuredly going to be no problem if they are both law firms, but there will be a problem if they are both restaurateurs serving a similar cuisine!

And, lastly, it also reduces the chances of commercial landlords having to take legal action against their tenants. As we mentioned before, a collaborative approach to drafting a lease allows for each party’s positions to be clearly delineated, thus reducing the chance of miscommunications arising.

A breakdown in communication between tenant and landlord can spiral into rent arrears, legal action, statutory demands and even winding-up petitions. This is not productive to either party and should be avoided at all costs. But, if it is necessary, it is important to have a good commercial solicitor on your side.

You might also be interested in our Commercial Landlord Guide for those thinking of becoming a new commercial landlord

Put your trust in Foys

Should their be such a breakdown in commercial landlord-tenant relations, it’s important for either party to seek proper legal guidance. Foys’ experienced and dedicated Commercial Property Team has been providing our legal services to commercial landlords and property management companies for over half a century now.

As well as helping you navigate any potential legal action that you are either pursuing or are on the receiving end of, we can also draft excellent, watertight leases. This is something that can be incredibly important down-the-line when it comes to winning any possible legal case. Conversely, we can also help commercial tenants understand their rights when challenged by a landlord as this is an area that the majority of tenants do struggle to understand.

Our skilled team not only have the legal acumen to grasp the complexities of commercial property matters, but they are courteous and understanding of the stress and strain such matters can cause you. We will champion your case and help you reach the best possible outcome.

That’s exactly why we offer new clients a FREE initial consultation so that you can experience the quality of our commercial property solicitors first-hand. This allows you to explore your legal options free-of-charge so that you can make an informed decision on how you want matters to proceed. To book your consultation, simply get in touch with Foys today by giving us a phone on 01302 327136 (or the office nearest you), email us at or complete our Contact Form.

Enquire About Our Services Today

Book an initial FREE consultation or to find out more about our personal and business law services

Call the office nearest to you and speak to one of our professional specialists or fill out the form below

Marriage breakdown and the impact on children

How to deal with a divorce involving children during COVID-19

COVID-19 is responsible for a rise in divorces, but this has also had a huge impact on children

There has been a huge surge in divorces during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many couples have struggled with the strain of spending time indoors together and this has been especially hard when they are also living with children.

The stress, lack of breathing space and restricted movement brought about by the pandemic has played a huge role in causing marriage breakdowns amongst couples of all ages – from newly-weds to long-standing relationships. Unfortunately, this situation is particularly hard on couples with children.

Children have faced huge challenges during the pandemic. Not only has schoolwork been disrupted, but kids have missed out on developing social skills, seeing their friends and extended family, and doing activities that are major contributors to their development into adulthood.

At the best of times, a child confronting the possibility of their parents’ divorce can be heartbreaking so, at a time such as now, it can have the potential to create even more ramifications. However, if the relationship has no chance of survival, and it is the right thing to do, we’re here to give you the proper information you need to navigate this issue as deftly and sensitively as possible to the benefit of the spouses and children involved.

The mental health crisis during COVID-19

Even before the pandemic, many have stated that we are living through a mental health crisis. So for an event to come along that changes so many of our lifestyles, it’s completely understandable as to why so many people – particularly couples – have seen their mental health suffer greatly during this time.

Mental health problems reported by people during the crisis have included, but not restricted to, the following:

  • Depression,
  • Sleep disorders,
  • Anxiety,
  • Stress,
  • Panic attacks,
  • Impulsivity,
  • Irrational anger

Aside from those who were infected with the virus, and may also be dealing with ‘long-COVID’ symptoms, people waiting for other healthcare services from the NHS have seen huge delays in the provision of this service. All of this serves to ramp up even more stress – especially when one is already worried over their health. This has lead to many going private and perhaps even spending money they don’t have.

Money has been another huge trigger point and this is especially true when it comes to couples. A loss of work or an inability to do work due to the stress of the situation has left many people facing pressure and poverty which, of course, leads to mental health problems which can be shared between couples.

It has been estimated that there has been an over 8% drop in the amount of funding provided to mental health services in the UK since 2010 despite the need for these services having approximately increased by about 20% since that time. In fact, during the pandemic, a whopping 1.6 million additional people were added to an already extensive NHS waiting list for mental health services.

As such, the pandemic has made an already deepening crisis hit new lows and has left many with mental health problems without the proper support in place to help them get through their conditions. Should you be feeling particularly low from the possibility of an imminent separation,  we encourage you to reach out to one of the many support helplines in the UK for those dealing with immediate mental health problems.

A rise of marital disputes during the pandemic

It’s unsurprising that such a rise in mental health problems would lead to an increase in relationship breakdowns. Whether it is was a new partnership or a long-standing marriage, couples at both ends of the spectrum have been feeling the pain of lockdown and restrictions. This trend has been observed all across the world with stats from the UK, Sweden, China and the US suggesting that, much like the virus, breakdowns in relationships during lockdown do not respect borders.

It’s not often the case that a new problem has arisen; rather, it’s that a long-standing issue has been brought to the fore due to each partner being exposed to the other for longer than normal periods of time. While more women appear to be initiating break-ups – a side-effect of historic, gendered expectations of childcare and housework – this can also be true of all genders. Marriage rates have also gone down.

The marriage problems generally stem from not only longer-standing issues, but poor mental health, too. An increase in anxiety and anger can lead to situations boiling over and even, in some cases, lead to domestic abuse. On top of that, job losses and reductions in pay have also increased tensions in housesholds.

If you’re just looking at information right now, it’s worth keeping a cool head and considering if you have explored all your options for resolving the conflict (if possible). Being more mindful of your own bad habits and your mood can make a difference. Additionally, becoming more adaptable and understanding of your partner’s problems can really help close any gaps that have been created during the pandemic. However, this should never be at a risk to you, or your child or children’s, health and well-being.

Despite the increase in enquiries and information gathering, other facts – such as the cost of divorce mirrored with the precarious financial situation caused by the lockdown – may also come into play and effect what court of action you take. Thankfully, there are ways around lengthy and costly court cases by utilising mediation as the first step.

Mediation is a great way to come to amicable agreements with your spouse/partner over what you want to do. It not only leaves the door open for the divorce to be mulled over, but it can be the best way to deal with things when children are involved. Whether you’re just making enquiries or not, we can help you with that here at Foys.

How the COVID-19 has affected children’s mental health

In addition to adults suffering from increased mental health problems, there has been a huge surge in the amount of children needing a referral to NHS mental health services, too. This is due to the situation having an impact on children’s ability to do schoolwork, seeing their friends and family and even just to play without having to worry about things.

We also know that increased strain between parents, as well as difficulties in the ability for some parents to home school their child with the proper effectiveness, has also caused difficulties. But, on the flips side, some children escaped the stress of peer pressure and even bullying by being at home.

Even in the year before the pandemic, NHS referrals had increased by 35% while the number accessing services only increased by 4% over the same period. Additionally, a study in mid-2020 found that there had been a huge 50% increase in significant cases of mental health problems and conditions amongst children when compared to the same period three years earlier.

However, a study team at the Children’s Commissioner’s Office surveyed 2,000 young people aged between 8-17 years old in England during Spring/Summer 2020 found that, surprisingly, children had been getting progressively less stressed as the lockdown continued. The answers also seemed to demonstrate that many children enjoyed having their own space away from the crowds.

But, as we know about the leftover vegetables on dinner plates, what children say is good for them – despite many kids being more articulate and sharper than us adults – isn’t necessarily good for them. While major stress levels decreased, the level of persistent stress in children stayed at close to roughly one-quarter of all those surveyed. Additionally, another study found that 80% of children who already had mental health needs saw their stress worsen during lockdown.

Managing a divorce involving children

Given the increased strain that children have been under, particularly kids already living with mental health problems, a divorce of their parents can be devastating news. That is not to say that you shouldn’t go ahead with the process, as you must also look after your own physical, mental and emotional well-being (as well as everyone else’s in the household), but it’s good to be aware of how you can help a child cope with divorce proceedings.

Children are often far more perceptive than we realise and, just like us adults, many can pick up on cues that something isn’t right. Or they know when there’s tension in the air between parents. Noticing these feelings, which sometimes can remain unsaid, can be very stressful for children and it’s not uncommon for them to end up (often secretly) blaming themselves for it being bad.

This is why it’s so important to try and keep everything as ‘normal’ as possible. Let them know that they are loved by both parents while not going so far as to be dishonest about the situation. Being honest about what is happening can be very important in how they deal with the news. A divorce is something that can’t be hidden from a child so there is no point in shielding them now in order for them to be devastated and surprised later.

They may have questions and it’s important to let them ask both parents what they need to know and so they are aware that they aren’t alone in feeling sad. This is why it’s also important to avoid blaming your partner in front of the child. You want to keep things as friendly as possible as the child is still almost assuredly going to be a huge part of both parents’ lives going forward.

How the divorce process works for couples with children

There is a step-by-step that can be followed in order to find the best results for the child or children where divorce is concerned. It’s important to note that birth mothers, in almost all cases, will have automatic responsibility for the child; however, the parental responsibility is shared between partners until the child is 18.

Trying to find an arrangement that works for both parties, the resident (the parent the child lives with most of the time) and the non-resident parent, when it comes to contact periods (which is when the non-resident parent sees the child) can often be difficult at the best of times. However, this can be even more heated during an ongoing pandemic.

However, it should be noted that contact with a child or children depends on each parent’s individual circumstances and whether or not the child is at risk of emotional or physical abuse, or any other type of detriment to their well-being. A parent cannot force a child to see their non-resident parent should they not wish to but this must be the child’s decision alone and not the resident parent’s decision.

This process is generally achieved through discussion between the parents and need not involve the stressful, costly and time-consuming courts. However, if relations are not good, both parents can work through a representative to achieve the best result for the child or children.

However, when there are disagreements involving children, a trained mediator can be appointed to independently help forge an agreement that is signed by the parents and legally bound. In such cases, you may not need to worry about cost if your income is low as it may be possible for you to apply for legal aid.

However, if mediation fails, then the process must progress a step closer to the courts. The last stop before this juncture, which should always be a last resort anyway, is your closest Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) office. This is a more formal, and final, attempt to achieve a resolution through mediation between the parents that, primarily, meets the best interests of the child and, lastly, of the parents.

If this cannot be achieved, then a Child Arrangement Order (CAO), pushed through by the courts, is the final step to resolve any conflict involving parents and children. The couple must show that they have tried mediation and that the process failed. It should be noted that as the courts are dealing with a backlog of cases brought on by the pandemic and lockdown, this may take some time to achieve which should serve as further motivation for mediation. It is expected that the family courts will not be able to return to their pre-COVID waiting times until 2023.

Once awarded a CAO, should a parent breach this order then they can be taken to court. There should be no attempt to deny contact between the child and a parent. The only exception is if the resident parent believes the child could be harmed by the process and they are willing to demonstrate in the courts that this was a justifiable action to take (should they need to do so).

In the case that no order was put in place, it is still possible for a parent to refuse access to a child but only if it is in the child’s interest and not that of the parent who is refusing access. Should the parent who is being refused access feels unfairly treated, they can take legal action against the other parent.

Lastly, but not least, there are no rights afforded to other family members – including grandparents – to see the child or children. However, such arrangements are generally made on an informal basis and with the consent of both parents. Should a parent feel that a child is unsafe around certain family members of their ex-spouse or ex-partner, they should consult a family lawyer to achieve the best path forward.

These are some of the reasons why it is so important to have a good family lawyer on your side. This can make all the difference in helping you achieve the most favourable result for the child or children and all involved.

Foys seeks the best outcome for children

Family law can be a very complex area of law without even considering the ethical ramifications and the emotional baggage that can come along with each individual case. However, our varied team of qualified lawyers and solicitors cover all areas of family law and we have portions of our team who specialise on matters pertaining to divorce cases with children.

They don’t just offer a tailored, specialised service for this particular area of family law, our team are also incredibly sympathetic and easy-to-talk-to at all times. They will make it easy for you to understand each possible path and any potential pitfalls that could lie ahead.

Areas of family law that Foys specialise in includes:

  • Divorce/annulment,
  • Child custody,
  • Spousal supports,
  • Visitation rights and child support payments,
  • Drafting legal documents (e.g. property arrangements)

We want to ensure that your child or children have the best possible future and so everything we do will keep their best interests at heart, as well as the interests of your side of the dispute. You needn’t worry about paying any initial fee to consult us either – we offer a FREE initial consultation to all of our clients and, if possible, we will try to help you secure legal aid to help fight your case.

To get in touch with our family law team today, get in touch with us on 01302 32713 to book your free consultation or get in touch via our contact form.

whip lash injury law changes

What new whiplash regulations could mean for your claim

What new whiplash regulations could mean for your claim

One inevitability in life always seems to ring true: change. Laws change and 2021 was the turn of whiplash regulations to be updated. With hundreds of thousands of whiplash claims made every year in the UK, it’s important for us to know how these changes to the law will affect our own claims.

That number is no exaggeration either as approximately 1,500 whiplash claims are made every single day in the UK. This costs our insurers over £2 billion per year – and that may be about to increase. That’s because the new rules are changing how much money can be claimed from a whiplash injury. However, there’s also a little bit of controversy too.

While the Whiplash Injury Regulations 2021 were introduced on 31st May 2021 to make the whole claimant system run more smoothly, there are still concerns that the system is going to cause problems for law firms and claimants alike. In this post, we’re going to give you the up-to-date details you need to know about making a whiplash claim.

Whiplash: The basics

how whiplash affects the bodyWhen your body (generally your neck) has been ‘whipped’ from its natural position during a sudden accident or event – predominantly when a car has rear-ended the vehicle you are travelling in – this is referred to as whiplash. It can also occur during a sporting event, if you were attacked on the street, if you fell down stairs or during any number of accidents and events.

While most people recover from whiplash within a few weeks, sufferers have to endure the likes of dizziness, tinnitus, headaches and many more ailments. However, a number of people may also find that their symptoms last for far longer. Sometimes it can take months or even years for someone to recover and may even leave them with some sort of chronic pain or lifestyle changes. The risk of greater injury comes from the severity of the impact, if you are older and/or if you already had neck or back problems (including whiplash).

Whiplash compensation explained

Compensation claims are there to help compensate you not only for your injury, but the time you had to take off work and any general discomfort that came from the injuries. It can also be claimed to help with any medical costs too. You’ll want to make your claim as soon as possible but don’t worry if it has taken you some time – you have three years to submit your claim. You can also submit a claim on behalf of any children who were passengers and also experienced symptoms. Adult passengers will have to make their own claim.

Payouts are made by insurance companies so you don’t necessarily to worry about causing a scene – it’s your right to make a claim. In order for your claim to have a better chance of success, you’ll want to gather as much evidence as possible. It’s always good to take photos or record the names of any witnesses who saw the incident. This may help you later.

The reason that whiplash compensation claims often have a bad rep – and have been the subject of countless comedy sketches throughout the years – is because there have been many less than reputable companies that offer to represent people when making a claim. These businesses – known as claims management companies (CMCs) – often have a bad reputation. Thankfully, regulation changes made in 2018 has helped stymie their growth. However, it’s still very important to research who is representing you.

When it comes to the amount of compensation you are due, the size of the award has always centred around the effect of the accident on the claimant. Historically, this was generally over £1,000 but under £5,000 – with five and even some six-figure exceptions. It isn’t uncommon for insurers to try and offer an out-of-court settlement. You can choose to accept and save yourself time and energy, or you can go to court with the chance of winning a higher claim.

One of the major problems when it comes to compensation claims can be if the person causing the whiplash didn’t have any insurance. In the case of car accidents, you may be able to get compensation from the MIB instead. That’s the Motor Insurers’ Bureau, by the way, and not the Men in Black!

The Whiplash Injury Regulations 2021: What you should expect

The overhaul of the whiplash system has been quite significant. It’s not just the level of payouts that have been affected as the entire way in which you make a claim has been changed too, as well as the way these cases are handled by the courts. It really opens up whiplash claims and even allows some of those who only suffered minor injuries to make their own claim without any legal representation (and the fees that come with that).

The general limit in the small claims court for road traffic accidents (RTAs) has increased to £5,000 – a 500% increase on the previous limit. Also, this specifically means a lawyer cannot be instructed to make a claim for less than £5,000 in RTA cases. Instead, claimants should use the new personal injury claim portal. The scale of the tariff has also been increased so that it now spans from £240 for an injury lasting less than three months, to a maximum of £4,215 for injuries that last for two years.

Additionally, claimants may see this tariff increased by up to 20% if their case meets a threshold of it being proven that there was a high degree of suffering for the claimant. It’s thought that these reforms will save motorists about £35-per-year on insurance premiums – thanks to over a billion pounds in savings that are being made due to changes towards the system. It’s important to note that these new limits apply to vehicle accidents, but not incidents involving children, pedestrians, cyclists or motorcyclists.

As we previously noted, the system allows for people to proceed with a case without legal support thanks to the new online portal that allows claimants to submit their own details. This can lead to savings in time, energy and can even save your the need for court appearances. However, in cases that are more complex, it is absolutely advisable that you get in touch with experienced whiplash solicitors.

Lastly, the intended effect of these changes should mean that nuisance claims management companies (CMC) will likely find it hard to attract business. With more people now able to make their own claims without representation, CMCs will no longer be able to claim fees on these cases. The tariff is not payable by the defendant either so this means that CMCs cannot claim any fees from this money.

So what’s the catch?

While the new system sounds like it is good for claimants and their bank balances, there are some other concerns that have had lawyers worried for both the process and claimants. Firstly, there is some worry about payouts. It’s thought that some may actually end up with less than they expected.

This is because some claims that could have previously been up to £7,000 under the old guidelines would be less than £5,000 under the new guidelines. However, as the system can allow for someone to avoid legal representation completely, this means money saved on legal fees as well as saved time.

The online claim submission system itself is also currently under scrutiny. With 1,500 claims a day, it’s a large load for a system to take which could create delays for claimants who desperately need the money from a claim.

Additionally, there is worry that the system is too complex for some people and that the documentation to support it is not good enough. There is a worry that this will cause some to continue giving CMCs business. However, there is an official helpline in place to talk you through any problems that you may have with the interface.

Foys’ road traffic accident specialists can help you

While many will be able to use the new whiplash claim system, some will find the claims process too awkward or may have a more serious case that necessitates the involvement of an experienced road traffic accident solicitor. If that’s the case, then simply get in touch with our specialised personal injury solicitors today.

Foys has 45 years of experience in helping many victims achieve the maximum compensation payout possible from personal injury claims. We are thorough, professional and supportive of our clients, and our goal is to win you the biggest claim possible.

To talk to our team today and get your FREE initial consultation, call us on 01302 327136 or get in touch via our online form.

mediation is the best path for divorce

5 reasons why mediation is the best way in marriage breakdowns

5 reasons why mediation is the best way in marriage breakdowns

No matter how difficult it may be, divorcing couples should consider the benefit of mediation over any other form of dispute resolution. While it’s sometimes difficult to mutually agree on decision, there are a number of reasons why it is for the best.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there has been huge rise in divorce rates during the COVID-19 pandemic and the various lockdowns. With many couples forced to spend more time together in the enclosed spaces of their home, alongside additional worries such as childcare constraints and money issues, it was only inevitable that such an event would lead to the dissolution of many relationships.divorce case mediation

In 2019, the divorce rate was at approximately 7.5%; but, nine months into 2020, it was found that the rate was up to roughly 33.3%. Deciding to track just how much enquiries increased during the pandemic and the varying lockdowns, one UK law firm saw a 122% increase in the amount of enquiries they received between July and October 2020.

Despite these difficult and unusual circumstances, one thing remains consistent – you should always look for a peaceful resolution to your relationship. While the pandemic has increased volatility and emotional turmoil, mediation remains the best way to navigate a marriage breakdown.

What is mediation?

Irrespective of whether a person is happy or sad to be getting divorced, there’s one part of the process that no-one looks forwards to – the legal separation. It is a heartbreaking time for all parties involved and the fear of going through a divorce is compounded with the thought of signing off documentation, going through intermediaries and, eventually, the dreaded and costly appearances in court.

This is where alternative dispute resolution comes in. These are the processes that can be approached to successfully navigate a divorce without having to go through lengthy court appearances. While there are a number of alternative dispute resolution approaches, the first one to try should always be mediation.

This is where you and your partner talk in a face-to-face manner with a trained, impartial mediator who will try and aid both of you in making mutually satisfactory agreements. It can also happen with both parties in separate rooms. The mediator will talk to you both to understand your perspectives, your individual priorities, the misconceptions or problems that could arise, and offer up ideas for solutions.

It is not the mediator’s job to tell you what to do – they are simply there to facilitate an agreement and to act as someone to bridge the divide between both you and your partner. However, it’s important to note that they will not step in to act in any party’s interest. Should you wish to have someone there who will think through the consequences on your life, you can hire a consulting attorney to help.

Five of the top reasons why you should go to mediation

There are a number of reasons as to why mediation is the go-to strategy when you are looking to settle a divorce; however, there are some reasons that stand out above others. We’ve compiled the top five reasons why the next step in deciding to separate from your partner should be mediation.

1. Costs less time and money

Both the monetary and time cost of mediation is a huge selling point over other forms of divorce settlement such as collaborative divorce and litigation. It currently costs £550 to file a court petition for divorce and solicitors can cost approximately £300/hour in the courtroom. And even before you get to court, you could even be paying as much as £100/letter in the protracted communications between you and your partner’s solicitors.

Not only that, but you also have to consider the cost of post-divorce living – especially if you have children. When all is said and done, you could have already racked up thousands of pounds worth of fees before you’ve even set foot in a courtroom! However, with mediation, you’ll either pay a by-the-hour or flat rate so you needn’t have many worries about costs spiralling out-of-control.

When it comes to time, legal proceedings can last anywhere between months to years, depending on the schedule. Currently, this is being made worse due to restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic as there was already a backlog before the pandemic. Mediation, however, is relatively quick and can be tackled within just a few weeks or, at worst, months – generally anywhere between two to less than 10 sessions.

2. You have more control

There can be nothing worse than feeling as if you’re not in control of how proceedings are going. Sadly, this is the case for many couples going through the agonising process of divorce proceedings in court. However, with mediation, you’ll find that you can have more input and less need to deal with rules or judges that don’t fully understand or empathise with your situation.

A mediator is not there to tell you what to do. Mediators are merely there to guide you and understand the priorities and wants of either party, and help you out when a compromise is needed. In closing, the mediator will produce a Memorandum of Understanding as well as an Open Statement of Financial Information. The former outlines the outcomes and the agreements by both parties, while the later is to enable a financial order to go through the courts.

3. Less animosity and stress

One of the most feared repercussions of divorce is the strained relationships that can occur not just between the couple, but the children and extended families. Mitigation  severely reduces this strain versus litigation as mediators are trained in counselling and are able to acknowledge the feelings of both sides.

This approach allows for the possibility of a relationship between the couple once the divorce has been finalised. This is even more crucial if children are involved in the divorce. Not only does it set a good example, but it’s important as parenting duties will continue beyond the split and this ensures your children get the best life possible. The mediator will be there to clarify things – such as where the kids go for school holidays or on weekends – in a way that is perfectly clear to both parties.

A mediator essentially makes sure there are no crossed wires and that no one person will dominate proceedings. They will prompt you to think things through, think with more empathy, reduce any argumentation to a minimum and make commentary when necessary. There is no need for there to be a ‘winner’ and a ‘loser’, as in court cases.

4. No public record

For those that like to keep things private, mediation offers the best way to do that. Matters are kept undisclosed and are not a matter of public record. If you pick an experienced mediator, you can rest assured that they will have dealt with hundreds of case anonymously and you needn’t worry about matters ever being disclosed beyond you, your partner and the mediator.

This means that even if there are disagreements or impromptu shouting matches, no-one will be any wiser. Your mediator will be bound by the Family Mediation Council’s code of conduct and policies that ensure that all info regarding the mediation is destroyed following completion. The only information that is retained is very basic to keep in line with the Data Protection Act and other relevant legislation.

5. You still have the option of court

It should be noted that even if the mediation process were to fail, you still have the right to litigate. As established above, mediation is a confidential process and mediators cannot be called to discuss the details of the mediation process. The only exception to this are any written agreements that were signed or any financial affidavits.

Do keep in mind the cost of money, time and energy that occurs when you choose to go to court. Mediation should always be the first and, in almost all cases, last step in divorce proceedings.

Foys mediation solicitors are here to help

At Foys Solicitors, we have our own specialist team of experienced mediators who have helped hundreds of families through their divorce process. We do this in three stages which we outline to all of our clients before any proceedings begin so you are fully aware of what is to come.

Our team has full Family Mediation Council accreditation and Family Mediation Association membership, meaning they have the best skillset and training for the job to ensure that your mediation process has every chance of succeeding. You will find our mediators to be outstanding – empathetic, caring, understanding, non-judgemental and legally qualified to help guide you and your partner through this difficult process.

To learn more about our mediation services and to get your FREE initial consultation, simply call Foys today on 01302 327 136, contact your nearest local office or fill in our online enquiry form on our Contact page.

What happens to my digital assets when I die?

Leaving traditional assets to family in a will is clear enough, but what about the music, photos, social media and apps you own online?

It’s normal for somebody to consider the more traditional aspects of assets when creating a will, but what about the latest generation of assets – your digital assets, such as purchased music, games, apps and money making social media accounts or website?

When you sign up for an online account of any kind, post a photo on a social media account or download a music album you probably don’t give any consideration to the fact that you are creating digital assets. And, understandably it’s likely that you don’t give any thought to how they will be dealt with after your death.

The world is becoming increasingly digital. There are around 4.66 billion active internet users worldwide. That’s 59.5% of the global population. 4.2 billion of us are active social media users. We’ve signed up for an account on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or another platform agreeing to the terms and conditions as we did so. You may even have read the user agreement in full and requested that it be emailed to you. Likely the last thing on your mind as you requested access to the software is what would happen to the content you created when you are no longer here.

What is a digital asset?

In the last few decades, physical items such as photo albums, bank statements, record collections and letters have been increasingly replaced by their digital counterparts. So instead of tangible items, we have emails, online banking, audio streaming and cloud photo storage.

digital music assetsThese can be considered your digital assets although the examples above are only a small representation of the different types. Now you might expect that you would be able to pass these digital assets on to your loved ones in your Will. After all, you’d be able to do this with the physical versions. However, this is where things differ when it comes to digital assets.

From a legal viewpoint, things are a bit interesting! English law agrees that the copyright relating to emails, photographs and other content belongs to the creator. So the individual, deceased or otherwise, who took the photo or typed the words is the owner. However, it has no specific definition of digital assets.

The difficulties of digital assets in relation to English Law is something the Law Commission are well aware of. They are currently looking at issues around crypto and digital assets and how current legislation can be reformed to accommodate possession of ‘intangible’ assets. But it’s a slow process. Their recommendations are not due until 2022 and will still require implementation by the government.

Furthermore, accommodation in English law would only be a starting point. Digital assets are likely to be a multi-jurisdiction issue.  For example, the platform may be owned by a company registered in one country with servers and data in another while the actual user resides in a third location. Each location is subject to the laws of its own country. Additionally, local laws may apply as they do in individual states in the USA.

Even public opinion itself is divided on what should happen to online accounts and devices after death. Some favour wholesale deletion while others see their online activity as a legacy that can be passed on or used as a memorial.

The value of a digital legacy

The Executor of a Will is responsible for dividing up the possessions of an individual according to their final wishes. When it comes to looking at a digital legacy their starting point is clear. Firstly, they need to identify the assets associated with the individual’s digital footprint. Then they need to consider which assets have a monetary value and which, while of sentimental and emotional value, do not.

what is a digital legacy?This will be easier in some cases than in others. Investment accounts, bank accounts and cryptocurrencies are clearly among those which have a monetary value. But the content of websites, online profiles and social media accounts shouldn’t be dismissed as being necessarily worthless.

The key lies in who these belong to and how they have been used. Within the realm of the online, the use of platforms are many and varied. This means that the value of social media profiles, newsletters, e-courses, e-books, websites, blogs and online content can vary considerably. This may prove to be a challenge for valuation in order for Probate to be granted.

The most obvious digital activity with a monetary value might be the various accounts associated with a business. So, for example, a shop might have a website and various social media accounts. The website could include an online shop, a blog telling customers about new products and various videos demonstrating how to make best use of their wares. These things make up part of the value of the business. In order for the business to remain viable they will need to continue to be updated. Without the relevant passwords, user names and access codes business continuity will be interrupted and this may damage the value of the business. This raises questions of transferability to either business partners or a new owner. It’s a good reason for companies to ensure that access to systems is not dependent on a single individual!

Another area where online profiles have a value is for social media influencers. This group make income by sharing content about their daily lives with their followers. Their posts are usually sponsored or have affiliate links.

How much value their accounts would retain is questionable. It may depend on how much they have been able to diversify their content. Likely those who had created online courses, books or products as part of their offering would be in the best position to continue to provide an income stream to their heirs. In many ways they would not be in a dissimilar position to the sale business referred to above.

Another variation of the new opportunities for an online career are gamers streaming their play to subscribers. Income is made from membership, sponsorship or adverts.

Licensing and ownership

The next complication for the executor is whether the deceased had ownership of their online assets or was simply licensing them. Leaving a book or music collection to a friend who shares your interests would not be an unusual request in a Will. Assuming that the items in questions existed in physical form. If they are digital then some investigation will be required.

The key issue is around what the contract, user agreement or terms and conditions stated and what provisions they made for such contingencies.  For many popular services what you are paying for is a right to access rather than ownership which means you won’t be able to pass it on.

There is also the matter of access to the content. One can see the reluctance of a platform or service providers to release personal information and also the frustration of relatives who simply want to keep family photographs and emails. Generally, data protection legislation, which is intended to keep these details safe, only applies to living individuals. If you have the passwords or access codes, the idea of logging in to access the content would be tempting. But even if you are authorised as Executor, it would not be advisable to do. This action may cause you to fall foul of the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

Deleting online accounts

Closure of accounts can also be troublesome. There are good reasons for removing accounts. It can be upsetting to receive reminders from the platform about the deceased for something like a birthday. But fraud is also an issue.

social media account ownership probateClosing down an eBay or Amazon account may seem an irrelevancy but left open the account could potentially be used without permission. Many people have card or other payment details stored on their account.

Privacy is also a concern. You may have digital content such as personal emails that you would prefer to be destroyed in event of your death rather than floating around cyberspace indefinitely and causing potential embarrassment for family.

However, social media platforms are often difficult to contact and information about closing accounts, while available, is likely to be buried within their site. There are some exceptions. Facebook allows for the appointment of a ‘legacy contact’ and for you to choose whether you want your account to be deleted or memorialised after death. Twitter does not offer memorialisation but will allow for an account to be deleted if authorised by the Executor or an immediate family member.   Google has introduced an Inactive account manager tool.

Planning your digital legacy

Digital assets may be held in varying parts of the world and therefore subject to individual platform agreements and local data protection laws. The asset value may vary considerably.  Content may not actually be the property of the deceased and where it is, there could be access problems. Consequently, estate planning for your digital assets is something you should be thinking about today. Action now will make things much easier for your loved ones, and your Executor in the future. Here are a few steps you can take now.

Make an appointment with your solicitor

There’s no doubt that the best person to discuss your digital legacy with is a legal professional. At Foys Solicitors we’ve supported many people through the process of will preparation and estate planning and each outcome has been as unique as the person themselves. While banks and insurance companies are beginning to offer tools to support digital estate planning, these are no replacement for experience. An experienced professional can tailor the right approach for you and your dependents.

List your digital assets

Start your planning by making a list. Your assets can’t be acted on if your Executor doesn’t know they exist. While they can make an inventory of a property for valuation purposes, what you hold online is less obvious than physical possessions. You might be surprised by the number of accounts that your email address is linked to.

The Digital Legacy Association has some useful resources to assist with this inventory. You should ensure that you include the following:

  • Email accounts
  • Social media accounts
  • Online media  – both storage and streaming or download services
  • Websites and blogs
  • Online shopping accounts
  • Financial sites including bank and investment accounts
  • Accounts related to your business

If accounts are shared, such as email address or bank account note this.

Review your list

Consider the assets on the list and how you would like them to be dealt with. If you have particular actions that you would like taken for an asset then check the terms and conditions for the platform or service to see if it will be possible.

Decide whether you want social media accounts to deleted and consider removing any online accounts that you no longer use or need. For local authority services or others like HMRC, the ‘Tell Us Once’ service allows most government organisations to be informed of a death without the need to contact them individually.

Keep the information up to date

Review your digital assets list regularly.  Add new accounts or assets to the list as you open them and ensure that the actions you wish to be taken for each remain current.

Speak to Foys about planning your digital legacy

Our team of legal experts are here to help you ensure that wishes are carried out when you are no longer here. We’re able to work with you on all aspects of estate planning from Will to Trust to Lasting Power of Attorney.

We offer a free initial consultation so that we can assess your needs and proceed in a way that will support your needs and provide the best solution for you and your family.

For a free initial consultation or more information on planning your digital legacy, give us a call on 01909 500511. You can also email us at or complete our Contact Form.

Preparing commercial landlords for the end of furlough

Preparing commercial landlords for the end of furlough

Commercial landlordism has taken, and will continue to take, a huge hit as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown. But instead of burying your head in the sand, you should be thinking ahead to how you’re going to manage matters in a post-furlough world.

Despite the recent extension to the furlough scheme of March 2021 offering some reprieve for businesses and, ultimately, landlords everywhere, it has only bought companies another month to plan ahead. Case numbers are going down but they are still nowhere near pre-lockdown levels.landlords emerging from furlough

While the UK government may have no choice but to further extend the furlough scheme past the end of April 2021, there’s absolutely no guarantee that this will happen. That means commercial landlords, in particular, have a short window to get their business in a prime position to survive.

Stats from the Centre for Economics and Business Research say that the lockdown is costing the UK economy £521m per day, has seen 6 million workers placed on furlough and has cost us one quarter of our total businesses. These figures should be enough to scare any landlord into pre-emptive action because, ultimately, it’s commercial landlords who are going to face the brunt of the fallout.

Why no furlough is going to be difficult for commercial landlords

While not every commercial landlord will be affected, the chances exponentially increase for companies that have the most properties. While the furlough scheme is keeping many businesses afloat while they either run reduced hours (or, in some industries, no hours at all), the stop in support is going to cause a cash flow shortage that may not be made up by customer demand.

While we’re all looking forward to the end of restrictions, a drop of full social distancing restrictions is still likely to be far off and, as such, customers aren’t going to return in droves to commercial properties anytime soon. Those running retail shops are almost assuredly going to see a drop in footfall compared to the pre-pandemic times; whereas those renting office spaces will see businesses realise that they can save money by having staff work at home. You may already have had to deal with this problem.

So weather it is driven by money or need, there’s a good chance you’re going to start seeing a lot of customers try to change or question the terms of their lease once the furlough scheme ends. It’s why good legal representation for commercial landlords is going to be so important going ahead.

What you currently can’t do as a commercial landlord

The situation is made more difficult by the fact that commercial landlords are facing restrictions on what they can and cannot do when a tenant can’t (or is refusing to) pay rent.

A number of laws have been temporarily changed to give renters more protections against legal action by landlords over non-payments. These include the Coronavirus Act 2020 – which stops landlords from pursuing forfeiture in the result of no payments by tenants – and restrictions on winding up petitions brought about by the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020.

Even if you can get a tenant to court after the required six months’ notice, a judge is likely to throw the case out if the tenant can demonstrate that their business has been impacted by COVID-19. As almost every business in the UK has been affected, this makes the court route a legal improbability for landlords right now.

In addition to all of this, there are also regulations in place on Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery (CRAR) that requires tenants to have accrued over 365 days of outstanding rental debt before any action can be taken.

There can be no doubt that many tenants are undoubtedly running businesses that are struggling. However, many commercial landlords are finding that tenants who were a problem before the pandemic when it came to payments are now bringing them even more hassle as they take advantage of these temporary measures to operate largely rent-free.

What the future holds for commercial landlords

With so many of the cards stacked against commercial landlords right now, it’s important to take a step back and look at what can be done once the furlough scheme ends.

One positive to take away from the furlough scheme’s end is that it will likely correlate with the end of the temporary restrictions on what legal action can or cannot be taken against non-compliant tenants. Without many of these protections in place, you’ll be free to tackle the worst offenders once again.

It’s also likely that you have seen or will see tenants try to change the terms of their lease or even reduce how much space they rent. With many businesses now giving their employees the choice or working from an office or working from home, it’s undoubtedly going to reduce the amount of space that tenants need.

One upside from this situation is that social distancing measures ensure that there still needs to be sufficient space between desks so this may not be such an immediate problem for commercial landlords. In fact, some businesses that utilise a large amount of employees in a small amount of space – such as call centres – may even be forced to increase the size of their rental space to continue operations.

Additionally, it’s also very likely that we’re going to start seeing bigger businesses look to operate less centralised offices and instead move to smaller, regional offices – another possible opportunity for those with such properties in their portfolio. And there is also an opportunity for renting out smaller offices or even desk space as people look to escape from the chaos and noise of home working.

Regardless of these positives, it’s likely that you’re going to see more tenants try to hold out on payments for as long as possible and you need to be prepared with the right mentality that comes from having smart legal minds at the other end of the phone that you can rely on.

Taking proactive steps

Despite all these negatives, it’s important to maintain a sense of balance throughout it all too. Many people and businesses are struggling right now. While the temptation to relentlessly pursue tenants is strong, there’s a lot to be said for a more compassionate approach as a way of building loyalty and trust with your tenants.

People are far more likely to work with you and by sympathetic to your concerns if you can show the same approach in your communications with them. A more discerning approach to how you talk to your tenants is certainly going to be key in how cooperative they will be in helping you back by paying rent when they can.

One proactive step that can be taken right now by commercial landlords is to start thinking about revising the fine print in your tenancies. We’re going to see more tenants seek out more flexible terms once their tenancies end – such as shorter leases and clauses centred around allowing tenants to back out under certain conditions. How you navigate these areas is going to have an impact on the likelihood that your tenants are going to stay with you or move onto a landlord who is giving them a more flexible deal.

It’s also important that you have protection in place once the temporary measures and furlough end. Make sure you have rent guarantee insurance in place to ensure that you can distribute actionable section 21 notices when you are able to do so again.

Foys can help you navigate these tough times

One last factor that is going to determine your company’s outcome is the strength of your legal representation. From the pursuit of late or non-payments from tenants, to the drafting of new template leases, you need solicitors with the experience, flexibility and strategic know-how to be a beacon in these dark times.

There’s no question that our experienced commercial property solicitors are exactly who you can trust and rely on. Our team assists across a wide range of commercial property matters – with a speciality in resolving issues between landlords and tenants.

We will not only offer you clear and consistent legal advice that cuts across the lines of jargon, but we can draft new leases to suit these differing times and help you end disputes with your tenants through proactive mediation and clear communication. Our goal is always to get the maximum gains possible for our clients without the need to go through expensive court proceedings.

Additionally, we can help you in matters of asset management and property refinancing which may well be an increasingly important area for commercial landlordism during these tough times ahead.

Our goal at Foys is to ensure that our clients feel safe in our hands and that they know that someone has got their back and best interests at heart when dealing with these difficult matters – and someone who they can trust to give the right advice at the right time.

We provide all of our first-time clients with a FREE initial consultation so that you can have first-hand experience of what it’s like to be part of the Foys family without paying a penny. To start experiencing quality legal advice you can trust as soon as today, just get in touch with Foys’ Commercial Property Team today by phoning us on 01302 327136 or by contacting us via our Online Form.