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Freeths - Law firm

Protected: Family Solicitors

Ranked in Tier 1 for all family law matters

Our Expertise

Our Derby family solicitors are part of a team who are ranked top for all family law matters by both The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners. They deal with more than just divorce. Derby’s team comprises of Diana Copestake, who is recognised as a “Recommended Lawyer” in Family Law by a trusted legal directory.

From making arrangements for children to resolving the financial issues of relationship breakdown, Derby‘s family team offers specialist legal advice. Our supportive Derby lawyer can also guide you through civil partnerships, cohabitation agreements, and pre and post-nuptial agreements – as well as divorce and separation. We can also help with taking children abroad, child maintenance, and school appeals.

Our Derby solicitors can be trusted to be sensitive and discreet at all times. Diana Copestake has over 35 years’ experience and can use her skill and knowledge to get your life back on track. Our renowned family law team offers legal advice and representation equal in quality to top UK law firms, without the expense.

If you’re based in Derbyshire, contact our family law team today to see how they can help.


How are Pensions dealt with on Divorce?

It is important that when a couple get divorced the pension position is carefully considered. Expert assistance may be needed to help calculate how pensions should be dealt with and these experts are called Pension Actuaries.

When the division of pensions is being considered, a pension scheme Cash Equivalent Value (CEV) may be used as a starting point. This is because a pension is often treated as a capital asset even though it is not liquid cash. Pensions provide income and the Pension Actuary’s job can be to look at how the pensions can be shared to provide both parties with income upon their retirement.

In a divorce, pensions can also be dealt with by either considering offsetting or earmarking. All of these options require a Court Order to be effective. Offsetting is where one party is compensated for the loss of pension rights by receiving other assets. For example, one party might keep a property or more cash, while the other retains their pension. Earmarking means that a percentage of the member’s pension is set aside for the ex-spouse to claim on retirement. However, earmarking is rarely used nowadays because the ex-spouse would lose their right to the pension if they re-marry or the other party whose name the pension is in, dies.

Pensions can sometimes help the parties access capital if they are over 55 years of age, but this is a complex area of law and requires careful consideration. This is why, when looking at these issues, we ensure our clients obtain the right advice about the right options for them.

What is Family Mediation and how does it work?

Family mediation is a flexible way of resolving disputes, which arise before, during or after separation or divorce. It can prevent a couple from having to go to Court saving them both time and money. Our neutral mediators resolve issues through face-to-face meetings, helping couples arrive at a solution that suits them both.

Our mediators are accredited, which means that they have a wealth of experience at helping families resolve disputes and stay out of Court.

Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process which takes place in a safe, non-hostile environment. Mediators do not impose a decision or settlement on you. They will help you put together a set of proposals about which you can get advice from your own lawyer before anything becomes legally binding.

Mediation will enable you to communicate directly with each other, rather than via solicitors or across a Court Room. Our mediators act as impartial third parties whose job it is to discuss all of the options with you to help you to craft a solution that suit you and your family. Our mediators will keep the needs of the children at the forefront of discussions. Common topics for mediation include childcare arrangements, co-parenting plans and resolving the financial issues that have to be looked at as part of a divorce or separation. Mediation can also be helpful in assisting couples who want to create a pre or post-marital agreement.

If during the mediation process proposals are agreed, then the mediator’s job is to write up those proposals. This lets both parties have the opportunity of obtaining independent legal advice before anything is converted into Court Orders, that then will be legally binding once approved by a Judge.

Should I make a Will when I am getting Divorced?

If you are in the process of getting divorced or your civil partnership dissolved, we would always recommend that you discuss whether it is appropriate for you to either update your Will or make a new Will if you do not have one.

Your estate can be affected by inheritance tax. It may be possible to incorporate some tax saving devices into your Will. If you die without a Will or any living family, your estate could go to the Crown.

We do offer some fixed fee services and the cost is dependent on the complexities of your matter.

If you own property with your partner you will normally own it either as joint tenants or tenants in common. If you own property as joint tenants, it means that if one of your dies the property will automatically pass to the other. Sometimes, when a relationship has broken down, property owners do not want this to happen so you can sever the tenancy so that the part of the property you own passes according to your Will which is why it is important you consider this option as part of a divorce or separation process.

Will having a new Partner change what I get on my Divorce?

If you have left your spouse, from whom you are obtaining a divorce, and are living with someone else, it can impact your overall financial settlement.

If you are living with a new partner when you are in the process of getting divorced, your new partner has to disclose information about their capital assets and their income. This does not mean that your ex-spouse will be able to claim any of your new partner’s capital or income, but the Court can take your new circumstances into account.

For example, if your ex-partner needs ongoing maintenance payments and you are living with someone else, you will not normally be able to claim 100 per cent of the running costs for your new home, because any Court would expect your new partner to be contributing towards those expenses. This means that, compared to running a property entirely by yourself, your disposable income increases which means that your ex-spouse can potentially obtain an Order for a higher Spousal Maintenance than if you were living in a property by yourself.

Therefore, we strongly recommend that before moving in with a new partner you obtain independent legal advice about your particular circumstances.

How are Divorce costs calculated?

Some of the cases we deal with are very straightforward. For those cases, we offer a number of fixed fee services.

Some clients want to deal with the paperwork themselves, so to help them with that we offer a divorce paperwork checking service at a cost of £250 plus VAT.

If however clients want us to deal with all of the paperwork, we can do that for a fixed fee of £600 plus VAT, provided both parties agree upon the basis the divorce paperwork is going to be presented to the Court.

Sometimes there are arguments about who is going to file the Divorce Petition with the Court and upon what basis. For example, if one party wants to file a Divorce Petition with the Court based upon unreasonable behaviour, there can be arguments about what the wording of the unreasonable behaviour allegation should be. In these cases we charge for the time spent but it would be unusual for the costs to exceed £1,200 plus VAT.

It should be noted that anyone filing a Divorce Petition has to pay a Court fee which is nothing to do with the above costs and has to be paid by everyone filing a Divorce Petition with the Court. The fee is currently £550.

How much will it cost to sort out the Financial Issues?

The very simple answer to this question is that it depends upon how contentious the financial issues are between the parties.

Both parties should always be aiming to prepare a document called a Financial Consent Order. This is a legal agreement that sets out how the financial issues have been resolved. The document has to be sent to the Court with a standard form, but it can be sent to the Court by post for approval by a Judge. Once approved by a Judge, the Order is binding on both parties.

There are various ways that we can help couples get to this stage. Couples can agree matters between themselves, and if they are able to do that and the financial issues are very straightforward then they will eligible for our fixed fee service. For a charge of £600 plus VAT and the Court fee we can prepare the Financial Consent Order, so that it can be signed by everybody and posted to the Court with an additional standard form that has to be sent to the Court every time you are asking a Judge to approve a Financial Consent Order.

The other options available to parties revolve around different ways that agreements can be reached. For example, it might be that the parties want to try and keep their costs to a minimum by going to mediation where a professional mediator will help the couple try and reach settlement proposals. If they manage to do this, both parties can then obtain independent advice before any legal documentation is drawn up. The costs very much depend upon the number of meetings required with a mediator, but the process is normally a lot cheaper than if the lawyers are having to do all of the negotiations at their respective hourly rates.

If for any reason mediation is not appropriate, then the lawyers can be the ones that gather in all of the financial information and then put forward proposals for settlement whether in correspondence or at Round Table Meetings. Ultimately, the lawyers still try to help the couple reach an agreement so that it can be embodied into a Financial Consent Order that is then signed and sent to the Court. The costs for dealing with matters this way depends on the time spent by the lawyers because lawyers charge their costs by working out how much time they have spent on dealing with everything.

There are other processes available to clients such as collaborative practice and arbitration but the costs for dealing with those need to be considered on a case-by-case basis by the lawyers involved.

Ultimately, if an agreement cannot be reached the parties have to go to Court and that can be extremely expensive. The minimum bill nowadays for going to Court can be in the region of £15,000 plus VAT together with any disbursements for Court fees and/or experts that need to be involved. However, there are cases that, if they go to Court, can cost over £100,000 plus VAT and disbursements. It is for this reason that we work very hard with our clients to try and help them reach an agreement so that Court proceedings can be avoided.

Child Maintenance FAQs

Do I have to pay child maintenance?

If you are separated from your child’s other parent you are required to have child maintenance which is calculated, in most cases, through the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). If you earn more than the maximum CMS threshold the court can award top-up maintenance to the other parent.

How much should I have to pay?

Calculating payments is not always straightforward. The rules and regulations governing the calculation in collection of child maintenance are complex.

You can insert your details into the Child Maintenance website which can be found here:-

How do the Child Maintenance Service get the information?

The Child Maintenance Service are allowed to seek information from the Inland Revenue of your income. This is how they calculate the amount they consider is appropriate, based upon a percentage of your gross income.

What if I do not agree to the amount of maintenance?

Once a formal calculation has been carried out by the Child Maintenance Service, you can ask them to re-consider this (known as a mandatory reconsideration). If you are not content with the outcome of this you can appeal the decision to an independent tribunal.

Is it easy to appeal?

The appeal process is fairly straightforward, however there are strict timetables and rules to follow. It is important that you have had independent legal advice from a specialist during this process.

What will change the amount of child maintenance I have to pay?

Your Child Maintenance liability will vary if your gross income changes, your pension contributions change, the amount you have your child stay with you overnight increases or decreases and if you cohabit with somebody who has children or you have more children yourself who live with you, or you pay child maintenance for.

Will it matter if the parent who the child lives with income has gone up?

The amount of child maintenance you pay as the non-resident parent is not affected by how much the resident parent earns.

How do I appeal a place for my child at school?

If my child is not granted a place at the school I want is there anything I can do?

It is possible to appeal any decision relating to a school placement. The appeal process involves competing a written application with evidence where relevant.

Will my appeal be successful?

An appeal is successful if:-

  • The admission criteria do not comply with the school admissions’ appeal code.
  • The admission arrangements have not been properly followed.
  • The decision to refuse your chid a place was not reasonable.

What grounds are there for appeal?

This will depend upon the type of school place your child has applied for.

What is the appeal process?

The appeal is initially made in writing and then a hearing date is set. It is important you comply with the appeal process and timetable. Your appeal is heard by an independent tribunal where evidence will be given about the admission criteria and how it has been applied.

Cohabitation FAQs

As we have lived together for a number of years and have a child together, are we common law husband and wife?

There is no such thing as Common Law husband and wife. You only acquire the rights of a spouse if you marry or enter into a civil partnership. There are no rights attributed to couples who have lived together for a number of years at this time, however this is under review in legislation at the moment.

Is there any right for me to claim against my partner’s assets as we have lived together?

The only assets which you can claim against are assets owned by you jointly, or that you have made a direct financial contribution to and have agreements in place about. This can include property or businesses. This is much more difficult for other assets. It is not possible to share a pension in the same way that it is in marriage.

If we have a child together, does this change my rights and options?

It is possible, if you are not married, to make a claim for capital and property if you have a child under the age of eighteen together and the child will be living with you. If you are not able to meet the child’s needs it is possible to apply to the Court for capital provision to be made for the child, and also provision for support with education, e.g. school fees or special educational needs. It is also possible to apply for top-ups from child maintenance, but it is not possible to apply for spousal maintenance.

How should I protect myself against future claims?

If you are planning to cohabit it is possible to enter into a Cohabitation Agreement which outlines who will contribute towards what during the course of your relationship. This will also establish what rights you both have to each other’s assets and the future claims that you understand will or will not be made.

Fertility Law FAQs

I am in the process of fertility treatment and conception with the help of donors. What protection do I need to put in place?

It is important that when the child is born the legal parenthood that affects things such as the child’s inheritance, nationality and financial responsibility is all correctly registered.

Who gets legal parenthood for the child?

The woman who carries and gives birth to the child is automatically registered as the child’s legal mother. If the child’s legal mother is married or in a civil partnership then her spousal civil partner will be the child’s other parent as long as they consented to the fertility treatment.

What is it important to check?

There have been a number of cases where fertility clinics have not advised parents correctly on the consent paperwork resulting in the second parent having to make a Court Application to get legal parenthood.

Is legal parenthood the same as parental responsibility?

No, parental responsibility includes the right to be involved in making the choices about a child’s education, healthcare and day-to-day decisions about their upbringing. As with legal parenthood the child’s birth mother automatically has parental responsibility but beyond that who else has parental responsibility in situations of fertility treatment and donor conception, requires legal advice on the specific circumstances.

Our Process

Derby’s expert family team will help you and your family towards the best possible outcome. To reduce your exposure to costs and delays, we can use alternative dispute resolution methods such as collaborative law and solicitor-led negotiation. However, if you still need to go to court, our friendly Derby family solicitors are more than capable of representing and supporting you throughout the court process.

Our Derby family solicitors are known for dealing with complex cases involving pensions assets or business trusts. With Freeths experts in property, tax, employment, trusts, and company law, we have a breadth of understanding. Our knowledge of wealth preservation is useful for preparing agreements for cohabitation and pre-nuptials. Give Diana Copestake in Derby a call today to find out how we could help you.

Why Choose our Derby Family Solicitors

  • We’re located on Nottingham Road, just a short drive away from the city centre
  • Both The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners rank our team of family solicitors in the top tier
  • By using alternative dispute resolution, we help you to avoid costly litigation fees
  • If court is the only option, we will offer you robust representation, support and clear advice
  • We offer a range of competitive fees, while still offering quality to rival top city firms


Diana Copestake – Experienced Family Law Partner based in Derby

Diana Copestake is an experienced Partner based at our Derby office, specialising in all aspects of family law. She has over 35 years’ experience in the field and is named as a “Recommended Lawyer” by The Legal 500 for her work in family law. Diana specialises in helping her clients deal with the financial issues caused by divorce and relationship breakdown. She also has a wealth of knowledge in issues relating to children.

Diana is a trained collaborative lawyer and a member of Resolution, which means she can help you resolve disputes without going to court. She aims to achieve quick, cost-effective legal solutions. She has a breadth of knowledge and can also help with cohabitation agreements, civil partnerships and pre/post-nuptials.

Examples of family law cases by Diana Copestake

  • Applied for and obtained for a mother’s leave to change the surname of her son, where the father had parental responsibility – an unusual order to obtain except in exceptional circumstances.
  • Successfully advised and guided a client through the court process where the only asset was his company interests held in Europe. This enabled him to retain those company interests free of claim.

For further information about our Derby divorce solicitors, please contact Diana Copestake, Partner, on 0845 272 5674 or submit a secure enquiry form.

Derby Family Solicitors

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“I wanted, now back in the office and with access to my PC to thank you properly for conducting this tortuous financial settlement for me. You have really been a great comfort and I am very relieved to have achieved an agreement which allows me to move on with my life.” (Client)

“Thank you Diana, and thanks you very much for all you have achieved for me, I am extremely grateful.” (Client)


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Freeths are a leading national law firm with 13 offices across the UK. If you have a query about our services or just want to find out more, why not give us a call?

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