Sheffield Divorce Solicitors
Specialist family lawyers in the North
Our family law team is highly regarded in their field, with a demonstrated track record representing clients in relation to a wide range of issues associated with relationship breakdown. Mark Heppinstall looks after our family clients in Sheffield and the surrounding areas and has a particular interest in divorce, financial arrangements and children disputes. Mark has attained specialist Resolution accreditation with expertise in the areas of complex financial remedies and private children cases.
Mark acts for husbands, wives and cohabitees in relation to all aspects of relationship breakdown. He is committed to helping clients to resolve family law disputes with dignity, civility and respect wherever possible; often through forms of alternative dispute resolution that avoid the need to attend court in contested proceedings. Where court proceedings are necessary, Mark is an experienced litigator, undertaking his own advocacy or working with Counsel to secure the best possible outcome for clients.
Mark has been praised by clients for providing clear advice in plain English and demonstrating a detailed and thorough understanding of the law. He strives to put clients first and our Family Law team has been recognised for offering “the quality of service that would be expected of a Magic Circle firm”. Our team is experienced in assisting clients to deal with the financial and emotional consequences of divorce and separation and we are committed to achieving the best possible result for our clients in every case.
We aim to provide an accessible, transparent service and will always tailor our approach to reflect the particular circumstances of a case, bearing in mind clients’ needs and expectations. It is important that our advice is grounded in a fair assessment of your matter and we will be honest and forthright at each step in the process to ensure that you can make informed, realistic and sensible decisions. We also understand that any family dispute can be an emotional and worrying time. We promise to act with discretion and sensitivity on your behalf and will strive to provide the highest standards of professional advice to help you move forwards positively.
If you are based in Sheffield or South Yorkshire and would like an initial consultation for advice relating to relationship breakdown our Family Law team can be contacted using the following details: 0845 126 3472 or Mark.Heppinstall@freeths.co.uk
Is it worth having a pre-nuptial agreement?
A nuptial agreement is formal written document prepared either before marriage (a “pre-nuptial”) or after marriage (a “post-nuptial”). Nuptial agreements record people’s intentions in relation to a wide range of matters including the division of property, finances and personal belongings in the event of a future divorce. Nuptials can also be used to record intended care arrangements for children.
Clients often enter nuptial agreements to preserve or protect personal wealth and record their future wishes in relation to the separation of their financial resources if their marriage was to end.
If prepared and executed properly, nuptial agreements can save people thousands of pounds in legal costs and they may make it much easier for spouses to separate without conflict or litigation. This can also reduce some of the uncertainty, risk and stress associated with court proceedings. For this reason, many people look at nuptial agreements as a type of insurance policy.
Although nuptial agreements are not legally binding in England, they are much more likely to be upheld if:
• The agreement is fair and reasonable;
• Both parties have the opportunity to obtain legal advice;
• In the case of a pre-nuptial; that it is signed at least 28 days before the marriage (and as a general rule the earlier the better);
• That neither party was placed under duress or undue influence to enter the agreement; and
• That the agreement is supported by material financial disclosure.
How does the court decide how to divide financial resources on divorce?
The starting point in law is a presumption of equality. However, the court can depart from equality if the needs of one of the parties justifies this. When considering what orders to make, the court will take into account certain statutory criteria set out in section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973; with first consideration being given to the welfare of any minor children of the family. Other relevant considerations include the earning capacities of each party, their respective financial resources, the length of their marriage, the health of each party and any children of the marriage and the standard of living enjoyed by parties during their marriage.
Do assets I own before marriage get shared?
Essentially, this will depend on the approach of the court and its assessment of the needs of the parties. Consequently, there can be some uncertainty for spouses on this issue and outcomes can vary depending on the particular background of a case.
Usually, capital resources which are not referable to spouses’ joint endeavours will be regarded as non-matrimonial and potentially be excluded from the sharing exercise. However, it is not always this straightforward. For example, if a non-matrimonial asset is “mixed” with other resources then it could fall into the pot and be taken into account by a court. An example of this happening in practice is where one party make an unequal contribution towards the purchase of a property which becomes the matrimonial home. Although the capital used to purchase the property might come from outside the marriage (e.g. by way of inheritance or gift) in practice the court has been very reluctant to disregard this from the sharing exercise. This is especially so for marriages of longer duration and, as is often the case in these situations, the court’s overriding concern will be the needs of the parties.
What can I do if I think my spouse is hiding assets?
If you think that your spouse is hiding assets, early advice is important. Sometimes mischievous spouses may try to divest themselves of their assets, transfer property to third parties or divert income to other sources to depress their net worth. More commonly, they will simply underplay the value of financial resources that they have disclosed.
If a difficult spouse is unwilling to engage in financial disclosure on a voluntary basis then the first port of call is often an application to the court to compel their co-operation. If the spouse fails to provide disclosure then applications to enforce can be made. Alongside this, spouses that are in breach of court orders may find themselves on the wrong end of an adverse costs order.
If financial disclosure has been exchanged but there is reasonable cause to question this then there are a number of steps that can be taken. A questionnaire may need to be raised of the other persons disclosure and expert evidence may need to be obtained. A forensic accountant may also be needed to value business interests or an actuary’s assistance may be sought to assist with pension sharing orders.
Does mediation really work?
Mediation is a form of dispute resolution that provides an alternative to court proceedings or arbitration. People who engage in mediation may feel they have more control over negotiations and this can be important and empowering. Mediation is not about attributing blame and the process is intended to help people look forward not back.
The mediator’s role is to set parameters for dialogue so that you and your former partner can negotiate in a controlled, safe environment. Your mediator should work with you both to help you identify what you want to achieve and help you work towards this. Before any joint meetings are arranged the mediator should meet you both independently for an initial assessment meeting. This meeting is used to explain the mediation process, identify your respective objectives and clarify what is important to each of you. The mediator will also use this meeting to assess whether they think mediation would be suitable and appropriate in your particular case. If mediation proceeds, one or more joint meetings will be arranged which are facilitated by the mediator.
Where agreement is reached through mediation this will be recorded in a formal document known as a “Memorandum of Understanding”. Once this has been prepared you should consider consulting your family lawyer for further advice and to explore the benefits of setting this out in a legally binding court order.
- Whether you need advice about divorce, separation, finances or children we will work with you to understand your goals and aspirations from the outset of your case.
- We have a highly experienced team of family and matrimonial lawyers and will ensure that we can arrange the right team for you.
- Your solicitor will be contactable, friendly, and supportive throughout the process.
- We know that relationship breakdown can cause a lot of uncertainty for people. At each step in your case we will discuss the cost/benefit of action against in action and work with you to manage your matter as cost effectively as possible. This may include consideration of alternative forms of dispute resolution such as mediation, collaborative law, solicitor-led negotiations or arbitration. We know from experience that where appropriate resolving your dispute outside the court arena can help to reduce animosity, delay and costs.
- If you do need to go to court then there is no need to worry. You will be expertly guided by our specialists in family law. We will ensure your appointed solicitor is with you every step of the way and you can be assured that you will receive the right expertise to guide and support you throughout the process.We are often asked to advise on difficult cases involving owner-managed businesses, trusts, pensions and foreign assets. We are able to draw on the skill base of our tax, trust, property, employment and company solicitors to ensure you obtain appropriate, tailored legal advice bespoke to your personal circumstances. One benefit of practising within a multi-disciplinary team is the skill-set of our lawyers across these fields locally, within Yorkshire and nationally where appropriate. We have the resources, experience and expertise in-house; under one roof wherever needed.
Why Choose our Sheffield Divorce Solicitors
- Our family lawyers are recognised specialists in their field, with expertise in all areas of relationship breakdown including divorce, complex financial remedies, children disputes and cohabitation matters;
- We are experts at reaching financial agreements without the need to go to court. This can often help parties avoid costly litigation.
- If a court application is necessary to determine your case, we will provide you with supportive, comprehensive legal support throughout the process, balancing an empathetic approach with frank, clear advice underpinned by a knowledge of the law that is second to none.
- We offer a full range of family law services with competitive fees and transparent, clear costs information. We will also work with you to explore a range of funding options where appropriate.
For further information about our Sheffield divorce solicitors, please contact Mark Heppinstall, Associate, on 0845 126 3472 or submit a secure enquiry form.
“I really do appreciate your guidance and help throughout what has been a difficult time. You were always calm, assured and steady which left me plenty of room to be the exact opposite at times.”
“We wanted to pay tribute to you for the outstanding quality of everything you did. Solicitors are not invariably praised for being warm human beings who genuinely care for those they are representing. You are a glorious exception to any such stereotype. Thank you so much for what you have done and for the way you have done it.”
“The quality of your advice and support has been outstanding from day one. You have been direct and honest at every stage, and have always had the next moves planned out in advance. Your ability to draw together powerful documents… was hugely impressive.”
‘Doing the right thing’ is at the heart of Freeths. Find out more about our excellent client service and the strong set of values that guide the way we work.
Talk to us
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?
Contact: 03301 001 014