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Managing Director Rita Gupta explores the potential benefits of ‘birdnesting’ for separating parents with a SEND child.

Co-parenting a SEND child after divorce or separation can be a major logistical challenge as well as an emotional one. Many couples may consider their only option is for one parent to live in the family home and be the resident parent, whilst the other absent parent moves out into separate accommodation.

However, separating couples with children (SEND or otherwise) are increasingly turning to a different arrangement - birdnesting (aka bird-nesting or birds-nest co-parenting).

Birdnesting is when co-parents maintain both the family home and a second house or flat, so they can rotate being the resident parent. When one is in the family home, the other stays in the second property.

 

Birdnesting – a workable solution?

Birdnesting is not a new idea; Swedish examples date back to the 1970s. A 2016 survey suggested that in the UK, over 10% of divorced and separated parents had actually tried birdnesting.

In addition:

“52% felt that keeping their children in the family home and rotating their living arrangements around them would have caused their kids less upset and upheaval.“

However, birdnesting is not going to be suitable for everyone.

  • It is clearly not appropriate in cases involving domestic abuse / coercive behaviours.
  • There may be existing tensions in the relationship that would need to be dealt with beforehand, as both parties would have to get along and make important decisions together.
  • There would also be considerable financial ramifications to be identified and sorted, especially with a second property involved. Parents could therefore remain financially co-dependent for longer.
  • Birdnesting may affect ex-partner payments such as child maintenance and spousal support, although it may also save on costs for setting up two homes. (more on this below).

If you are considering birdnesting, we would advise consulting a family lawyer before suggesting it to your partner. You will need to understand both the practical and legal implications so you can come to an informed decision. Contact us for your reduced fee initial consultation with LGFL.

 

Birdnesting: short term or long term?

As the following examples show, many couples took the view that birdnesting would be a temporary arrangement so they could see how it worked out (or not).

Their real-life experiences may in turn help couples struggling with the logistics of co-caring for a SEND child to view birdnesting as a short-term potential solution to try out, rather than as a life-long decision.

SEND children and the family home: familiar and safe

For most children, their family home is far more than just a place to live. According to an article at This Is Money:

“It can resemble a place of safety, familiarity, and comfort. You can maintain stability for the children and ensure both parents continue to be involved in their life – preserving the status quo. There are practical benefits in the sense that parents have established routines within the family home which they can continue to implement.”

As an alternative to the more usual 50/50 parenting, when the children move from one home to another, birdnesting has clear logistical and emotional advantages for SEND children. They remain in familiar surroundings with all they require in place, from medical and mobility equipment to the correct food in the fridge. There is no need for parents to duplicate equipment, items and medication in both homes, which could be both costly and impractical.

Furthermore, birdnesting with an existing home keeps the SEND child within their current support network, including their:

  • School catchment area
  • Circle of friends and social activities
  • Local authority health team

Again, this ensures continuity of care, education, social support, and funding at a point where there is much emotional and practical upheaval to deal with.

 

Same home, separate lives

If finances do not allow for a separate property, some couples choose to have designated rooms in the family home which are for their sole use when not being the ‘on duty’ parent.

This could be particularly beneficial for SEN children, as an article at 2Houses website suggests:

“If your child needs significant help from both of you, a bird-nesting arrangement can work … You can also arrange to have both co-parents stay in the same home but in different parts of the house. This provides maximum continuity for a child with autism.”

 

Birdnesting and co-operation

Birdnesting requires a high level of cooperation and communication between separating parents, to ensure the arrangement works for everyone. As a Tatler article explained:

“It requires honesty, transparency, and mutual goodwill with open communication and agreed boundaries between both parents. There needs to be clarity over contact arrangements for the children and financial arrangements, to include division of household expenses, upkeep of the property, and in what circumstances the home should be sold.”

 

Birdnesting: an evolving balance

In an article for Yahoo News, mother of three Farhana Hussain described her own take on birdnesting after trying other arrangements:

“It was very quickly obvious that (50/50) wasn’t going to work, as the boys were really upset with being with their dad. After a month, we adjusted it to every weekend and that didn’t work either. At the weekends, the kids wanted to be at home where their friends were. After six months (we) settled on (me) having the kids 100 per cent of the time but with their father regularly visiting and staying over.”

 

A new home just for the kids

In an article for the Huffington Post, divorced dad Toby Hazlewood shared his own solution to the issue of co-parenting beyond “the odd fun weekend as the estranged dad.” As his girls grew up, and he and his ex both had new partners, they needed a better solution than 50/50 custody

The solution for them was what he describes as “extreme co-parenting”!

“My ex-wife and I now rent a single apartment, splitting the costs between us.

The girls live there permanently, and a third bedroom is equipped like a hotel-room into which their mum and I alternate, one week at a time.

On a Monday morning she packs away her possessions, strips the bed and moves out. I arrive on a Monday evening and move in for the week, as live-in custodial parent for the next seven nights.”

It’s an interesting idea, especially if the new home can be adapted specifically for the changing needs of a SEN child.

 

Birdnesting and professional help

In her book “Nesting After Divorce: Co-Parenting in the Family Home”, author Beth Behrendt described how professional help and advice can be invaluable.

“A supportive “team” was essential in establishing our nesting situation, and in helping it run smoothly for so many years … The efforts of the legal and financial experts were what established a strong frame on which we built our co-parenting arrangement.

My ex and I were fortunate to find divorce lawyers and financial advisers who supported our idea to nest and helped us achieve our goals without causing irreparable damage to either of our financial situations.”

 

Reviewing the arrangements

SEND children may need stability, but their needs can and will change over time. The same also applies to their parents. In a Metro article, a family mediator suggests asking key questions to review the birdnesting arrangements:

“Is it still working for both of you? Is it working for your children? What do they like about it? What do they feel could work better for them?

Having these conversations calmly, constructively and compassionately means you can check that everybody is OK with how things are working and make changes to address any issues.”

 

Need to talk about separating or divorcing with a SEND child or children?

Contact us to book an initial reduced fee consultation at LGFL. We have helped numerous parents with SEND children separate and put in place the agreements and finances that secure their child’s future.

- Call us

- Email us

- Request your initial appointment online

LGFL Managing Director Rita Gupta was on Unity 101 Radio this week, celebrating women’s achievements across cultures in the Respect Hour with Aryana Neo.

 

 

Or read on!

 

00:00:02 Aryana Neo: Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to Respect on Unity 101 Radio with me, Aryana Neo, where we celebrate women who blend cultural pride with professional triumphs, from those breaking barriers to those nurturing families while scaling career highlights.

Respect brings their inspiring stories to the forefront, and our aim is to inspire and empower by showcasing resilience, determination, and the power of maintaining cultural identities and professional success. So join us in honouring these extraordinary achievements across cultures right here on Respect.

Now today, my guest is Rita Gupta. Rita Gupta is a managing director of LGFL Ltd, a boutique family law firm based in Reading, but she advises clients nationwide and internationally. She is listed on the Legal 500 and ranked in Chambers and Partners. She's known for her holistic approach to family law and has extensive media experience from TV, radio and newspaper articles. She is passionate about supporting talent in the law and to promote greater diversity in the legal profession.

Welcome to Unity 101 Radio, Rita.

 

00:01:09 Rita Gupta: Good afternoon, Aryana. Thank you for having me.

 

00:01:12 Aryana Neo: Oh, thank you so much for being on. Honestly, it's amazing to be able to speak to women of your calibre. So just to let the listeners know and also just about the show here, we're going to talk about your childhood first, and then we'll move on to your professional journey and then what you're doing at present.

So let's start off with your childhood, if that's okay, Rita. If you could let us know a little bit about yourself, but where your parents were born and where you were born.

 

00:01:38 Rita Gupta: My parents are from the Punjab, so my father was from Jandiala, and my mum was from a village called Kukurpind, which everybody in my life finds absolutely hilarious.

So they came from they came in the sixties, but my grandfather first came I think in the late 40s, 50s. They came to Nottingham and that's where I grew up until I went to university. Since then, I studied in central London and then I moved to Reading when I got married.
So yeah, we're HP as they say or Hindi Punjabi.

 

00:02:12 Aryana Neo: HP, absolutely. I'm an HP as well, so I know that term well. So can you tell us any wonderful childhood memories you have from anywhere that you were during that time?

 

00:02:25 Rita Gupta: Well, life's really changed from growing up in the 70s and 80s.
You know, it was very different. I think communities were much stronger. And I think if I remember, the good days out in the childhood were not perhaps what children have today. They weren't as privileged. But they were just as much fun. I remember doing picnics at Newstead Abbey, taking the whole, Indian dinner with us.

So we'd have Sholay, Puduray, Samosay, and sitting outside having a feast, that sort of thing. It was brilliant. And meeting with a lot of family friends or family members and going on large occasions out, just for no reason at all, really. The sense of community really is an important memory for me.

And I also remember my dad's best friend was from Leeds and we spent a lot of time together going to their house or them staying with us and just doing lots of things together. Those simple things, Aryana, not very glam, I’m not from a wealthy background. So, we didn't travel abroad.

 

00:03:34 Aryana Neo: I understand like simple things. And it's even better what you're saying, from a humble beginning. And that is why we'd love to talk to women like you are here on Respect. So what kind of school did you attend then? And did you have a best friend?

 

00:03:48 Rita Gupta: Oh, well, my school was pretty awful, I'll be honest with you. So it was the local school, a state school. You know, looking back again, growing up in the seventies and eighties, it was quite white. And we were really very much the minority.

If I think back to the racism that we suffered then, things have moved on quite considerably. I was really studious. You know, my parents are the three pounds in your pocket (generation). Their view was to encourage us in our education and to be a professional. But I would say that most people around me didn't have the same view.

o, it was not easy. Our family values were different from the people in my class and the children in my class. There was a couple of people who stand out to me, my childhood, a girl called Natasha at my secondary school.

And when I went to a state local sixth form a lady called Renuka, a South Asian woman who's done amazingly well and has her own dentist surgery. So, she's done really well as well. I would say that school was tough in those times. It really was.

It wasn't my best period of my life, I would say. For me, school was a means to an end. It was to get my education, but I didn't really enjoy school. I really came into my own in sixth form college when I thought people were more focused and it wasn't, you know, uncool to want to do well.

 

00:05:16 Aryana Neo: No, 100 percent and obviously having those hard times would have input into the woman you are today. So, you know, even though it was really hard back in the 70s and 80s, I'm sorry to hear that.

 

00:05:27 Rita Gupta: It was just so different. I think if you ask anybody who grew up since in my generation (I've just turned 50), they would say the things that were said to them at school or what they were exposed to was just very different. It wasn't subtle at all!

 

00:05:43 Aryana Neo: Well, hopefully things have changed a little bit now.

 

00:05:46 Rita Gupta: I hope that too. I think they have moved on definitely, but it was just different times.

 

00:05:50 Aryana Neo: Did you have a favourite teacher when you were at school? Did you confide in anyone, one of the teachers there?

 

00:05:58 Rita Gupta: I think that my favourite teacher was an English teacher. I was very average academically until I got to secondary school, when I just became very motivated to do well.I had an English teacher who recognised my drive and really encouraged me. I loved English, and she would always go out of her way to support me. I would say that I remember her most.

 

00:06:23 Aryana Neo: Oh, I love that. The inspiring people that keep you going and teachers have such a good job.
So that's great to hear.

 

00:06:34 Rita Gupta: I didn't do any law until university. So English and history I'd say were my subjects. I write well. I like writing. So I think that it's sort of anything that was sort of essay based were my subjects.

 

00:06:46 Aryana Neo: Oh, okay. And what one did you like the least? Can we ask that?

 

00:06:50 Rita Gupta: Geography. I hated the geography teacher. He was awful. And I have no sense of direction! I wasn't remotely interested in it, basically. So, I just was bored. Teachers are important.

 

00:07:03 Aryana Neo: Teachers are so important, aren't they?
And they really make the class. So, you've got teachers, but when you were younger as well, did you have any heroes or role models as well?

 

00:07:25 Rita Gupta: Do you know what?
I can't really think of one person. I'd say they were themes of, you know, strong women. Strong, independent women who I would look at and think, gosh, I want to be like them. I like the fact that they're not dependent on people. They have a good career. They're well educated. So it was more the characteristics, I'd say.

I was a bit of an early feminist you know, I didn't want to fit into the traditional role perhaps of what people or society around me in the seventies and eighties thought an Asian woman should be doing.
So anyone who I would see and think, “Gosh, they're really strong characters” - strong and glam - would appeal to me.

 

00:08:10 Aryana Neo: Strong and glam is exactly what I love. An early feminist! I love that you were that, even when you were younger. So moving on from school you went to university, you said. How did you decide that law was the way to go?

 

00:08:21 Rita Gupta: I was about 12 and I saw something on the TV and it was probably the very typical barrister in a wig and gown, but I liked the argument that they put forward and I thought, do you know what? I'd be good at that. So initially I wanted to be a barrister. And so I thought, right, I'm going to do a law degree.

But I think as I went down the process, and learned more about it, I just thought with my family connections and very humble roots, it wasn't going to be, it wasn't going to work for me. So I decided to train as a solicitor instead. I went to the London School of Economics and studied a straight law degree.
Then I did my postgraduate diploma, which was the LPC as they call it back in Nottingham.

 

00:09:04 Aryana Neo: Well, that's great. And it's led you to this path, which is incredible. So in what ways did your upbringing serve you, (as) your foundation for your future achievements?

 

00:09:16 Rita Gupta: Well, I think, you know, anyone whose families are immigrants, they come with a very strong work ethic. I would say that's something that I've had throughout my life. I'm not one of these people who are charmed and that everything comes to them easily. Everything I have to work really hard for.

So I think my parents instilling that work ethic and the value of education was very important and it's something that I think I passed on to my son. My father used to always say, you know, money comes and goes, but no one can take your education away from you. I do believe that.

He was very supportive in those days for me to go all the way from Nottingham to London to study, so he was quite forward thinking. I think my parents really instilled respect; respect for elders, respect for our community members. And I think that's something that I have carried on with (and) stayed with me in my professional career. Conducting yourself in a dignified way would be something that my parents would promote to me, and I think I've carried that through. They are personality traits of mine.

 

00:10:24 Aryana Neo: Talking of respect, obviously, just to remind listeners, you are listening to Respect with me, Aryana Neo.
And here I have Rita Gupta, who is the Managing Director of her own boutique family law firm based in Reading called LGFL Limited. And you advise clients nationally and internationally, don't you?

 

00:10:41 Rita Gupta: Absolutely, yes, on all areas of family law.

 

00:10:44 Aryana Neo: I love that. So, going on to a professional journey then, what dreams and goals did you have for your life once you graduated?

 

00:10:52 Rita Gupta: I decided that the bar wasn't going to be an option for me. Right. You know, it's great to see now that there are more South Asians qualifying as barristers and perhaps a lot of those obstacles have been removed. But I wanted to qualify as a solicitor and you know, and by then I'd done a lot of work experience.

So it was always for me, either family (law) or crime. And crime is a difficult career when you want to have a family. So I decided on family law. I have to say it was not as easy as I thought it was going to be when I was younger. It was very difficult. For any of your listeners who want to train as solicitors, (it’s difficult) to get the training contracts. I think I must have submitted about 300 applications.

 

00:11:40 Aryana Neo: It’s good to obviously let people know the realistic things that you've got to do. What was your first professional job then after that, once you've applied?

 

00:11:53 Rita Gupta: I was a paralegal at a firm in Middlesex where I focused on domestic abuse work and worked closely with some women's organisations, including Asian Women's Refuge.

 

00:12:12 Aryana Neo: Wow, that's incredible. And you said obviously professional, so did you have another job?

 

00:12:17 Rita Gupta: My first job (was) when I was about 11. In Nottingham was an indoor market. I used to work on my aunt's indoor market stall selling makeup. You know, getting paid an absolute pittance. But for me at the time, it was sort of me being independent and being able to buy things on my own. And in fact, actually I worked probably every Christmas and summer throughout my education.

 

00:12:47 Aryana Neo: I think that's good. And you know, it instils some good stuff into you and you're working hard. You mentioned you went into family law because you wanted to start a family yourself and the pressures of that.

So can I ask you, how did you meet your partner then? Are they in the legal profession as well?

 

00:13:05 Rita Gupta: No, they're not, thank God, because I think we just argue and be too competitive with each other. After university, my parents did ask me had I met anybody that I wanted to marry. I hadn't. There used to be, (I think there still is actually), a temple list whereby it's sort of anonymised, probably as some sort of dating agency almost, and we were sort of introduced.

We didn't meet with parents, so we didn't do the whole walking in, shaking with a tray of tea or anything, and we sort of met on our own. I think I sent my sister in first to vet him just to check that he was okay. And then we met and chatted. And then we really hit it off.

My husband's quite progressive. And that was really important for me because I have always been incredibly independent. I needed to ensure that I didn't marry somebody too traditional and there had to be someone who would support my career aims. We met on May the 8th and we got married September the 27th the same year. So it was really fast. But we've been married 25 and a half years. So clearly there's no formula.

 

00:14:19 Aryana Neo: my goodness. Happy anniversary in a couple of days then because it's very soon.

 

00:14:23 Rita Gupta: So we just celebrated our silver wedding anniversary last year.

 

00:14:28 Aryana Neo: Oh, that's lovely. What a lovely story. And you had a family together, I assume?

 

00:14:34 Rita Gupta: We've got one son who's 17.

 

00:14:41 Aryana Neo: Do you want him to be a fellow lawyer?

 

00:14:44 Rita Gupta: Well, he's not taking over LGFL! He says family law's a bit awkward, was the word he used.
He is interested in the bar, but I said to him, you need to ensure that you make that decision yourself and that you're not influenced by me. I would say if they want to be a lawyer, they should go and do some work experience and make sure actually that it's what they think it is and not perhaps the impression that they've got from the media.

00:15:13 Aryana Neo: Yes, all, all the TV shows. So as a working mum, what was the best parts of raising your child?

 

00:15:24 Rita Gupta: It's massive amounts of juggling. I think the reason I went self-employed was because I wanted to make sure that I had some flexibility with my child so that I didn't miss concerts and I could pick him up and that he wasn't in lots and lots of childcare. Law, traditionally, isn’t the best for that. I found that when I worked part time, I essentially worked full time, but just got paid for part time wages.

You know, it's the best adventure as a mother you'll ever have in your life. I've enjoyed every moment of it, but you know, it is difficult balancing it with a career. Whether you decide to stay at home and be a full-time mum, or you decide to go to work and do both.
There's no judgment either way, but I think you've just got to make it work the best that it can for you and your family. I think he respects and quite likes the fact that I work.

 

00:16:24 Aryana Neo: I've worked in law as well and you do see the women like yourself who have reached the peak. It’s incredible that you've been a mother and you've also done that alongside and it is a struggle as you mentioned.

 

00:16:40 Rita Gupta: It’s not easy and I don't think anyone should convey that it is easy. It's not. There's times when you come and you think, Oh God, should I have done that better there or should I have done that better there? And I think it's just probably being a bit kind to yourself and saying, you know, sometimes you can't do it all.

 

00:16:55 Aryana Neo: And how did you like make a work life balance then for yourself?

 

00:17:00 Rita Gupta: I'll be honest with you, my first focus is always my family and my child. Being self-employed has given me that flexibility. I'm not sure if I'd stayed working for a firm whether I would have that. It does often mean that I log on after hours when I've collected him or made dinner for everyone, and set him on his homework path.

It's easier as they get a bit older to some extent, although he needs a little bit of a nag sometimes there and then. Then I'll go up and sort of work slightly erratic hours. So today I did work this morning, I must say, because I've got a busy week ahead. We're sort of working on it.

He’s approaching mock exams. So I think you just have to be really flexible. Someone said to me once, “You know, sometimes good enough is just good enough”. You just can't hit perfection on everything.

But just for me, I am very focused on my child.
My child will always come first. My career is very important. I'll be honest with you. I don't think I've got the balance perfectly right. I think the only person who's perhaps suffered from all that is maybe me, which is something I'm working on. But I don't think there's any magic formula. So, sometimes you just have to think that is good enough.

 

00:18:14 Aryana Neo: I absolutely love your honesty with that because I think people need to know the trials and tribulations of a working mother. And how do you think your upbringing helped you with, with your life now?

 

00:18:26 Rita Gupta: Work ethic, definitely. I never ever take anything for granted whether it's my client referrals, my friendships, I think you have to work at it.
I've always had to work for everything. I'm just not one of these charmed people who, you know, everything comes to. That's not me. If I found five pounds, I'd lose thirty pounds another way. It's just the way it is. So that work ethic just comes naturally to me. And I think I've really instilled that in my child.

I've said to him, you know, there's no entitlement here. You are much more fortunate given the upbringing that I've had. However, these university places, these jobs, they, they're going to come with hard work. I have a lot of interns, I mentor a lot of young lawyers, and I'm so impressed by a work ethic. Even if they've said, you know, throughout university, I worked at the local coffee shop, I think that's great because it showed me that you've had to work for something.

So I think that work ethic resilience is absolutely the resilience you need. I think it's something that this generation maybe struggle with a little bit, and you have to take the knocks. I think I'm a resilient person, but I think my parents always really encouraged us to do a lot for other people.
If 10 people turned up for dinner, my mum would just make them dinner. And I think that kindness and community focus is with us. I mean, if five people said they were coming in an hour, I'd whip something up for them. It's that whole connecting with food that Asian communities have.

 

00:20:13 Aryana Neo: I love that you can whip up a meal for ten people.

 

00:20:19 Rita Gupta: Well, I have no portion control, you see, so I just make food and it's always too much!

 

00:20:26 Aryana Neo: I love that. So anyone that's just joining, you're listening to the Respect Show with me, Aryana Neo.
We’re celebrating women and I am talking to Rita Gupta, who is the managing director of her own firm, LGFL Limited, a boutique family law firm based in Reading, and she advises clients nationwide and internationally.

So Rita, I want to move on to the present now. So, can you tell us, what does a typical day look like for you now?

00:20:53 Rita Gupta: Well, I think I'm probably a little bit of a swan at the moment, so it looks all calm and serene on the surface, but underneath, I'm sort of paddling away. So, I'm usually up pretty early, about six. I tend to make breakfast for my son. I do like to promote healthy eating, especially I think when people are going through things like exams, it's really important.

I think that if you eat rubbish, you feel rubbish. So I'll make breakfast and pack lunches with a protein element. I then go to work and the first thing that I do about 7.30am is have a quick look at my emails and check my social media, check if there's new cases, check if there's any relevant articles.

When I get to the office, the first thing I do is have a team meeting where I call my trainees in, my assistant in, and we talk about the priorities for the day. Family law is quite an emotive and stressful area of law to work it with. I think particularly younger lawyers really struggle to prioritise and they're never going to have an empty inbox.

So one of the things that I do as part of my mentoring is, is help them prioritise and say, well, you're never going to finish that today, but you know, by the end of today, aim for X, Y, and Z. And also, I say to them, if any of you are stuck with anything or if you want me to, you know, speak to me. I have an open door policy.

I also share my meetings with my trainees and assistants, so that they're all getting the same level of experience. So, they're all getting to sit in on client meetings, or we look ahead at court hearings, and check that everybody's getting that experience.

I try and take 20 to 30 minutes for lunch. It's not always possible. And I try, if I can, to walk just in nature for at least 10 minutes to clear my head. I find that it makes a huge difference. It's something I promote to the team, so they don't eat at their desks as well. I think it's really important. We've got a little chill out zone.
We call it the hub and I try and make them go and walk away from their desks.

I can finish anywhere between six and seven. And as soon as I come home, I'll basically be cooking. I'll cook a meal - I've often prepped it before the weekend or batch cooked something.
There will always be something non-processed and fresh on the table. It might not always be the best or the most, not a very posh meal or anything, but it's always something non-processed, fresh. on the table.

Then I tend to sit with my son and say, right, what again, what have you got to get through today? What do we need to do? Do you need any help with anything? And then often when he's doing his homework, I might log back on and do a little bit of work or, you know, go through the other things that I have to do.

You know, my mother's quite old. She's very frail at the moment. So I think, do I need to touch base with my sister about her care?
Is there anything else I need to do? It's busy. I'm not going to lie to you. These days I blink and my day's gone. That's a work day. Weekends I am trying not to work. That's my objective this year is trying to reduce the amount of hours I work in a weekend.

 

00:24:03 Aryana Neo: Everyone needs rest. And I mean, you do have an absolutely jam-packed day.
So obviously during the day in your working day and you're in your law firm, obviously family law takes in a lot of areas. Can you maybe talk about what you do in your day within the law firm?

 

00:24:18 Rita Gupta: Absolutely. It's a really, really broad area. So obviously you've got the standard divorce, people who are wanting divorce or people who are cohabiting couples and have ended up separating.
In many ways it's more complicated for them because they don't have as much protection in the law.

I deal with a lot of complex children issues and a lot of complex financial issues. So I am looking at quite a lot of spreadsheets, bank statements, et cetera. We deal with things like prenuptial agreements, and domestic abuse. Our main specialism at the moment is for family breakdown when there are special needs, either with the parents, but mostly the children.
So, for example, autism or any other disability and how we ensure that they're provided for when the family breaks down.

 

00:25:18 Rita Gupta: Nobody goes into family law for the money. You go because you're passionate about people. I got better at compartmentalising it, but I think the difference is I co-own the practice. So it's my baby, with client services at the heart of that. I don't think any good family law firm can do this dispassionately. I don't think you're a good family lawyer if you do, unless you carry it to some extent, but you have to compartmentalise and put boundaries in.

So one of the things I've started to do is limiting the interaction or family advice, law advice I give outside of the office. So that I can at least have that break and it gives me better perspective, but it just puts boundaries in place.
I think that's really important. And that is a skill you learn over time.

 

00:26:17 Aryana Neo: Boundaries definitely are key so that's important and so you've talked about your day which is busy as we know and incredible and you mentor people, if people turned up at your house you would feed them. So how do you manage to find time to serve the community?
I know you do mentor as well, but is there anything else that you do?

 

00:26:33 Rita Gupta: I do little ways. There’s a couple of schools that we do the careers fairs for. We did create some documents for them such as a flow chart so that they could see the different pathways to law.
We might sponsor a local raffle. We might sponsor the Swallowfield show. We might donate to a local charity. At Christmas, we tend to focus on local charities that have need just because, you know, the last few years it's been very difficult for people. So we tend to link in with food banks or organisations who are looking after underprivileged families in this local area.

So, yeah. In little and small ways. It doesn't have to be the biggest thing that you do, but a lot of it is focussed around mentoring and opening up the profession for greater diversity. That’s something that I feel really passionately about, because I don't think I had that. Sometimes if you're from a local state school or you've got families who, you know, are not professionals or not in law, it's difficult.

It’s difficult to know which path to take, and now there are so many different pathways to the law. The other week I was chatting to somebody in Waitrose, and the young lady wants to be a lawyer. And I was so impressed by her. You know, I gave her a couple of days work experience so she could have an insight and she was coming up to doing her personal statements.
I wanted her to have that on her statement. So I think it's just in little ways.

 

00:28:07 Aryana Neo: Owning your own profession is also amazing because you're able to offer that work experience, but it's so good that you make time for all of these things and you're still serving your community, which is amazing.
You said you wanted to be potentially a barrister when you were younger, and then you've gone into family law. How have your dreams and goals changed throughout your life?

 

00:28:30 Rita Gupta: I think that I would say the law's been constant, but the role has evolved.
The role of any lawyer has evolved with email, et cetera, and remote working, but I've never thought that I should have taken a different career path. I think (things) though, I've learned to seek balance and contentment more, while as you get older rather than always wanting the thrills and, and everything to be always dramatic.

I really aim for, for balance. I've also just had a much greater urge to travel, which I don't think I had as much when I was younger, I think probably because we didn't go on sort of international holidays, I hadn't really been exposed to any of it. I want to do really well with my career, but I think as I've got older, you know, the urge to want to travel and one of my dreams is to go to as many countries as I can, while I can.

 

00:29:23 Aryana Neo: That's something I would love to do. I'd get around the world more. Do you have a personal philosophy of life?

 

00:29:34 Rita Gupta: I think probably that kindness is key. I think whatever happens to you, I think you too need to focus on being a kind person. I think at some point it'll always come back to you, but you have to live by a set of values.

You know, kindness can be in very small, probably quite uneventful ways, but I would say that kindness is key, is key and not having a sense of entitlement that these things should come to you and that you deserve them regardless of putting the effort in.

 

00:30:08 Aryana Neo: You mentioned a couple of things that your dad had said to you. What was the best piece of advice you'd been given?

 

00:30:20 Rita Gupta: Probably about my education as opposed to money, because when you grow up in humble settings, you can always think “I want to have a really big house when I'm older or have a sports car and do X, Y, and Z.”

The best piece of advice that he gave me was to focus on my education because I would say my education has been the foundations of where I am today. And it's given me the financial independence that I have. I've just done my first solo holiday to Italy and you know, it's given me all of those. You have the ability to do that, but also the confidence to do it.

 

00:31:00 Aryana Neo: Did you not go on a solo holiday before?

 

00:31:11 Rita Gupta: No, I went with friends or with family. This was completely solo and it was fantastic.

 

00:31:16 Aryana Neo: Oh my goodness. That's, that's quite brave, you know, to go on a solo holiday.

 

00:31:21 Rita Gupta: It was really great. I have to say, it was nice to do everything at your pace and not to have to have to factor in someone else's wishes. It was quite liberating. I'll definitely do it again.

 

00:31:32 Aryana Neo: Oh, I love that. I wish I could get the confidence to do that one day. Looking back, what advice would you give to your younger self?

 

00:31:45 Rita Gupta: I think looking back, I've worried about things that are so irrelevant now. I think probably not to worry so much about what other people think about me or what I think they think about me, because it's all largely irrelevant. Sometimes as life moves on, when they say friends are for a reason, a season or for life, you know, the things you've worried about, those people aren't even in your life.
So I think I probably spent far too much time worrying about that, when I was younger.

 

00:32:12 Aryana Neo: Yeah, I like that. A reason, a season, or for life. So thank you for that. What do you consider the most important aspect of living a good life?

 

00:32:33 Rita Gupta: I think that balance is incredibly important. You know, your work life balance. I know when the balance is wrong, and I do tend to suffer for it. I think your health is key because it doesn't matter what accolades you have, how much money you have, how good your career is.
If your health is not there, then you're not going to enjoy any of those experiences.

And I also think self-care and love. It’s very easy as women, especially mothers, to think you're being selfish if you do something for yourself. But actually, I think it makes you a better, you know, mother, wife, daughter, if you are also focusing on yourself.

 

00:33:12 Aryana Neo: Yeah, wow, great piece of advice. As an accomplished woman how have you maintained strong family ties and cultural values while pursuing your professional success?

 

00:33:26 Rita Gupta: Well, I'm always going to be a British Asian! We are connected as a family. The language I've kept up to date with, although it's probably with an English accent. I always speak to my elders in British English. I still make Asian food. We still celebrate occasions.

Christmas, everyone's coming to me and it's about connecting, keeping the connections. That generation, they don't want you just to send them a text. They want you to go and see them. They want you to go and talk to them. And I think it's really important to keep those family ties and some of those community values

going. Loneliness is such a big thing, particularly with the older generation. And it's so important that you just give them a little bit of time.

 

00:34:15 Aryana Neo: That is so true. And it's definitely food for thought for people as well. Can you share some insights on how your current role as, you know, a mother, a caregiver and how that's shaped your life?

 

00:34:28 Rita Gupta: I think being a mother makes you less selfish anyway. I think it makes you worried for the rest of your life. I never forget, my son was a few days late and the night before he was born, I was fed up. My mum said to me, enjoy this evening, it will be the last time in your life that you don't worry about someone else more than yourself.

And she was absolutely right, because when you have a child, all you want to do is just make them as happy as possible. But being a parent comes with lots of worries as well. I wouldn't want to grow up in this Instagram, TikTok generation. I think that would be stressful.

My mum is quite elderly, she's very frail. She had a stroke last year and she's recently just had a fall. I think my upbringing has made it really important that we support our elderly generation. I think the way I was brought up, it was our responsibility and our duty.

And whilst for some people, they might not be able to go as far as others, it's not a competition. I think just recognising the importance of the support and the sacrifices that generation made for us. They came with three pounds in their pocket, and they always put us and our education first.
I think that we owe something back to them.

 

00:35:54 Aryana Neo: Yeah, no, that's, that's so lovely. Your achievements, do they symbolise the culmination of your life's journey at all? And in what ways?

 

00:36:06 Rita Gupta: I think the hard work is. I've just accepted as a theme.
As I said, nothing's ever going to come easy to me. But then, when you've worked hard for something, it feels good anyway. Just being the best person I possibly can, taking time out. if somebody wants to speak to me about a career in law or wants me to help them do a document.

Just trying to take a few minutes out for people - I think I've always done that and I will always try to do that. Admittedly the busier you get you can't perhaps do as much as you think you should, or other people want you to. But just taking time out for others and that work ethic has stayed with me throughout, and I try to instill that with my son.

 

00:36:57 Aryana Neo: Yeah, so obviously hard work is the theme. But what other thing do you think has remained consistent about you throughout your life?

 

00:37:10 Rita Gupta: I think my family values. I like having people around me. I think growing up in that generation, you always have people coming around. I'm very sociable, and I like connecting with people.
I like people coming over, I like going to their houses, I like going out and about. So, I think there's friendship and community ties. And my dad was very sociable.

 

00:37:35 Aryana Neo: This has been such an interesting interview with you, Rita. Thank you so much for being on the Reflection today.
It's been absolutely wonderful. You have done amazing things. So, just a heartfelt thank you from me to you.

 

00:37:50 Rita Gupta: You're very welcome, Aryana. Thank you so much for having me.

 

00:37:53 Aryana Neo: Thank you. So, as we draw today's episode to a close, I want to extend obviously a heartfelt thank you again to Rita. She was an incredible guest.

Your journey, your insights and the challenges you've overcome are just inspiring. And they're not just inspiring. They're a beacon of hope and strength for so many listening. So your contribution today is not only enriched our show, but has undoubtedly empowered and motivated our listeners across the globe.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us on Respect. It's voices like yours that make this program a source of inspiration and a celebration of women's achievements everywhere.

There was a lot of news we found interesting in March 2024, so we've put a few of the news posts on our LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter pages together and a reminder of our blogs.

From our blog:

 

Hybrid mediation: a better way for separating couples to reach agreement

 

We’re delighted to announce that LGFL Director Anne Leiper is now a fully qualified Resolution Hybrid Mediator. Hybrid mediation offers a better way to resolve family disputes over such as child arrangements, separation agreements and financial settlements without the need to go to court.

 

 

Mind the (big) gap: accounting for the true value of pensions in divorce

 

Pension pots can be the financial elephant in the divorce room that nobody can afford to ignore. What's more, decisions about pension sharing can affect your lifestyle long after the divorce itself is concluded.

 

 

 

Breaking the bonds: Parental alienation and the effect on families

 

In the week of Parental Alienation Awareness day, our article takes a balanced view of this much debated issue and its potential effects on children, wider family and friends both during and after a separation.

 

 

 

And from our social media streams:

 

Manchester lawyers call for honour-based abuse to be recognised in law

A lack of a legal framework is making it difficult to secure honour-based abuse convictions, a professor calling for the crime to be recognised in law has said.

 

UK's mediation voucher scheme rescues thousands from courtroom chaos

"Anna Vollans, chair of the Family Mediators Association, underscores the scheme's profound implications, noting a significant surge in mediation-driven resolutions since its inception in 2021. With a commitment to inclusivity, the scheme amplifies the voices of children, ensuring their perspectives are central to the negotiation process. "

 

Prenups on the rise as couples secure assets before tying the knot

As the wedding season is fast approaching, pre-nuptial agreement enquiries are hitting record highs, as couples are focusing on their assets before their big day.

 

Divorce application fee will not increase

With all the price rises at the moment. This one remains the same:

 

Partners to be quizzed in new gun licence screening

The initiative, called Project Titanium, has been developed by Gwent Police with the help of domestic abuse survivors.

 

My parents split custody of their dog after they separated. It taught me some relationships are meant for the long haul.

They shared custody of their dog 'Just because'.

 

Birdnesting: meet the Londoners still sharing a home with their exes keep their family together after divorce

A variation on ‘Birdnesting' after your divorce.

 

Woman reveals how she soft-launched divorce from husband: ‘I would be checking your page daily’

Soft launch divorce trend.

 

Divorce piles on when sandwiched between parents and kids

Adult children whose parents get divorced can wind up dealing with an emotionally exhausting legal process.

 

Why divorce rates can spike in spring

Tax season is also divorce season. Here's why.

 

Divorce attorneys reveal 3 things that make super-rich breakups unique, even though what causes them tends to be the same

New York matrimonial attorney Marilyn Chinitz and fellow New York matrimonial attorney Vicky Poumpouridis talked to Insider about what makes the wealthiest divorces unique — and what makes all breakups more or less the same.

 

The language Of divorce proceedings – Why it matters

“It is blindingly obvious that the language we have been using is not appropriate and only goes to stoke the minds of those in a combative mindset, rather than direct them a different way,” president of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane.

 

Pressure grows to reform cohabiting rights

Many mistakenly believe they are in ‘common law’ marriages. Labour is among those advocating for change

In the usual balanced style of LGFL, this article explores Parental Alienation and the different aspects of the issue.

The organisers of the annual Parental Alienation Awareness day this week aim to promote a culture of equality in both child services and the family courts, and also on "Reducing the impact on children and their families experiencing family breakdown."

It's a noble aim, and we certainly agree that protecting children from the turmoil created by a bitter separation is crucial. However, parental alienation remains a controversial and hotly debated issue that is said to either be ignored or misused in family courts, depending on which side of the fence you are on. It has historically been and remains difficult to prove, even with the intervention of experts in the field.

 

What is parental alienation?

Parental alienation is when one parent, consciously or otherwise, has a negative and hostile attitude towards the other parent. This viewpoint is presented to the children, who then take on the same viewpoint.

As a result, the children become more distanced from their other parent. They may not want to see them as often, or not want any contact hours at all. As CAFCASS explains:

"Alienating behaviours (can) have the potential or intention to undermine or even destroy the child's relationship with their other parent or carer. These behaviours can result from a parent’s feelings of unresolved anger and a desire, conscious or not, to punish the other parent or carer."

 

Stuck in the middle

Sadly, it's not just the other parent who may feel punished. A Family Court Review in 2020 described the "Emotional abuse wrecked upon children who are victims of a manipulative parent."

Children experience a lot of emotional upheaval during a separation, and inevitably witness the arguments, anger, upset and frustration of their parents. When one parent turns against the other, the children are effectively being coerced into favouring one over the other. It takes a particularly determined and strong-willed child to insist on seeing their absent parent when their resident parent can't understand why the children even want to talk about them. It is with good reason that the Family Court called it “emotional abuse”.

 

Breaking the bonds

Parental alienation can potentially break the deep bonds between parents and their children. Recent cases highlight the situation for absent fathers who have been excluded from their children's lives by their ex-partner, and feel that the courts are not able to do much about their situation. The mother may cite parental alienation in court as a way to gain custody of children.

It’s not just the parents or children who will feel the long-lasting effects. Children have two sets of grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts, who may be cut off from the children’s lives simply because they are related to one parent. The children lose invaluable contact with this extended family with all its love, experience and support, isolating them further into the negative bubble of one parent’s viewpoint.

The same applies to family and personal friends, who may feel they have to ‘choose’ which person they socialise with and emotionally support. An angry alienating parent may cease contact with them if they have any contact with the maligned parent. Their children may have been friends too, and if contact is lost, they lose part of their own social network.

 

Domestic abuse and alienation

One of the reasons that parental alienation is such a hotly debated issue is that accusations have been used in court as a counter-allegation in cases of domestic abuse. Accusations of parental alienation can also enable abusers to continue their abusive control long after they have separated from their partner. There are cases of fathers misusing contact time with their children to perpetuate abuse, and then claiming parental alienation when the victim tries to take further action in court.

 

Parental alienation: the future

In August 2023, the Family Justice Council opened consultation for new guidelines for practitioners on how to handle accusations of parental alienation. We await the results with interest,

 

What all these means in practice

Tucked at the end of a Family Law Gazette article is a very telling sentence:

"A particular worry remains that so many parties in the Family Court unrepresented, and this affects the level of scrutiny expert witnesses face in such high-stakes cases."

In other words, if you are representing yourself in court and the other party proposes an expert witness, you may not have the experience and skills to examine and question their evidence.

That's why we always recommend that you seek legal advice early on in your separation. As a family law firm specialising in divorce, we work with you and for you to reach the best outcome for you and your children. We have decades of experience in dealing with expert witnesses drawn from across a wide range of professions. We also have considerable expertise (and empathy) in cases of domestic abuse, coercive control and post-separation abuse.

Contact us to book a 1 hour reduced fee consultation to discuss your specific circumstances and concerns.

- Call us

- Email us

- Book your consultation online

How much is a pension really worth - and who gets it after divorce? LGFL Director Anne Leiper explores how pension pots can be the financial elephant in the room that nobody can afford to ignore.

 

Enter the elephant

Pensions are something that affect us all. Realising their importance and value is especially important when drawing up your financial agreement in divorce.

For many people, pensions are also the financial elephant in the room: rarely noticed and seldom discussed. However, it’s an important elephant that is there to support you financially in later life and retirement. So, decisions about it can influence your lifestyle long after the divorce process has faded into memory.

If you’ve worked for a long time in a senior position, you may have accrued a pension pot of over £1million. However, if you’ve not worked ‘full-time’ for 30+ years due to raising the children or similar, you may not have accumulated such a big pension pot in your name.

According to the ‘NOW: Pensions’ 2024 gender pensions gap report’, if you take a 10-year career break to raise the kids, you'll lose around £39,000 in lost pension savings. In addition, if you’re a woman, your average pay is currently on average 25% lower than for men. Equally, women who are not working fulltime or at all tend to prioritise short term savings over long term investment, and that includes investing in any existing pension.

The net result is that in 2024, women will retire on average with pension savings of just £69,000, compared to £205,000 for men.

 

The Good Daughter Penalty

That’s a big gap, and one described in a recent webinar as the “Good Daughter Penalty”, created through a series of career gaps including:

  • Raising children
  • Looking after aging parents
  • Continuing care for send children
  • Moving around the country/world with partner

There is also the issue of grandparents stopping work earlier to look after grandchildren, and missing out on making pension contributions as a result.

All this can add up to a massive difference in pension worth for any couple where one partner has been working full time and the other taking a career break, and particularly for women. As the NOW: pensions report states:

“Women need to work an extra 19 years to retire with the same pension amount as men.”

 

The pension gap and divorce

Any pension inequality should have a major impact on any divorce financial settlement, yet it’s estimated that 70% of divorce settlements do not actually include pensions.

Instead, the focus tends to be on the family home and preserving the children’s environment, despite the fact that over time a pension could be worth considerably more in terms of market value.

At LGFL, we always include pensions and property when discussing any divorce or separation financial agreement. We say ‘pensions’ because on average, people have worked in 12 different jobs by the time they reach the age of 55, and each job might have a separate pension scheme.

That’s one reason why we are particularly diligent and tenacious when it comes to your soon-to-be-ex partner/spouse declaring all their finances and assets, aka “full and frank disclosure”.

 

Full and frank disclosure

Any financial settlement must be made on the basis of “full and frank disclosure”. That means that both parties are legally obliged to declare all their assets, and pensions must be accounted for in a divorce settlement.

A cash equivalent transfer value needs to be provided by the pension company in respect of every pension. A pension actuary’s report may also be needed to assist in accurate valuing pensions and calculating the necessary pension sharing order percentages.

With all the figures to hand, a financial settlement can be made that is fair and takes into account what life after divorce will cost for each party, rather than splitting the money straight down the middle.

Any financial settlement must consider the short and medium term needs of both parties, and pensions will deal with long term needs.

 

Pension or house: which is better?

It might seem logical to “swap” a pension for the family home, but we previously explained, this may not provide the best solution or be fair in terms of true value. Always check exactly how much your pension will be worth over your lifetime with your pension provider.

 

A two-way street

Reaching an agreement over pension sharing can be complicated. It’s one of the reasons we always advise anyone considering divorce to take legal advice early on.

If you’re considering separating or filing for divorce, contact us for an appointment to discuss your situation and finances. Our one hour fixed fee consultation allows time to explore issues, and give you information and advice that is tailored to your unique situation. Clients say that having a full 60 minutes to talk to one of our Directors gave them the information, understanding and confidence to start divorce proceedings.

- Call us

- Email us

- Book your consultation online

At LGFL, we have long used mediation to help separating couples come to an agreement, but the traditional format didn’t suit everyone.

So, we’re delighted to announce that LGFL Director Anne Leiper has just qualified as a Resolution Hybrid Mediator. In her new role, she’ll be able to better help separating couples settle their issues without having to go to court, saving them time, money and stress.

Mediation isn’t just for separating spouses, as Anne explains:

“Hybrid mediation is suitable for any family dispute, whether concerning child arrangement, co-parenting, cohabitation disputes and almost any family law issue that requires the two sides to come to an agreement.”

 

Standard and hybrid mediation

In a standard mediation, a couple sit down in a room with a mediator and work through their differences. In hybrid mediation, couples spend part of the process in separate rooms with their own legal teams, who are there to support and advise them.

Anne has been a highly successful mediator for many years, and sees hybrid mediation as a more progressive, practical, and effective way forward.

“Couples come to us as family lawyers because they disagree on key issues when they separate, such as who lives in the family home, who looks after the children, and how the finances are divided. They may see court as the only way to resolve their differences - and that can be expensive, time-consuming, stressful and not always result in the outcome they want.

Hybrid mediation can help them to come to an agreement outside of court, which can be faster, less confrontational and saving both time and money on legal fees.”

At LGFL, we have a range of meeting spaces available at our offices. So we can offer hybrid mediation at very reasonable rates, at our discreet location just outside Reading.

 

Resolution Hybrid Mediation

Anne joins a select group of Hybrid Mediators trained by the Resolution organisation. Both our Directors here at LGFL are long-standing members of Resolution, whose members are committed to keeping issues that arise between couples on a relationship breakdown out of court.

The hybrid mediation process allows each person to have their own legal team, advisors and experts on hand to advise them and support their clients to negotiate an agreement. Anne’s role as the mediator is to “shuttle” between each team and discuss various options. This may also involve group meetings until a mutually acceptable agreement is reached

As Anne says, she often is “holding confidences”, but she doesn’t represent either side.

“As the mediator, I’m always a neutral third party. I can explain legal terms and inform both parties, but I won’t give them advice. That’s the legal team’s job. I’m there to explore solutions with the couple and empower them to make key decisions and agreements that both sides are willing to sign up to.”

 

Binding and lasting agreements

Hybrid mediation also allows couples to reach binding and lasting agreements more quickly. Mediation can take place over the course of a day, rather than separate shorter sessions. Anne finds that the best results come from a dedicated day of mediation.

“A full day is so more effective since both parties and their lawyers can focus and explore options without needing to “go away and think about it”. So often when that happens, the focus is lost on what is important and one side starts to back down on what was already agreed. This slows down the process, which in turn can have a major impact on those often stuck in the middle of warring parents, namely their children.”

Anne encourages anyone struggling to come to an agreement to try hybrid mediation here at LGFL.

“Any method that reduces conflict, creates agreements, and avoid the costs and lengthy delays of court appearances is certainly worth a few hours of anyone’s time.”

 

Considering getting divorced?

Talking to us first before applying online or similar can help put your situation into perspective. We offer a 1 hour reduced fee consultation to discuss your specific circumstances and concerns. We aim to give you tailored legal advice and information, so you can proceed in the best way for you, your children, and your future.

- Call us

- Email us

- Book your consultation online

There was a lot of news we found interesting in March 2024, so we've put a few of the news posts on our LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter pages together and a reminder of our blogs.

From our blog:

 

Remote control: coercive control storylines in dramas

 

National conversations about emotional abuse are being fuelled by powerful TV dramas! LGFL's director, Anne Leiper, a "The Archers" aficionado, dissects how these stories expose the manipulative tactics of coercive control.
Head over to the blog to see which shows have sparked discussions and raised awareness!

 

 

Sleep, stress and support: divorce and wellbeing

 

In the second of two articles, I discuss with Registered Nutritionist & Health Coach Kay Kaur seven ways to reduce the physical impact on divorce on your health.

 

 

 

How snoring affects relationships - and divorces

 

Director Rita Gupta was recently asked by the BBC World Service about an issue that comes up time and time again in divorce cases - snoring. As a family lawyer known for her holistic approach to family law, Rita commented in the BBC's article on how snoring affects relationships, and how it "Definitely comes up a lot as a reason for unhappiness in the marriage".

The article was published on the BBC's websites and social feed for World Sleep Day, and translated 18 different languages including Hindi, Urdu, Swahili and Thai! (For the full list of articles in all the different languages, see our blog.)

 

It’s not always over: coercive or controlling behaviour and post-separation abuse

Coercive Control: A Hidden Aspect of Domestic Abuse
Domestic abuse extends far beyond physical violence. Here at LGFL, our family law practice regularly encounters cases involving coercive or controlling behaviour (CCB) within relationships.
Our Managing Director, Rita Gupta, has delved into this critical issue, exploring:
What constitutes CCB?
How to identify and address CCB that persists after separation or divorce.
This information can be invaluable for anyone experiencing or concerned about CCB.

And from our social media streams:

 

Divorce rates at lowest level in decades ‘due to cost-of-living crisis’

Divorces granted in England and Wales reached their lowest level for 50 years, according to the latest statistics. Legal experts have cited the cost-of-living crisis as a possible reason, with couples holding off because of the financial challenges of legal separation.

 

Top fashion designer debuts Baroness Hale inspired court wear

Look based on Lady Hale? Really?

 

Why Missouri currently doesn't allow pregnant women to be legally divorced

It's US law but the points make you think about SEND children for example.

 

Sussex seaside town has second highest divorce rate in the UK

Welcome to Hastings.

 

How has my ex-husband ended up living off me for the rest of his life?

So many high-earning women are being pursued for spousal support by their lower-paid former partner that it has its own name – Man-imony.

 

Spring Budget 2024: Hunt pledges £170m to make justice system ‘fit for the modern era’

“Jeremy Hunt has promised £170m in order to deliver a justice system “fit for the modern era” during his much-vaunted Spring Budget. Hunt stated that “too many legal cases, particularly in family law, should never go to court.” He added that “it would cost us less if they didn’t.””

 

Tips for Mother’s Day for separated parents

When parents separate, Mother’s Day can be difficult for BOTH parents. These are some tips for both parents:

 

Rupert Murdoch, 92, plans to marry for 5th time

Number FIVE for Rupert

 

Seven-Year Itch Confirmed: Gen X Most Likely to Divorce at Average Age 43.9

A recent study has confirmed the long-suspected 'seven-year itch' phenomenon in marriages. The study revealed that the highest number of divorces occur at the seven-year mark.

 

How to deal with debt in a divorce: What are you still on the hook for after a marriage ends

“People in debt can get divorced, but will need to agree a plan or make a formal financial settlement to pay off what they owe. How this responsibility is shared will depend on whether debts run up during marriage are matrimonial - meaning they benefit the couple or a family as a whole - or individual.”

 

How 'grey divorce' reshapes family dynamics: When older couples split, fathers are more likely to lose touch with their children, study finds

“Divorce is always messy – you have to think about finances, living arrangements and of course, the kids. But when it comes to older couples going their separate ways, fathers are more likely to lose touch with their children, a study suggests. There has been a growing trend in recent years for 'grey divorce', when couples in long-term marriages split after the age of 50”

 

Brad Pitt scores victory against ex-wife Angelina Jolie in legal battle over French winery Chateau Miraval involving Russian oligarch Yuri Shefler

It still rages on.

 

Billie Piper finds co-parenting ‘enormously difficult’ with Laurence Fox? So do most exes

The actor’s words mirrored the concerns of many separated parents, says Olivia Petter, who spoke to experts and legal professionals about the best ways to avoid conflict.

 

France trials four-day working week for divorced parents so they can have day off to care for their children.

From September, in some areas, civil servants who look after their children on alternating residence arrangements will have an extra day off if their child is staying with them, said Gabriel Attal, the prime minister, on Sunday.

 

This divorce trend is becoming more popular with celebs

In the last few years, an increasing number of A-listers have taken the “let’s separate and tell them later (even years later)” route.

 

Law students provide court support for divorcing couples

Teesside University law students have been given special permission to attend court to offer support to unrepresented people in family court hearings. The final year law students will provide free emotional support and procedural advice to parties attending first hearing dispute resolution appointments at Middlesbrough family court.

 

Exploring the intersection of family disputes and workplace productivity: Understanding the financial implications of divorce

“All too often, a family dispute between divorcing parties can affect a person’s morale and motivation levels at work. The impact this has on earning potential is evidenced by some interesting statistics on the effect of divorce on a worker’s ability to support themselves and their dependents financially. We take a closer look at the figures, and the factors that could be at play.”

Domestic abuse cases involving coercive or controlling behaviour (CCB) are an all too frequent part of our work as family lawyers here at LGFL. Managing Director Rita Gupta looks at what coercive control is and what to do if it continues after separation or divorce.

In my role as a family lawyer, I see the impact of all forms of domestic abuse on a daily basis. I can understand just how far-reaching abuse is, and how it can affect anyone regardless of gender, ethnicity, class, and other characteristics. Controlling or coercive behaviour is just one part of a pattern of abuse, but as the name suggest, it defines how that abuse plays out.

 

What is coercive control?

As a Staffordshire Police guide states:

“Controlling and coercive behaviour (CCB) … is a deliberate and calculated pattern of behaviour and psychological abuse designed to isolate, manipulate and terrorise a victim into complete, fearful obedience.”

We applaud the strong terms used here; CCB is a very serious offence and can destroy lives.

As abuse charity Women’s Aid further explains:

“(Coercive and) controlling behaviour is designed to make a person dependent by isolating them from support, exploiting them, depriving them of independence and regulating their everyday behaviour.”

Coercive and controlling behaviour (CCB) has been an offence under Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act since 2015. Last year, the Act was updated to include post-separation abuse by dropping the requirement for “personally connected” abusers and abused to be living together.

As the then Minister for Safeguarding Victoria Atkins MP stated:

“This amendment … send(s) a clear message to both victims and perpetrators that controlling or coercive behaviours, irrespective of living status, are a form of domestic abuse.”

 

Not living together but still being abused

Coercive control is not a “one-off”. It is a pattern of behaviour over a long period of time that causes serious harm to the victim, and to any children who are exposed to this. This includes abuse continuing beyond the domestic situation - post-separation abuse.

Post-separation abuse is a potentially dangerous scenario, as the Government website recognises:

“Victims who leave their perpetrator are often subjected to sustained or increased coercive or controlling behaviour post-separation, and are statistically at the highest risk of homicide within the period immediately after leaving.”

We have long championed the cause of those caught up in a cycle of abuse that continues long after they move out and even divorce their abuser. Our article on post-separation abuse has been our most popular and most read article for almost 18 months.

 

Am I a victim?

Such is the control exerted by their abuser, many of our clients have failed to recognise that their abuse has in fact been happening for a number of years Often they have been in denial or found it just too difficult to face.

I have particularly seen a rise in high performing professional who are almost living a double life by being successful and powerful to the outside world, but feeling powerless at home. Whilst the statistics would support that women are more likely to be abused, men can be victims too and the harm caused is just as damaging.

 

Reporting of CCB incidents

Thanks to the amendment, victims can now report incidents of coercive and controlling behaviour from non-resident ex-partners dating back to April 2023.

Previously this kind of behaviour from non-cohabitating personal contacts fell under legislation on stalking and harassment.

The “encouraging” news is that both reporting and prosecution of CCB cases is on the rise. In the first year of the offence being in law, only 309 cases reached a first court hearing. By 2020, that had risen to 1,208. The number of recorded CCB offences had also risen, to almost 25,000.

However, these figures are considerably lower than reported domestic abuse incidents. These stood at 889,918 domestic abuse-related crimes recorded in England and Wales for the year ending March 2023.

 

A ‘course of conduct’ offence

The difference in the number of reports is mainly due to CCB being a ‘course of conduct’ offence. Unlike domestic abuse reporting which often happens after a single incident, a CCB offence is based on the reporting of multiple, repeated incidents potentially spread over years.

This can make life extremely difficult (and potentially hazardous) for victims of coercive control, as they need to report repeated controlling incidents to build a case. Unless done covertly, the very act of reporting could fuel further controlling behaviour.

 

Taking action on CCB

Coercive control is still a difficult concept for many people to understand, let alone to spot the signs. Therefore, victims may feel that there is no point in reporting it and that they might not be believed.

This is simply not the case. As Staffordshire Police state:

“You will be believed.

You will be listened to.

You can get support.”

The same applies here at LGFL. We will listen, we will advise, and we will take action as required. To discuss your situation in complete confidence, call us now.

If you are experiencing any form of domestic violence or threats of violence, the time to act is NOW.

- Call 999 and if possible, get yourself and your children to a place of safety.

- Call the National Domestic Violence Helpline 0808 200 0247 (women) or the ManKind confidential helpline 01823 334244 (men).

- Once you’re safe, contact us for professional legal advice on how to proceed.

 

You can also download our LGFL Domestic Abuse helpline leaflet here.

- Call us

- Email us

- Book your consultation online

Director Rita Gupta was recently asked by the BBC World Service about an issue that comes up time and time again in divorce cases - snoring.

As a family lawyer known for her holistic approach, Rita was able to add to the BBC's research on how snoring affects relationships:

 

"Rita Gupta, a family lawyer from the UK, said her firm has encountered numerous divorce cases linked to snoring.

"It's definitely come up a lot as a reason for unhappiness in the marriage," she told the BBC.

"I've had lots of people saying, 'Well, we've been sleeping in separate rooms for several years because of his snoring anyway, and we've just drifted apart,'" she added.

The family lawyer said that a common issue in divorce cases is neglecting medical treatments and not taking necessary steps to deal with the issue effectively, indicating underlying commitment issues.

"For example, it is a case against a man, and his wife is saying, 'He's already badly snoring. It's really impacting my sleep. He hasn't taken any steps to address it.'"

 

The article explored how untreated snoring not only impacts the physical and mental health of the snorer but also affects their partner and their ability to get a good night's sleep. It was published on the BBC's websites and social feed for World Sleep Day, and translated 18 different languages including Hindi, Urdu, Swahili and Thai!

Here's the full list of where the article appeared, a truly global reach for our boutique Reading law firm!

 

BBC WEBSITES

BBC Hindi: readin in Hindi

BBC Brasil: read in Portuguese

BBC Mundo: read in Mundo

BBC Arabic: read in Arabic

BBC Turkish: read in Turkish

BBC Punjabi: read in Punjabi

BBC Tamil: read in Tamil

BBC Urdu: read in Urdu

BBC Telugu: read in Telugu

BBC Marathi: read in Marathi

BBC Serbian: read in Serbian

BBC Tigrinya: read in Tigrinya

BBC Swahili: read in Swahili

BBC Hausa: read in Hausa

BBC Ukrainian: read in Ukrainian

BBC Afrique: read in Afrique

BBC Thai: read in Thai

BBC Amharic: read in Amharic

 

BBC SOCIAL MEDIA

Hindi:

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