Brenda Spain

No Fault Divorce to become Law

Further to our earlier article, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 will reform the law on divorce, dissolution and separation in England and Wales as from 6th April 2022.

Effectively, this will remove the requirement to provide evidence of conduct or separation and instead is replaced with the simple requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown.

It will remove the ability to defend a divorce or separation, it will enable couples to make a joint application to the Court for divorce or separation.

The Act introduces a new minimum overall timeframe of 20 weeks from the start of the proceedings to the Conditional Order (formerly Decree Nisi) and then 6 weeks between Conditional Order and when it is made final, so a period of 26 weeks overall.


Action Necessary

The new law comes into effect on 6th April 2022.

Anybody wishing to proceed with a divorce or separation based upon the previous facts i.e., adultery and unreasonable behaviour, will need to submit a paper application received by the Court no later than 4pm on 31 March or a digital application to be online no later than 4pm on 31 March.

The new Act represents the biggest reform of Divorce laws in half a century and aims to reduce the impact of allegations of blame on individuals and family and in particular, reduce acrimony where children are concerned.

For further advice on remediate action, contact the Family Department at Cullimore Dutton on 01244 356 789 or email

Please note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.


Cullimore Dutton team to take on the Chester 10K in support of Cancer Research UK

Twelve Cullimore Dutton heroes are preparing to take on the MBNA Chester 10K this weekend to raise funds for Cancer Research UK.

Our team are fundraising for Cancer Research UK as it is a charity that is very close to all of us here at Cullimore Dutton. Cancer Research UK is a fabulous charity which pioneers life-saving cancer research to help beat cancer and we have a number of colleagues who are either facing or have already battled with cancer. We are running the Chester 10K to show our love and support for them and to raise funds for this fantastic cause.

Our team of life changing heroes includes: Francesca Crank, Sarah Davies, Sarah Gill, Chloe Halpin, Stuart Hill, Jessica Jones, Rhodri Roberts, Llinos Sutton, Patricia Taylor, Mandy Watts & Andrew Wright. Look out for our team if you are either running or attending the 10K, you will be able to spot them in their snazzy new running shirts.

If you would like to show you support you can donate via our JustGiving page, your generosity really will help our heroes to make it across the line… (even if some of them are walking at that stage).

Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity.

Good luck to our heroes and anyone else running the 10K on Sunday.


Community We Change Lives Slideshow


We Change Lives Slideshow


Non-payment of child maintenance: What happens if a parent doesn’t pay?

By Jesca Knott, Paralegal, Family Law Team

Under a child maintenance arrangement, child maintenance is usually paid by the parent who does not have day-to-day care of the child or does not usually live with the child.

If this payment is not forthcoming the receiving parent can approach the Child Maintenance Service (CMS), which has wide-ranging powers of enforcement. 

When will the CMS act?
This will depend on whether you reached a private child maintenance agreement or if your agreement was arranged through the CMS.

If you reached a private or ‘family-based’ agreement 
If a private arrangement for child maintenance has broken down due to non-payment, the CMS can step in to collect ongoing child maintenance. This is provided the arrangement was made legally binding via a consent order at least 12 months prior. The CMS cannot recoup any arrears the paying parent already owes, though you could approach the court to enforce the consent order and recover the debt.

If you arranged child maintenance through the CMS
If the CMS collects maintenance from the paying parent on your behalf through ‘Collect and Pay’, they will know if payments have been missed. After trying to agree on a repayment schedule with the paying parent, they will use the enforcement measures outlined above to secure the arrears. 

If the paying parent has agreed to pay you directly, known as ‘Direct Pay’, the CMS will need to be informed of non-payment before they can take action. 

What measures can the CMS take if a parent fails to pay?
The CMS can secure payment using a range of powers, including:

Ordering the paying parent’s employer to make a deduction from their wages or pension 

Instructing the paying parent’s bank or building society to take regular payments or a lump sum from their account

Taking the paying parent to court to recover arrears via a liability order 

What is a liability order?
A liability order allows the CMS to take legal action against the paying parent to recover the debt. They could:

Negotiate payment using bailiffs, or ask them to seize and sell the paying parent’s belongings

Use an ‘order for sale’ to sell the paying parent’s assets or property and take the proceeds 

Place the paying parent’s debt on the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines, which will hinder them from getting a mortgage, credit card or loan

Revoke the paying parent’s passport or driving licence, or prevent them from getting one 

Send the paying parent to prison 

What happens if the paying parent is furloughed?
If a paying parent is in receipt of the 80% furlough payment, they will be expected to pay maintenance in full. The CMS will implement enforcement measures if payment is not forthcoming.

If you need to discuss a child maintenance arrangement and would like a free initial consultation with a member of our expert Family Law team, please contact us on 01244 356 789 or email

Please note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.




Power of Attorney & protecting the rights of people with dementia

By Adele Bebbington-Plant, Solicitor, Director and Head of Wills, Trusts & Estates

Dementia Action Week runs 17th – 23rd May 2021 and is a national event that sees the public coming together to take action to improve the lives of people affected by dementia.

When a person receives a dementia diagnosis, this doesn’t automatically mean they cannot make important decisions. However, as their symptoms worsen, they may no longer be able to make decisions about their finances, health or care. We refer to this as losing mental capacity. If you are concerned about losing mental capacity, you may wish to take steps now to protect yourself.

In this article, we look at how someone you trust can make decisions on your behalf or how you can help a loved one with dementia protect their rights for a time when they lose mental capacity. 

Mental capacity – explained 
In short, mental capacity means that the person can understand, remember, and use information to make important decisions about their life. Mental capacity can be difficult to ascertain; some people are perfectly able to make daily decisions such as what to eat and what to wear but struggle with financial or health decisions.

Only a healthcare professional can determine whether a person has lost mental capacity, and it will not be based on making a strange decision or a single mistake. 

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 protects and empowers people who may have lost mental capacity to make decisions about their care and treatment. The Act also states that where a decision must be made on behalf of a person who has lost capacity, this decision must be made in their best interests. There is a checklist to help decision makers decide. 

Dementia and making a Power of Attorney 
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that allows someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able to do so for yourself. This person is called your attorney.

To set up a Power of Attorney, you must have the mental capacity to do so, so it is important to do this as soon as possible if you have received a dementia diagnosis.

Do you need a Power of Attorney if you are married?
It is essential to understand that no one has the power to make decisions on your behalf if you have not set up an LPA. Your spouse or civil partner cannot automatically deal with bank accounts or pensions or even make decisions about your care if you lose capacity. As a result, even if you are married or in a civil partnership, setting up an LPA is essential. 

If you would like a free initial consultation with one of our specialist team, contact us on 01244 356 789 or email 

Please note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues. 


Mediation Voucher Scheme

By Susan Alexander, Consultant Solicitor and Family Mediation Council Authorised Mediator, Family Law Team 

The Government has introduced a family mediation voucher scheme to support separating or divorcing parties to resolve disputes about childcare arrangements. The Government will contribute up to £500 per matter. 

Only mediators authorised by the Family Mediation Council (FMC) such as myself are able to participate in the scheme. 

What is Family Mediation?
An independent impartial mediator (such as myself) helps you work out arrangements with another participant (e.g. your former partner) concerning children, finance or property. The mediator is there to help you work through disagreements, find solutions that work for you both and explain how to make the agreement legally binding should you wish to do so. 

How can I help?
I am fully accredited by the Family Mediation Council as a family mediator, as such I am authorised to conduct Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAMs) and to sign the FM1 form which is needed should you wish to proceed with an application to the court. I am also trained in child inclusive mediation.

How do I access the voucher scheme?
If you would like to take advantage of the voucher scheme, please contact Susan Alexander, on 01244 356 789 or email

Please note:
This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues. 


No-Fault Divorce is on its way

By Brenda Spain, Head of Family Law team

Married couples seeking to divorce in England and Wales will benefit from the implementation of No-Fault Divorce from Autumn 2021.

The new law allows for divorce without either party attributing fault or a lengthy separation and should lead to a quicker and less acrimonious process.

Following the much-publicised case of Owen v Owen and the No-Fault Divorce campaign which followed we await the implementation of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020.

Principally, the element of blame in a divorce will be removed so there will be no requirement to show or prove any wrongdoing on either side, the only basis for the divorce will be that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. 

Either party will be able to apply, or the Court will accept joint applications if both parties agree on the way forward. 

As there is no blame, there will be no basis for a party to contest the divorce. The procedure will apply to Civil Partnerships and Judicial Separation and following the filing of the application there will be a minimum period of 20 weeks before a Conditional Order (previously Decree Nisi) is made. 

It was originally intended that this would have been implemented by the Summer of 2021 but, it is now likely that we will see the introduction of this new legislation in the Autumn of this year.

As members of the Resolution group of family lawyers, our team support legislation to introduce no-fault divorce and are confident that it will reduce conflict and allow couples to focus on important issues like children, property and finances.

If you a facing divorce or separation and would like a free initial consultation with a member of our expert Family Law team, please contact us on 01244 356 789 or email

Please note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

Jesca Knott appointed to the role of Trainee Solicitor

As part of our recruitment focus this week we are delighted to announce that Jesca Knott has been awarded a training contract here at Cullimore Dutton and will take up the role of Trainee Solicitor with immediate effect.

Jesca joined the Family Law team in May 2020 as a Paralegal and from day one has impressed with her work ethic, passion for supporting our clients and enthusiasm.

Jesca’s long-term aim when she joined us was to secure a training contract and realise her long held ambition of qualifying as a solicitor. This promotion is reward for her professional attitude, hard work, dedication and commitment.

Jesca’s appointment to this position is a clear example of the career pathway which is available to all of our team and further demonstrates our commitment to changing the lives of our Colleagues, Clients and Community. We hope, like Jesca many of our colleagues will advance through our career pathway during their time with us.

Jesca, who received her Law degree from the University of Manchester, before gaining a Distinction in the Legal Practice Course alongside a Master’s in Professional Practice with Distinction at the University of Law, is a talented individual with immense potential who we hope will have a long and successful career here at Cullimore Dutton.

We would like to wish Jesca every success as she begins this new chapter of her career, and to offer our continuing support to her throughout her training and beyond.

Good luck Jesca.
The Cullimore Dutton team 



Why cohabiting couples must consider estate planning

By Sarah Gill, Paralegal, Wills, Trusts & Estates

Millions of couples across the UK are choosing to forego marriage and live as cohabitees. However, without proper estate planning, they could be putting their finances at risk. Unlike their married counterparts, unmarried couples have no automatic right to inherit from each other. However, with proper estate planning, you can ensure your cohabiting partner is properly provided for should you pass away.

This article looks at some of the important estate planning matters all cohabiting couples should consider.

Write a will
The most straightforward way to provide for your partner should you pass away, is to write a will. No matter how long you and your partner have been together, without a will in place, there is no way to ensure that your partner will receive a share of your assets when you die.

What happens if there is no will?
When a person dies without a will, their estate will be distributed in line with the rules of intestacy. Sadly, for cohabiting couples, this can mean that the surviving cohabitee loses their home and a source of income. The surviving cohabitee may need to make an application to the court to get a share of the family home and may even end up in a difficult legal battle with any children or other family members.

As a result, it is essential that you discuss with your partner what you wish to happen to your property after you pass away and instruct a specialist lawyer to draft a will for each of you.

What should cohabitees include in their wills?
What cohabitees will need to include in their will depends on their circumstances and whether you have any children, either from previous relationships or together. Children can complicate inheritance matters, and you should seek legal advice on your specific circumstances.

However, to ensure that your partner is provided for after you pass away, you should include:

  • Details of who is to inherit your estate
  • Who will be involved in your estate after you pass away. You should ensure your partner has a right to be involved in your estate; you may wish to appoint them as an executor.
  • Any wishes for your property. For example, you may wish to set out that you want your partner to continue living in the property after you pass away
  • Any wishes about money. Setting out your wishes regarding money allows you to ensure your partner has enough money to live on.
  • Specific wishes about possessions. You should include details about who will inherit particular possessions, such as a car or even sentimental items.
  • There are many estate planning matters cohabiting couples should discuss; however, ensuring you have properly drafted wills in place is the first step.

    If you would like a free initial consultation to discuss your will with one of our team contact us on 01244 356 789 or email

    Please note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.