Isle of Man: Family Law

Last Updated: 11 June 2012
Article by Kevin O'Riordan

Simcocks has an experienced family law team with specialist skills in all aspects of what has become an increasingly complex and challenging area of the law.

We provide a complete service for our clients and are committed to the resolution of family problems by negotiation and conciliation wherever possible. However, the group's expertise lies in its ability to mix tough litigation skills inside the courtroom with effective negotiation outside.

Our client base comes both from the Isle of Man and further afield, including high net worth individuals and those in the public eye.

The head of family law at Simcocks, Kevin O'Riordan, is a member of Resolution, a group of lawyers committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes. Members follow a Code of Practice that promotes a non-confrontational approach to problems where appropriate.

Divorce and Separation

Relationships can go through many changes during their lifetime. The ending of a marriage can be a distressing time whether you have made the decision or your spouse has made it for you. We recognise the stress and emotional trauma that accompanies the breakdown of a relationship and aim to take a holistic approach. Individuals need a variety of advice and support from skilled professionals and we will endeavour to help clients address their needs.

We are able issue divorce proceedings on your behalf and in the event of you receiving a divorce application we can deal with this quickly to protect your interests. If you are unsure about commencing divorce proceedings, we are able to provide advice on other options available to you such as judicial separation and separation agreements. Families come in all shapes and sizes and there is no 'one size fits all' answer.

Simcocks's reputation is built on offering realistic and reliable solutions to people in emotionally charged situations who are looking for discreet, confidential legal and practical advice.

Financial Provision (including asset tracing/protection and injunctions/freezing orders)

Our experienced practitioners are accustomed to advising in complex financial cases often with an international dimension. Where necessary members of the team can liaise with other specialists, both within Simcocks and externally, to offer advice covering all relevant disciplines.

We can take any necessary steps to bring financial claims, including the obtaining of interim orders to protect assets and/or compel proper disclosure of relevant documents and information.

We are often involved in liaising with lawyers in other jurisdictions to deal with with cases where there are assets in more than one country, sometimes held through companies, trusts or other asset-protection structures. These may be cases for clients of ours based here or for clients of lawyers based elsewhere who happen to need help here in the Isle of Man, and have included cases with links to USA and the Channel Islands as well as UK and mainland Europe.

Children

When a relationship breaks down we can help you safeguard the interests of your children. This may be through negotiation, mediation or by an application to the court.

Our approach is to provide practical advice and assistance designed to minimise upheaval and disruption and try to ensure the child's welfare is the primary consideration.

Some parents are unsure how to tell their children about their separation or divorce and we often guide parents to the Resolution website which includes a very comprehensive advice centre for parents www.resolution.org.uk/advice_for_parents. You could also consider approaching the Isle of Man Children's Centre for this sort of help.

Simcocks has extensive experience in advising parents, whether married or unmarried, in relation to the whole range of private law matters involving children including parental responsibilities, residence and contact as well as removal of children from the jurisdiction.

We are accustomed to dealing with child related issues that have an international element.

The law surrounding adoption is constantly evolving, so if you're considering adoption it is important to get specialist legal advice. Our family team has considerable expertise in adoption in which we represent parents and prospective adopters.

Simcocks also has the expertise to represent parents and children who have become involved in public law proceedings bought by the DHSS.

Cohabitation

Thinking about the legal issues when a relationship begins is not always at the forefront of your mind. However, if you are intending to live with someone Simcocks can draw up an agreement reflecting your intentions.

At present in the Isle of Man there is relatively little legislation governing the breakdown of relationships between unmarried couples who live together. As a result, in contrast to divorcing couples, there is very little legal protection for cohabitees themselves if their relationship breaks down, although there is some protection for their children. Cohabitation agreements offer the advantage of added protection.

Unmarried cohabitees are usually obliged to rely on the more complex principles of property, trust and contract law. We have the necessary expertise and experience to advise on such issues when they have to be resolved upon the breakdown of these relationships.

Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements

Prenuptial agreements are entered into before marriage with the intention of providing a framework for the division of property in the event of a divorce. Whilst not strictly enforceable they are likely to influence the Court in determining distribution of assets upon divorce.

Postnuptial agreements are entered into by a couple at some stage after their marriage and the 2008 Manx case of MacLeod v MacLeod indicates that such agreements are likely to be enforced by the Court subject to the Court's powers to vary them in certain circumstances.

We have the expertise to advise upon and to prepare appropriate agreements including those involving international elements.

Domestic Violence

Whilst never acceptable nor legally permissible, threats, bullying and even actual violence do occur in some cases as a result of the tensions arising in a home when a relationship breaks down. Again, this is an area where we can advise and take action on your behalf when necessary.

Mediation and Collaborative Law

Mediators are trained to help you and your partner work things out together. They meet with you and your partner to identify issues you differ over and help you both reach agreement. Mediators are neutral, will not take sides and usually recommend each person obtains legal advice alongside the mediation process. Our staff include trained mediators.

Collaborative family law is a relatively new way of dealing with family disputes and takes mediation to the next level. Unusually for the Isle of Man Simcocks has a lawyer with training in collaborative law. It is only appropriate in a limited number of cases and clients will always be advised on what options are best suited to them.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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