The start of a new year is often a tricky time for families – has this been a stressful Christmas period? Has spending too much put pressure on family finances and inevitably on relationships? Has the extra time off work meant there’s been time to reflect on the reality of marital issues?  In the new year, couples often make new year’s  resolutions and one of those could be that they should face up to their difficulties and get professional help to resolve them.  Before they rush off to Court, specialist family lawyers always recommend looking at mediation.    Amanda Thurston, Head of the Family Law Team at Curwens Solicitors explains :

“A recent “fly on the wall” documentary followed a family mediator helping couples agree the terms of their separation or divorce. From whether to sell the family home, to how much maintenance to pay, or how often one of them can take the children on holiday, splitting up a family can be a minefield.

So how does Mediation Work?

The first thing to remember is that mediation is voluntary, so both parties need to agree to try it out and also which mediator to approach. The Mediator will then usually want to speak to each party individually before setting up meetings for everyone to attend. Each party gets the chance to raise the issues or concerns they have and the Mediator will try to get the other party to listen to them before expressing their own views. The Mediator will also help the parties discuss the family finances and agree on what information and documentation they each need to provide to help with the negotiations.

These meetings can be stressful if agreement is not easily reached on a point, but the Mediator is specially trained to deal with those situations. They can even do “shuttle mediation” with each party in a separate room if the parties’ relationship has got to the stage where they can’t even be in the same room as each other.

Between the mediation meetings each party should ideally obtain independent legal advice so they know what terms would be reasonable to propose or accept.

If terms can be agreed between the parties, the Mediator will provide a written Memorandum of Understanding. This is not yet legally binding – but is evidence of what you have discussed and agreed. You can then take it to family solicitors to be made legally binding if you wish.

If the mediation breaks down, the Mediator can sign a form for the Court, to allow one of the parties to start Court proceedings.

Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAMS)

There is currently a requirement in place that you must at least attend a MIAMS before starting most Court proceedings regarding children and/or finances, to find out whether Mediation would be suitable for you. (There are certain exemptions in place – for example if it is an urgent case)   The MIAMS is a one to one meeting with a Family Mediator who explains all the alternative routes available to you to try and resolve the dispute without starting Court proceedings. The aim is to ensure you are fully informed about all your options and you understand what would work best for your situation.”


If you would like more information on Mediation, please contact

the Curwens Family Law Team:

Royston                   Amanda Thurston              01763 241 261

Hoddesdon              Kristina Nickoli                    01992 463 727

Enfield                     Vijaya Sumputh                   0208 363 4444



Curwens have offices in Royston, Hoddesdon and Enfield.


Returning unwanted Christmas gifts

They do say “it’s better to give than to receive” and that’s so true at Christmas. How wonderful is it to see your loved one’s eyes light up when they open the present you lovingly chose for them……. until you both realise – it’s the wrong colour, it doesn’t fit or even worse, they already have it.  “That’s ok,” you say, “you can take it back after Christmas“…or can they ? How well do you know your Consumer rights ?  Our Consumer law specialist Patricia Wollington shares her top ten seasonal tips :

  1.   Keep the receipt.   There is no automatic right to return goods that are not faulty. Most High Street retailers go above and beyond what they are duty bound to do, for example, exchanging or refunding on goods that you just don’t like but are not faulty, so make it easy for both sides and keep the receipt as proof of purchase.
  2.   Gift receipt      Some of the larger retailers have produced “gift receipts” to deal with the issue of giving a present and your loved one then having to bring it back.  If in doubt, ask for a gift receipt.
  3.   Don’t delay      If you do want to return goods, don’t leave it too long – check the returns policy. Again, you will probably have an easier time with the High Street stores, but even they would raise an eyebrow at a winter jumper being returned in June !
  4.   Returns Policy     Every retailer should have a returns policy that you can check before you buy – and that includes online retailers (see below for more on online retail).  Do read the small print – this will include the detail, such as excluding certain items e.g. chocolate as it’s perishable.
  5.   Keep the packaging     Where possible, try to persuade your loved one to open boxes etc. carefully, especially with expensive items because some retailers will specify returns have to include all the original packaging.
  6.   Contracting party      As a matter of law, your contract is with the retailer who sold the goods to you, not the manufacturer, but do remember point 1 above – no automatic right to a refund on non-faulty goods
  7.   Vouchers      They usually have a time limit so make sure you check this carefully.  On a practical note, do spend them quickly in case the retailer goes bust – it has happened !
  8.   Use your Credit Card     Used in the right way (i.e. paid off regularly) credit cards are extremely useful when you have a dispute about larger items (over £100) or the company goes into liquidation as they give you additional rights under the Consumer Credit Act Section 75
  9.    Buying Online     There are variations if you buy goods online because you are at a “distance”, for example, once you place your order, you have 14 days after receipt of the goods to cancel.
  10.   Faulty goods     These seasonal tips are really for unwanted goods – not faulty.  For faulty goods, you need a different approach. If goods (and services for that matter) are faulty and are not :
    • Satisfactory quality
    • As described
    • Fit for purpose
    • Lasting a reasonable time

    your approach and rights are in the Consumer Rights Act 2015

    We wish you all a very happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year – happy shopping, now you know your rights!  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Patricia Wollington on 0208 363 4444

Seasonal Checklist for HR

Seasonal Checklist for HR”…..T’is the season to be jolly“, (“falalalala la la la la“) … so we thought employers and HR managers might find this seasonal post useful….

At this time of year, the last thing we want to think about is a legal issue but I thought it might be helpful to share a few thoughts with you if you are an employer and have the Christmas staff celebrations to deal with. I spotted this great seasonal post, courtesy of Daniel Barnett sharing an excellent blogpost by Gemma Reucroft :


“This is the ultimate advice checklist for how HR should deal with Christmas issues…

1. Employees sometimes do stupid stuff. At Christmas time and otherwise.
2. Just deal with it.
3. Resist the urge to worry too much about vicarious liability, discrimination and constructive dismissal. Although it is probably a good idea not to put any mistletoe up in the office.
4. Resist the urge to write any sort of policy.
5. Resist the urge to put any sort of disclaimer about behaviour in any Christmas party related literature. If someone wants to punch Bob from Accounts on the dance floor after 12 pints of beer then they will do it anyway. See points 1 and 2.
6. Resist the urge to write special rules about absence from work after social events. See point 2.
7. Apply Christmas common sense.
8. Avoid sprouts in an office environment at all times. This is especially important in small or poorly ventilated offices.
9. Never, ever, buy Secret Santa presents from Ann Summers.
10. Enjoy yourself. Put a tree up. Eat some Quality Street. Wear a Christmas jumper.”

Timely advice indeed !

Best wishes to you and yours for a wonderful, peaceful Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.

NEM new profile pic March 2013

Norma Morris


Countdown to Black Friday: 10 top tips!

The recent phenomenon known as Black Friday is attracting a lot of attention again this year. Sadly, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the seasonal frenzy but then get caught out when things go wrong. I have a solicitor colleague, Patricia Wollington  who is an expert in this area and I’m grateful to her for her 10 top tips :

  1. Black Friday this year is Friday 25th November 2016 but many retailers have already started advertising deals in the run up to the big day.
  2. Black Friday is a day when many retailers slash their prices to tempt savvy savers to take advantage of the special discounts on offer.
  3. Recent research conducted by Consumer Group  Which?  revealed that not all Black Friday deals were actually the cheapest on the day. This means that it’s more important than ever to undertake your research before you part with your cash.
  4. Before committing to a purchase, check and compare the sale price with other retailers to make sure you really are making a saving.
  5. Check whether the pre-sale price was increased prior to the sale. Goods should have been sold at the previous higher price for at least 28 consecutive days prior to the reduction.
  6. If you purchased the goods online and when delivered you find they aren’t what you expected, you may have cancellation rights under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013. Remember you must clearly notify the retailer within 14 days of delivery of the goods that you want to cancel the contract and seek a refund. Check the terms and conditions!
  7. If you buy digital content that is not of satisfactory quality or is unfit for purpose or not as described, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 now enables you to ask the retailer to provide either a repair or replacement. Digital content can be anything from apps, music, games to ebooks.
  8. If you buy goods online, it is the retailer’s responsibility to deliver the goods to you. So if your item turns up late and you no longer want it, contact the retailer immediately and refer it to the above legislation. You should not be out of pocket for the retailer’s mistake.
  9. If the goods you ordered are delivered damaged, do not accept delivery or if the delivery person refuses to take the goods away, write a note on the delivery company’s delivery note to say the box was damaged. Act promptly and notify the retailer as soon as possible.
  10. Remember that sale goods should still be of satisfactory quality; fit for the purpose intended and match the description. If the goods are faulty, you have rights of redress under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 which include a 30 day short-term right to a refund and therefore a right to repair, replacement or partial refund.

For further information or advice, contact Patricia Wollington at Curwens Solicitors on 0208 363 4444    patricia.wollington@curwens.co.uk

9 Reasons to make a Will

Radio 2 recently reported on research that found the majority of adults do not have a valid will in place. Given the relatively low cost of having one professionally prepared, there is no excuse and it can avoid a potential mess being left behind for your loved ones to clear up.

And if you still need convincing – read on……

 1.   You get to choose who benefits from your estate

  •  without a will, the intestacy rules apply and there is no provision for unmarried partners
  • if a couple die together and have no children, there is a presumption that the younger survived the elder, so everything goes to the younger’s relatives

 2.   It ensures your wishes are binding

  •  the executors dealing with your will are required to comply with certain rules

3.   You make sure the funeral arrangements you want are clear

  •  it is still important to make your next of kin aware of your wishes as the funeral may take place before your will is even found

 4.   Allows you to have a voice about your children

  •  you can appoint legal guardians
  • if you want someone to care for your children who would not usually be considered their next of kin then you can explain your reasons

5.   It can safeguard your business

  •  you ideally need to consider in advance tax points such as IHT (Inheritance Tax) relief
  • decide who to leave as the majority shareholder – although this would also need to be in accordance with any shareholders agreement

6.   It enables you to leave gifts to charity

  •  many charities rely heavily on bequests in wills
  • these gifts are free of IHT

7.   It enables you to make minor/specific bequests

  •  the intestacy rules simply split your estate into percentages
  • you may prefer to make individual gifts of personal items eg jewellery

 8.   It allows you to choose your own executors

  •  you can save money with less professional involvement if you appoint friends or relatives
  • you can avoid overburdening your next of kin (at a time when they will be very emotional) as there is a presumption they will deal with the estate if there is no will

9.   It enables you to take advantage of some tax planning

  •  getting professional advice on a will includes reviewing your IHT position and how it will get paid

 If you would like to make a will, please contact our James Blakemore on 01992 631461 or email him at james.blakemore@curwens.co.uk

Curwens LLP is your local firm of solicitors offering most areas of legal advice – based in Royston, Hoddesdon and Enfield.


Landlord and Tenant Headaches

This month, I’m grateful to my colleague, Amanda Thurston, who wrote an article recently on this difficult topic.


“Landlord and Tenant law is a notoriously tricky area. It’s all too easy to get into difficulty. Whether you’re a Landlord dealing with a commercial lease or residential tenancies, the chances are that before too long you will come up against a “difficult” tenant.

Of course, if you are the tenant trying to negotiate fair terms for a new tenancy or lease you may well argue you are having to deal with a “difficult” landlord !

In our commercially minded world, Landlords and Tenants have to negotiate hard on many issues within a Tenancy or Lease including :-

  • break clauses,
  • service charges,
  • late payment of rent,
  • obligations for repairs

It’s very important for anyone in this position to get the right kind of legal and commercial advice – particularly in respect of dilapidations (in commercial premises), where an experienced surveyor can even be instructed to carry out a valuation to help negotiate a fair settlement.

Arguably, there is extra pressure on residential Landlords as, whether you have just one buy-to-let property or a large portfolio, you need to ensure you have completely up to date advice on all matters regarding how to enforce your Tenancy Agreement. The process of evicting a non-paying tenant is even more of a minefield. It’s so easy to make a simple mistake when dealing with a residential tenant and if your Court application fails, it can leave you out of pocket for outstanding rent and the Court costs.  Even worse, you could still be stuck with the non-paying tenant and have to start the eviction process all over again.

For the unwary, there are far too many traps to fall into. Our advice is – take good legal advice!  At Curwens’ Hoddesdon office, we have a new commercial property solicitor who has recently joined us – Jolyon Bland – he can be contacted at Jolyon.Bland@curwens.co.uk”




“The Archers – what next for Helen and her children? The Family Lawyer’s view “

Those of us who are Archers fans have been glued to our radio sets recently, following the latest stressful storyline – stressful for the characters and fans alike – involving the trial of Helen Titchener (aka Archer).  Although it is fiction – and exciting fiction at that – there are lots of issues that have been thrown up by this storyline such as abuse, controlling behaviour and custody disputes which all too often happen in real life.  Although Helen’s barrister, Anna Tregorran, eventually triumphed spectacularly in both Courts (Criminal and Family) we have to remember that it was scripted and a lot of dramatic licence was taken, so I was delighted to spot an excellent article written by four real life barristers from 42 Bedford Row who specialise in Family Law.


Thank you Jennifer Kotilaine, Pauline Troy, Emma Romer and Eilidh Gardner for a very helpful explanation of what could happen to a real life “Helen”.  They give their opinions about might happen to the children in a disputed case like this and what the future might hold for Helen.  http://www.42br.com

Meanwhile, to lift the spirits – something good has come out of all this. An Archers fan, Paul Trueman, was inspired to help all the real life “Helens” out there and so set up  The Helen Titchener (nee Archer) Rescue Fund  – We’re raising money for Refuge because for every fictional Helen, there are real ones. 

Since February 2016, Paul’s fund has raised £168,975. His JustGiving page is still open for donations


Finally, in traditional voiceover style, if you or anyone you know have been affected by Helen’s storyline, experts at Refuge (www.refuge.org.uk) are ready to help.

Family Solicitors