With the romance of Valentine’s Day now behind us, let’s talk again about the practical aspects of our relationships.

With the unavoidable increase in divorce and separation rates, it means that more of us who are getting married or moving in together are not “first timers“. Not only that, either one or both parties may have children from a previous marriage. This can mean ongoing financial ties to an ex-partner and possibly having a home or assets to bring into the new relationship.

So it’s  more important than ever for couples to take a small step back from the romance of their new relationship or wedding plans and think about the practicalities. If they are about to start living together, or planning to tie the knot, they should take legal advice on having a Cohabitation Agreement or Pre-Nuptial Agreement.

These don’t have to be long or complicated documents. The aim is to record what can be agreed amicably straight away, to cover what would happen if you ever did split up:-

  • Do you get to keep the property you brought into the relationship ?
  • Do you have to financially support one another after separation ?
  • How do you split anything held in joint names ?
  • Do you have to share any debts ?

The idea of considering a pre-nup early on is to avoid the time, anxiety and cost of a complex legal battle further down the line. Of course no-one has a crystal ball and your thoughts on how assets should be divided between you may change if you are married for many years, or if you have children together but in that case, no problem – you simply agree to review the terms of the Agreement on certain “trigger” events.

If you would like more information on having a Cohabitation or Pre-Nuptial Agreement drawn up please contact


Vijaya Sumputh

0208 363 4444


Amanda Thurston 

01992 463727

Curwens LLP is your local firm of solicitors offering you expert legal advice when you need it most.

Offices in Royston, Hoddesdon and Enfield.




“Love Thy Neighbour ?”

Really ? How well do you get on with your neighbours ? Our Dispute Resolution team gets involved in so many property disputes between sellers/buyers and also neighbours over a whole range of problems.

When we buy a property, we rely on the Sellers’ Property Information form to tell us whether there have ever been any neighbour or boundary disputes – the answer is usually “No” – because you do know that “Yes” would be the kiss of death to the sale!  The boundaries are also identified – left or right of the property.

One good tip when buying a house is to go back at various times and check out the surrounding area – including the evenings, after dark on a Friday or Saturday night, just to see what the noise level is like, particularly from the house next door.

So far, so good.

The problem arises, though, when you move in or you yourself get new neighbours and they start with the all-night parties – (housewarming – ok – you let that one go – but then the loud music carries on each week!) – or they decide to build a large extension (sometimes on the party wall) and have to move the boundary fence for that and replace the old fence……but a couple of feet over – or they let the leylandii shoot up like triffids – any of this starting to sound familiar ?

Clearly these examples (not exhaustive) sound extreme but they can cause no end of stress and at the worst, can ruin lives – because, when it’s your home, there is no escape.

If you do have neighbour issues, firstly, check your household insurance policies for the words “Legal Expense Insurance” (e.g. via ARAG).  These policies often cover neighbour/ boundary disputes, so that would be your first port of call, to their helpline.  If they think you need legal advice from a specialist firm of solicitors, they may refer it to someone like Curwens solicitors, the cost of which is covered by your policy as long as it’s a viable claim (and you follow our advice!).

For further advice, call 0208 363 444 and ask for Adrian Boulter, property dispute expert.


D-I-V-O-R-C-E – who gets what?

This month, I’m grateful to my colleague, Vijaya Sumputh, a specialist Family Law Solicitor at Curwens for her timely advice on the way some family assets are dealt with in divorce :

“According to a recent article in the Guardian, divorce enquiries are expected to rise more than 300% at the beginning of the year.  As Family Law solicitors, in this situation, we’re often asked the big question :  Who gets what?

The process of dividing the marital assets on divorce or family breakdown can be  emotional and complicated. What our clients want is a clear idea of what they may end up with at the end of this process, for example:

  • Who gets the matrimonial home?
  • Who gets the engagement ring?
  • Who gets the family pet?

Sadly, it’s not always possible to give a definitive answer to these questions, particularly in the early stages.

The Courts approach each case on its own individual set of facts – what might be right for one family, may not necessarily be right in all cases. The law in England and Wales is based on a discretionary regime which means there is a vast range of settlement options available in different circumstances.

There is no hard-and-fast rule, which is why it is important to take legal advice so that you have a better idea of the range of likely outcomes in your case.

Who gets the family home?

Often the family home is the biggest matrimonial asset and potentially the most emotionally significant one. Whether the house will end up being sold (and the net proceeds of sale divided) or transferred to one of the spouses, very much depends on the family’s needs.

In some cases, the family home may be kept by one spouse if that spouse is the primary carer for the children. Unless there is sufficient net equity in the property to re-house both spouses in a mortgage-free property, priority will usually be given to the spouse who needs to have the children living with him or her.

In some cases, the family home is kept by one party until a defined point in the future (such as when the children are all over 18) when the former family home can be placed on the market for sale at a price to be agreed by the parties (or if they can’t agree, as determined by a Court).

If, however, there are other assets that a Court can take into account, then one spouse may be able to retain the house permanently and pay other funds to the other person to “buy out” their interest.

When making any financial order, the court will look at a number of factors such as the length of the marriage, the age of the parties, whether they are working and what their earning capacity is, whether there are children, what each party’s needs are and what assets are available to meet those needs. It’s complicated, so do take legal advice.

Who gets the engagement ring?

The answer to this question can vary depending on whether the engagement ring was a family heirloom or perhaps inherited by one party. More often than not, engagement rings are retained by the wife to be passed down to one of the children.

As a general rule, the courts prefer chattels to be divided by agreement but if no agreement can be reached, the court can simply order all chattels to be sold and the proceeds divided.

Who gets the pet?

The family pet is mostly regarded as a member of the family but as the Courts will usually treat family pets much in the same way as any other chattel, we strongly encourage the parties to agree who will have responsibility for continuing to care for (and pay for) their family pet! ”

Vijaya Sumputh  –  0208 363 4444  –


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