“The Italian Job” …..re Spousal Maintenance

SHOULD THE UK COURTS FOLLOW THE ITALIAN SUPREME COURT ON SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE?  Vijaya Sumputh, Solicitor, Family Law specialist at Curwens asks whether this case will have any effect.

According to “The Telegraph”, Vittorio Grilli, the former Italian Economy and Finance Minister (2012-2013) and his former wife Lisa Lowenstein, an American businesswoman, divorced acrimoniously in 2013.  Vittorio was ordered to pay his former wife the monthly sum of €2M to maintain her lifestyle but that was not the end of legal proceedings as Lisa then returned to Court to make Vittorio pay her debts.

The Court of Appeal in Milan rejected her claim for maintenance payments for life on the grounds that her Income Tax Returns were incomplete and Vittorio’s income had since reduced, so Lisa took the matter to the Supreme Court in 2014.

In May 2017 the Supreme Court of Cassation in Rome ruled that divorcees do not have the right to automatic indefinite maintenance payments.   The Judges stated that divorce should be modernized and not be seen as “set up for life”.  They concluded that divorcees who have independent means or the capacity to work, should not expect to receive maintenance payments indefinitely. They stated that divorced parties are not all entitled to maintain the same “tenor of life” as when married and, if possible, they need to learn to be self sufficient.

The Judges further recommended that keeping up payments indefinitely can be “an obstacle to starting a new family”  and have called for the divorce law to reflect modern relationships.

Now that the Italian Family Law system has rejected the idea that divorced spouses are guaranteed their previous standard of living, it is likely that many Italian divorcees will want to challenge their divorce settlements, however, the Italian Family Court will have to be incredibly careful not to discriminate against the financially weaker party and unfairly disadvantage those without the means to gain financial independence.  While they may no longer guarantee life long maintenance payments, they must guarantee provision for those who lose their earning capacity because of their commitment to marriage.

Given Italy’s trend, it will be interesting to see if other justice systems will also be tempted to reform the reasoning behind divorce settlements.

In contrast, only a few months ago, in a UK divorce case, Mills v. Mills, the former husband asked to end indefinite maintenance payments under English Law.  The parties were married for 13 years. The wife said that in the early years of the marriage, she ran her own beauty business and financially supported the family while the husband finished his studies, after which they both then worked together to set up his business as a surveyor. The parties have one son, who is now at university.

Towards the end of the marriage, the wife suffered serious health problems and had to reduce her working hours. The parties separated in 2001 and divorced in 2002. They reached an agreement that the family home would be sold, the wife would receive £230,000.00 from the sale to buy a new home for herself and their son, and husband would keep his business assets. Additionally, the husband agreed to pay the wife spousal maintenance of £1,100 per month. In 2014 the husband applied to court to end those payments and the wife cross-applied to increase them. The judge disagreed with both of them so they both appealed.

The Court of Appeal found that the original judge had erred in not increasing the maintenance to cover the wife’s shortfall, despite knowing that she could not meet her basic needs and the husband could afford it. The appeal court increased the maintenance to £1,440 per month indefinitely.

This shows that in the UK, maintenance payments continue to be set for a limited period of time or until one party dies, marries or enters into a civil partnership but the Court calculates maintenance payments based on the financially weaker party’s income needs and earning capacity, considering a range of factors such as their age, the length and living standard of their marriage, their health and caring commitments. While each case is specific to its own facts, the Court’s objective is always to enable a party to make a transition to independence where possible. On the facts of the Mills case, the wife was not able to make that transition

At Curwens we are regularly faced with the issue of claims for maintenance, acting for either the person making or challenging the claim.   We provide expert advice on what is a reasonable amount to expect to be awarded or agreed.  We will also guide you through the procedure and explain the financial risks where agreements cannot be reached.  It is therefore essential that you obtain expert legal advice on your position.

Vijaya (Asha) Sumputh

vijaya.sumputh@curwens.co.uk

Family Law Solicitor – Curwens LLP.

Vijaya offers both fixed fees and flexible pricing for all family law services. For an initial consultation, call Vijaya direct on 0208 884 7221 and she will be happy to help you with all your family queries.

www.curwens.co.uk                                                                                      CURWENS LLP

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Bribery Act 2010

We outline here the offences introduced by the Bribery Act 2010, the penalties for committing them and practical steps you can take to avoid breaching the legislation.

What is bribery?

Transparency International (a non-governmental anti-corruption organisation) defines bribery as “the offering, promising, giving, accepting or soliciting of an advantage as an inducement for an action which is illegal or a breach of trust.”

What are the offences under the Bribery Act 2010?

Bribing another person

A person is guilty of this offence if they offer, promise or give a financial advantage or other advantage to another person:

o        to bring about improper performance of a relevant function or an activity; or

o        to reward a person for the improper performance of a relevant function or an activity.

The types of function or activity that can be improperly performed include:

o        all functions of a public nature;

o        all activities connected with a business;

o        any activity performed in the course of a person’s employment; and

o        any activity performed by or on behalf of a body of persons.

There must be an expectation that the functions are carried out in good faith or impartially, or the person performing them must be in a position of trust. It may not matter whether the person offered the bribe is the same person that actually performs or performed the function or activity concerned. The advantage can be offered, promised or given by the person themselves or by a third party.

Being bribed

The recipient or potential recipient of the bribe is guilty of this offence if they request, agree to receive, or accept a financial or other advantage to perform a relevant function or activity improperly.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s the recipient, or someone else through whom the recipient acts, who requests, agrees to receive or accepts the advantage. In addition, the advantage can be for the benefit of the recipient or another person.

Bribing a foreign public official

A person is guilty of this offence if they intend to influence an official in their capacity as a foreign public official. The offence does not cover accepting bribes, only offering, promising or giving bribes. It does not matter whether the offer, promise or gift is made directly to the official or by a third party.

Failing to prevent bribery

A commercial organisation is guilty of this offence if a person associated with it bribes another person, with the intention of obtaining or retaining business or a business advantage for the commercial organisation. The offence can be committed in the UK or overseas.  A business can avoid conviction if it can demonstrate that it had adequate procedures in place designed to prevent bribery.

What are the penalties for committing an offence?

The offences of bribing another person, being bribed and bribing a foreign public official are punishable on indictment either by an unlimited fine, imprisonment of up to ten years or both. Both a company and its directors could be subject to criminal penalties. The offence of failure to prevent bribery is punishable on indictment by an unlimited fine.  Businesses convicted of corruption could find themselves permanently debarred from tendering for public sector contracts.  A business may also be damaged by adverse publicity if it is prosecuted for an offence.

Practical steps to help avoid liability under the Bribery Act 2010

Top level commitment

All senior managers and directors must understand that they could be personally liable under the Bribery Act 2010 for offences committed by the business. It is important that senior management leads the anti-bribery culture of a business, especially if the business wants to take advantage of the “adequate procedures” defence to the offence of failing to prevent bribery.

Risk assessment

Consider all the potential risks the business may be exposed to. For example, certain industry sectors (such as construction, energy, oil and gas, defence and aerospace, mining and financial services) and countries are associated with a greater risk of bribery.

Think about the types of transactions the business engages in, who the transactions are with and how the transaction is conducted. High-risk transactions include:

o        procurement and supply chain management;

o        involvement with regulatory relationships (for example, licences or permits); and

o        charitable and political contributions.

Review how the business entertains potential customers, especially those from government agencies, state-owned enterprises or charitable organisations. Routine or inexpensive corporate hospitality is unlikely to be a problem, but clear guidelines should be put in place.  If the business operates in foreign jurisdictions, always check local laws.

Implementing and communicating an anti-corruption code of conduct

Implement a code of conduct setting out clear, practical and accessible policies and procedures that apply to the entire business. Make sure the code is communicated effectively to all parts of the organisation.

Carry out background checks when dealing with third parties

A business will be liable if a person associated with it commits an offence on its behalf. Businesses should therefore review all their relationships with any partners, suppliers and customers. For example, if an agent or distributor uses a bribe to win a contract for a business, that business could be liable. Ensure that background checks are carried out on any agents or distributors before they are engaged by the business.

Policies and procedures

Review any existing policies and procedures and decide whether they need to be updated. If the business does not have any policies or procedures in place, consider preparing them as a matter of urgency.

Effective implementation and monitoring

Consider introducing a compulsory training programme for all staff. If only a few employees operate in a high-risk area, consider targeting the training at those employees.  Ensure anti-corruption policies and procedures are continually monitored for compliance and effectiveness, both internally and externally.

www.curwens.co.uk

 

 

Disputed Wills

DISPUTED WILLS

Because I deal with the misery which follows when either someone hasn’t made a valid Will or it’s failed or hasn’t provided for the family, I know how distressing it is. I also know how easy it is to avoid a mountain of problems by making a properly drawn Will using a qualified Solicitor. All too often though, I meet with very distressed family members who simply can’t understand why their loved one did not take this process seriously and think enough of them to make a proper Will. It seems to be a taboo subject, for some reason. Unfortunately, fighting over an Estate can be extremely costly (running into thousands of pounds) and, apart from the money, the dispute usually destroys the family, ripping them apart while they argue over the Estate assets. People get very angry and hurt about how they see they have been treated by the deceased. I even heard a story about two sisters who wanted to argue over the fur coat that their Mother had left to one of them. They were seriously considering spending huge amounts of money on legal fees to fight about that because they really felt so hurt. Of course I would never advise anyone to spend legal costs arguing over just a fur coat but there are cases where those left behind have not been properly provided for, perhaps a second family with valid claims for financial support which the deceased should really have thought about. My advice would always be to make a will as soon as possible – certainly if you have children and dependants who rely on you for financial support.