Legal Advice from the Family Law Division of Everys Solicitors

Gail Salway of Everys SolicitorsWe have been very fortunate to have Gail Salway, the head of the Family law division of Everys, provide us with this FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) covering some essential topics that you may face as families of alcoholics.  Please be aware that Everys is a UK based firm and the advice given here may not apply in your country.  It is wise to check out this advice locally.

Everys is an independent law firm with recognised expertise in specialist market sectors. They have an extensive client base, many of whom are high profile, and they cover a broad range of industry sectors within the UK and internationally. They have eight offices across the West Country, one in London and the Middle East.

Bottled Up thanks Gail and Everys for providing this much needed information.  If you want to know more about Everys you can follow this link to their website.  Everys Solicitors.

H/She is drinking and all of our income is going on the drink – I am worried about paying the mortgage and bills.  Is there anything I can do?

Self-Help

You can take on the management of the family finances.  Suggest, if you don’t already have one, that you set up a joint account into which you both, by way of standing order, pay so much a month to cover all household bills.  If your partner does not have their own account or won’t set up a joint account get a standing order set up into your account and then you can control the payments always knowing you have sufficient coming in.  If you are able to afford to – transfer the bill payments so that they come out of your account.  You should tell the mortgage company that there are some issues and that if any payments are not made that they should contact you immediately and not let arrears mount up.

Try talking to your partner.  Explain the worry that you have and suggest that you seek some help.

If debts have mounted up or are mounting up – speak to the CAB or approach one of the many charities that offer debt management counselling.  Most are now online.

Legal Route

If things are getting that bad you should think about your options in terms of remaining in the relationship.

Talking, if it is safe, is always the starting point but, if you are in any way worried about your safety or that of the children you should consider getting legal advice about the ways in which you can protect yourself.

A solicitor will be able to assist in this regard but you can also go to the police particularly if safety is a concern.  A solicitor can talk to you about your legal options, prepare paperwork for you and if court proceedings are needed either represent you directly or instruct a barrister to do this.

Will I be liable for any debts h/she incurs through their drinking?

The only debts you will be liable for are those that bear your name.  If debts have been run up solely in your husband/wife’s or partner’s name then you are not liable.  If they are in your joint names then you can become liable, so it is advisable to ensure that you know what debts you are liable for so that you can take action accordingly.  Just because the debt is in joint names it does not follow that you are only responsible for 50% of the debt – if your husband/wife/partner cannot pay their share the company concerned is entitled to pursue you for the whole balance but only if your name is on the debt.

I am worried about my/the childrens’ safety in the house – can I remove the drinker from the house and change the locks?

The simple answer is Yes but only with a court order.   However, you have to be able to persuade a court that your safety or that of the children demands that that Order should be made.  The application is for an Occupation Order and the terms of the Order, if granted, are those that determine who can live in the property and perhaps more importantly – who can’t.  This Order would bind those named in it even if under normal circumstances they are entitled to live at that specific address.

Normally an application for an Occupation Order is coupled with an application for a Non-Molestation Injunction/Order – often called a restraining order (see below)

 What protection do I have against the drinkers physical and/or emotional abuse?

If the drinkers behaviour to you is abusive – whether physical/emotional/monetary/mental – you can apply to the Court for protection.  Within a family setting that is called a Non-Molestation Injunction.  This type of Order will set out what the drinker must not do and will often include quite a wide ranging list of behaviours deemed non-acceptable.  The Order is often coupled with an Order requiring them to leave the property (an Occupation Order) and can also include an Order that they should pay either the full or partial rent/mortgage; compensate you for damage; and will be time limited.

 How do I go about finding legal advice?

A good starting point is to talk to your friends.  Most people now have had cause to use a solicitor and sadly that is often now because of family breakdown.  See who your friends would recommend. If you don’t feel able to talk to a friend or close family member then sources of information would be :- Yellow Pages; the local library; CAB offices; or “Google”; or the Law Society.  All law firms have some presence on the internet and if you search at the Law Society website you can narrow your list of choices to firms close to you.

If this is a matter of family breakdown you can also find specialist family lawyers on the website for “Resolution” – this is the organisation for family law specialists and was previously known as the Solicitors Family Law Association.

If matters are particularly difficult for you, you are dealing with complications because of the drinker then you would be best advised to locate a solicitor that is a family law specialist.

 Do I need a specialist?

You will find that a specialist in family law will be able to give you the answers that you need in an efficient manner and will explain the processes you will go through in this situation within the legal sphere clearly – so yes a specialist in family law is always better.

 What is the simplest route to legal help?

Either to pick up the phone if you have a contact number for the firm you would like to engage and ask to speak to the family law team or; you can now use the “contact us” option on most firm’s websites.  By doing this you would need to give  brief details and a time that is best for the lawyer to call you back (obviously providing a safe phone contact).

 I can’t afford to pay a solicitor, can I get legal aid?

Legal Aid is still available but the circumstances in which you can obtain legal aid are now more limited.  The best thing to do would be to ask the solicitor firstly if their firm still offer legal aid; they will then discuss options in this regard with you and be able to assess whether you would qualify.

Are there other services out there that could help?

Yes – some solicitors offer to do work on a case for fixed fees for specific items; others would be able to offer an initial free consultation; there is at some courts the option of speaking to a family lawyer at the clinic/surgery that is run there.  These will be appointment only based meetings but are often free or, may carry a small charge.

There is also a lot of “self-help” available on the internet.

 Gail Salway, Family Law, Everys Solicitors