At ISOLAS LLP, our highly experienced practitioners are trained in interpersonal mediation and approach their practice from the perspective of resolving disputes, as opposed to inflaming issues that are already sensitive by nature.
Separations are never easy, no matter the circumstances. Whereas the start of a relationship brings with it a sense of belonging, sentiment and consideration, the end of a relationship can, unhappily, leave a feeling of bitterness, dislike or angst. Decision-making often suffers at a time when emotions run high and vulnerability sets in. While it is possible for a party to choose to represent their own interests following a separation, the lack of legal representation will often prove more detrimental in the long-run. This is where a professional, dedicated and experienced family lawyer can make all the difference.
The Family Law Practice of ISOLAS LLP is headed by Justin Rodriguez, a Senior Associate of the firm who has been practising family law since 2014. Justin has delivered the Family Law module at the University of Gibraltar as part of their ‘Professional Certificate of Competence in Gibraltar Law’ and is renowned for his no-nonsense and practical approach to his practice, having developed a reputation as one of the principal family lawyers in the jurisdiction.
Divorce and Dissolution of Civil Partnerships
With the overhaul of Gibraltar matrimonial law in August 2019, Gibraltar has seen the introduction of ‘no fault’ divorces which have reimagined the nature and scope of divorce proceedings. It is no longer possible to file divorce proceedings on the basis of any shortcoming or serious matrimonial or criminal infraction that may have taken place during the course of the marriage. Gone are the days of having to prove, on the balance of probabilities, that a party has been unfaithful, or that the petitioning party had been subjected to any form of unreasonable behaviour which makes it impossible for the parties to cohabit any longer. Proceedings may now be filed, simply, on the basis of the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and may be commenced after 12 months of marriage.
Contrary to popular belief, the amendments to Gibraltar matrimonial law do not make proceedings any less complicated, particularly in the context of a marriage involving children and/or questions as to the division of financial assets that require resolution. Such factors do, more often than not, result in a considerable measure of disagreement that can allow the simplest of separations to unfold into the most complex of proceedings.
At the commencement of any divorce, and throughout any proceedings in which the court may be asked to determine any question regarding the (a) upbringing of a child; or (b) the administration of a child’s property or the application of any income arising from it, the court will be duty bound to ensure that its first and paramount consideration is the welfare of any such child.
In the context of divorce proceedings, when commencing proceedings, a petitioning party will be required to file, amongst other documents, a ‘Statement of Arrangements for Children’ which sets out the specific present and future arrangements for any children to the marriage, whether biological children of both parties, any other children who have been treated by both of the parties as children of the family, or any children born to either of the parties who have not been treated as children of the family. At the preliminary appointment hearing, which both parties must attend, the court may, of its own initiative or otherwise, make any interim order in respect of the residence, contact or maintenance of any such children.
Unfortunately, separations inherently impact upon children and the courts recognise this as a central aspect of any decision-making process that they may become involved in. It is often noted in court by the judiciary and court welfare professionals alike, that divorce and separation may have a negative impact upon the development and well-being of children. Child-related disputes are numerous and, in many instances, include disputes surrounding the day-to-day arrangements for a child, including the residence of the child and/or any contact that they may enjoy with their parents, guardians and/or other loved ones such as grandparents. Disputes may extend to property, finances and the payment of maintenance for the benefit of a child and, in many instances, are intrinsically interlinked with other disputes, including but not limited to applications for permission to take a child away from Gibraltar for a specified period of time, or permanently; and applications to change a child’s surname.
At ISOLAS LLP, our highly experienced practitioners are trained in interpersonal mediation and approach their practice from the perspective of resolving disputes, as opposed to inflaming issues that are already extremely sensitive by nature. We offer sensible and skilful lawyers who are experienced in dealing with child-related proceedings and who will help to ensure that any case progresses without unnecessary complications that will ultimately impact upon the lives of the children of the parties involved.
A party who petitions for divorce shall be required to indicate what orders they shall be requesting the court to make as proceedings progress. A respondent who files an acknowledgment of service may equally indicate what relief they shall be claiming. Once a petition has been filed, either party shall be at liberty to commence proceedings for financial relief. Notwithstanding, unless the parties agree otherwise, both parties are required to file a full statement of their financial information in which they will be expected to produce full and frank disclosure of all income earned; all property owned, whether legally or beneficially; bank statements; business interests and investments, amongst other matters. Upon financial proceedings being commenced, parties will be required to produce questionnaires of each other’s disclosure, and to define the issues that they will require the court to determine at a final hearing.
Unmarried separating parties may also find themselves in situations whereby they have amassed a variety of assets and property and are unsure how to deal with those assets.
The more intricate a parties’ finances and assets are, the more indispensable that a practiced and knowledgeable legal practitioner will be. Our lawyers are experienced in negotiating and drafting legally binding financial agreements, whether these are to be executed before or during a marriage, or after the dissolution of a marriage. We also offer services in drafting separation agreements generally, whether these are intended to set out agreements as to the separation of assets and property, the maintenance of a child or former spouse or partner, or residence and contact arrangements for a child.
There are instances in which the Children’s Social Services in Gibraltar, the Care Agency, will raise concerns as to whether a child is suffering harm that is the result of the care being given to the child by his or her parents or guardians. There may also be instances in which a child is considered to be at risk of suffering harm owing to the child being beyond parental control. The laws in Gibraltar provide the Supreme Court with ample powers to grant orders regulating the future care of such children, including the power to remove children from the care of their parents or guardians under emergency provisions and the power to grant the Care Agency the responsibility to oversee the care of those children, whether on a temporary or permanent basis.
Surrogacy and Adoption Law In Gibraltar
February 2021 saw the introduction of the Surrogacy Act 2021 which governs the right of any parties who have made arrangements with a view to women carrying children as surrogate mothers, and establishes legal parenthood in cases of assisted reproduction arrangements. The introduction of surrogacy law also brought about the introduction of parental orders that may be granted on application before the Supreme Court of Gibraltar.
Similarly, Gibraltar law also sets out the procedural requirements for parties who intend to apply for adoption orders in respect of minors.