About Jemma Thomas

I am a professional support lawyer in the family team at Withers. I focus on undertaking high level legal research, providing technical advice, delivering legal training and managing and promoting knowledge sharing with our fellow family lawyers.

Sharp focus on short marriage and sharing

The length of the marriage matters. That is the message from the Court of Appeal in Sharp. Prior to this decision, the general approach was that assets accumulated during the marriage should be shared equally between the parties, unless there is a good reason not to. The length of the marriage was not considered to be a good reason, due to Lord Nicholls remarks in the House of Lords’ decision in Miller/McFarlane: ‘A short marriage is no less a partnership of equals than a long marriage.’ Continue reading

Is it right to have to stay married?

Mr and Mrs Owens have been married for 37 years but sadly Mrs Owens feels that their marriage has irretrievably broken down and petitioned for divorce in 2015.
However, as Mr Owens had not committed adultery, and the parties had not been separated for two years, the only available route was to allege unreasonable behaviour.
This is a fairly standard approach, so far. Continue reading

What type of parent is Rob Titchener?

Being a family lawyer can be a disadvantage when trying to enjoy a television or radio drama. Family law is easily misunderstood and its realities can get in the way of a good storyline; nobody really wants to watch reasonable and calm lawyers helping parties negotiate sensible solutions in an amicable way. Continue reading

Trust issues

When it comes to family trusts, it is usually the beneficiaries of the trust who get all the attention, but it is the role of the trustees that interest me.

Trustees have a somewhat strange and difficult job – they own the assets held on trust but they hold them for the benefit of beneficiaries, and so have a duty to act in those beneficiaries’ best interests.  The trustees can control and manage the assets but only within the parameters of the trust.

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Before you go….

The freedom to choose where you want to live is something that most people take for granted. When deciding where to live there are various considerations to take into account, and when children are involved it is even more complicated: will they cope well with a move, will they miss friends and family, what schools and opportunities will be available to them? 

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Misconceptions about conception

Arrangements made and implemented abroad

Commercial surrogacy arrangements are not permissible in law in England and Wales. However, there are various other jurisdictions where such arrangements are legal, and it is not therefore uncommon for those seeking such arrangements to travel to those jurisdictions and enter into surrogacy arrangements there. Before making those decisions, the commissioning parents will undoubtedly obtain legal advice in that jurisdiction as to the steps that they need to take and the legal implications. Once the baby is born, the agreement has been complied with, and the birth has been registered with the names of the commissioning parents as the parents (rather than the surrogates), the new family will return to the UK. However, they may go through this entire process without investigating the legal implications in this country, and therein lies the danger.

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What makes a contribution special?

What makes a contribution special?When it comes to dividing matrimonial assets on divorce, one of the fundamental principles is that the court should not discriminate between the roles of homemaker and breadwinner – both are equally valid contributions to family life. As Lord Nicholls famously said: ‘Each in their different spheres contributed equally to the family’. Continue reading

The family court: ‘a court of law, not of morals’

The family court: ‘a court of law, not of morals’There are certain principles that you cannot, and should not avoid, as a family lawyer. One of the most important is fairness – at the very heart of family law in this country is the idea that the court should be able to look at all the circumstances of a particular case and make a decision that is fair. Continue reading