Adopting your stepchild can give them greater emotional and legal security. Thorley Stephenson has helped many stepfamilies strengthen their ties through adoption. For tailored guidance, contact our dedicated family law team.

What happens legally when you adopt your stepchild?

When you adopt your stepchild, you receive full parental rights and responsibilities, including:

  • the right to have them live with you;
  • the duty to support them financially;
  • the responsibility to guide them in their upbringing.

These rights and responsibilities are permanent. They continue even if your relationship with the child’s mother or father breaks down.

Is the natural parent required to consent?

Ordinarily, the consent of the natural parent whose rights and responsibilities the step-parent will take on is required. However, the court will dispense with the requirement if the natural parent is:

  • deceased;
  • unable to be located;
  • unable to exercise their rights or meet their responsibilities as a parent satisfactorily;
  • mentally incapable of giving consent.

The court will also override the requirement where it is in the interests of the child’s welfare to do so.

Does the child need to consent?

If the child is over 12 years old, their consent is required, unless they are incapable of consenting. 

If the child is under 12 years, consent is not required. However, as far as possible, the court must identify the child’s views and wishes regarding their potential adoption. 

How does the process work?

The first step is to notify your local authority of your intention to adopt. They will arrange for a social worker to visit you and put together a report on the suitability of the proposed adoption addressing:

  • the length and nature of your relationship with the child and their parent (your partner);
  • the child’s relationship with their absent birth parent;
  • the absent birth parent’s wishes;
  • the child’s views and wishes;
  • whether adoption is in the child’s best interests.

Next, you lodge an adoption petition with the court. The court should also receive a copy of the social worker’s report and any other relevant documentation. It will schedule a preliminary hearing to take place six to eight weeks later and appoint a curator ad litem and a reporting officer, usually the same person, to prepare a further report on the potential adoption. 

A copy of the petition will be sent to the natural parent, as well as anyone else entitled to see it. They have 21 days to oppose the adoption. If they do, the court will schedule an evidential hearing on the adoption.

If there is no opposition, the court can decide at the preliminary hearing whether to grant the adoption order. It will do so if it is satisfied that adoption is in the child’s best interests and will continue to be so throughout their life.

Contact our Adoption Solicitors, Edinburgh

Adopting your stepchild is a significant step in your relationship and you want the process to be straightforward, stress-free and successful. Our conscientious family lawyers are here to help you navigate the adoption process and bring greater closeness and security to your family. Call us on 0131 341 2729 or use our online enquiry form.

The thought of going to Court, for whatever reason, can sometimes be overwhelming. It can be enough to make someone put off the inevitable, ignore the elephant in the room and stay in a marriage long after it has lost its sparkle.

While a divorce legally ends a marriage, and therefore some documentation will need to be filed with the Court, in the majority of cases, it is not necessary to appear in Court to obtain a divorce. Here we look at the divorce process and the options available if you are considering getting a divorce. Get in touch with our team if you require advice on getting divorced in Scotland

What are my options for getting a divorce?

If you are using the simplified procedure, also known as the DIY divorce procedure, it must be proven that there is an irretrievable breakdown of your marriage. This irretrievable breakdown can be based on separation for a duration of:

  • One year if both parties consent to the divorce or;
  • Two years if one party does not consent.

Using the simplified procedure is generally a straightforward, faster and less stressful way of ending a marriage without going to Court. It involves completing official forms and swearing an affidavit in front of a Justice of the Peace, Notary Public or Commissioner for Oaths and then sending the papers to the Court.

Residence

Before starting any type of divorce proceedings, Scotland must either be your permanent home or the place where you have lived for at least a year. If you satisfy these criteria and the Court approves the application, a divorce can be granted on the papers without the need for either of you to attend Court.

When is the simplified procedure not available?

If the divorce is going to be on the basis of adultery, or you are relying on unreasonable behaviour to prove that the marriage has broken down, the simplified divorce procedure cannot be used.  Instead, the ordinary procedure must be followed. This is also the case if:

  • One party is challenging the divorce
  • There are children under the age of sixteen
  • There are outstanding financial issues to determine.

Does this mean I will have to go to court?

If there are children under 16 and you cannot agree with your partner who they will live with, where they will live and when the other parent will see them, it might be necessary to attend Court.

You will also need to go to Court if either party is seeking financial relief or you are unable to agree on how to divide jointly held finances or property. If you can come to some financial arrangement with your partner, you must set out these arrangements in writing and file them with the Court. If the Court is satisfied with the proposals, a divorce can be granted on the papers without attending a hearing.

What if the court isn't satisfied?

If the Court needs further information from you and your partner about arrangements for the children or finances, it will arrange a date for a hearing.  These issues must be resolved and finalised before a final decree of divorce will be issued.

How much will it cost?

In some cases, legal aid funding may be available. Our divorce lawyers can advise you further once you have decided to proceed with a divorce or if you have been notified that your partner is intending to divorce you.

Find out more about divorce by reading our FAQs here.

How can Thorley Stephenson help?

It is always wise to seek the advice of a specialist family lawyer from the outset, whether you are contemplating divorce proceedings or being divorced by your partner.

Discussing your options

Even if there are no children to the marriage under the age of 16 or you haven't considered a financial settlement, we can advise on your options and assist with the procedures that need to be followed. It is important to identify whether any claims for financial relief might apply as if they are not raised during the divorce process, the right to raise them in the future will be lost. It is not always necessary to go to Court to settle financial issues, and we can help negotiate and draft a financial settlement that can settle these matters out of Court.

Remember that if you do need to go to Court, the Court will not seek to establish who is at fault for the breakdown of your marriage. Instead, the Court will resolve issues that you and your partner cannot agree between yourself. This can help to establish long term emotional and financial security and provide some peace of mind. If going to Court does prove necessary, our team of experienced divorce lawyers will help to make the process as stress-free as possible by providing practical advice, guidance and support from the very beginning.

Contact our Divorce Lawyers in Edinburgh

If you have any questions about the financial aspects, or any other stages, of the divorce process, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Our family law team are here to provide you with clear, practical and tailored advice for your circumstances. If you instruct us, we will use our skills and experience to achieve a financial settlement that works for you – allowing you to move on in the quickest and most efficient way possible. For expert legal advice, call us on 0131 341 1827 or complete our online enquiry form, and we will be in touch.

If you have decided to get a divorce, it is normal to feel anxious about the impact this can have on your current and long-term financial situation. What you are entitled to in a divorce will depend on your particular circumstances. Various factors will be involved, including whether assets are owned jointly or individually, if you have financially dependent children and if you and your former spouse can reach an agreement on the division of property. 

At Thorley Stephenson, our divorce solicitors are here to protect your financial position. We understand that the breakdown of a marriage brings with it a lot of emotion and uncertainty. You can rely on us to provide honest advice and robust support to reach a settlement that safeguards you and your family now and in the future.

To find out how we can help you during a divorce, contact our team today.

How to determine who owns what assets

Your assets will be divided into those that belong to you or your spouse individually (which are not included in the financial settlement), and those that you are deemed to share ownership of (which are included).

Individually owned assets

Items you and your partner owned before you got married or obtained after you separated, as well as property gifted to or inherited by either spouse, will not be included in the financial settlement. You can decide what to do with these items.

Exceptions

There are some exceptions to be aware of, however. If your family home was purchased before the marriage, it will be included in the settlement, along with its furnishings. Gifts or inheritance received pre-marriage will be included if they are used during the marriage – for example, if inherited money was used to buy the family home.

Matrimonial property

Matrimonial property includes all the assets acquired from the beginning of your marriage to the separation date. It also covers certain individually owned property if used during the marriage (see ‘Exceptions’ above). The matrimonial property pot often includes properties, cars, possessions, savings and investments. These assets will all be considered during your divorce settlement.

How are property and other financial matters dealt with during a divorce?

This depends on whether you and your former spouse can reach an agreement.

If you can agree

An out-of-court settlement is beneficial for both parties as it can save you considerable time, money and stress. Our divorce lawyers have helped many clients reach a financial settlement that is both protective and fair, outside of the courtroom. We will advise you on the best way to safeguard your financial position and communicate with your ex-spouses’ solicitor until a consensus is reached. If there are sticking points, these can often be successfully dealt with using expert negotiation, mediation and other dispute resolution skills.

If you and your ex-partner can agree on how your property will be split and if any one-off or ongoing payments should be made from one spouse to the other, these details will be included in a separation agreement, which must then be submitted to the court. If the settlement is considered to be fair and reasonable, the court will approve it, and your divorce will advance quickly.

If you cannot agree

In cases where an agreement cannot be reached, you will have to ask the court to assist with your financial settlement. The court will make decisions about how your matrimonial property is to be divided and if payments should be made to either spouse.

Several guiding principles will be used in the decision-making process. These are:

  • Fairness: The court will seek to divide the value of your matrimonial property equally between you and your former spouse. However, this is not a blanket rule. If it would be fairer in the circumstances to order an uneven split, the court will do so.
  • Economic advantage/disadvantage: The court will pay attention to any financial benefit or burden either you or your former spouse has experienced because of your contributions to the family. An example is where one spouse has given up their job to take care of their children.
  • Childcare: If you have children under 16 years old, account will be taken for the finances you and your former spouse need for their care. The court will aim to share the cost of childcare equally between the parties if this is fair in the circumstances.
  • Lack of support: If one spouse was financially dependent on the other during their marriage, the court might order this support to continue for up to three years to allow the dependent party to get back to work or adjust in other ways. Divorce proceedings aim to facilitate a clean break where possible. This means if the court orders one party to provide financial support to the other, this will usually be a lump sum rather than instalments (known as maintenance).
  • Financial hardship: The court may instruct one spouse to pay maintenance or a one-off payment to the other if it is likely that they will struggle financially because of the divorce.

What about my pension?

The pension money you have accumulated during your marriage will be included in the financial settlement; any amount collected before your marriage and after you separated will not.

There are several ways that your pension can be dealt with during your divorce. For example, you may agree that one of you will receive a percentage of the other’s pension pot. In this case, you must ask the court to grant a Pension Sharing Order as part of your wider financial settlement. Pension offsetting is another common approach, which involves one spouse keeping their pension while the other retains a bigger portion of another asset (such as the family home).

Our lawyers will assess your pension situation carefully and advise on the best way to protect your long-term financial interests.

Contact Our Award-Winning Team – Among the Best Divorce Lawyers in Scotland

If you have any questions about the financial aspects, or any other stages, of the divorce process, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Our family law team are here to provide you with clear, practical and tailored advice for your circumstances. If you instruct us, we will use our skills and experience to achieve a financial settlement that works for you – allowing you to move on in the quickest and most efficient way possible. For expert legal advice, call us on 01315569599 or complete our online enquiry form and we will be in touch.

Drug driving in Scotland is on the rise, and could soon overtake drink driving cases, but what happens if you're accused of drug driving? How does it compare to a charge of drink driving?

If you have been charged with drug driving, you must seek legal advice from an experienced solicitor right away. Since 21 October 2019, Police Scotland have had increased powers concerning drug driving resulting in an increase in cases. Under the new laws, police can carry out a roadside mouth swab test where they suspect a person may be driving under the influence of drugs. Even if you pass the roadside test, police still have the power to arrest you where they believe your driving is impaired.

In this article, we look at what will happen after you have been arrested and charged with drug driving. For advice specific to your situation, contact our team now on 0131 341 1827 or complete our online enquiry form and we will get back to you right away.

What happens after I have been charged with a drug driving offence?

If you fail the roadside test, or where police have reason to believe your driving is impaired because you are under the influence of drugs, you will be arrested and taken to the police station. The mouth swab roadside test cannot detect the presence of all drugs, and so further tests will be carried out at the police station.

At the police station

When you are at the police station, a blood sample will be taken to test for the presence of drugs. If the test shows that you are under the influence of drugs, you may be charged with an offence. Some drugs are subject to certain limits, like in cases of drink driving. However, with others, police take a ''zero tolerance'' approach. A near-zero limit is in place for drugs including; cocaine, cannabis, ketamine, LSD, meth, ecstasy and heroin.

There is no need to prove that your driving was impaired when it can be proven that you were driving under the influence of certain drugs.

If you are charged with drug driving

If you are charged with a drug driving offence, you will then be processed at the police station. Your photograph, fingerprints and DNA will be taken. Typically, you will spend some time in a cell.

Bail undertaking

After you have been processed, you will then be released from custody following what is known as the bail undertaking procedure. The bail undertaking procedure allows you to be released on bail, with an undertaking to attend court on a certain date in the future. Your court date will normally be set within a few weeks of the date you were arrested.

If you fail to attend court on the date specified in your bail undertaking, you will face an additional charge of failing to attend court on the agreed date.

Previous convictions

For those with previous convictions, you may not be released on a bail undertaking. Instead, you may be kept in custody until you can appear in court on the next lawful day.

Your rights to a solicitor if you are arrested

If you are arrested for drug driving, you have the right to speak to a solicitor. They can advise you on the road traffic procedures in the police station. This is very important as failure to comply with procedures without a reasonable excuse can itself constitute a separate offence

Remember, if you have been arrested you can call our road traffic defence solicitors on 0131 341 1827.

Is it legal for me to drive between being released from the police station and my court date?

Yes. You are legally still permitted to drive after you have been charged with a drug offence, but prior to conviction. There is a presumption of innocence, and until you have attended court and been convicted of a drug-driving offence, it is presumed that you are innocent. However, the police may attach special conditions to your bail undertaking that prevent you from driving.

Penalties for drug driving

You will attend court on the agreed date, and if you are convicted of a drug-driving offence, the penalties can be severe - even for first-time offenders. The court may impose:

  • A minimum 12-month driving ban
  • 3-11 penalty points on your driving licence
  • Up to 6 months in prison
  • An unlimited fine

If you are convicted of with death by careless driving whilst under the influence of drugs, you could face up to 14 years in prison, with a minimum driving ban of two years.

Contact our Drug Driving Defence Solicitors now

Our solicitors aim to provide clients with the best possible legal advice and representation for them on all types of drug driving defence and road traffic law matters. Please contact us today on 0131 341 1827 to speak to one of our solicitors.

Thorley Stephenson SSC's offices are located close to Edinburgh Sheriff Court and The Court of Session and are easily accessible for all forms of transport.

If you have been arrested and taken into custody or asked to attend a police station interview as a suspect, you may have concerns about the process and your legal rights. In this guide, we look at what you should expect from a police station interview.

If you need immediate advice or representation concerning a police station interview, get in touch with our experienced criminal lawyers today. You can call us on 0131 341 2729 or complete our online enquiry form, and we will be in touch right away.

What are my rights in custody?

When you are taken into custody, a custody officer must fully explain your rights to you. Under the law, you have the right to know why you are being held at the police station. You are allowed to inform someone about your whereabouts and, if you are under 18 or considered a vulnerable person, your rights are extended so your chosen adult can visit you at the police station or be in the room during questioning. 

Where applicable, you can have access to medical help, assistance with communication, and an interpreter if you do not understand or speak English. You can also receive a notice that explains your rights in custody, called a letter of rights. This will include what your rights are to breaks, food and use of toilet facilities.

REMEMBER: One of the most important rights you have in custody is to have a consultation with a lawyer at any time. You are not expected to go through this process alone. Having a qualified criminal solicitor by your side can ensure you are protected and fully aware of what you must comply with. For robust representation while in custody, contact Thorley Stephenson’s team today.

What are my rights when being questioned by the police in Scotland?

If you are held in custody, the police may question you about the crime you are suspected of committing. Any answers, comments or other communication can be written down or recorded. Anything you say can be used as evidence at trial if your case is prosecuted.

When the police are questioning you, you have the right to say nothing, also known as 'the right to remain silent'. Aside from confirming your name, address, date and place of birth, and nationality, you do not have to answer any questions the police ask you.

What happens if I’m not from the UK?

If you are not a British citizen, the police will contact your High Commission, Embassy or Consulate. The police will explain where you are and why you are being held at the police station. You may have someone visit you in private, and they can arrange for a solicitor to visit you.

The right to legal advice in police custody

Regardless of why you are being held in custody, you have the right to speak to a solicitor - either in person or over the phone. Even if you initially turn down the option to consult with a lawyer, you can change your mind at any time.

Can the police question me without legal advice?

If you have requested legal representation, the police must wait for your solicitor to arrive before they begin questioning you - unless there are rare circumstances which mean you need to be questioned right away. Such cases may include stopping a crime from happening or to protect someone from danger.

If you choose not to speak to a lawyer or have a solicitor with you during a police interview, the police can question you without having any legal advice. When you consent to be interviewed without a lawyer, the time and any reason offered must be recorded.

Under current law, there are certain categories of people who must have a lawyer and therefore cannot be questioned until their legal representative is present:

  • Anyone under the age of 16
  • A person who is 16 or 17 years old and subject to a compulsory supervision order
  • Vulnerable people

Providing evidence in custody

The police can take photographs of you and gather forensic evidence - such as fingerprints and DNA samples - if you are held in custody. DNA samples are typically a swab inside your mouth or head hair root. The police do not need your permission to take DNA samples and may use force if you refuse to comply.

Samples and searches – do the police need my consent?

The police require a warrant to take blood or urine samples from you, except in suspected drink or drug driving cases. A warrant is also needed to conduct an intimate body search, sometimes referred to as a 'strip search', or an invasive search which will involve internal examination of your body. If such examinations are to take place, or blood or urine samples are to be made, a medical professional will attend.

Recording of interviews in custody

When conducting questioning in custody, the police will record the interviews. The reason these are recorded is to ensure there is an accurate record of the interview, and that proper procedure has been followed. Any recording – whether it’s audio, video or written down in a police notebook – can be used as evidence in subsequent court proceedings.

What happens if I am questioned voluntarily as a suspect?

If the police suspect you of a crime and you choose to go to the police station voluntarily, you are free to leave at any time. The exception to this is where the police arrest you to allow for more questioning.

Similar to when you are taken into custody, you have the right to have a lawyer present and the right to remain silent during voluntary questioning.

Your statement will be recorded and can be used as evidence if the case proceeds to trial.

CONTACT THORLEY STEPHENSON CRIMINAL DEFENCE LAWYERS IN EDINBURGH

Thorley Stephenson SSC's criminal lawyers based in Edinburgh strive to provide clients with a professional and comprehensive service. We offer the best possible legal advice and representation for all criminal law matters and can provide our services at the police station.

Thorley Stephenson SSC's offices are located close to Edinburgh Sheriff Court and The Court of Session and are easily accessible for all forms of transport. Please contact us today on 0131 341 2729 to speak to one of our solicitors about your case, or complete our online enquiry form, and we will get back to you right away.

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