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I am a Partner in the firm and joined the Bristol office of Irwin Mitchell in November 2010, having previously spent 18 years at Bristol firm TLT as Head of the Family team. My role is to establish and develop a first class and approachable Family team for Irwin Mitchell in Bristol. My practice includes advising about complex financial matters when a relationship breaks down, often where there is a business or partnership involved.
I advise clients who need pre-marital agreements or post-marital agreements and living together contracts. I have niche specialism in co-habitation and co-owned property issues. I am a trained collaborative lawyer - a way to resolve disputes without going to court and working creatively with clients and accountants to make sure a family business is not damaged on separation.
Alison Hawes "provides the right type of supportive advice to suit the client and the particular situation." - Chambers & Partners 2015
One source notes her "warm, unhurried manner and gift for making complicated concepts sound simple." - Chambers & Partners 2014
"Will go the extra mile for her clients and gets to the nub of tricky issues." - Chambers & Partners 2013
"Commands enormous loyalty from her clients. She is very good at delivering difficult messages tactfully and effectively." - Chambers & Partners 2012
Alison Hawes is "second to none", combining "an excellent brain, a sharp eye for detail and a common humanity in her dealings with people." - Legal 500 2014
"Valued for her emotional intelligence, mettle and gift for making complicated concepts sound simple" - Legal 500 2013
It seemed to me the perfect way to make a real difference to resolving peoples' problems in a positive and practical way.
Being able to provide an approachable and first class support for people who are often feeling vulnerable, confused or worried about being secure for the future when a relationship breaks down.
It is early days yet but the quality and ability of the lawyers that I have met, including the national team of family lawyers, is outstanding. The firm appears to me to be a very impressive blend of commerciality and humanity which is the perfect home for me to continue to build and develop my practice.
I garden passionately, I collect art and could shop professionally if I did not have a full time job. I am a Francophile and try to get to Paris at least a couple of times a year as a minimum.
“There are around 90,000 children facing the summer period in a separated family for the first time each year and it can be a distressing time for everyone involved.
“There can often be arguments about which parent is taking them on holiday, where they are going to go and when. But it’s important that parents remember that life isn’t a competition and there will be other holiday periods and they need to do what is best for their children. Often parents can resolve these issues themselves but there are options such as mediation which can help them to work through the issues amicably without the need for lengthy court battles.
“There is inevitably going to be some element of compromise and communication is crucial to ensuring that the children can enjoy their summer without any pressure or stresses caused by their parents fighting over them.”
“There has been a significant rise in the number of co-habiting people over the past 15 years. Many people wrongly believe that couples who live together have the same rights as married couples – but this is a myth. There is no such thing in English law as a common law partner.
“Unmarried couples who split up face issues that can be more complicated than a divorce when children and property are involved. People who live together do not have the same rights as people who are married or have a civil partnership, and many of our clients are astounded when they realise that they have few legal rights when a relationship breaks up. We have seen examples where people are literally left out in the cold because they have been evicted from a house that they shared with a partner for many years.
“The law has not kept pace with people’s changing lifestyles and needs reform. However, the only way for couples to protect themselves and their assets in the event of a split is to prepare a co-habitation agreement. It is similar to a pre-nup agreement and enables both parties to state clearly how they want their assets divided in the event that their relationship ends.”
The current position under EU law is that where there is the possibility that divorce proceedings could be issued in more than one EU country, the country which is first seised will have jurisdiction. This essentially means that there may be a race between divorcing husbands and wives seeking to ensure that the proceedings are heard in the country whose laws are most beneficial to them.
We do not know what the rules will be after the UK leaves the EU and this uncertainty may cause people to seek to secure the jurisdiction of their choice now rather than waiting to find out what will happen. That might mean an increase in instructions.
So far our enquiries have been from people wanting to know if their passports and their children’s passports remain current. There has also been concern expressed by my businessmen clients that banks will be less happy to lend, the weak pound and the political uncertainty will lead to an economic slump and a possible depression on property prices.
All those things make divorce and financial settlements that much harder because there is less liquid and less money to go round. If banks won’t lend, people can’t always make a fresh start, as we saw painfully in 2008 and 2009.
Imagine a house bought for a daughter by her parents, that her boyfriend moves in to. There is no clear agreement but he takes over the loan repayments to her Mum and Dad because he has good job and she gets made redundant. She tells him it is ‘our house’ and when they split up, because of the payments and what she said, he claims a percentage of the equity of the house even though it is in her name.
You can ask the partner who moves into a house you own to sign a deed of surrender meaning that even if they pay the gas bill from time to time, you have a legal document to show that it was never your intention to share the equity in the property whatever you might have said in the heat of the moment.
More and more people are relying on financial help from the bank of mum and dad to get on the property ladder but parents need to be aware of the risks and steps they can take to protect their families.
We’ve seen an increase in the number of parents who require a child to have a prenuptial agreement in place with their partner or spouse, before they will lend them money to get a foot on the property ladder.
It’s a sensible idea because parents want to protect their assets and investments, which may form part of an inheritance or retirement fund, in the unfortunate scenario of their offspring suffering a relationship breakdown.
It isn’t just prenuptial agreements that parents need to consider when helping their children get onto the property ladder.
They need to consider whether they can really afford to help in the long run, if they are fully aware of all of the terms and conditions on any mortgage they might be named on, as well as issues around owning second properties and tax.
While we all want to help and protect our children, taking legal advice from experts who can advise you on all of the implications, from prenups to stamp duty, can ensure the help you give your offspring now, doesn’t turn into a headache later down the line.