Monthly Archives: January 2015

Separated but still living under the same roof? A Classic London Problem

Separating couples want to separate – obvious you may well say, but not always possible in the fantastically highly priced housing bubble which London has become. Separation gives you breathing space whilst you consider longer term options and would reduce the tension following relationship break down. Unfortunately where the costs of renting a second property are as high as they are in London, then this can be completely impossible.

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Increasing numbers of couples are forced to remain in the family home together after their relationship has broken down – often for a considerable period of time. This can be excruciating for them and their children, if they are caught in the crossfire.

This problem is particularly acute in London where, as reported in the Daily Mail recently, London rents are so high in some areas that it would be infinitely cheaper to rent in Barcelona and commute to London for work! The Mail article detailed the situation faced by one Londoner Mr Cookney trying to rent in North West London

“A one-bedroom flat in West Hampstead would cost around £1,505 a month, according to Zoopla.

He then added in council tax at approximately £75 and a zone 1-2 travelcard to get to his job in the City, which costs £116.80, making a total of £1,697.

Mr Cookney said: ‘I chose West Hampstead because I know and like the area, and it doesn’t seem a stretch to suggest that a young professional may afford to live there’

He then compared the prices to Barcelona where a three-bedroom flat, with three balconies, a stone’s throw away from the metro, in the ‘nice and safe’ area of Les Corts costs £580 per month”

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This may seem an extreme example but highlights the exceptionally high cost of living in London.

If following separation you need to remain in London for work then there may be no other option than continuing to live under the same roof until you can find a longer term solution, if there is one.

Focus Mediation has an office at Euston, (The Office Group, 1 Euston Square, 40 Melton Street, Euston NW1 2FD). Our mediators are experienced in helping couples faced with this type of problem after their relationship has ended. We will work with you during this time, not only to look at options for rehousing the family in two homes, but also to work out an agreed set of ground rules on how to behave towards each to reduce tensions, whilst you work together in mediation to reach a settlement. This can be done at a pace which suits you. Where you have children and both accept that your relationship is over then resolving matters quickly by agreement is essential in ensuring you both are able to move forward in separate homes and lives.

London Schools and Divorce in London

When a couple separate there are many issues to resolve. Most couples will want to provide as much stability as possible for their children at this uncertain time. One of the biggest problems in London is schools and catchment areas.

Separating in London can present additional problems compared to most other areas of the UK in terms of schooling, especially if the only option is to sell the family home. Down-sizing to another house could mean children being uprooted from schools and friends at a time when they most need their support network outside the home.

This year the number of 4 year old children applying for school places in London exceeded 100,000 for the first time. One in five children missed out on their chosen first place.

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The pan-London admission board received a record 102,441 applications for primary school places, an increase of three per cent last year.

The Evening Standard reported in November 2014 that “81 per cent received their first preference school, 92 per cent were offered one of their top three and 95 per cent one of their top six school choices”

The boroughs with the lowest numbers of children getting their first preference school were Wandsworth and Kensington and Chelsea, at 73 per cent and 61 per cent respectively.

Parents in Newham were most likely to get their first preference school, with 90 per cent being successful. In Barking and Dagenham and Havering 89 per cent of parents got their first preference school.”

It is common to read of situations where families living in the same street in London fail to get a school place in local popular schools, as they are as little as 500m outside the catchment area. This can be randomly unfair.

Focus London mediators will help you think through the options with regard to your family home and consider the implications for your children and their schools. In mediation you can consider these problems together and with our help work out which options are realistic, which provide the best outcomes for you and your children.

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House prices, Living Standards and Separating in London

Londoners are considered to enjoy to most affluent living standards in the UK. With salaries above the national average and house prices considered to be out of reach of those not already on the London property ladder, might be less fraught.

The reality however can be far from that. London house prices are out of kilter with the rest of the UK. The Evening Standard reported recently house price increases of 18.8 per cent in the last year and that is on prices already massively higher than anywhere else in the country. When a couple is considering what to do with their family home and where they can both live if they split up, ever rising house prices make it difficult for them just to agree a valuation. What may be accurate at the start of their separation can within a matter of months have changed out of all recognition if the market has risen madly.

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London Focus Mediators are aware of the particular difficulties facing London couples and will help both parties throughout their mediation face the tricky issues specifically relating to living in London.

It is of note that whilst house prices are higher than anywhere else in the UK the Evening Standard goes on to report there is an increasing crunch on London family budgets.

“The fall in average London pay is likely to be caused partly by smaller City bonuses, and cuts in the number of relatively well paid managers in the public sector.”

November 2014 figures suggested the era of falling real wages since the banking crisis may finally be ending, with pay just starting to outpace inflation.  But today Matthew Whittaker, chief economist at the Resolution Foundation think tank, said that in real terms wages were at the same level as in 2000.

“Today’s bleak figures contrast with signs last week that the UK’s six-year pay squeeze was coming to an end,” he added.  “While the [new] data relates to April — a period in which we already knew pay was falling— the depth of decline highlights just how tentative any recent recovery remains.”

Faced with these economic peculiarities, It is key to work with a mediator in touch with the problems facing Londoners. The process of mediation allows such issues to be flagged up at the outset and dealt with in a controlled and professional way, helping separating couples to set their agenda and deal with the particular issues affecting them and their family.

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