Looking after your family

Separation & Divorce

Separation and divorce are major events in life. They can cause emotional stress and financial worries. Our Family Lawyers aim to guide you as painlessly as possible through the jungle of legal rules and practices which can often be daunting and confusing, especially during such a difficult time.

If matters cannot be agreed between you, or there is an urgent need for Court involvement (for example, to regulate who your children live with or to protect you from your partner), then Court action will be required. People often find going to Court stressful and worrying, but our Family law solicitors will let you know what is involved and guide you through the process.

Courts are often not the best places in which to resolve matrimonial or relationship disputes. Negotiation out with the Court process, perhaps by a less traditional method such as mediation or Collaborative Family Law, can also provide a quicker, cheaper and less stressful solution.

Particular additional issues arise where there are children of the relationship under 16 years old. Please see our separate Child Law section if this applies to you.

If you are separating from your partner, but you are not married to them or in a registered civil partnership, please see our Cohabiting Couples section.

Relationship Problems

Our family lawyers based in Dundee and Perth can offer advice to people facing relationship problems or family breakdown. This applies whether you are experiencing difficulties with your husband or wife, civil partner or cohabitant. You may also have concerns about who your children will live with or who they will have contact with or what Child Support or maintenance you will receive for them.

Many clients wish to consult a family law solicitor before they make any major decision following a relationship breakdown. You may be concerned about your parental rights and responsibilities and the child care arrangements. You may be worried about the financial implications of separation or divorce for example whether you can afford to stay in your current house and what entitlement you have to property, savings or pensions. We can advise you on your rights following a relationship breakdown and the options open to you.

Whatever your particular concerns, our team of family law solicitors will listen, advise and assist you in coming to a decision which suits your individual circumstances.

Cohabiting Couples

The introduction of the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 heralded a new level of recognition for those who live together but choose not to marry or to enter into a registered civil partnership. Unmarried couples who separate now enjoy similar rights to married people and civil partners.

The Act provides various rights to cohabiting couples, including the right to equal shares in household property, the right to apply for a financial payment from the other partner when the couple stop living together and the right to apply for a share of the deceased partner’s estate. The definition of a cohabitant under the Act is a man and woman living together as if they were husband and wife, or two persons of the same sex living together as if they were civil partners. No distinction is drawn between opposite-sex and same-sex couples.

The Act doesn’t specify a period of time that you must have been living with your partner; instead a Court considering your claim will look at all the circumstances of your relationship.

A relationship breakdown is a difficult time for those involved. You may have children to consider and you may have concerns about your financial situation or where you will live. Our Family Law solicitors can guide you through the legal rights and responsibilities you have in relation to your children and your property. We will also explore any other avenues open to you, depending on your particular circumstances.

Civil Partnerships

On 5 December 2005 the law changed to allow same sex couples the ability to register as civil partners. As a result of this legislation, people in a registered Civil Partnership now have similar rights to those of married couples.

Miller Hendry’s Family Lawyers can explain the concepts and requirements involved in entering into a civil partnership and can provide legal advice as to your rights. We can also advise on pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements for civil partners to formulate their rights and responsibilities in the event of a relationship breakdown. Our solicitors are experienced in acting for clients who separate. We will guide you through the separation process and explain all the options available.

Child Law

Coming to an agreement about future child care arrangement, such as where and with whom the children live and how much contact they have with the non-resident parent can be one of the most difficult aspects of divorce or separation. Careful consideration needs to be given to what arrangements need to be made, and whether these arrangements are in the best interests of the children.

Our Family Law solicitors can guide you through the legal rights and responsibilities (known as Parental Rights and Responsibilities) you have in relation to your children. We aim to ensure that we give the appropriate advice to ensure that the best arrangements can be made for both you and your children. In the first instance, we try to reach agreement by negotiation, and the court should only be seen as a last resort.

We can advise you on the other options available such as Family Mediation and Collaborative Family Law. We can also advise you on maintenance and when to involve the Child Maintenance Service (formerly known as the Child Support Agency).

A residence order usually requires a child to live with one parent, but can provide for a child to live with each parent at different times. A contact order is usually made where a child has his home with one parent and sees the other on a regular basis. The child’s view will also require to be taken into account, particularly if they are over 12. The Court will however only make an order if it is in the best interest of a child.

Collaborative Family Law

Collaborative Law is an alternative approach to resolving family law disputes. It is a dispute method which should be considered by anyone who finds themselves faced with a relationship breakdown. At the start of the process, both clients and their solicitors sign an agreement. The effects of this are that all discussions will take place around the table between the four of them and that the solicitors cannot raise Court proceedings on behalf of their respective clients if the Collaborative process fails.

The approach gives the clients an opportunity to work together towards a solution which suits their particular circumstances. Correspondence directly between solicitors is minimal. The aim is to allow you to be more involved in reaching decisions which affect your life than with the traditional model where the vast majority of communication is through solicitors and under threat of Court action.

The Collaborative approach is not for everyone. However, when clients and solicitors are committed to participating in an open and honest process where the clients are better able to communicate directly with each other, agreements can often be reached in a manner which is less destructive to ongoing relationships. This is particularly vital when parties have their children’s future to consider. If the Collaborative process breaks down, and no agreement can be reached within its boundaries, the clients must consult new solicitors if they wish to resolve the issues through litigation.

Richard Frenz is a trained Collaborative lawyer and has experience of assisting clients in relation to their matrimonial separations under the Collaborative process. Richard is based in Perth but often meets with clients in our Dundee office as well.


Our Family Law solicitors appreciate the range of sensitive issues involved in the adoption process. The child’s biological parents may still be involved. The child’s views will be taken into account, depending on the child’s age and maturity. Various agencies and representatives will be involved and you will be expected to meet with them and discuss your feelings towards the adoption process.

We will examine your individual circumstances and guide you through the practicalities of the process. We can also assist should you wish to oppose an adoption or if your child is removed from your care.

Our Court Team

Alison Fitzgerald

Head of Court

Rebecca Coltart


Fiona Kelly