The Ashley Madison Effect: 5 Things You Should Know About Divorcing On Adultery in NI

‘Life is Short. Have an Affair’

This is the slogan that has featured heavily in the media in the past few weeks.

Its aim?? Quite simply to draw people onto a Canadian-based dating website called ‘Ashley Madison’, a website which is marketed towards people who are married or in a committed relationship who wish to commit adultery.

In a technology obsessed world, it now seems that it may actually be possible to start an adulterous relationship from the comfort of your own home. The mind truly boggles!

Though on a serious note, what things should unsuspecting (or indeed suspecting) spouses/civil partners know if they catch their other half on a website such as this?

Here are a few pointers:-

1.  Chatting online is not proof of adultery

Catching your spouse on a dating website is not enough in itself to prove to a Court that they have committed adultery for the purpose of divorce proceedings. Some people may be surprised to discover that in order to rely on adultery you actually need to provide proof to the Court that your spouse has had sexual intercourse with a member of the opposite sex.

Chatting on dating websites may, however, be enough to prove to that your spouse has been behaving unreasonably towards you – for example, it can be used to show a Court that they have been leading the life of a single person or in fact that they have been having an ‘inappropriate relationship’ with another person.

2.  An admission of adultery is often enough for the Court

If upon being confronted, your spouse admits to having committed adultery, this may be enough evidence to file for divorce on the grounds of their adultery.

3. You can ask the Court to make your spouse pay for the divorce

If you successfully file for divorce on the ground of your spouse’s adultery, or even on the ground that their behaviour is unreasonable, you can ask the Court to make an Order for legal costs against your spouse. Essentially you would be claiming that because the marriage breakdown was the fault of your spouse they should pay your legal costs in getting a divorce. Whilst this may not ease the heartache caused, it may relieve the financial burden of ending the relationship.

4. You can name the third party in divorce proceedings if you wish to

If you file for divorce on the ground of your spouse’s adultery, you have the option to name the other party involved in the divorce proceedings. They would then be named on all of the divorce papers and may also be ordered to pay towards the costs of your divorce.

5. Forgiving adultery may mean that you can’t rely on it for divorce

If, after discovering that your spouse committed adultery, you resume married life and continue to live with your spouse for more than six months after discovering the affair, you may not be able to rely on the ground of adultery in the future should things not work out between you. This is because you may be seen to have condoned or forgiven your spouse’s behaviour and therefore you can’t later seek to rely on it.

We all hope that adultery and infidelity will never darken the door of our own relationships and that all we need to worry about is whose turn it is to wash the dishes! However, if you do need information or assistance in relation to any aspect of divorce or relationship breakdown, you can seek confidential advice from an experienced solicitor in this area to guide you through your options.

As always, we appreciate your comments on this topic.  If you do need any further information, please contact Karen or Claire

Women’s Aid Belfast & Lisburn Fundraiser

Women’s Aid Belfast & Lisburn are having a fundraiser on Thursday 3rd September 2015 in the Black Box, Belfast to help raise funds for specialized activities for the children in their refuge.
This is a great opportunity to support an important and worthwhile organisation (all whilst honing your general knowledge skills!)
For more information on Women’s Aid, please see our blog article Women’s Aid: Helping Healing

Fundraiser Flyer (2)


LIFE BITE: Slagging off your Boss on Social Media?? Think Twice!!

apple-150579_1280Okay,  so you don’t particularly like your job – the hours suck, your boss is a bit of a pain and you’d generally much rather be somewhere else.

But be very careful before taking to Facebook to vent your frustrations!

In the case of British Waterways Board v Smith, it was held that it was fair to dismiss an employee for making derogatory comments about his work managers and work in general on Facebook, even despite the employee’s claim that the comments made were untrue.

Mr Smith had basically taken to social media to vent his annoyance and frustrations with his work and managers.    He used what can only be described as offensive language when referring to managers and had claimed that two years earlier, he had been drinking whilst on standby duty (vodka and apple juice to be precise) which he referred to as “not to shabby” (sic).

Whilst Mr Smith denied that he had been drinking and claimed that the comments were ‘banter’, he was dismissed from work on the ground of gross misconduct as his comments had undermined the confidence his employer or the public could have in him.

It was initially found by the Employment Tribunal that Mr Smith’s employer should have considered that his comments were exaggerated or not true however, the Employment Appeal Tribunal overturned that decision and held that the dismissal was fair.

Employees should be careful about what they post on social media as although comments regarding work may be meant as a joke or used as an avenue to express frustration, they can have drastic results!

MGavinTHIs ‘Life Bite’ was provided BY MARY GAVIN who is aN EMPLOYMENT LAW Solicitor at Francis Hanna & Co.    If you require Employment Law advice please contact Mary Gavin on 028 90243901 or email at

5 Questions All Students Need to Ask when Renting Property

rentalLast week, many pupils from our local schools will have received their A-Level results.   A common rite of passage for many students finishing school is to leave the family nest and live independently in the big wide world – so after accepting a place in university or college, the next big step is often to secure private rented accommodation.

But before packing up and shipping out, here are 5 questions that all students should ask for before renting property:

1.   Has my landlord given me the basics?

Once you have found your new home, you should make sure that the landlord provides you with the following:-

  • A Tenancy Agreement – This is the contract between you and your landlord giving both of you certain rights, for example, your right to occupy the property for a set period of time and the your landlord’s right to receive rent from you.
  • A Rent Book – This is a book which should contain your landlords contact details – not just the details of any lettings agency. It is compulsory for all landlords in Northern Ireland to provide a rent book for all tenancies.
  • A Statement of Tenancy Terms – This statement is essentially a shorter version of your Tenancy Agreement and should contain details such as both yours and your landlords name and address, contact details of the landlord or letting agency, and details of the amount of deposit you paid and the monthly rental charges
2. Have I done an Inventory?

Make sure that you get an Inventory of the items at the property provided by the landlord including details of condition and damage that these items are in.

You should always accompany your landlord to complete the inventory on the property and photographs can be useful to document the condition of various items as the date that you moved in.

3. Is my deposit protected?

Your landlord will likely take payment of a deposit from you as a type of guarantee against any loss they might face because of the tenancy. This is normally the equivalent of one month’s rent. However, by law,  your landlord has to protect any deposit you pay them. They must enter into an authorised scheme run by one of the 3 companies approved to provide a tenancy deposit scheme in Northern Ireland.

If, at the end of your tenancy your landlord decides to keep some of your deposit for alleged loss or damage and you do not agree with this decision, the tenancy deposit scheme will have a procedure for you to follow to dispute this decision.

4. Has my landlord registered with the Landlord Registration Scheme ?

Before signing for a tenancy, you should also check that your landlord is registered in the Land Registration Scheme – this is a central database that all landlords must sign up to before renting out a property.

5. Is the property HMO registered?

If you are renting out a property with two or more friends, the property must be correctly registered by your landlord as a HMO – that is, a House of Multiple Occupancy.   If a property is HMO registered, it must meet certain standards in terms of safety, facilities provided and occupancy.   It is important to ask your landlord to confirm that the property is HMO registered in this instance.

Renting a place of their own for the first time is a big milestone in any young person’s life and the start of a new chapter in growing up.
Whilst for some this may be daunting, being aware of your legal rights and responsibilities when renting your first home will help ensure that you have a safe, secure place to live so that you can concentrate on enjoying student life to its full.


RFlinnRuth Flinn is a solicitor with Francis Hanna & Co.  She works in the Property Law department and undertakes all aspects of conveyancing, both private and commercial.     Should you require any advice on renting a property or on any other area of conveyancing, please do not hesitate to contact Ruth by email at

Statutory Wills


Guest Blog by Linda Johnston,  Partner , Francis Hanna & Co

Making a Will is one of those things on everyone’s ‘To Do’ list. We all mean to make one but many of us never seem to get round to it.

Putting your own Will aside, have you ever considered whether a Will may need to be made on behalf of someone you know who does not have the mental capacity to make one for themselves??

It sounds like an odd notion – making a Will for someone else. However, if someone has insufficient appreciation or understanding to make a Will, the Court can consider an application for a Will to be made on that person’s behalf – this type of Will is known as a Statutory Will.

Examples of people who may require a Statutory Will to be made on their behalf include the following:-

  • People who may have lost mental capacity to understand and manage their own affairs (for example, due to degenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia)
  • Those with a learning disability who do not have the mental capacity to understand the implications of making a Will
  • Those who have suffered a severe brain injury and have become mentally incapable of managing their affairs

Why make a Statutory Will?

The basic purpose of making any Will for most people is to allow them the freedom to leave any possessions, property or money that they have when they die to whoever they choose.

In order to make a Will, a person must understand the purpose of making a Will, and how their assets would be distributed to family or friends upon their death.   A Will is therefore only valid if it is made by a person who has the mental capacity to understand what they are doing.

In cases where this mental capacity is lacking, making a Statutory Will can help to  avoid the scenario where a person’s assets are given to someone they would not wish to benefit.  For example, an unexpected inheritance, personal injury award or other change of circumstances may leave a person with significant assets.   If that person is not mentally capable of making a Will,  their assets are at risk of being distributed upon their death to family members who perhaps they are not in touch with or who they would not have wanted their assets to go to.

A person may not have sufficient mental capacity to make a Will, but may be capable of other financial decisions.   Alternatively, family members of the person without mental capacity to make a Will may believe it to be in that person’s best interests that they have a Will stating how their assets are to be distributed on their death, for tax planning purposes for example or to avoid a situation whereby their assets are distributed unfairly.

How do I make a Statutory Will on behalf of someone else?

In order to have a Statutory Will made, an application needs to be made to the Court. The Court office that deals with applications is called the Office of Care and Protection. The procedure can be quite complex and therefore it is recommended that anyone making an application of this nature seek legal advice.

Many people are unaware of this opportunity.  I have used Statutory Wills for a number of clients to protect their assets and to avoid obvious injustice.

If you would like any further information on this area, please do not hesitate to contact me on the form below or alternatively by email on


LJohnstonLinda is a Partner in Francis Hanna & Co Private Client department specialising in estate planning, long term care issues and disputed wills. She was the first NI member of Solicitors for the Elderly, a network of specialist and passionate lawyers focusing on the increasing needs of our ever ageing population.

Linda is also a member of STEP (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) and is a frequent speaker to parent and carer groups on the subject of future planning to protect the interests of vulnerable and disabled family and friends.