Armed Forces

Plymouth has a strong service community, and we are proud to be part of it.

We have been helping members of the Armed Forces, their families and the people of Plymouth solve their legal problems for over 200 years. Whether you are serving or served in the Royal Navy, Army or Royal Airforce, we are here to help with all your legal needs.

Several of the Wolferstans team are veterans or come from a service family; therefore, we have an underlying knowledge and greater understanding of how the Armed Forces work, their unsociable working hours and the many Armed Forces protocols that exist.

Wolferstans have made an Armed Forces Covenant pledge to continue our support to our armed forces community and were awarded the Defence Employers Recognition Scheme Gold Award in 2017 in National recognition of our commitment. Wolferstans were the first law firm in the UK to receive the Gold Award.

Wolferstans are signed up to the corporate covenant which works alongside the community covenant to express our support for the Armed Forces community and have also been awarded the Gold Award in national recognition of our commitment to the Armed Forces under the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme. Wolferstans are the first law firm in the UK to receive the Gold Award.

Legal advice for veterans and armed forces personnel

We have armed forces legal specialists who can help you with:

  • Buying and selling a home, including Forces Help to Buy (FHTB) schemes
  • Family matters including prenuptial agreements, guardianship consent, overseas accompanied assignments and divorce
  • Personal Injury including claims against the MOD
  • Medical Negligence
  • Employment Law for reservists and regulars
  • Disputes
  • Wills, Trusts and Power of Attorney
  • Probate
  • Business services, including new business start-ups

Our armed forces and military solicitors are members of Forces Law, a group of highly experienced solicitors and law firms across the UK, who have represented personnel within the Armed Forces. The aim of this group is to help and support those in the Armed Forces Community in all legal situations.

Get in touch with our armed forces and military lawyers

Get in touch to discuss how we can help you by emailing Natasha Mason or calling 01752 663295.

Our Armed Forces Community Services

Buying and Selling a Home

At Wolferstans, we have a well known and highly regarded team of conveyancing solicitors in Plymouth with expertise in buying and selling homes with LSAP and FHTB.

On 1st April 2014 LSAP was frozen and Armed Forces personnel may now be eligible for assistance under the Forces Help to Buy Scheme.

FHTB is a new scheme which serving personnel may be eligible to borrow up to half of their salary to a maximum loan of £25,000. FHTB can only be used to purchase mortagable residential properties in the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man. In some circumstances it may be used to extend an existing property.

Our specialist solicitors and conveyancers are on hand to deal with all elements of residential property including leasehold and freehold sales and purchases as well as equity transfers and re-mortgages.

We are able to offer:

  • Power of Attorney if you are deployed or likely to be deployed
  • A free initial discussion and fee quote
  • Fixed fees offering cost certainty
  • Direct line services to the team
  • Plain English advice
  • Accredited performance standards

Family Matters

An increasing number of Armed Forces families complain about troubled marriages as a result of long and frequent deployments and of short notice changes.

Wolferstans has one of the largest teams of Family Lawyers in the South West, specialising in all aspects of Family Law and have experience acting for Armed Forces personnel and their families including grandparents.

We can help you with all types of family matters in a professional and sympathetic way.

We are able to offer:

Prenuptial agreements which may protect your pension

Prenuptial Agreements set out what you and your future husband / wife or civil partner agree should happen to your finances if your marriage / civil partnership breaks down. Prenuptial agreements can help to protect pre marriage assets, inheritance and existing family commitments such as responsibilities to children from a previous relationship.

Prenuptial agreements are not strictly binding on the Court, however, it is likely that a prenuptial agreement will be respected by the Court unless the effect of the agreement would be unfair.

If you and your partner are considering entering into a Prenuptial Agreement, it is essential that:

  • Each party has independent legal advice
  • There is complete disclosure of each partys’ finances
  • It is completed in good time before the wedding (at least 2 months is preferable)
  • There has been no pressure to enter into the agreement.

Prenuptial Agreements may be particularly relevant where:

  • One party has completed several years of his/her Armed Forces pension
  • Either party has been married before
  • There are inherited assets that you wish to protect from a possible divorce settlement
  • You are bringing into the marriage more assets than your partner.

We have a team of specialists who can advise you about the right agreement for your situation and guide you through the process to ensure that you are protected.

Divorce

Divorce rates amongst the Armed Forces community are higher than those in civilian life. We understand that long separations, often frequent with little notice or a delayed return, can take its toll on family life.

A divorce involving a member of the Armed Forces follows the same legal procedure as a civilian divorce: arrangements will have to be made for dividing up all your possessions and finances as well as detailing the accommodation and arrangements for any children.

However, there are a number of ways in which divorce involving Armed Forces personnel are different. One of the most important differences involves the HM Forces pension system which makes Armed Forces divorces more complex than civilian ones, and therefore, specialist expert advice is needed.

If you are serving in the Armed Forces or are a member of the Armed Forces community and have concluded that you need a divorce, make sure you get the legal advice from a lawyer who really understands Armed Forces divorce.

As members of Forces Law, our lawyers handling Armed Forces divorces are experienced and understand the effect of separation on the provision of married quarters, LSAP/FHTB, CEA and pensions.

If you are currently thinking about getting a divorce contact our specialist team.

Useful links:

Housing: Married Quarter occupation and LSAP/FHTB

If you are married, you may be living in married quarter accommodation (SFA or SSFA) with your spouse and children. Around 50,000 properties in the UK are managed by Carillion Amey on behalf of the MOD’s Defence Infrastructure Organisation.

Armed Forces personnel are sometimes able to have a trial separation period before committing to a divorce; through the chain of command the Commanding Officer has the power to allow the service spouse to live in single living accommodation for a while. This allows the spouse and children to remain in the married quarter accommodation for the length of the trial.

However if there is a permanent separation, usually after 3 months the spouse and children would be required to move out of SFA as only the Armed Forces spouse is entitled to live there.

If you have bought a house using LSAP or FHTB, then a divorce or separation is likely to have a major effect upon you.

We can help with specialist advice on the issues of money and housing in these circumstances.

Service Pensions

A major issue for any serving spouse and retired service personnel is the effect of a divorce on your pension.

Your pension will form part of the family assets which are available for distribution between husband and wife or between civil partners and often the pension is the largest asset within the relationship. Armed Forces pensions are very different from normal pensions as they can include different schemes, lump sum payments on retirement, commutation, different pensionable ages and different benefits.

As most Armed Forces personnel are probably aware, the rules on service pensions changed in 2015 and so it is important that your lawyer has an in depth knowledge of the schemes. In most cases a pension expert’s report will be needed.

Within the divorce proceedings the Court can make a number of types of order against a pension including a pension sharing order, a pension attachment order or an offsetting order. Whilst a spouse or civil partner may not automatically be entitled to a share of your pension, it will need to be taken into account. Whether your spouse ends up with a share of your pension is down to negotiation or if agreement cannot be reached, a Court order. Every case is different, and it is essential therefore that you obtain the best possible advice.

A valuation of the service persons pension will need to be obtained by the service person through SPVA. However, due to the costs involved, we advise that a valuation is not applied for until expert legal advice has been sought.

Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA)

CEA is available to help service personnel achieve continuity for their child’s education that may otherwise be denied in the maintained school system if their child accompanied them on assignments or drafts.

The Childrens Education and Advisory Service can assist with researching the most appropriate school and making applications for the allowance.

New rules announced by the MoD allow a permanent change whereby a child may withdraw permanently from CEA without financial penalty.

However, reasons may exist for you to move your child from one school to another in circumstances where the child may be unhappy or the school does not meet your expectations or they may have ignored a serious issue that you have raised. Removing your child without notice may give rise to financial penalties from the school and from the MoD and you may lose your entitlement to future claims of CEA.

Single Parents

Raising a child on your own can be difficult in any circumstances. As a single parent you may have sole responsibility for all aspects of day to day care.

As a single parent in the Armed Forces with sole responsibility for a child you may need expert legal advice from a team who understand the difficulties involved, especially if you are taking up an assignment away from the family home or deploying out of the UK.

We can help you with a guardianship agreement, where you can appoint one or more individuals to be your child’s legal guardian. We can also help you with a Will to allow you to decide what happens to your property, your possessions and, most importantly, your child.

Royal Navy Welfare

Support services for Armed Forces and defence personnel and their families

Overseas Accompanied Assignments

Overseas accompanied assignments can be hugely exciting for the families involved with the opportunity to experience a new way of life in the sunshine!

However, for some families this may prove a stressful and difficult time.

If you are facing an overseas accompanied assignment, you may have additional worries about how you will see your children from a previous relationship. It may be that you are accompanying a new partner overseas and want to take your children from a previous relationship. Or, you may be the parent who is worried an ex is taking your children abroad for an assignment and you’re worried about maintaining contact with your children, the burden of extra costs to see them or whether your consent needs to be sought for them to go.

At Wolferstans we understand this can be a difficult time for everyone, including the added pressure on the service person to accept the posting.

We are experienced in family matters and can help with making the first steps towards an agreement.

you can find a glossary of divorce and family law terms here.

Personal Injury

The Armed Forces are a key part of Plymouth life. We recognise by its nature serving in the Armed Forces is a dangerous job.

At Wolferstans, we are proud to act on behalf of serving and ex-Armed Forces personnel, and their families, in connection with all types of accident claim, including claims against the Ministry of Defence for injuries occurring during service. If you are injured during your service, there may be a number of routes to receiving compensation. We would encourage you to seek legal advice from a specialist personal injury lawyer familiar with the impact an injury may have upon your service career and the pay and pension systems that apply to Armed Forces personnel.

A claim normally has to be settled or started in the Courts within 3 years of the date of an accident that causes you injury. There are exceptions, but it is better to be safe than sorry. Speak to someone as soon as you can.

As well as seeking compensation for the pain that you have suffered, you may also be able to claim in respect of loss of earnings (including any allowances and enhanced pay that may apply) and pension entitlement, treatment costs, care and assistance provided by your family, aids and equipment purchased and other reasonable expenses that are the result of your accident. If your injuries are serious, we may be able to assist with ensuring that you receive appropriate rehabilitation through our extensive network of medical experts and rehabilitation care providers.

There is an important exception specific to the Armed Forces when you may not be able to claim. This is the principle of ‘combat immunity’. This states that proceedings cannot be brought against the Crown for injuries caused in the theatre of war. There have been recent inroads into this principle. There is a distinction between decisions that are taken on the battlefield and those taken in Whitehall. Decisions such as procurement of equipment and training issues can fall outside this principle. It is important to seek legal advice.

You can also apply under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS), at the same time as making a personal injury claim. However, the law does not allow ‘double recovery’. If you are awarded compensation under the AFCS this will be offset against any other claim that you make. Injury awards under the AFCS are tariff based and you may be awarded more by a civil Court. There may also be losses that you cannot recover under the scheme. Again, we would recommend you seek advice.

As well as accident claims, we also have a specialist team that deals with deafness and other industrial disease. Special rules apply in respect of time limits. If you think this may be relevant to you, please enquire.

Personal Injury FAQ's

You can find a number of FAQs specific to Personal Injury within the Armed Forces Community here.

Criminal Injuries Compensation

You may also be hurt by the deliberate actions of another whilst relaxing or on leave.

If you are physically assaulted or attacked whilst in the UK, you may be entitled to claim compensation under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. This is another tariff based scheme that compensates victims of violent crime. Claims must be submitted within 2 years. Reporting the incident to the Police is a basic requirement of the scheme. Your own behaviour may be taken into account, as may any previous criminal record. Legal costs are not covered, so you will have to deal directly with the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority or if you wish to instruct a Solicitor agree with them how they will be paid (If you are a Trade Union member, you may be entitled to free legal advice. You should check with your Union).

If you are a member of the Armed Forces and you are physically assaulted or attacked outside the UK, you may be eligible to claim under the Ministry of Defence’s Criminal Injuries Compensation (Overseas) Scheme. A similar scheme operates in Northern Ireland.

Accident and Injury Insurance

You may have taken out accident and injury insurance in relation to your service.

PAX and ABACUS insurance, for example, offer accident insurance to service personnel and are specialists in this type of cover. Following an injury you may be entitled to an award of compensation under a policy of this sort. Such payments do not impact upon awards made under the AFCS or civil claim.

Medical Negligence

Wolferstans is recognised as one of the leading firms in the country providing specialist legal services to the victims of medical negligence.

Our medical negligence team are specialist lawyers who act exclusively for patients who have been injured in the course of their medical treatment. Our lawyers have experience in handling complex claims for Armed Forces personnel and veterans.

We source and instruct expert barristers with experience in Armed Forces claims as well as medical experts who are themselves serving or are veterans to provide their expertise on a medical basis and on Armed Forces protocol.

Our extensive experience in handling these complex and sensitive claims and our proven track record will often enable us to win cases without ever going to Court and we will always try to negotiate or mediate a settlement of your claim.

Our specialist Armed Forces team have built up links with charities both local and national and can, where appropriate and where permission is given, signpost you or your family for additional support on any matters that may not be linked to the claim but where they exist as a direct consequence of it.

Armed Forces Compensation Scheme and War Disablement Pension Scheme

The Armed Forces Compensation Scheme

The Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) is a no-fault scheme for injured service personnel. The scheme is not concerned with who is to blame for an accident. The question is whether a member of the armed forces has sustained an injury as a result of service. This can include, for example, sporting injury claims, where often it is difficult to obtain compensation through the Courts.

The AFCS deals with injuries, illness or deaths which have occurred in service on or after 6 April 2005. Before this date the War Pension Scheme applies.

This is a tariff-based compensation scheme. It covers a full range of injuries from less severe soft tissue injuries to the most significant and life changing injuries. It is possible to claim for both physical and mental injury.

It is important to note that serving personnel can claim; it is not necessary to wait until you have left service. The War Disablement Pension system only applied post-discharge.

If an application is accepted, you will receive a tax-free lump sum payment for the pain and suffering caused by the injury. For the most serious injuries and illness, the AFCS also provides a tax fee monthly payment, called a Guaranteed Income Payment, which is paid from the date of discharge for life.

Claim forms for AFCS can be downloaded from the Veterans UK website (www.veterans-uk.info). These forms need to be submitted to Veterans UK. They have a free helpline which provides assistance with completing the form (0800 169 2277). In addition, the Royal British Legion also provides assistance (08457 725 725). A claim must be lodged with the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency within 7 years of the date of an accident. There are some exceptions to this time limit, including conditions and illness with a late onset. It is always best to ask and to act promptly. Fatal claims brought by dependents should be made within 3 years of the date of death.

War Pension

The AFCS is only applicable to personnel who are injured as a result of their service since 6 April 2005. If you suffered injuries or illness before then you must apply under the War Pension Scheme. The claim forms are available on the Veterans Agency’s website (www.veterans-uk.info); these forms need to be submitted to the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency. As before, they have a free helpline which provides assistance with completing the form (0800 169 2277). The Royal British Legion can also help (08457 725 725).

Employment

Employment for reservists and regulars. Specialist Employment Solicitors In Armed Forces Claims.

Personnel currently serving cannot make a claim for unfair dismissal against the MoD but you do have a legal remedy if you have been bullied, harassed or otherwise discriminated against on grounds of race, sex or sexual orientation. If so, you will need to raise a Service Complaint, and we can help you with that process, including complaining about other matters.

From 1st October 2014, personnel serving in the reserve services have a ‘day one’ right to make a claim for unfair dismissal if they feel the reason for their dismissal is connected to absences from work through their membership of the reserve forces. A strict three month time limit (minus one day) exists for issuing most claims, so it is essential that you seek advice promptly if your employment has come to an end.

We offer:

  • An initial free telephone consultation
  • No-win, no-fee representation in appropriate cases
  • Fixed fees if preferred, and
  • Specialist advice.

If you are represented by Wolferstans, your claim or grievance will be handled by an experienced and specialist employment litigator. You will be allocated your own solicitor who will issue the claim or grievance on your behalf and be available for telephone conferences or meetings in person throughout your case or via email for those deployed away from the UK.

Our employment solicitors are heavyweight litigators with experience in pursuing claims against the MoD and other employers of all sizes. No employer is too large or too small.

It may be possible for us to run your case on a no-win no-fee basis, or for you to rely on legal expense insurance. Alternatively, we are happy to run your case for an agreed fee so that you know the maximum cost of pursuing your claim. For further detail please see our Funding Your Employment Tribunal Claim page.

Service Complaints and Dispute Resolution

The Service Complaints procedure works in a similar way to an internal workplace grievance. Any member of the Armed Forces both regular and reserve is entitled to raise a formal service complaint through their chain of command.

A veteran may also raise a complaint in the same manner within three months of the date of discharge.

A formal service complaint should be raised using a ‘annex F’ form to JSP 831 (Redress of Individual Grievances: Service Complaints).

Further information regarding raising a complaint can be found at the above link. Alternatively, for independent legal advice contact our Armed Forces team.

Aside from the Service Complaints procedure, disputes of any kind can be particularly unpleasant, time consuming and stressful for the individual concerned. If you find yourself in a dispute with no resolution in sight, we can help.

Our disputes and litigation team are specialists in dealing with all types and sizes of disputes including:

  • Breaches of contract, unpaid bills and poor workmanship
  • Professional negligence
  • Boundary disputes
  • Landlord and tenant disputes
  • Rent arrears
  • Nuisance actions
  • Possession proceedings

Wills, Trusts and Power of Attorney

Those deploying are strongly advised to draw up a Will and Power of Attorney with a solicitor. Armed Forces personnel are able to make a simple Will using MoD form 106 which can then be stored by the MoD, and usually even those under 18 in active service can make a Will.

Every adult should have a Will detailing their specific wishes in the event of their death. In addition, a Power of Attorney is also advisable to enable those you trust to be able to manage your affairs if you are deployed, or if you are injured whilst on service and unable to manage your affairs when you return.

These simple steps make day to day life easier for you, and for your loved ones.

We have a specialist team that can assist you with all elements of Will drafting, Powers of Attorney and Trust arrangement (such as providing for your children).

We have a wealth of experience in the most straight-forward to the most complex family arrangements and are able to tailor a solution to your individual situation. We can usually act on short notice to tailor a Will for your needs – though you may feel your situation is complex, we have usually experienced it before and we can offer sensible, practical advice to achieve what you want.

We offer:

  • Fixed fees
  • Compassion and sensitivity
  • Plain English advice

Probate

When a person passes away, as well as dealing with the grief, you may be the friend or relative that has to deal with the affairs of a loved one. This can be stressful and further complicated if your compassionate leave has come to an end, or of there are children involved. There is a huge amount of paperwork that has to be attended to and it can be overwhelming.

Here at Wolferstans, we understand that this can be a confusing and involved process. Our team is highly experienced and successful in dealing with the affairs of a deceased person. We offer a number of different levels of service, such as obtaining a Grant of Probate only, or administering the whole estate. We also offer a special Bereavement Assistance Service for a fixed fee, designed to assist even in the most straightforward of estates.

We are proud members of the Society for Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), the Law Society Private Client Section and Solicitors for the Elderly.

Business services for veterans

All the information across our website applies to veterans.

In addition, here at Wolferstans we may be able to offer additional advice and support to veterans setting up a business or taking a business over. Through our experienced and specialist business sales and corporate services team we are able to offer:

  • A free initial discussion and free quote
  • Fixed fees
  • Plain English advice tailored to your business.

Our corporate team acts for a wide range of businesses in the South West and nationally.

Previous clients include public institutions, large and small privately owned and family companies and businesses in a wide range of business sectors, and professional partnerships (firms of solicitors, accountants, medical and dental practices and surveyors).

The team’s work includes the sale and purchase of companies and businesses; mergers, reconstructions and reorganisations; investment and shareholders’ agreements; joint ventures; partnership agreements and advice; share schemes and other employee incentive arrangements.

The Wolferstans’ ethos of personal attention to clients and high standards of client service govern the work the team does. Clients will have the personal attention of leading specialists in the field of law involved, advice will be pro-active and responsive and provided in accordance with agreed fee budgets. The team has a reputation for getting things done effectively and on time.

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