Deciding to divorce will never be easy and you will undoubtedly have a variety of questions regarding the next steps and the impact this will have for your future. We know that you will be looking for a Family Solicitor who will not only support you through the legal process but will do so with compassion, understanding and with the experience to help you achieve the best outcome.
We offer a free initial consultation to discuss your situation, during which we will answer any questions you may have about what the future holds. We have endeavoured to answer a variety of such questions here; to discuss them in more detail or to book your initial consultation, you can contact any member of the Family & Relationships team.
On 6th April 2022, the legislation regarding divorce changed meaning that couples are no longer required to apportion blame on to one party to seek a divorce.
Previously, the only ground for divorce in England and Wales was the “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage”, which was evidenced by one of five factors:
The Respondent’s unreasonable behaviour;
The Respondent’s adultery;
Two years separation with consent
Five years separation
Under the new legislation, a couple does not need to use unreasonable behaviour or adultery as a reason for their marriage ending. The party who commences the divorce is now known as the “Applicant”, the new term for “Petitioner”, and the party who receives the petition is the “Respondent”. You must have been married for at least one year before you are permitted to apply for divorce.
Applying for a divorce under the new legislation is as follows:
An application is made to the Court either individually by the Applicant (previously Petitioner) or jointly as a couple. Previously, a draft Petition would have usually been sent to the Respondent prior to being formally issued at Court. This was to allow the Respondent an opportunity to read the draft Petition so he/she would know what to expect when the papers arrived formally from the Court. If the Applicant is filing individually under the new legislation, they have 28 days to notify their spouse by email and by post.
When the application is formally issued at one of the Divorce Units, it will be allocated a case number. If the application contains an email address, the issued application will be served on the Respondent or their Solicitor by email. If there is no email address provided, it will be served by first class post. Under the new divorce system, a divorce can only be contested on the basis of jurisdiction, not for any other reason. A Respondent is required to complete an Acknowledgement of Service and return the Acknowledgement to the Court. If the Respondent fails to co-operate it may be necessary to arrange personal service of the documents.
When the Court seals the Acknowledgement it is returned to the Applicant or their solicitor so the Applicant can apply for Conditional Order (previously known as the Decree Nisi). It is generally not necessary for either party to attend Court. Under the new legislation, there will be a period of six months (20 weeks) “cooling off period” between filing for the divorce and applying for the Conditional Order.
After pronouncement of the Conditional Order the Applicant must wait at least six weeks and one day before applying for the Final Order (previously known as the Decree Absolute). It is generally prudent to delay applying for the Final Order until finances have been agreed and a legally binding Consent Order is approved by the Court.
Pronouncement of the Final Order does not sever the financial claims married spouses have against each other for capital, income and pensions. Dismissal of claims can only be achieved by a Consent Order.
This is a difficult question to answer as it can depend on the speed of the Court system and when any responses are received. There are certain timescales that are specified:
You must have been married for at least a year before you can apply for a divorce.
There is a 20 week cooling off period between filing for divorce and applying for the Conditional Order.
There is a six week and one day wait between the pronouncement of the Conditional Order and applying for the Final Order.
In theory, a divorce could go through in approximately seven or eight months, however this will be determined by external factors. You can ensure matters proceed as quickly as possible by completing the required paperwork correctly and reducing the risk of them being queried, using the time wisely in between applications to come to agreement on other arrangements, and responding efficiently when required.
You should also bear in mind the fact that the divorce is only one part of the separation process. It may take longer to come to agreement on arrangements for your finances or children.
Again, this can be a difficult question to answer as the full cost will depend on the legal advice you seek and whether any alternative dispute resolution is required.
We offer a free initial consultation during which we will discuss the full circumstances that have led to your divorce as well as the options and possible costs involved.
The application fee payable, unless you are exempt, is £593.
When facing divorce there will be many decisions that you need to make, including arrangements for your children, finances and your property. We would always recommend that you endeavour to come to an agreement between the two of you amicably, however we do appreciate that this isn’t always possible. Where this is proving difficult, there are options for you before resorting to Court:
Collaborative Law – both you and your partner would each have a collaborative lawyer represent you in individual discussions as well as joint meetings. The aim of collaborative law is for your lawyers to assist you in your discussions to reach an agreement together, leading towards constructive conversations that consider all scenarios and outcomes. The lawyers are there to work with you and your partner as well as each other to achieve an outcome for the future that you and your partner are happy with.
Family Mediation – in contrast to Collaborative Law, through Family Mediation you and your partner have the same Mediator who is an independent person to discuss the matters at hand in a neutral environment. Before embarking on Family Mediation, each party would attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting to determine whether Mediation would be beneficial, to confirm that both parties are willing to be involved and whether there are any exemptions. Before proceeding to Court, you must have demonstrated that you have considered Mediation or that there is an exemption that applies.
Using ADR will generally be faster than facing the Court system, which is regularly experiencing delays.
While ADR methods do carry their own cost, the overall cost of going to Court could be higher and, as the process will be quicker with ADR, the length of time spent on legal costs will be less.
Ultimately, going to Court to have these decisions made for you will remove the element of control you have over the proceedings. Using ADR, you can choose the method you prefer, the legal professional you instruct and you can decide together on the best way forward. Going to Court takes this out of your hands.
Your situation will determine which of these is the most appropriate option. We can discuss this with you should discussions between you not be successful.
Going to Court should be a last resort if your attempts to come to an agreement or using alternative dispute resolution fails. Should you be required to go to Court, we can support you with the application required and during the process itself, explaining each step along the way and offering our expert advice and guidance.
Going through a divorce will be incredibly difficult for you, and naturally will be life changing for your children. You should discuss with your spouse how you will approach this with your children, ensuring they understand what will happen next and alleviate any concerns or anxieties they have about the future. Depending on their age, you may wish to involve them in discussions regarding where they will live, whether they will need to change schools and how much contact they will have with each of you.
Marriage means that several financial aspects of your life are linked with your spouse, which will need to be divided upon your divorce. You will need to consider the following matters:
Children – as well as making arrangements for the practical side of your children’s lives, you will need to make plans for their financial future, for example:
will you have to pay child maintenance for them,
can they continue to attend private school if they already are, or
will your divorce impact your own earning potential if you need to reduce your working hours to care for them.
Property – you will be required to make plans for your family home and other property you may own, for example will you be selling the home or will your former spouse continue to live there leaving you to seek alternative accommodation.
Money – certain disclosures will need to be made when reaching a financial agreement. We suggest collating information regarding your bank accounts, both sole and joint ones, any debt you have, card payments, mortgages, loans and investments as soon as possible to be prepared for these discussions.
Pensions – there are several different options regarding your pension and how this will be divided upon your divorce, which we can discuss with you in further detail.
We would always recommend that after a significant change in your life, including separating, that you update your Will. Having an out of date Will may mean that your wishes are not adhered to should you pass away.
We offer a free no obligation initial consultation to help you understand the next steps if you have decided to divorce. Taking legal advice at an early stage can often avoid potential pitfalls and can enable you to resolve matters sooner. Contact us today to book your appointment.