Our team offers a combination of detailed and up-to-date legal knowledge backed up with tact, empathy and discretion that comes from many years’ experience working tirelessly on behalf of a wide range of clients. From issues such as divorce, financial arrangements following separation and child arrangements through to pre-nuptial and cohabitation (living together) agreements, we are hugely proud of our achievements in this field.
We would be happy to meet you at any of our offices or make a home visit if you wish.
In England and Wales, you need to be married for more than one year before you can apply to the court for a divorce. There is only one ground for divorce and that is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. You also need to establish one of the following facts: -
- Unreasonable behaviour. You need to show that your spouse had behaved unreasonably towards you and that as a result of that behaviour you cannot be expected to continue living with them.
- Adultery. You would need to prove that your spouse has had an affair with someone else.
- Desertion. This is where your spouse had ‘deserted’ you for a continuous period of at least 2 years prior to you issuing your divorce petition.
- 2 Year Separation. If your spouse agrees to a divorce and you have been separated for at least 2 years you can petition for divorce.
- 5 Year Separation. If you have been living apart for 5 years but you don’t have your spouse’s consent you can divorce.
How to go about getting a divorce
You would issue a document called a divorce petition which sets out the reason or grounds for the divorce. You would be known as the Petitioner. The petition goes to the Court who send a copy to your spouse, referred to as the Respondent. Your spouse would then have to formally acknowledge the document by completing an ‘Acknowledgement of Service’ and at this point they would also say whether they intend to contest (defend) the divorce. It is rare for a divorce to be contested.
Assuming the divorce is ‘uncontested’ you would be asked to sign a formal statement confirming the facts set out in your petition are true.
The Court then looks at all the papers relating to the divorce and decides if you are legally entitled to a divorce. Again, assuming they decide you are entitled, this would be granted in two stages: The Decree Nisi and the Decree Absolute which is granted some 6 weeks after the Decree Nisi.
How long does Divorce take?
It is likely that a divorce will take around 6 months as long as the case is straightforward and there are no unnecessary delays.
It is important to bear in mind that even though the divorce has been granted there may be other matters relating to children or a financial settlement which will take much longer to deal with.
Sometimes for a variety of reasons such as religious, ethical or moral, people don’t wish to issue divorce proceedings even though the marriage has broken down. Instead they may opt for a Judicial Separation. To make sure that joint financial matters are addressed during the separation, you may need a Separation Agreement. This will also allow you to address matters concerning your children. As the term ‘Agreement’ suggests, you and your spouse would need to ‘agree’ the terms.
If you want to end your civil partnership it is important to fully understand your rights. Dissolution is the legal name given to the process that brings a Civil Partnership to an end. It is the equivalent to divorce for married couples. You need to have been in the Partnership for at least one year to apply to the court to have the civil partnership dissolved.
The ground for dissolution is the irretrievable breakdown of the Civil Partnership which must be established through one of the following facts:-
- Unreasonable behaviour
- 2 year separation by consent
- 5 year separation
A dissolution is started by one person who is called the ‘Petitioner’. That person files a Petition with the court setting out the grounds for dissolution. The court then send a copy of the Petition to the other person, called the ‘Respondent’. The Respondent then completes and returns to the court an acknowledgement, known as the ‘Acknowledgement of Service’, stating whether they intend to contest the dissolution. If the dissolution is undefended, you can apply to the court for a conditional order. Six weeks and one day after the issue of the conditional order, you can apply for a final order which legally ends your civil partnership.
It is important that you don’t apply for the final order until all financial matters have been agreed between you and your civil partner.
Provided there are no delays, it usually takes around 5 months for the process to be completed although it is important to remember that the associated matters such as financial agreements and arrangements relating to children can take a lot longer.
In contrast to married couples, cohabitating couples have no legal obligations towards one another as a result of their relationship. You may be surprised to learn that in English law there is no such thing as ‘common law’ husband and wife! This is a myth and Couples who co habit will only have legal obligations towards one another as a result of owning a property together or having children together. Generally, the law treats unmarried couples who live together as unrelated individuals.
Where a couple are divorcing, the courts have jurisdiction when it comes to dealing with the property aspect. However, when the parties are not married, the strict laws of property and trusts apply. This is a complex area of law and we would look carefully at your circumstances and fully advise you on this.
Even if you are not married, there is an obligation for children to be financially supported. The court can make a variety of orders including requiring a parent to pay child maintenance, pay a lump sum to a parent for the benefit of any children or for permission for one parent to continue living in the family home with the children until they are grown up. We will be able to look at your individual circumstances and advise you of the best way forward for you.
At the moment in England and Wales, Pre-nuptial agreements are not legally binding. That said, a landmark decision in the case of Radmacher v Granantino in October 2010 gave weight to pre-nuptial agreements and as a result of that case, if you enter in to a properly drawn up agreement, its contents are reasonable, it takes account of future events such as having children and the parties are fully aware and understand its implications, it is likely that you will be bound by its terms.
Pre-nuptial agreements are particularly useful in the following circumstances: -
- Where you are likely to inherit assets during your marriage
- You wish to protect assets and wealth gained before your marriage
- There is a significant difference in your financial positions.
- You wish to financially protect previously existing dependants and family
- You wish to set out your intentions so far as resolving financial issues in the event the marriage breaks down.
We know that separating parents will want to protect the interests of their children and we will help you to achieve this. It is always better if you can agree on issues relating to your children and we would hope that with our help and advice, you and your spouse or partner can come to the right agreement about the future of your children. Your role as parents will continue after your separation and so agreeing an approach and a solution that suites the whole family is the best outcome.
We know this might be difficult as this will be an emotional time for you. We will work very hard to help you achieve what you believe is best for you and your children. If arrangements about your children cannot be agreed, it may be necessary to involve the Court. Any decision made by the Court will be based on what they consider to be in the best interests of the child.
Here are some of the things the Court will look at:-
- The wishes of the child
- How capable each parent is of meeting the needs of the child
- Any harm the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering
- The needs of the child – educational and emotional
- The likely effect any change might have on the child
It is important when a relationship breaks down, that any children are financially supported. It is usual for the parent with whom the child lives, receives a financial payment from the other parent to help support the child or children.
The amount can be agreed between the parents or if they are unable to agree then the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) will set the payment. They will also enforce and collect payments if these remain unpaid.
If you would like to know what payments are applicable to your family situation, you can use the Child maintenance calculator to work out the amount of maintenance.
Every case is unique and any financial settlement will be specific to your circumstances. Our job is to ensure that you achieve a settlement that is entirely fair and just. Rest assured we will fight your corner to secure a settlement that’s right for you.
Links to web sites you might find useful:
If a couple can reach an agreement about how to divide the family assets, this will save time and minimise costs. However, where one person is not agreeable to an arrangement or is not willing to disclose their assets, it can become a more lengthy process. Rest assured that we will negotiate hard with your former partner’s Solicitor to achieve the very best outcome for you.
Where agreement cannot be reached it will be necessary for one of the parties to make application to the Court setting out the order they are seeking. There are a number of orders that the Court can make:
- Maintenance Pending Suit –
This is where the Court order a monthly sum to be paid by your spouse to meet your reasonable needs. This order would be made pending a final decision about financial issues.
- Spousal Periodical Payments (Maintenance) –
This Order is for a regular monthly payment to meet your reasonable needs. The order can be for a limited time or until an event such as re-marriage or death.
- Lump Sum Payment –
This order is for a very specific amount to be paid by one party to the other.
- Property Orders –
This usually relates to the division of the family home although it can apply to other property such as investment property or a holiday home, shares, savings and ISAs
- Pension Orders –
There are a few different ways the Court can deal with these.
They could make an Order giving one party an income on retirement from the other’s pension or they could make a ‘‘Pension sharing’ order so that the pension proceeds were shared between the parties.
Child maintenance Service (CMS)
Splitting up – Putting Kids First
Ending a relationship can be very difficult for children and so we have put together a list of books which may help your child to understand the impending changes in their lives.
- Dinosaurs Divorce by Book by Laurie Krasny Brown
- Two Homes by Claire Masurel
- It's not your fault, KoKo Bear by Vicki Lansky
- My Family's Changing by Pat Thomas
- I Don't Want to Talk about it by Jeanie Franz Ransom
- Mom's House, Dad's House for Kids by Isolina Ricci
- At daddy's on Saturdays by Linda GirardWhen
- My Parents Forgot How to Be Friends by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos
- The Kids' Book of Divorce: By, For, and about Kids