Many of our Family Law clients have asked for a brief, but complete, guide to the divorce process to help them make the right choices and decisions. When our clients are married, the divorce is a first step towards sorting out financial arrangements so that they can move on with their lives. Even though arrangements for any children can be sorted out separately, the basis of any divorce can make agreeing those arrangements difficult.

Our Family Law team offer the following guidance to help you handle this stressful period in your life.

 

 

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1. If You're Considering A Divorce

The most recent UK figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed a total of 101669 divorces in 2017. If you're thinking about divorcing your partner, it is important to consider all aspects of the divorce process, such as:

  • Early legal advice to give you an idea of likely lifestyle impacts of divorce.
  • Financial considerations in the event of separation and divorce.
  • Arrangements for any children.

Wherever possible, try to agree the grounds for the divorce and financial settlement in advance with your partner. This will help smooth the process and may speed up the total time to finalise your divorce.

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2. The Stages Of Divorce

As the person who begins the divorce process, you are the “petitioner”.

The first step in any divorce is to complete a divorce petition and send it to court. The Petition must set out the basis for the Divorce.

The legal basis for Divorce is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, but this must be based on five specific grounds or Facts. Those grounds or Facts are:

  • Adultery, even after a separation has taken place.
  • Behaviour often called ‘unreasonable behaviour.'
  • Desertion for two years.
  • Separation which has been in place for over two years, and where both parties are in agreement to the divorce.
  • Separation which has lasted over five years, even if your spouse does not agree to divorce going ahead.

The court will then send a copy of this petition to your spouse, who should return an Acknowledgement of Service form. If your spouse does not confirm that they have received the divorce petition, they must be served directly with the divorce papers. These first few steps of the divorce petition process tend to take around four weeks.

Your divorce petition can either be accepted or contested by your spouse. Less than 1% of all divorce petitions are contested each year. If your spouse contests, this does not mean that you cannot be granted a divorce. However, contesting the petition causes delays and generally complicates the process.

Assuming that your spouse confirms that he/she has received the Petition and does not oppose the divorce, your next step is to apply for a decree nisi. You do this by sending an application to the court with a Statement confirming that the Petition is true and showing that your spouse has received the Petition.

The decree nisi is the legal document that confirms that you are entitled to a divorce.

Finally, as the petitioner, you need to apply for decree absolute. This is the final stage in obtaining a divorce.

An uncontested divorce should generally be granted, on average, around 8 months after starting the petition.

Any financial proceedings or children's proceedings can be agreed informally between yourselves or dealt with by way of binding legal agreements. If you cannot agree on all terms for your divorce amicably or with the help of mediation, you can apply to the court for a final decision.

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3. How Much Does A UK Divorce Cost?

The costs of your divorce will depend upon your own individual case, and how much the solicitor's charges amount to. The court fee for making an application for divorce right through to the issue of the decree absolute is £550.

When it comes to solicitors' charges, those charges will vary depending on the complexity of your divorce case. Some solicitors offer legal assistance with a divorce at a fixed fee, and, here at Bowsers, we provide a flexible private funding arrangement which may suit your needs.

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4. How Will Joint Finances Be Settled?

Sorting out your joint finances is a matter that can be agreed between you and your partner, so if you can agree a workable solution on finances, you may be not need the court’s help. There is a Money Advice Service financial calculator online which can help you reach agreement about your joint finances https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/divorce-and-money-calculator. There is also a good deal of information on divorce on the UK government's website https://www.gov.uk/money-property-when-relationship-ends.

You need to give what is called ‘full frank’ – full and frank disclosure regarding your finances. You need to set out what financial resources each of you has. That duty is owed to the court - not just to your spouse, who cannot agree not to ask for disclosure.

If the information provided is not incorrect or incomplete, then the court may not approve the agreement - and even if it does, the agreement may be set aside at a later date, especially if the failure to disclose a specific resource was deliberate and intended to deceive.

The financial situation of every family is different, and you may not realise the value or significance of a particular resource. Your solicitor is very experienced in dealing with the financial implications of relationship breakdown and can offer vital advice and guidance at this emotional time.

Your solicitor can draft a legally binding financial agreement to ensure your ongoing peace of mind after the divorce has taken place.

Your solicitor will be able to draft a legally binding agreement, known as a consent order, which details your financial arrangements. Consent orders need to be approved by the courts and there is a fee of £50 for this service.

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And finally, if you cannot reach an amicable financial agreement between yourselves, you can refer your joint finances to the courts for a judicial decision. The fee to apply for a financial order to the court is £255.  You will need to complete a number of documents and may need to attend a number of hearings.

Your Solicitor can help you with these documents and hearings and will set out what the legal charges may be before you start.

The financial order can take 9-12 months to be decided but remember that you can still reach an agreement at any time.

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5. Who Makes The Final Decision On Matters Involving The Children?

Similarly, as in the case of joint finances, you do not need to go to court to sort out childcare issues if you and your partner can reach agreement about where your children will live after the divorce or separation and how much time they will spend with each parent. Every family is different, and you and your former partner or spouse should know what is best for you.

Professional mediation services may help you reach a considered agreement about childcare following divorce or separation. And, if you do plan to take childcare issues to court, you will usually need to prove that you have attended at least one meeting to discuss mediation services. Your solicitor will be able to advise more about this.

Your solicitor will also be able to help you through this process and tell you about the options available. He/She will be able to assist you in preparing statements and gathering information. He/She will be able to speak for you in Court.

If you decide to ask the courts to make a decision regarding childcare solutions, you will not be entitled to any legal aid, unless you are separating from an abusive partner.

There will be a Court fee to pay of £215. Your solicitor will speak to you about what the legal charges may be before you start and will keep you in touch over what those costs are as the case progresses.  

A Child Arrangements Order from the Court decides where your child(ren) will live, what time your child(ren) will get to spend with each parent, and all other types of contact that can take place, such as phone calls, cards and video contact. There are other court orders that can be put in place, for example, to prevent the other parent from making any decisions regarding the upbringing of the child(ren).

Again, you can find out more information regarding sorting out childcare on the UK government website.



6. How Long Does A Divorce Take?

As noted above, a divorce that's uncontested generally takes about 8 months from beginning to end. Where joint financial or childcare issues cannot be agreed, the timescale varies dramatically and will be at least six months following application to the court.

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