Family Law Solutions

Sadly, there are times when relationships and family life reach a point of crisis or breakdown; and the legal repercussions can be complex. It’s at these times of heightened emotions, tension and vulnerability that you want a lawyer who not only has the experience and in-depth knowledge of the family law system, but who has the empathy, sensitivity and understanding to support you through a difficult time.

If you are considering divorce or separation, our skilled, and supportive Divorce team are here to offer expert legal advice and practical assistance throughout.

Getting a Divorce – A step-by-step guide

The three main ways to end a marriage are Divorce, Judicial Separation and Nullity. Our solicitors can advise on all these routes; however, the most common procedure is divorce.

Here we outline the divorce process for an undefended divorce – where both you and your partner accept the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

Grounds for Divorce

In England and Wales there is only one ground for divorce and that is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and there is no prospect of reconciliation. You can apply for a divorce if you have been married for over a year.

The Petitioner (the person applying for the divorce) must prove that the marriage has broken down irretrievably by one or more of the following five reasons (also known as ‘facts’):

  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable behaviour
  3. Desertion – Your spouse left you at least two years prior to the Divorce Petition being issued
  4. You have been separated and lived apart for at least two years, and you both agree to the divorce
  5. You have lived apart for at least five years.

Divorce Petition

Once the fact(s) has/have been established, the Petitioner’s solicitor will draft the Divorce Petition. Further details can be included explaining the relationship breakdown. The Petition, together with supporting documentation and Court fee, is then sent to the central Family Court to be issued.

The Court then send a copy of the Divorce Petition and an ‘Acknowledgment of Service’ form to the Respondent (the person receiving the divorce application).

The Respondent should complete the Acknowledgment of Service form indicating whether they accept the divorce or whether they want to defend it. The acknowledgement form needs to be returned to the Court within seven days.

Once the Court receives the Acknowledgment of Service form, they send a copy to the Petitioner’s solicitor. If the Respondent agrees to the divorce, then the solicitor will prepare a ‘Statement in support of divorce petition’ to progress the divorce.

If the Respondent indicates that they intend to defend the Petition – to prevent the divorce from going ahead – a different legal procedure will apply. The Petitioner’s solicitor will advise the Petitioner on their options, which may include a court hearing to discuss the case.

Statement in Support of Petition

In an undefended divorce, where the Respondent agrees to the divorce, the Petitioner’s solicitor will prepare a ‘Statement in support of the petition’.

This document states that the Petitioner has read the documentation and confirms that the contents are true. The Statement is then sent to the Court for the Judge’s consideration. This is the first time the Judge will see the divorce application.

Decree Nisi

If the Judge approves the contents of the documents and is satisfied that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, the Court will issue a certificate confirming the date for the Decree Nisi. The Decree Nisi is the provisional stage of divorce; the marriage still exists until the Decree Absolute is issued.

Neither party are expected to attend Court for the Decree Nisi, unless either party dispute the legal costs or the pronouncement of the Decree.

Decree Absolute

The Petitioner can apply for the Decree Absolute six weeks and a day after the date of the Decree Nisi. The Decree Absolute legally ends the marriage and means both parties can re-marry if they wish. The Decree is an important legal document and should be kept in a safe place. You might also need to show it if you plan to re-marry.

It is important to note that the Decree Absolute can affect Wills made during the marriage, as such, both parties should reconsider revising their will and making a new one following the divorce.

How our Divorce solicitors can help you:

  • Expert Divorce and Dissolution Handling – We will guide you through each step of the divorce process, including issuing or responding to a divorce petition, and supporting you through the different divorce stages until the marriage is terminated.
  • If you are considering legal separation, we can advise on your options and put in place any necessary personal and financial agreements to help you move forward.
  • Financial Settlements – Reaching a financial settlement is often complex and where the most disputes arise. As well as giving advice on your rights and what you are entitled to, we can take care of dividing matrimonial assets, from property and pensions to business assets, ensuring you get a fair financial settlement. We also can advise on the impact of re-marrying on your current and future finances.
  • Child Arrangements – If you have children, our solicitor will advise on all legal matters involving them, ensuring their needs are supported during and after divorce. Every situation is unique, and our support is customised to exactly what you need. Some of the agreements we can help you with include negotiating a child arrangement or making a Child Arrangements Application (previously known as Child Custody).

What Are My Options For Divorce?

If you wish to divorce your partner, there are a range of options that can secure a divorce without going to court. These include:

  • Collaborative divorce
  • Mediation
  • Arbitration
  • Negotiation

Under the collaborative process, each person appoints their own collaboratively trained lawyer and you and your respective lawyers all meet together to work things out face to face. Both of you will have your lawyer by your side throughout the process and so you will have their support and legal advice as you go.

Collaborative divorce means you and your partner work together to settle the terms of your divorce in the presence of legal representatives. If you still have an amicable relationship and are able to co-operate, this can be a quick and less stressful way to agree financial matters and child access arrangements.

Mediation involves a third party acting as an intermediary between you and your partner, guiding discussions and helping you to reach an agreement about your divorce.  It can take different forms and does not necessarily mean you and your partner have to be in the same room. Mediation can often help establish a respectful and civilised relationship – especially beneficial if there are children involved.

A mediator can help you and your ex-partner agree on how to split money and property, without taking sides.

Mediation is not relationship counselling. It can help you agree on how you’ll divide your assets, including:

  • pensions
  • property
  • savings
  • investments

Mediation can be quicker and cheaper than asking a court to decide for you.

You need to attend a mediation information assessment meeting (MIAM) before you start mediation.

Negotiation is about much more than knowing the law. It’s about really understanding what matters to you and having a clear picture of what you want to achieve.  It can take place between your solicitor and your partner’s solicitor to try to reach an agreement without court proceedings being started.
 
There are two important things to remember when you consider the above services: typically, each of these services will be cheaper and quicker at resolving your issues than going to court, and if you try any of these services and they do not provide a satisfactory result to you or your partner, you can still take your case to court.
 

Divorce Arbitration is a type of divorce trial, but instead of couples resolving their dispute in a public courtroom, their case is heard in a private setting before an Arbitrator.  After a hearing, the Arbitrator renders a decision, called an award, on the specific disputed issues.  Arbitration can now be used for matters involving children as well as for financial matters. It can be a good solution for keeping a case out of court. A legal-specialist third party is nominated to consider submissions from your legal team and your partners, before deciding on the terms of the divorce.

It is very unusual for a court not to uphold an arbitrator’s decision so unlike other forms of our of court process, you should expect to be bound by the decision of a third party rather than reaching your own agreement. It is usually quicker and more flexible than going to court.

Our solicitors are highly experienced in representing people in mediation, arbitration and collaborative divorces, as well as in court-led divorces. They are highly skilled negotiators and can also act as mediators or arbitrators in these processes.

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