If you are considering divorce you will have some questions and we will give the answers below!
Media sources across the world have commented on the likely rise in divorce rates as countries remain in lockdown. It is clear that not only has COVID-19 put a strain on our health (both physically and mentally in many cases) but it is also likely to impact on many relationships.
Lockdown has taught many of us to appreciate the natural things in life that we were perhaps missing in our busy work lives / commutes / social events / gym classes etc. Whilst many question the accuracy of lives portrayed on social media, many have posted photos of joyous walks in the countryside, creative ideas for homeschooling, the dusting off of cake tins and banana bread making as well as family Zoom quizzes and games.
But this isn’t the case for everyone. We posted an article at the beginning of UK lockdown citing the record high in divorce cases in China as a result of the impact of COVID-19. The sad reality is that it is likely that a similar trend will follow suit here.
The second Monday of January has been distastefully dubbed as ‘divorce day’. This derived from the belief that spending more time together and with families over Christmas can put additional pressure on couples that are already struggling. In lockdown, couples that would usually only see each other at the weekends or around shift work are being forced to spend time together 24/7. There are of course additional pressures for those who are homeschooling their children or dealing with illness. The likelihood is that some of those couples might decide that they do not wish to continue their relationship, and if they are married, they may well be considering the below questions.
Couples are being urged to consider their options very carefully during this period of great uncertainty. However, if the lockdown has affirmed your decision that there really is no way of working on your marriage, you may want to consider speaking to one of our specialist family law solicitors. In the meantime, we have prepared the below list of frequently asked questions to help make things a bit clearer.
Q: When can I get divorced?
- You need to have been married for at least 12 months to be able to start the divorce process.
Q: What do I need to produce?
A. You should try your best to locate your original marriage certificate or apply for a certified copy. If you got married abroad, you should also try to locate the certified translation. However, if you are unable to locate a copy of your marriage certificate, your solicitor will be able to advise you of other options to overcome this.
Q: Where can I get divorced?
A. You can get divorced in England and Wales if your marriage is legally recognised here and if you and / or your spouse is sufficiently connected to England and Wales. For most couples, it’s just a case of ticking the box which says that they both reside in England and Wales. If you think you could potentially get divorced in more than one country (for example if you or your spouse live in or were born in different countries), you should seek legal advice from family law specialists in each country as soon as possible as there could be different financial outcomes based on where the divorce process starts.
Q: How do I prove that my relationship has permanently broken down?
A. When you apply for a divorce, the legal test is that you must prove that the marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down’. You may be able to rely on one or more of five facts to do that. These are:
- separation for the last two years where you both agree
- separation for the last five years.
Your solicitor will discuss with you which fact is the most appropriate to rely on in your case.
Q: How do we divide the money?
A. In one word: fairly. What is fair in any particular case will depend on a number of different factors; and the way in which those factors apply to your case will be specific to you as a couple. Your solicitor will discuss with you the most appropriate route to resolving matters – whether that’s though mediation, through solicitors or through the court process. Whichever route you take there should be financial disclosure (which may take different forms) so that you can both make an informed decision.
Q: What will happen to our children?
A. The court has a principle of ‘non-intervention’ which means that the court will not make an order about where the children will live or what time they spend with a parent unless it absolutely has to. Wherever possible, parents should look to try and agree the arrangements for the children first of all. If you are unable to agree, and subject to the issues involved, you may be able to consider mediation or ask your solicitor to correspond with your ex / their solicitor on your behalf.
If you cannot reach an agreement, you may wish to consider arbitration as a way of getting a binding decision or, ultimately, refer the matter to court.
Issues in relation to children can be particular emotive and it can be helpful to talk things through with you solicitor before committing to any particular course of action so that you can be sure you’re taking a decision which will help to resolve matters in the best way possible.
Q: How long does it take to get a divorce?
A. It is very difficult to predict an overall timescale for a divorce as this can vary considerably depending on the issues in the case. If there are no financial considerations and no issues regarding child arrangements, then a divorce could potentially be obtained in 4 – 6 months. However, it can often be longer than that subject to the number of issues involved. It is not yet known how much Covid-19 will impact on the overall timescales, and given that many of the courts are now working on a skeleton staff basis, it is likely that the timeframes will be extended.
Q: How much does a divorce cost?
A. In most instances, you will have to pay a fee to the court for them to issue you petition. As at May 2020, the fee is £550. Guidance is available here as to the exceptions to this.
In terms of solicitors’ costs, every case is different, and many solicitors will charge depending on the time spent on a particular file and subsequently, the amount of client work involved.
If you start the divorce (i.e. you are the petitioner), you could potentially ask that your ex pays some or all of the divorce costs. If, however, there are issues relating to finances and / or children, parties are usually expected to pay their own costs. If the court becomes involved in resolving these issues, there are potentially circumstances where costs orders can be made.
If you wish to seek legal advice in relation to a divorce, financial matters or issues regarding child arrangements, you can contact us via our web chat on our website or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, if you are able to call us then we would be more than happy to discuss matters with you over the telephone on 01625 544650.