A divorce can be started so long as you have been married for at least one year. A divorce petition is prepared and submitted to the court. You can read about the Divorce process here. The other party then receives an acknowledgement form. You can then proceed to the Decree Nisi stage (the interim divorce order) and, after waiting six weeks and one day, you can apply for the Decree Absolute (the final divorce order). Extra care is needed where the case has an international element to it as a divorce could possibly be started in more than one country but the financial outcomes might be significantly different.
Usually an uncontested divorce process takes about four to six months to complete. This is mainly due to the court turn around times. Any issues to do with the children or finances could take longer, often between six and twelve months. It is always worth seeking the advice of a family law specialist to ensure that the process is fully and properly completed and that you have fully investigated the financial implications involved.
This can be an immediate concern when a relationship breaks down. The focus should be to agree a level of interim maintenance to ensure that the mortgage and bills are paid. Sometimes tax credits become available which can supplement a person’s income. However, if an agreement cannot be reached then you do have the right to apply to a court (through a divorce) for interim maintenance and/or to apply to the Child Maintenance Service for child support maintenance. Seek advice from us and we can help to make any necessary applications for you.
It is important that there is full disclosure of the family’s finances and from both parties. Normally a request is made for voluntary financial disclosure. This includes details of all assets (including business interests), liabilities, income, outgoings and pension provision together with documents in support. Where a party refuses to do this then you are entitled (through a divorce) to make a financial application. The Court will then automatically set a court timetable for certain tasks to be completed. One of those tasks is the preparation and exchange of financial information in a form called ‘Form E’. You are then entitled to consider the financial disclosure and prepare relevant questions if you and your solicitor feel more information or clarification is needed.
No two cases are ever the same and a 50/50 split is not always appropriate. It is also important to see what is financially at stake, to check that all of the assets and income have been disclosed and that the valuations are accurate. When considering the financial issues [hyperlink], a court is guided by a number of factors to include: the welfare of any minor children income, earning capacity, assets and financial resources financial needs, obligations and responsibilities standard of living age of each party and the length of the marriage health of each party contributions (financial and non-financial) conduct loss of certain rights It is important that specialist family law advice is obtained to consider these points and so that the financial outcome is both fair and reasonable. We will always ensure the best possible outcome for you.
The living arrangements for the children will need to be carefully considered when parents separate. In a lot of cases the parents are able to reach an agreement about what time the children will spend with each of them. This might not be easy but remember that although you have rights, more importantly, the children have a right to see their parents and to spend time with each of them. Where parents cannot agree matters then the court can assist. This can be by way of a child arrangements order (previously a residence order and/or a contact order). In some cases the child arrangements can be shared. A judge can appoint a welfare officer (known as a Cafcass officer) to prepare a report to assist the court in reaching a decision. What is most important is the welfare of the children and what is in their best interests. There are many books available to help discuss divorce and separation with your children. Have a look at our reading list [hyperlink].
Whether or not the family home has to be sold will depend on the facts of your case. In most cases one of the concerns is how everyone (including the children) are to be accommodated. The parties will eventually separate and where there was one home there will then be two. This can mean that the family home is sold and the net proceeds of sale are divided so that everyone can find a new home. This does not necessarily mean, however, that there will be an equal split of the money. We can provide you with advice in relation to the finances. Much depends on everyone’s needs and what is in the matrimonial pot. It may also be possible to postpone the sale of the family home until the children have left home or to offset the family home against other assets (including pensions) so that the property can be retained. Legal advice should be obtained to see what relevant options are available.
You may be entitled to change the locks but the other party might be entitled to change the locks back again. You should seek advice from us to check your position and entitlement. Where there is a concern about your safety, it might be appropriate to contact the police or seek an injunction order.
Yes, the fact that you are not married can make a significant difference. There is no such thing as a ‘common law’ husband or wife. The legal rights and remedies might be limited to the family home and how this is owned. Where there are children, however, it might be possible to make an additional claim for financial provision for a child under Schedule 1 Children Act 1989. Child maintenance will also need to be considered.
An average undefended divorce usually costs in the region of £500-1000 + VAT for the solicitor. In addition there is a court fee of £550 to start the proceedings and to obtain the decree absolute at the end. Other cases can be more complicated for example where there is an international element to them . If there are any other issues, for example, in relation to the finances or the children then the costs are likely to be more. We can provide you with a best estimate of costs on a case by case basis and/or as the case progresses to relevant stages.
Good preparation will help you. Some useful points to consider are: Prepare a short chronology of your relationship noting any relevant dates and events Prepare a summary of assets, liabilities and income of the family’s finances as best you can Prepare a list of any questions or points you wish to raise or which are a concern for you This will allow your family law solicitor get to grips with the relevant issues straightaway; it will also save time and allow you to get the most out of your first meeting. At the end of the meeting you can consider your list of questions and raise any points which may not have been dealt with. You can also ask your solicitor to summarise (in writing too) the points of advice and the next steps to take. It is important that you are able to form a working relationship with your solicitor and that you can work together as a team. We offer a Roadmap service for our clients at the first initial consultation
It is important to retain some level of communication with your partner. Cases that often proceed to expensive court hearings are usually those where there is little or no communication between the parties. It is important to focus on the relevant issues and work as a team and with your family solicitor. Communication can be the key to unlocking the problem and finding a solution.