Divorce Day: the important questions
The decision to separate from your spouse is a difficult one and can be life changing. One of the most popular periods for couples to opt for a divorce is immediately following the Christmas period, with the majority of new enquiries surfacing on the first working Monday of the year (commonly referred to as “Divorce Day”). This year, it falls on 7th January 2019. For more information, please see our recent article “Divorce Day”.
Whatever your motivation for wanting a divorce, it is important that you get support from both a personal and a legal perspective. The divorce procedure can be very distressing for both parties and, naturally, you will have a lot of initial questions and concerns. Many of you will be starting the New Year with this huge challenge ahead, but you are not facing it alone. In this blog, we hope to answer the questions we as Family Law Solicitors are most frequently asked at initial consultations and, hopefully, put your mind at ease.
- What is the process?
The procedure for obtaining a divorce itself can be relatively straightforward. Once a spouse makes an application for a divorce and the other party responds, the matter is then left with the Court to decide whether the parties meet the relevant legal criteria for a divorce. If the grounds are met, the Court will provide both parties with a declaration that they are entitled to divorce, known as a “decree nisi”.
Once the decree nisi is granted, the next stage is for the applicant party to apply for the “decree absolute”, which is the document that officially brings the marriage to an end. However, we strongly advise clients to make arrangements regarding the matrimonial finances before this stage. This is crucial, as the decree absolute alters each parties’ legal entitlement to certain matrimonial assets.
Once the financial position of both parties post-divorce is agreed, the divorce can proceed to the decree absolute stage and, once received from the court, the marriage comes to an end.
- How long will it take?
A question such as this is common in the “Divorce Day” period, particularly from those clients whose main motivation for a divorce is to have a fresh start in the New Year. This is a difficult question to answer, as much will depend on the individual financial circumstances of the case and the parties’ communication with each other.
The time it takes to obtain the decree nisi will vary depending on how long it takes the applicant party to draft the divorce petition, whether the other party intends to defend it and how long it takes the Court to respond.
The applicant party must then wait a minimum of six weeks before applying for the “decree absolute”.
For straightforward cases where no issues arise, we estimate the divorce process taking 4 – 6 months from when we issue the divorce petition. However, when there are unexpected delays in receiving paperwork from the court or the matter becomes contentious, this time estimate may increase.
The most common cause of delays in divorce proceedings occur when negotiating matrimonial finances. If a couple is able to mutually agree on financial matters, this stage may simply involve each parties’ legal representative advising them individually as to the terms of the agreement and thereafter drafting the necessary court order setting out such agreement. It is then a case of waiting for the court to approve the proposed agreement.
Where an agreement cannot be reached and communication breaks down between the parties, the couple may find that their divorce takes a matter of years.
- How much will it cost?
It is no secret that divorce can be expensive. In fact, couples who are not entitled to legal aid may find that they need to save up in order to divorce. It also goes without saying that the more contentious a divorce is, the more likely that costs will increase.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to give clients an exact quote for the costs of their divorce at the outset, as it depends on how the case proceeds. However, we are able to offer cost estimates based on a straightforward divorce which is dealt with on a non-contentious basis.
At Maguire Family Law, we provide clients with regular cost updates and offer reasoned cost estimates regarding any anticipated work. We also inform clients of the hourly rate of every fee earner who will be involved in their matter and delegate appropriate tasks to junior fee earners (where possible) in order to keep costs to a minimum. This ensures that clients are kept informed of the costs as their case progresses.
- What happens to our children?
Whilst we do deal with a number of amicable separations, there can be a few where the parents find the experience difficult emotionally. This can have an effect on any children, who may find themselves caught up in the middle. Whilst it is natural for emotions to run high, it is important for parents to keep any adult matters separate from their children. This remains the case even post-divorce.
Before a divorce is made official, couples need to ask themselves the most important question; what happens to our children? Ideally, this question can be solved by mutual agreement between the parents and is something which we as legal professionals would be able to assist you with.
However, where an agreement cannot be made, it may be necessary for parents to take part in mediation and try to focus on narrowing down their differences. If mediation is unsuccessful, it may be necessary to apply for an order of the court which stipulates where the children live and how often they see the non-resident parent. These are matters where we can offer you both advice and support.
At Maguire Family Law we are able to offer you advice regarding your divorce, finances and matters concerning your children, particularly after a separation. We have a number of solicitors to choose from and you can view their profiles here.