It can be difficult dealing with the unexpected breakdown of the relationship whilst also trying to navigate around the confusing legal terms and formalities. By seeking legal advice in the early stages, you may help minimise conflict, avoid costly court proceedings and resolve matters in less time and hassle.
If you and your partner are considering separation or divorce, our family law team in Chelmsford can offer you practical advice and help you make sense of the process.
We will help you consider whether a separation or a divorce would be in your best interests. You may decide that you do not wish to take immediate steps to end your marriage or relationship however we can also provide you with information about your legal rights and options moving forward. If you should decide to divorce, we can help you draft the relevant documents and guide you through the process, step by step.
Establishing grounds for divorce
The only ground for divorce in England and Wales is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. To satisfy this, you’ll need to prove one of these facts:
- Adultery - You must be able to prove that your spouse has had a sexual relationship with a person of the opposite sex and that you now find it intolerable to live with them.
- Unreasonable behaviour – This is the most common ground for divorce. You must be able to show that your spouse has acted in such a way that you cannot be expected to continue living with them. Unreasonable behaviour could be anything from allegations of domestic violence/verbal abuse to neglect.
- Two years separation with consent – You must be able to show that you and your spouse have been separated for two or more years and that both parties consent to the divorce.
- Desertion – This is where your spouse has left you without your agreement for at least two years.
- Five years separation – If you and your spouse have been separated for five years or more either party can apply for divorce without the agreement of the other party.
Initiating a divorce
There is a two stage process to a divorce. To commence a divorce, you or your partner will need to prepare a petition. We can draft the petition on your behalf and take you through the process of obtaining a Decree Nisi, which is the first stage and finally help you obtain the Decree Absolute, which is the final stage of the divorce process.
Obtaining a divorce
It usually takes about two months for the court to pronounce a Decree Nisi. This means that you are entitled to a divorce. You then have to wait another six weeks before applying for a decree absolute. Once you receive the decree absolute, you are officially divorced and free to remarry if you wish.
You will need to discuss with your solicitor whether any action is required in respect of children or financial matters as these are not dealt with as part of the divorce proceedings.
Unfortunately, divorce isn’t just about dissolving your relationship. There are other factors you will need to take into consideration and which we are also able to assist you with:
• Financial issues, including property, maintenance and pensions.
• Children and the arrangements for their care.
• The family home.
• Family assets.
• Wills, trusts and tax planning.
What can we offer you?
To help you decide what is right for you and your family we provide a free 30 minute consultation with one of our highly skilled divorce lawyers. Every situation is different and we take great care ensuring you are assigned to a solicitor holding the necessary expertise. To make an appointment just call us on 01245 228106 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
On this page, you will find some of the often asked questions regarding divorce related issues. If you have a query that is not covered below, please do not hesitate to contact us.
What are the grounds for divorce?
Within the laws that govern England and Wales, there is only one ground for divorce and that is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. However, the irretrievable breakdown must be proved and this is done by showing one or more of five facts i.e. adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion for at least two years, separation for two years and both parties consent to a divorce, and finally separation for five years when consent is not required.
Do we have to go to court in person to get divorced?
If you and your spouse both agree to get divorced and can reach a reasonable agreement between yourselves on finances and looking after any dependent children, you should be able to get divorced without going to court in person.
How long does the process take and what’s involved?
The average divorce takes between four to six months. However, this depends on the circumstances and the degree of cooperation between the parties involved. The divorce process can involve up to three separate elements:
- The divorce itself – i.e. the ending of the marriage.
- Agreement on the financial arrangements, such as how the assets will be divided and whether any maintenance will be payable.
- Agreement on the arrangements for looking after any dependent children.
At the first meeting, your solicitor is required by a code called the Family Law Protocol to consider a number of issues and may need to discuss some of them with you. These issues include the prospects of reconciliation, possible referral to a family mediator, children issues, whether there is a need to limit access to joint bank accounts and credit cards, the need to register rights of occupation of the family home at the Land Registry, and much more.
The process of divorce itself starts when either party files a divorce petition with the court. The petitioner’s solicitor normally completes the required documents. Once the 'petitioner' has filed for divorce, copies of the documents are sent to the 'respondent'. The respondent also returns an acknowledgement of service, confirming that the documents have been received and stating whether he or she intends to defend the divorce. Provided that the divorce is not being defended, the petitioner then completes a statement in support of their divorce confirming that all the details on the documents are true. A judge then considers the paperwork and decides whether the facts relied upon in the petition have been made out and show that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
Provided that you have reached a reasonable agreement, the judge should set a date when a 'decree nisi' will be given. Six weeks after that, the petitioner can apply for the decree nisi to be made absolute. Once the decree absolute has been granted, you are divorced.
What is mediation and do we have to do it?
Mediation is the process of assisting two individuals who are involved in a family breakdown to communicate more effectively with each other, allowing them to make informed and agreed on decisions regarding issues arising out of their relationship breakdown. You are not legally required to try mediation but a skilled mediator can help you to work together to reach an agreement that you both feel is fair. This may provide a less confrontational approach than communicating through your solicitors from the outset and can help to reduce your costs.
Who do I have to notify that I am divorced and what documents will they want to see?
You need to notify anyone who needs to know about your marital status. For example:
- You should notify your employer, particularly if you have any health benefits, pension scheme or other employment related benefits which may be affected.
- If you are receiving benefits, you should notify the Department for Work and Pensions. (In fact, you may need to notify them earlier if you separate, as this can affect some benefits).
- If you have joint arrangements, such as joint bank accounts or memberships, you should inform the organisation concerned.
- You should conduct a financial audit to ensure any insurance policies or any other policies have the correct beneficiaries.
- You should consider making an up to date Will if you have not already done so.
A copy of the decree absolute (or in some cases, the original certificate) is generally all the documentary evidence that you need to provide.