Together (Not) Forever?
It is a sad fact that January is one of the most popular months for couples to separate. The stress and strain of the festive season; trying to play happy families, extending the credit card which adds to financial stress and dealing with relatives can push couples who are already hanging on by a thread to the breaking point.
If you have decided you want to obtain a divorce, you are likely to be feeling extremely vulnerable, perhaps angry and above all confused. Questions such as “do I need a solicitor?”, “what will happen to my children?” and “how much money will I receive in a financial settlement?” are likely to be racing through your mind.
This article is designed to help you understand the process of divorce in England and Wales (divorce is different in Scotland and Northern Ireland).
The grounds for divorce
The only grounds for divorce is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down due to one of the following reasons:
- unreasonable behaviour
- desertion of two years or more
- separation of two years (consent from the other party is required)
- separation of five years (no consent required)
To start the divorce process rolling, you must file a petition for divorce in the Family Court. You will thereafter be known as the Petitioner and your spouse will be referred as the Respondent.
The form used to petition for a divorce is called D8. You must include your full name and address, the name and address of your spouse and your marriage certificate. At the time of writing, the cost to file a petition was £550.
You need to send your petition to your nearest Divorce Centre. You can find out where this is online.
The Divorce Centre will forward your petition to your spouse. If they choose not to defend the divorce (it is extremely rare for a divorce to be defended), they need to fill in the Acknowledgement of Service and send it back to the court by the deadline. If they miss the deadline or ignore the petition, the divorce process can continue as long as the court is confident the petition was received.
Should you instruct a family solicitor when getting a divorce?
There is much debate about whether couples should instruct a family law solicitor when divorcing. A quick Google search will bring up many options for ‘quickie’ or DIY divorce. And perhaps, for a couple who have not been married long (note – you must be married for 12 months before you can divorce) and have few assets and no children, doing a divorce yourself is relatively risk-free.
However, if you have shared assets such as property, pensions, savings, and if you have children and/or have been married for many years, it is imperative that you seek legal advice to ensure you and your children’s best interests are protected.
- people are worried that if they involve a solicitor in their divorce, they will have to go to court. Fortunately, the family law system in England is designed to support couples work through matters relating to a divorce themselves rather than go through the stress and expense of going to court. Experienced family law solicitors will work with you to resolve any disputes in a non-confrontational way if possible. Methods include roundtable negotiation and mediation. In most cases that do not involve domestic violence, abuse or deliberate hiding of assets, the court can be avoided.
An experienced solicitor can also assist you with arrangements for your children. You will need to show that you and your spouse have worked out where the children will predominantly live and when the parent with whom the children are not primarily residing will see them.
A solicitor can also help you work out the financial settlement. Many people facing divorce are understandably emotional and may feel a lot of guilt. In an effort to be ‘nice’ they may forgo some of what they may be entitled to financially. This can cause frustration and resentment down the line (especially if an ex-spouse meets someone else) and can lead to couples who thought they had divorced amicably into court. By talking through your options with a family lawyer who has undoubtedly seen many similar situations, you can ensure that the decisions you make are in your long-term best interests.
Deciding to divorce at Christmas time is a difficult decision for anyone. Instructing a family law solicitor to guide you through the process and ensure you are making the best decisions for you and your children can provide you with peace of mind that a positive future is within reach.
Our leading divorce team can help you navigate these sensitive circumstances with the utmost care. Don't hestitate to get in touch with Guillaumes Solicitors, our experienced family law solicitors can advise and represent you throughout the divorce process.