The unpleasant truth is we can never say with certainty that a marriage will never fail. Sometimes totally unexpected problems emerge and become totally unavoidable. The worst happens.
If you feel you have no option but to pursue a divorce (in England), here are seven points you should consider before consulting a family solicitor:
- You can get a divorce if you have been married at least a year and your relationship has permanently failed.
- You can give one of five reasons (called ‘facts’) for wanting a divorce, being adultery; unreasonable behaviour; desertion; living apart for over two years (if you both agree to the divorce); and living apart for more than five years (which is ordinarily an acceptable justification for a divorce, even if your spouse objects).
- Adultery can only apply when a spouse has sex with a member of the opposite sex. Even if you are in a same-sex marriage, sex with someone else of the same gender does not count as adultery.
- If your spouse agrees with the divorce petition (rather than disagreeing or ‘defending the divorce’), you can move forward by applying for a decree nisi, which is a document stating the court sees no reason why you cannot divorce. Even if your husband or wife does not agree to the divorce, you can still apply for a decree nisi. You will, however, have to go to a court hearing and a judge will decide whether to grant you the document.
- If you and your spouse cannot agree on the terms of your divorce, in areas such as financial settlements and the future care of your children, consider mediation. Mediation is when an impartial person helps opposing parties try to reach an agreement. In a form of dispute resolution, the mediator will work with the divorcing couple, providing information and guidance (but not legal advice) to try to help resolve arrangements as amicably and satisfactorily as possible. The court is not involved in the decision-making process during mediation, which means you and your spouse still have the power to control your next steps. With some exceptions, anyone wanting to apply to the court to resolve divorce issues over children or finances must first attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM), in which the mediator will explain what mediation can offer. If you are eligible, legal aid (payment from public funds) can be made available to support the cost of mediation. Family mediation services can therefore be a less expensive option than litigation (which is the term for taking the dispute to a law court).
- If you and your spouse have young children, try to agree on exactly what you are going to tell them when you break the news. Conflicting stories will only complicate an already difficult situation. Expect tears.
- The final legal order officially ending a marriage, enabling either party to remarry, is called a decree absolute.
In the latest figures available, the Office for National Statistics (the UK’s largest independent producer of official statistics) reveals there were 114,720 divorces in England and Wales in 2013, a decrease of 2.9% since 2012. If you are seeking a divorce, therefore, you are certainly not alone, although the year-on-year fall in numbers is encouraging. With the right legal support, your divorce will hopefully be as painless as possible.
Have you recently made this difficult decision? Guillaumes divorce solicitors and child mediation services can help smooth the transition from married to single life. Let us know if we can support you.