Getting a divorce can be an incredibly stressful period of your life. But our team of specialist family lawyers based at our offices in Salisbury, Fordingbridge, Andover and Amesbury can help you through the legal maze. We represent divorce clients both locally in Wiltshire, Hampshire, Dorset and Somerset – and throughout England and Wales.
No-fault divorce delay. June 2021 saw the government confirm that their plans to remove the grounds for divorce (see below) and introduce in its place “no-fault divorce” will not introduced in 2021, as previously announced. Instead, the Government confirmed that the Ministry of Justice is now planning to introduce the change in April 2022.
See below for a summary of the planned changes to divorce
Getting A Divorce – the Current Grounds
Until the UK’s government’s new “no fault divorce” is finally introduced, to get a divorce you will continue to need to show that your marriage ‘has broken down irretrievably’ for one of the following 5 reasons:
- Your partner’s adultery. You cannot rely on this ground for divorce if you have lived together for more than 6 months after discovering the latest act of adultery – please note that this 6 month period can be made up of shorter periods of co-habitation totalling 6 months.
- Your partner’s unreasonable behaviour.
- You have not seen your partner for 2 years or more.
- You have been separated from your partner for at least 2 years and they agree to the divorce. Separation does not necessarily mean that husband and wife must live in separate houses. It is possible to live in the same house and enjoy completely separate lives although the Court will look carefully at this.
- You have been separated from your partner for at least 5 years.
Don’t forget – our family law team offer FREE initial phone advice and a FREE 1st 30 minute appointment- face-to-face, by phone or by Zoom video
Divorce Procedure – currently
You cannot get a divorce until you have been married a year. The person applying for the divorce is known as the ‘Petitioner’ and the person they divorce the ‘Respondent’.
- Our Matrimonial Solicitors recommend divorce is dealt with in as friendly a fashion as possible. Therefore, depending on your wishes, we often suggest starting the divorce procedure by writing to your spouse telling them you are planning a divorce. Often we agree grounds for divorce at this stage which helps taking the heat out of the situation. In getting legal advice make sure you contact a specialist divorce Solicitor.
- The first document to complete is the Divorce ‘Petition’ which needs sending to the Divorce County Court. The Divorce Petition contains basic details of you, your spouse, your marriage, any children and the grounds on which the divorce is based. It is accompanied by the original Marriage Certificate and a Court Fee (currently £550 but which may be free if you are on a low income) and if there are children under the age of 18, a separate form setting out proposed arrangements for your children.
- The County Court sends the Divorce Petition to your spouse who should complete and return a form sent by the Court indicating whether or not they intend to consent to the divorce. Contested divorces are very rare these days.
- Our divorce Solicitors will then prepare a sworn Statement in support of your Divorce Petition and apply for what is known as Decree Nisi. To make the Decree Nisi (in effect a provisional divorce) the Court must be satisfied that you are entitled to a divorce. At this stage the Court will also consider arrangements for your children to ensure there are proper plans for who the children will live with, where they are educated and contact arrangements with the non resident parent. At Decree Nisi stage the Court will also decide who should pay the costs of the divorce if you and your partner have not agreed who should pay.
- 6 weeks and a day after Decree Nisi you can apply for the Decree to be made Absolute which legally ends the marriage. Often, however, our divorce solicitors will advise that it is better to wait until all financial matters have been settled before applying for Decree Absolute. The court fee for Decree Absolute is £50.
- Unless, in exceptional cases, the divorce is contested or the Court is unhappy about any information they receive, there should be no reason for you to attend Court at any stage.
- Although every case varies and often the Decree Absolute is delayed to allow financial matters to be resolved, a straightforward divorce takes on average between 4 and 5 months from beginning to Decree Absolute.
- Your Will – our matrimonial solicitors strongly recommend that you amend your Will once your divorce is finalized. After Decree Absolute any arrangement in your Will for your former spouse to receive property or to be appointed by your Will as Executor is invalid. So you may wish to ensure you know who will receive your property if you die and to ensure you make proper provision for your family. Your divorce solicitor can pass your details to our experienced Wills team.
Click here to find out why you need a new will and divorce
Planned changes to the divorce process – 5 ways “no-fault divorce” will make your life easier
The government plans, now put back to April 2022 to introduce “no-fault divorce” are contained in the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill.
There are 5 main planks of the reform intended to bring getting a divorce up-to-date and simpler which are as follows:
- The sole ground for divorce i.e. “irretrievable breakdown of the relationship”, will remain.
2. However critically the new plans remove the need to prove one or more “facts“ to prove irretrievable breakdown. This is the “no-fault part – no longer will you be forced to prove to the court either adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion or separation for 2 or 5 years
3. The language used is updated at last. So, for example:
• Decree Nisi’ will be known as a ‘Conditional Order’
• ‘Decree Absolute’ will instead be known as a ‘Final Order’
• ‘Petitioner’ (the person who puts in the divorce petition) is to be referred to as the ‘applicant’
4. Joint applications will be introduced. This again fits in with the “no blame” principle because it will, in future, be possible, where both parties agree that the relationship has finally broken down, for the application for divorce itself to be made by both parties.
NB it’s worth noting that sole applications will still be possible where one party is not willing to take part in a joint application
5. The possibility of contesting divorce, civil partnership dissolution or judicial separation is removed.
NB the new law is really all about the process of getting the divorce itself. It will not have any substantial effect on children’s issues or financial settlements.
Should I wait until no-fault divorce comes in?
That really depends on your personal circumstances. If you feel that you’re ready for divorce, there’s no real reason to postpone.
However if your spouse, or civil partner, is likely to contest the divorce or civil partnership, then it might be worth waiting until the changes come in, as expected next year.
Equally, if you don’t feel any urgent need to finalise the divorce and you prefer the idea of ending the marriage the way you started it – with a joint application, then a delay until the new law comes in might be right for you.
Getting A Divorce – Cohabitation Agreements
One of the toughest things when going through divorce or relationship breakdown is continuing to live together under the same roof. Sometimes this is simply unavoidable while the divorce and accompanying financial negotiations go through.
Click here to read about divorce and financial arrangements
If this applies to you, then a written cohabitation agreement can help to keep things on a reasonably friendly level – here are five things to think about putting in such a cohabitation agreement – which our experienced family law and divorce team are happy to help you draft.
1. Day-to-day living arrangements Agreeing on your every living arrangements can be really important – so that neither of you do anything which, aggravates the situation. For example, decide where each partner is going to sleep, work and relax. The aim is not necessarily to stay out of each other’s way, but to avoid the time where conflict is most likely.
2. Household chores and bills Agree on who is responsible for different household chores and bills. It may be the case that you have now separated your finances, therefore you must have an agreement in place to establish where to money for bills is going to come from. Everyday chores should be divided and both partners should resist relying on one another for food or care.
3. Arrangements for your Children. When getting a divorce, most sensitive issues is the care of any children involved. It is never appropriate to create an atmosphere of resentment and distance if there are children living in the home with you. Where children are concerned it is normally best to avoid separating everything in your day-to-day life. For example, although it may be necessary to sleep in separate rooms, separate dinners and relaxing arrangements may be disruptive to the children. However, the most important thing is to not reflect your feelings about your partner or the stress of the divorce on to their lives.
4. Selling the matrimonial home? Where necessary, try to establish a plan for selling your family property. This will involve working with agents and legal representatives together in order to achieve the best possible realisation for the property. If the property is being viewed, then ensure that either your or your partner is available to tidy the internal accommodation and show people around.
5. Agreed behaviour. Try to agree on what is acceptable and unacceptable social behaviour from both of you. For example, going out on a weekday evening and having respect for the partner that has work the next day. It may be a good idea to agree on what happens if one or the other finds another partner, for example that it may not be acceptable to bring that person back to the shared home.
If you are unable to agree on any or just some of the above points then it’s worth considering family mediation – which in addition to helping reaching an agreed settlement on your financial settlement and future care of the children, can also help with agreeing practical domestic arrangements in the interim.
Click here to read more about how family mediation works