|To discuss, in strict confidence, any issue concerning Divorce, Separation, Family Law, or Family Mediation, our Family Law Team is available on 01225 462871. Alternatively, you can email them, or complete the contact form at the foot of this page.|
- What is divorce?
- What are the grounds for divorce?
- What does “living separately” mean?
- What is the divorce procedure?
- Divorce financial settlement
- Divorce Mediation
- What is a Separation Agreement?
- Contact and Resources
There are two main ways of formalising a separation and the division of a married couple’s assets – by way of Divorce or by way of Separation Agreement (also known as a Deed of Separation).
There is also the option of petitioning for a Judicial Separation. To discuss in detail the pros and cons of each of these options, please contact a member of our specialist Family team.
What is divorce?
Getting a divorce ends the legal contract of marriage. The process culminates in the making of a ‘final divorce order’, which is a document confirming that you are no longer married. It involves filling out a number of forms – these can be completed online or by sending paper forms in the post – and, unless contested, it is a purely administrative process.
You may choose to deal with this aspect – the main suit – yourself and the process is user-friendly. However, you should bear in mind that the forms if not completed correctly can be rejected by the court causing delay, additional stress and higher costs.
Therefore, if you are not confident dealing with paperwork or do not have the time to do so, you may prefer to instruct one of our specialist family lawyers all of whom have current experience and knowledge of the relevant law and procedural requirements to guide you through the process.
“Excellent service dealing with a long and complicated situation. Great support when things seemed bleak, extremely well versed in all aspects that arose during my situation. If it hadn’t been for the perseverance and confidence of my solicitor I may have given up, therefore would never have got the excellent outcome she had worked so hard to achieve for me.” DP, Client
What is the divorce procedure?
Note that a divorce application used to be called a divorce petition and the person applying for a divorce used to be called the petitioner. However, the terms ‘petition’ and ‘petitioner’ have been replaced with ‘application’ and ‘applicant’.
Next, the court will send a copy of the divorce application to the other spouse (the respondent) with an acknowledgement form to complete on which the respondent is required to state whether or not they intend to dispute the divorce. The acknowledgement form can be completed online or a paper version can be sent to the court.
The court will then send a copy of the respondent’s answers to the applicant so that the applicant can, once a period of 20 weeks has elapsed from the date of the original divorce application, apply for a conditional divorce order.
Once the conditional divorce order has been made, the applicant may apply for a final divorce order after 6 weeks (and a day) have elapsed from the date of the conditional divorce order. However, you should not apply for the final divorce order until an order has been made in relation to your finances without first obtaining legal advice.
Either party to a divorce may be seriously prejudiced if a final divorce order is made before finances have been settled by way of a financial remedy order and you should therefore take legal advice on this point at an early stage – and before applying for a conditional divorce order if you are the applicant.
If the applicant does not apply for the final divorce order, the respondent may apply themselves once a further three months have elapsed.
Changes to the divorce process from 6 April 2022
On 6 April 2022 the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 came into force and made significant changes to the divorce process. Under the new system:
Removal of requirement to apportion blame
A spouse applying for a divorce now needs simply to confirm that the marriage has irretrievably broken down; there is no need for allegations of adultery or unreasonable behaviour to be made or to wait until you have been separated for two or five years.
Introduction of joint applications
It is now possible for couples to apply for a divorce jointly. With a joint application there are two applicants and no respondent.
No option to defend
It is no longer possible to contest a divorce, except in very rare situations (e.g. where there are arguments over jurisdiction).
The terms ‘conditional divorce order’ and ‘final divorce order’ have replaced ‘decree nisi’ and ‘decree absolute’.
The applicant(s) must wait 20 weeks from the date of the divorce application before applying for a conditional divorce order and a further 6 weeks (and one day) before applying for the final divorce order (a total of 6 months – plus court processing time).
Divorce financial settlement
A Divorce does not bring an automatic end to any financial obligations you and your spouse might have to one another. Unless the split of your assets is set out in a court order you will not have a clean break from your spouse, which may mean that he or she can claim further money or property from you in the future.
If you and your spouse can agree on how to divide your finances, we can convert your agreement into a legally binding document known as a draft financial remedy order which you will both sign. This is then filed at court for the approval of a Judge after a conditional divorce order has been made.
However, you may prefer for us to assist you through the process of separating your matrimonial finances at an earlier stage. This is particularly advisable if you have a lot of assets at stake, if you feel you are in a vulnerable position compared to your spouse, if many of your assets are held in your spouse’s name only, if you are unsure what is fair financially or if one or both of you have significant pension provision. It is important to get the settlement right as your order, if it provides for a clean break, will not allow you a second bite at the cherry.
For more information about Divorce and Finances, please click here.
“Sarah Jackson was extremely professional, proactive and thorough, whilst being friendly and approachable. She communicated well, kept me up to date and explained the processes throughout. She provided an excellent service and made everything as straightforward as possible for me.” SS, Client
The way in which the divorce process is approached by a separating couple, and the professionals assisting them can be crucial to the emotional well-being of the entire family. This is where family law mediation comes in.
Our family mediation service will assist you and your spouse to choose the best divorce route for you both, taking into account the emotional – as well as cost – implications. This inevitably involves having difficult conversations, which many couples find are easier to have within a safe and managed mediation process rather than in the home.
With regard to dividing finances, our Mediator Sarah Jackson will help you both to navigate the financial disclosure process and to reach solutions that work for the family as a whole. You will find that working with one professional in this regard, rather than separate solicitors, will be much quicker, less stressful and significantly cheaper.
You may then choose to make your financial proposals legally binding by entering into a separation agreement or applying to the court for a ‘consent order’. A family mediation solicitor (a mediator who is also a practising family solicitor) is best placed to help you achieve this outcome as they have day-to-day experience of what is workable both in practical and legal terms.
“I was delighted with the process of mediation. Sarah was extremely skilled in helping my ex-husband and I come to an agreement over our financial settlement. She was a miracle worker as this was a near impossibility. We had agreed over very little in our marriage and money was always a serious hot potato. Mediation stopped the expensive to-ing and fro-ing between solicitors. I would like to say that I wish we had gone to her at the beginning of the lengthy divorce process and saved ourselves time and enormous amounts of money, but mediation in conjunction with individual advice from my solicitor meant I was fully armed with information and so made the process clear and final. I would definitely recommend Sarah to others.” LW
What is a Separation Agreement?
If you wish to enter into a Separation Agreement, you will need your spouse’s full cooperation as the voluntary exchange of full and frank disclosure of your respective financial circumstances is essential to ensure that a Separation Agreement is as watertight as possible.
A Separation Agreement will usually set out how a couple intend to divide their finances and arrangements for the subsequent obtaining of a consent order within divorce proceedings. Clients often choose to proceed with a Separation Agreement if they are in a rush to divide their finances (e.g. if they need to do so within a certain timeframe for tax purposes) and they cannot wait to obtain a consent order within divorce proceedings first.
You should note that a Separation Agreement does not have the same force as a court order within divorce proceedings and is capable of being overturned in certain circumstances.
Contact and Resources
To discuss, in strict confidence, any issue concerning Divorce or Separation, our Family Law Team are available on 01225 462871, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See our helpful Guides covering every aspect of Divorce and Family Law.