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In most cases you are not required to attend Court, and proceedings are usually completed within 4-6 months. However cases can last up to 12 months or more, particularly if there are financial issues that need resolving.
The Petitioner is the person who starts the divorce proceedings and the Respondent is the person against whom the case is filed.
The procedure for divorce is as follows:
You will need to file this document at Court. It will contain details of your name and address and the respondents name and address. It will also set out the grounds for divorce that is relied upon. You will need to send your original marriage certificate with the petition.
Statement of Arrangement for Children
If you have children then this document will also need to be filed at Court together with the divorce petition. It sets out any contact arrangements between the parties as well as any maintenance payments towards the children that are agreed.
Acknowledgement of service
This document is served to the respondent together with the divorce petition. The respondent must complete the form and return it to the Court within a set time period.
The petitioner applies to the Court for decree nisi. The pronouncement of decree nisi confirms that the divorce is nearly complete.
Once it has been six weeks and one day since the pronouncement of decree nisi the petitioner can apply for decree absolute. Decree absolute confirms that the divorce has come to an end.
It can be a daunting exercise when considering all your financial assets. However we can assist you through the process.
There are a number of provisions that you can consider applying for:
Is an order that requires the financially stronger spouse to make monthly payments to the financially weaker spouse and in some instances for the children.
Lump sum order:
Is when one spouse is ordered to pay to the other spouse a specific sum.
Property adjustment order:
Is where property is transferred to one spouse from the other.
Is where a pension is either split in two (not necessarily in equal shares) for the benefit of the other spouse or where one persons pension is directed to be paid to the other.
Initially we will always try and reach a financial settlement on your behalf with the other side outside of court, as this is the most cost effective and fastest resolution.
We would begin by ensuring full financial disclosure with the other side and requesting the same.
Once a settlement is achieved between the parties then a consent order is drafted according to the terms of the agreement. The draft consent order is then submitted to the court to be finalised. By having the settlement finalised at court it ensures that both parties are bound to the terms and do not break them at a later date.
Of course it is not always possible to reach an agreement and at times matters end up at Court. In such circumstances we will work closely with an accountant who are experts in this field.
Frequently asked questions
Grounds for divorce
In order to obtain a divorce you will need to show to the court that your marriage has broken down irretrievably. You can rely on one of five facts listed below to prove this:
How do I start a divorce?
A divorce can be started so long as you have been married for at least one year. A divorce petition is prepared and submitted to the court. The other party then receives an acknowledgment form. You can then proceed to the Decree Nisi stage (the interim divorce order) and, after waiting six weeks and one day, you can apply for the Decree Absolute (the final divorce order).
Extra care is needed where the case has an international element to it as a divorce could possibly be started in more than one country but the financial outcomes might be significantly different.
How long does a divorce take?
Usually an uncontested divorce takes about four to six months to complete. Any issues to do with the children or finances could take longer, often between six and twelve months.
Can I get help to pay the mortgage and bills?
This can be an immediate concern. The focus should be to agree a level of interim maintenance to ensure that the mortgage and bills are paid. Sometimes tax credits become available which can supplement a person's income. However, if an agreement cannot be reached then you do have the right to apply to a court (through a divorce) for interim maintenance and/or to apply to the Child Support Agency for child support maintenance.
My husband will not disclose his finances, what should I do?
It is important in any case that there is full and relevant disclosure of the family's finances and from both parties. Normally a request is made for voluntary financial disclosure. This includes details of all assets (including business interests), liabilities, income, outgoings and pension provision with documents in support. Where a party refuses to do this then you are entitled (through a divorce) to make a financial application. The Court will then automatically set a court timetable for certain tasks to be completed. One of those tasks is the preparation and exchange of financial information in a form called 'Form E' with documents in support. You are then entitled to consider the financial disclosure and prepare relevant questions if you and your adviser feel more information or clarification is needed.
What am I entitled to?
No two cases are ever the same and a 50/50 split is not always appropriate. It is also important to see what is financially at stake, to check that all of the assets and income have been disclosed and that the valuations are accurate.
When considering the financial issues, a court is guided by a number of factors to include:
It is important that specialist legal advice is obtained to consider these points and so that the financial outcome is both fair and reasonable. Where court proceedings are necessary then the case should be robustly dealt with to achieve the best possible outcome.
Where will the children live?
The living arrangements for the children will need to be carefully discussed and considered where parents separate. In a lot of cases the parents are able to reach an agreement about what time the children will spend with each of them. This might not be easy but remember that although you have rights, more importantly, the children have a right to see their parents and to spend time with each of them.
Where parents cannot agree matters then the court can assist. This can be by way of a residence order and/or a contact order. In some cases there can be a shared residence order. A judge can appoint a welfare officer (known as a Cafcass officer) to prepare a report to assist the court in reaching a decision. What is most important is the welfare of the children and what is in their best interests.
Will I have to sell the house?
Whether or not the family home has to be sold will depend on the facts of the individual case. In most cases one of the concerns is how everyone (including) the children are to be accommodated. The parties will eventually separate and where there was one home there will then be two. This can mean that the family home is sold and the net proceeds of sale are divided so that everyone can find new accommodation. This does not necessarily mean, however, that there will be an equal split of the money.
Much depends on the needs of the parties and of any children. It may also be possible to postpone the sale of the family home until the children have left home or to offset the family home against other assets (including pensions) so that the property can be retained. Legal advice should be obtained to see what relevant options are available.
Can I change the locks?
You may be entitled to change the locks but the other party might be entitled to change the locks back again. You should seek legal advice to check your position and entitlement. Where there is a concern about your safety, it might be appropriate to contact the police or seek an injunction order.
We are not married, does that make a difference?
Yes, the fact that you are not married can make a significant difference. There is now such a thing as a 'common law' husband or wife. The legal rights and remedies might be limited to the family home and how this is owned. Where there are children, however, it might be possible to make an additional claim for financial provision for a child under Schedule 1 Children Act 1989.
Do I need a family lawyer?
It is often prudent to seek some form of legal advice. There is a saying: "a man who acts for himself has a fool for a client". Family law proceedings can be difficult, stressful and emotional; and it can be very difficult to represent yourself.
Costs are a natural concern and it is very important to keep the costs in proportion with what is at stake. However, there is no point saving some legal costs to the extent that you concede or overlook certain points in the case which cause you to lose more.
It is important that you find a family law solicitor that you find comfortable to work with and who is always contactable. Your case could take a number of months to resolve and you should be able to work together as a team. This can also help keep the costs in check because your solicitor should explain the costs to you moving forward and what work you can actually do yourself to help save them.
A family lawyer is there to advise and guide you through a difficult time; and to work with you to find a solution to the problem. Where court proceedings are necessary this also involves robustly dealing with the case to ensure the best possible outcome.
How much will a divorce cost?
An average undefended divorce usually costs in the region of £500-600 + vat for the solicitor. In addition there is a court fee of £340 to start the case and a court fee at the end of £45 for the decree absolute.
Other cases can be more complicated for example where there is an international element to them . If there are any other issues, for example, in relation to the finances or the children then the costs are likely to be more. A family lawyer should be able to give a best estimate of costs on a case by case basis and/or as the case progresses.
What should I do in preparation for my meeting with the family law solicitor?
Good preparation will help both you and your solicitor. Some useful points to consider are:
This will allow your family law solicitor to get to grips with the relevant issues straightaway; it will also save time and allow you to get the most out of your first meeting.
At the end of the meeting you can consider your list of questions and raise any points which may not have been dealt with. You can also ask your solicitor to summarise (in writing too) the points of advice and the next steps to take. It is important that you are able to form a working relationship with your solicitor and that you can work together as a team.
Are there any tips when dealing with my partner?
It is important to retain some level of communication for your partner. Cases that often proceed to expensive final hearings are usually those where there is little or no communication between the parties. It is important to focus on the relevant issues and work as a team with your family lawyer. Communication can be the key to unlocking the problem and finding a solution.
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