Working closely with you, we can help you to achieve a practical solution during divorce, dissolution or judicial separation – cost-effectively and sensitively. At this difficult time, you need straightforward advice on the legal implications of relationship breakdown and guidance throughout the process. Our divorce solicitors will work through the important issues as they arise, such as financial matters and arrangements relating to your children.
Our divorce legal advice will guide you through complex situations, whether these involve financial arrangements, international and jurisdictional issues or difficult emotional circumstances.
How can our divorce solicitors help?
Divorce, dissolution or relationship breakdown is a very difficult and sensitive time for all involved. It is natural if you are considering a divorce to worry about the future; sorting out your money, your family home and protecting your children. We want to help you decide what is right for you and understand exactly what is involved when undertaking divorce or dissolution proceedings.
Our team are members of Resolution, an association of family solicitors that are committed to resolving all family matters in a constructive and non-confrontational manner.
Relationship breakdown is never easy, but we are committed to helping you work through this difficult period. No two families’ experiences are ever the same and we always take into account your specific circumstances, offering practical help and a sympathetic ear.
Our experienced team of family divorce lawyers are happy to answer any questions you have on divorce, civil partnerships and dissolution. You can contact us via our offices in Bournemouth, Southampton and London.
What is the process for divorce?
We set out below the process for divorce. The process for dissolution of a civil partnership is largely the same; there will be slight differences in the information to be included in the petition and the wording but our divorce law solicitors will discuss this with you to deal with your specific needs and circumstances.
You are able to issue divorce proceedings if you have been married for over a year, provided one or other of you has lived in England or Wales during the whole of the preceding year or is domiciled here. It does not matter where you were married.
What are the grounds for divorce?
In order to be granted a divorce, you have to demonstrate that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. You can prove this in five ways:
- Your spouse has committed adultery and you find it intolerable to continue to live together;
- Your spouse has behaved in such a way that it would be unreasonable to expect you to continue to live together;
- Your spouse has deserted you for a continuous period of two years or more;
- You and your spouse have lived separately for two years or more and your spouse agrees to the divorce; or
- You and your spouse have been living separately for five years or more, whether or not your spouse consents to the divorce.
The first steps in a divorce
These will depend on your particular circumstances. It is often sensible to try to obtain your spouse’s consent to a petition for divorce and to try and reach an agreement over its contents. For example, if you agree that the basis of the divorce is unreasonable behaviour, only a brief outline of the particular behaviour may need to be given in court.
The divorce petition
When you start divorce proceedings, you will need to complete a document called a petition and send that to the court together with your marriage certificate. The petition will contain basic information such as your names, addresses, ages of your children, a statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and the fact upon which you rely to prove this (from the list above).
How long does a divorce take?
After one year of marriage — either you or your spouse may start a divorce. A petition is completed and sent to the court together with the marriage certificate. A court fee is payable. Within a few days, the court will forward a copy of your petition to your spouse, (the “respondent”). A copy of the petition is also sent to anyone else named in an adultery petition (the “co-respondent”). If the respondent, or co-respondent, has instructed solicitors the petition may be sent to them. From the date that these documents are received, your spouse has strict time limits to observe. Within 8 days he or she must return the acknowledgement of service form, which accompanied the petition, to the court. This form asks your spouse whether he or she intends to defend the petition and whether any claim for costs is disputed.
Within 29 days of receiving the petition, whether or not an acknowledgement of service has been returned, your spouse must file a defence (called an “answer”) if he or she intends to defend the petition. If the petition becomes defended the procedure set out below does not apply. Defended divorce proceedings, resulting in a fully contested hearing are very rare. In such cases, a delay in finalising the divorce is inevitable.
Within a few days of receiving the acknowledgement of service from your spouse (and co-respondent if applicable) the court will forward a copy to us as your divorce law firm.
If an acknowledgement of service is not returned to the court, proof that your spouse (and co-respondent) has received the petition will have to be obtained before you can take the next step. This is likely to mean that the petition must be delivered personally to your spouse. Exceptionally, a court order may be obtained stating that proof that your spouse has received the petition is not needed. This is called “dispensing with service”.
If your spouse is not defending the petition, you can apply for a decree of divorce (decree nisi) to be pronounced. We would prepare a statement in support for you to sign confirming that the contents of the petition are true. The statement will also detail any circumstances which have changed since the petition was filed. This will then be sent to the court with a request for a date for the decree nisi to be pronounced.
On receipt of your statement and application, a district judge will decide whether you are entitled to a decree. If he is not satisfied, he may ask you to file further evidence in support of the petition. Once he is satisfied, the court will fix a date for the decree nisi to be pronounced and notify both of you through your divorce solicitors. This date is likely to be a few weeks after the application is lodged. Neither of you needs to attend court although sometimes you may wish to do so if there is an argument about costs.
Once six weeks and one day have passed since the date of decree nisi, you may apply for decree absolute by sending the appropriate form to the court. If you do not apply for decree absolute, then 3 months after the date when you could first have applied for decree absolute, your spouse may do so.
After the decree nisi has been made absolute you will be free to remarry. Note that upon remarriage you may lose important rights to claim financial provision within divorce proceedings, you should therefore always check with your divorce lawyer in good time before remarrying.
Sorting out the finances
Financial discussions do not need to be completed by the time the divorce is final. Sometimes these will still be in the early stages if the finances are complicated. However, it should at least be possible to resolve immediate problems and make temporary maintenance arrangements.
You will need to settle financial matters in relation to, for instance, the family home, any other property, maintenance, pensions and savings or investments with your partner. Usually division of finances is resolved separately but alongside the divorce or dissolution proceedings. Our divorce lawyers are able to advise you in this respect also.
The breakdown of your relationship is difficult enough without the added complications of international law. If you’re considering a divorce with an international element, our specialist team of family lawyers can help guide you through the process.
Under European legislation, the English court has jurisdiction to deal with a petition for divorce (or judicial separation) if one of the following factors apply:
- You are both “habitually resident” (main place of residence) in England and Wales
- You were both last habitually resident in England and Wales, and one of you still resides there
- The respondent party to the divorce is habitually resident in England and Wales
- The applicant party to the divorce has resided in England and Wales for at least one year immediately before the application for divorce was made
- The applicant party to the divorce resided in England and Wales for at least six months immediately before the application for divorce was made and is either a national of England and Wales or is “domiciled” (place of permanent residence) there
- If your application for divorce is a joint one, either one of you is habitually resident in England and Wales
- Both of you are nationals of England and Wales or are both domiciled there
Usually, the answer to the above seven factors points to the same jurisdiction, but it is possible that more than one jurisdiction could apply. However, it could be important to one party that a particular jurisdiction is chosen (sometimes referred to as forum shopping) and therefore it can be important to act quickly and early on in the process. Our divorce solicitors will be happy to advise you in these circumstances.
Same-sex international divorce
You should also be aware that the factors mentioned above only apply to heterosexual marriages. This is due to the lack of cross-border recognition within the EU of the validity of same-sex marriages.
Most of the individual member states of the EU have their own procedure for the divorce of same-sex couples or the dissolution of civil partnerships, but not all. Therefore, some same-sex couples may have trouble divorcing in the country where they are resident.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you apply for a divorce or dissolution, then a court fee is payable on issuing the petition. Your legal costs will vary depending on your particular circumstances and whether you are the applicant or respondent and the complexity of your case. We will of course discuss costs with you at your initial meeting and ensure that you are kept up to date throughout the proceedings.
There is no such thing as a “common law husband/wife” and there is no automatic entitlement to a share of your ex-partner’s assets. Read more in our blog about the rights of unmarried couples.
A party’s adultery, whether admitted or otherwise, will not be taken into account when distributing finances on divorce. Adultery is one way of establishing that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and once this has been established there will be no need to reference it again.
Despite the references in the media about super-speedy celebrity divorces, there is no such thing. The divorce process follows a procedure which is the same for everybody.
The government has confirmed plans to introduce “no-fault divorce”, removing blame and the protracted courtroom battles that couples often face. Read more in our blog Divorce law reform – No-fault divorce.