Divorce: Frequently Asked Questions
Deciding to get a divorce is a big decision. We’re written a series of the questions we frequently get asked which may help you make sense of what happens in a divorce. Our team of family lawyers can offer expert legal advice and support for any specific questions you have.
1. What are the grounds for divorce and does is matter who starts it?
The law has recently changed with the soon-to-be implemented introduction of no-fault divorces. There is no exact date for this change although it is widely anticipated to be Autumn 2021. If want to divorce now you will need to show that your marriage has irretrievably broken down, specifying one of the reasons below;
- Your spouse has committed adultery
- Your spouse has behaved so unreasonably you cannot be expected to continue living with them
- You have been separated for two years and you both consent to the divorce
- You have been separated for five years, whether or not the other person agrees to the divorce
- You have been deserted by your spouse for at least two years
It won’t make a difference to the outcome of the divorce who starts the process, although the petitioner would be responsible for paying the court fees. It may be possible to recover the fees by applying in the Divorce petition for the costs to be paid.
2. What is the process for getting divorced?
Firstly, you need to have been married for a minimum of 12 months before you can get divorced. Once you’re ready to formally start divorce proceedings, we’ll work with you to complete a divorce petition which sets out the application for divorce and the grounds for doing so.
Almost all divorce proceedings are uncontested so once the papers and grounds for divorce are accepted by the courts, the judge will issue a decree nisi. Approximately six weeks later the decree absolute is issued, legally ending the marriage. Only in exceptional cases would you have to attend court in relation to the divorce.
For many couples, the process of getting divorced is only one part of the relationship coming to an end; there are also children and finances to consider and this is often the more complex and emotional part of the process. Where possible, conversations should be held at the beginning of the divorce process to set out expectations and agreements from both parties. Delays in reaching agreements can often result in a delay for the overall divorce.
3. How long does it take to get divorced?
If the divorce is straightforward, it can take approximately 5-6 months. However, time is often spent working out arrangements for children and negotiating finances which can mean it takes longer.
4. What information will my solicitor need?
The first step is for us to talk to you and understand your situation. Once you’ve made the decision to go ahead with a divorce we would need;
- To know the grounds for the divorce and any evidence/documentation to support it
- Information on any dependent children – for example ages, education needs and any initial wishes for them
- Financial assets – this would include details of property, incomes, savings, pensions and businesses
We would also talk to you about what you want from the divorce; not just the practical items such as property but how you want to move on and enter the next phase of your life.
5. What can we do to keep things amicable?
The key to keeping relations amicable when going through a divorce is to communicate. The more you and your partner can talk about the divorce and agree between yourselves how you will look after children, divide assets etc and generally talk about what happens next, the easier it can be. Counselling and mediation can both be helpful at this time and help you to make decisions.
Avoid unpleasant surprises for each other by only acting in agreement and not making any sudden changes.
6. Can I keep my married name/can my spouse keep my name?
Yes, once you are divorced you are free to continue using your married name if you wish to. This is often the preferred option where children are involved so that you keep the same name as them. You may wish to change back to your maiden name, which can be easily done. There’s no need to change it through deed poll, most organisations will just require a copy of your birth certificate, marriage certificate and decree absolute in order to make the change.
Some institutions may need to see a change of name deed and we can prepare these for you if they are needed.
7. What happens to our children?
Upon divorce both parents still retain parental responsibility (rights, duties and responsibilities of a parent) towards their children and so what happen to them is up to you to decide together. Ideally, you and your partner will discuss the arrangements for your children early on in the divorce proceedings. Mediation and counselling can be helpful at this time to help you reach an agreement on such a difficult and emotive subject.
If agreements can’t be made, the courts can put orders in place specifying things such as which parent the child should live with, access rights and maintenance agreements.
8. What happens to our home and finances?
Assets of the marriage need to be established and shared, considering the current situation and any changes in the future. This can often be complex and we can help you in working out the best way forward. A typical set of marital assets can include; a family home, pensions, investments. Often assets also include a business and more complex financial matters. You will also need to consider what is set out in any Will or LPA you may have. We will help you to gather all of the necessary information to reach an agreement and can communicate for you with your spouse or their solicitor. The needs of dependent children are always the first consideration.
The biggest asset to consider is normally the property; you’ll need to think about not only the property you have now but what are your needs in the future. Will you need one family home or two? Ideally there will be as little disruption as possible to any children involved.
In some cases, it may be necessary to apply to the Court to set a timetable to bring the negotiations to a conclusion.
If you’re thinking of getting a divorce or need help with a relationship breakdown, our experienced family lawyers can offer advice and support to guide you though the legal procesess.
We can also help if, as a result of the divorce, you need to;