Divorce and Separation
Divorce and Separation are messy and distressful proceedings. It is a life-changing event for both partners and children (if involved). Royce Legal has a sympathetic and patient team that takes your stress into stride when guiding you through this entire process.
Arranging a divorce is not a complex process especially if you have a mutual agreement with your partner to end the marriage. Difficulties typically arise when dealing with and resolving practical issues that come up during the divorce process, such as living arrangements for children, division of assets and finances and how to separate.
Royce Legal has seen many divorce cases, and our specialist divorce solicitors can help pack up your relationship and its issues with ease. Every case is unique, and our solicitors will cost-effectively advise you to deal with your divorce respectfully.
Filing for a Divorce
Filing for a divorce is a straightforward process as it mainly involves paperwork. Conditions such as being married for over a year and residing in the UK or, having a UK domicile (if you live abroad) are necessary before filing for a divorce.
Briefly, to file for a divorce, you will require:
- A divorce petition form (D8)
- Payment of court fees (more on this ahead)
- Decree Nisi (a decree to the court)
- Decree Absolute (application to end your marriage to the court)
FAQS on Divorce
How long does a divorce process last?
As mentioned above, if the divorce is being filed by mutual consent and is uncontested, it will be over quickly. A typical mutual and contested divorce last 4 to 6 months provided paperwork for both parties is in order.
If the divorce is not mutual and is contested, settlement of related matters can take 12 months or more. Nonetheless, divorce can be finalised before a financial agreement.
What is the divorce process?
The divorce petition: the petitioner is the person that seeks divorce and files for it at the court.
Notifying the Respondent: the court sends the petition to the respondent (other party).
Acknowledgement of Service form: the respondent acknowledges that he has received the petition by completing an acknowledgement of service form and sending it to the court. The court will send this form to the petitioner as confirmation of the respondents’ acknowledgement.
The respondents’ opportunity to contest the divorce: the respondent has 21 days to oppose the divorce, they must send an answer to the divorce petition with reasons as to why they oppose this divorce. Failure to file an answer to the divorce petition will result in the divorce process proceeding as normal. The respondent can also file for a cross-petition to start their proceedings against their partner.
The petitioner applies for Decree Nisi: the application for Decree Nisi, the Statement in support of the petition and the respondents’ acknowledgement of service form are sent together to the court.
Decree Nisi is approved and granted: the judge will consider the divorce petition, application for decree nisi and scrutinise the grounds for divorce. If satisfied, the judge will grant a certificate of entitlement to a decree and a date for decree nisi. If the divorce is contested by the respondent, a court hearing will take place. Subsequently, the judge may grant Decree Nisi or send both parties a “notice of refusal.” It will state why the divorce cannot proceed further or ask for required information.
The Petitioner applies for Decree Absolute: six weeks after Decree Nisi is received, the petitioner can apply for Decree Absolute to end the marriage. If the petitioner fails to apply, then a further 3 months later the respondent can apply for it.
Decree Absolute is granted: the marriage is now legally and officially ended.
What is a decree nisi?
A Decree Nisi is a court order that states that the petitioner has provided an irreconcilable difference (adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years separation with consent or five years separation) for the irretrievable breakdown of their marriage and can have a divorce. It provides the earliest date for the marriage to end. In civil partnerships, this order is called the “conditional order”
What is a decree absolute?
It is a court order that legally ends the marriage. It is isussed 6 weeks from the date of the decree nisi. In civil partnerships, it is called the “final order.”
How to protect yourself from financial claims in the future?
Decree Absolute legally ends your marriage only, the financial links still need settlement between divorcing couples. To protect yourself from financial claims from your former spouse, you need to obtain a court order with a “clean break” clause. This clause allows you to break all financial ties with your former partner and dismisses all future potential claims. Your partner cannot claim further money or assets. The order can only be obtained if the court is involved in dealing with financial issues. It is part of the proceedings of Decree Nisi.
Is Annulment an Option? And when can I use that?
Annulment is similar to divorce, and a means to end a marriage. You can choose to annul your marriage if you have religious reasons for not wanting to divorce. However, annulment is only an option if you can prove that marriage was invalid in the first place (void) or is defective (voidable) due to one of the reasons listed below.
- Void Marriages – instances of an invalid marriage include:
- You are close relatives
- Either or both were under the age of 16
- Either of the partners was already married or in a civil partnership
If the marriage is not legally valid, it is not recognised by the law and does not exist.
- Voidable marriage – defective marriages can be annulled for the following reasons:
- The marriage was not consummated; you have not had sexual relations or activities with your spouse since the wedding. (This reason does not apply to same-sex couples).
- You did not consent to the marriage and said yes under duress or were drunk.
- Your spouse had an STD (sexually transmitted disease) at the time of your marriage.
What does “irretrievably broken” mean?
The ground for divorce in England and Wales is one a Marriage is “irretrievably broken” due to irreconcilable differences. The difference(s) are such that they cannot be changed, and two people in a marriage or civil partnership can’t continue living together. No-Fault divorce is not supported by the current divorce system in England and Wales. Therefore, it is necessary to prove that your spouse is intolerable to live with and that your marriage and civil partnership has indeed irretrievably broken down by stating one of five acceptable reasons:
- Adultery – a sexual act between two people of the opposite sex performed by your spouse outside of the marriage.
- Unreasonable behaviour – These can include:
- Verbal abuse (insults and dire threats)
- Physical abuse
- Refusal to make financial contributions to shared living expenses
- Substance abuse
- Desertion – Your spouse has left you (after living together for a minimum of 6 months) without your agreement. The period for desertion is 2-3 years.
- 2 Year Separation – you both have lived apart for at least two years with consent and mutually agree on a divorce.
- 5 Year Separation: you both have lived apart for at least five years, consent is not required. In this case, you also do not need an agreement from your spouse to file for a divorce.
Does ‘unreasonable behaviour’ or ‘adultery’ affect financial settlements?
Grounds for divorce do not impact financial settlement outcomes. The court does not penalise either party financially due to misconduct during the marriage. The divorce process is separate from financial settlements.
What if you have children involved in the divorce?
Children with separated/divorced parents still deserve to live a happy and secure childhood with both parental figures in their lives. Children should be protected from conflict and not be involved in adult matters. You should avoid speaking negatively of your spouse or discuss separation details with them.
Furthermore, the law encourages separated parents to work as a team for the child’s or children’s benefit and resolve their disputes among themselves without court intervention. Child arrangements include the child’s residence and the time spent with each parent. Court involvement is not required if parents mutually reach an agreement among themselves regarding these two areas.
In the case that the parents cannot agree on the child’s arrangements; either party can apply for a court resolution. Before applying to the court, the applicant must first attend a “family mediation information and assessment meeting” (MIAM). It is the process by which parents try to reach an agreement about arrangements for children.
If there is evidence of domestic violence and the child’s welfare and protection is at stake, the above requirement does not apply.
How to settle finances in the divorce?
Royce Legal Solicitors are members of Resolution (please double check if they are members of the resolution. Resolution is a community of family justice professionals who work with families and individuals to resolve issues constructively). This means they aim at resolving disputes in a non-confrontational and positive manner. Our solicitors are committed to promoting an agreement. Court involvement may be needed if agreement cannot be reached and one part is unresponsive to our approaches.
Most financial agreements are resolved by early negotiation, meditation, collaborative law or Solicitor supported negotiation.
On reaching an agreement, approval by the court is required to ensure it is a reasonable agreement and is legally binding. If an agreement cannot be reached, one party has to apply for court involvement for resolution. However it is still possible to reach an agreement within the court process, most agreements are solved without the judge dividing the assets at a final hearing.
What is included in a financial settlement?
When we Royce Legal Solicitors advise a client, our knowledge is based on legislation and our experience. We understand that each divorce case is different and provide you with the best guidance for it. When dividing finances, certain key aspects are taken into account. They are as listed below:
- Division of income, potential earning capacity, property and other financial assets that each party has or will have in the future.
- The financial responsibilities each spouse has or will have in the future, inclusive of bearing the costs of any children involved from the marriage.
- To uphold the standard of living enjoyed by the family before the marriage ended.
- The age of each spouse and the duration of their marriage.
- Physical or mental disabilities of either partner.
- The behaviour of each party (considered only in limited circumstances)
- Financial loss to either partner due to divorce.
- Financial and non-financial contributions made by each party or that will be made in the future for their family’s welfare. These include caring for family and keep up with house expenses.
Can I separate from my spouse without getting a divorce?
The short answer is yes. You can opt for a separation agreement or a judicial separation.
- Separation Agreement
A separation agreement states arrangements a separating couple will likely make. It includes issues like finances, property and children (if any). Marriage is not necessary to apply for a separation agreement. If you are married, the separation agreement is used to agree on arrangements. It helps avoid future issues by resolving loose ends.
However, a separation agreement is NOT legally binding. It is a contract between two people and can be challenged in court. We as experts in family law and divorce recommend that you get your separation agreement made by a knowledgeable solicitor.
- Judicial Separation
A judicial separation is also known as a legal separation. It allows partners to live apart without resorting to divorce or dissolving their civil partnership. The grounds for a judicial separation are the same (as for a divorce). The only difference is that you do not have to prove that your marriage is irretrievably broken. You can opt for a judicial separation in the following circumstances:
- You cannot file for divorce due to religious reasons.
- You have been married for less than a year but want to resolve financial issues on separation.
- You are unsure whether you want to end your marriage or civil partnership and need time and space to think it through.
- Divorces are traumatic experiences, a judicial separation can save you from it.
- There are financial benefits involved in not divorcing or dissolving your civil partnership.
What is a contested divorce?
A contested or defended divorce is when one party objects on the grounds for divorce. Your partner is unwilling to accept that the marriage has irretrievably broken down or claims that the grounds for divorce are incorrect.
Contested divorces are costly, time-consuming and stressful. Whatever your reasons may be for contesting the divorce, they should be carefully considered before filing for a contested divorce. In general, contested divorces are often futile as the court does not force people to remain in a broken marriage.
Do I have to attend court for a divorce?
If you have mutually agreed to divorce, you will not be required to go to court. Similarly, if you and your former partner reach an agreement on finances, property and children, you will not be required to attend court.
In case of disagreements on matters that cannot be resolved by collaborative law, it will require court involvement and therefore you will have to attend the court in person.
Can I get legal aid for divorce?
Legal Aid is only available in divorce and financial matters where evidence of domestic abuse has been provided. Please reach out to Royce Legal Solicitors for further guidance on this. Your solicitor can advise on how you can obtain evidence for domestic or child abuse. For what counts as domestic abuse, please visit gov.uk
Why Choose Royce Legal for Divorce?
Royce Legal’s Family Law team of divorce law solicitors have the expertise to help and support couples who want to file for a divorce, dissolve their civil partnership or apply for separation agreements. Speak to our divorce specialist solicitor at 01706 655 592, and we will guide you according to your circumstances.