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If your marriage has turned sour, or you and your spouse have drifted apart, you may be contemplating a divorce.  Seeking legal advice from a specialist Family & Divorce solicitor at an early stage will provide you with reassurance and help minimise the anxiety and distress.

 

Divorce is the legal process that brings a marriage to an end.  After a divorce a person can re-marry if they wish. A person must have been married for at least a year in order to apply for a divorce.

 

The only legal ground necessary for a divorce is the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage.  This one ground, however, can be established through one of five different underlying facts:

 

•  Unreasonable behaviour

•  Adultery

•  Desertion

•  Two years separation by consent

•  Five years separation whether by consent or otherwise

 

There can be advantages and disadvantages to using particular facts.

 

Divorce terminology

 

The person starting the divorce proceedings is called the ‘Petitioner’ and the person having the divorce brought against them is called the ‘Respondent’.  In adultery petitions there is a third party called the ‘Co-Respondent’.  The courts prefer them not to be named and it is highly unusual to do so.

 

Should you be the Petitioner or the Respondent?

 

The advantage of being the Petitioner is that you are in control of the process but the down-side is that you will have to do most of the work.  Therefore the divorce will be more expensive for the Petitioner.  It is however possible to claim costs from the Respondent if you cannot agree how these should be apportioned.

 

Defending a Divorce

 

It is very rare nowadays for a divorce to be defended. It is more common to reach agreement about who will divorce and on what basis.  The factual detail put in the divorce petition (the document that is filed with the court to begin the divorce) is usually kept to a bare minimum and can even be agreed in advance.  The whole procedure is paper based and in only very rare circumstances will you have to attend court.

 

Procedure

 

The Petition is prepared and filed with the court, who will usually then serve it on the Respondent, initially via post, although the Petitioner’s solicitors may ask to do this themselves.  The receiving spouse is asked to acknowledge that they have received it by completing and returning a form.  Providing the petition is not being defended, the Petitioner then completes a statement in support of their petition and lodges this at court together with an application for a 'Decree Nisi'. 

 

If the judge is satisfied that everything is in order he will set a date for a provisional decree of divorce (the Decree Nisi) which is the half-way stage in a divorce.  Six weeks and a day after it is pronounced, the Petitioner can apply for the Decree Absolute which will finally dissolve the marriage.  If the Petitioner does not apply within three months of the expiry of that time then the Respondent can make the application instead.

 

The whole process typically takes about six months but if there are financial issues to be resolved it is usually advisable, particularly if there are pension assets, to delay the application for the Decree Absolute until they are sorted out.

 

Mediation and the Collaborative process are good alternatives to adversarial court proceedings, offering a range of advantages in both financial and emotional terms.  We have considerable expertise and experience in these and other forms of alternative dispute resolution.

 

Important things to consider

 

If you are thinking about a divorce, or think that your spouse wants a divorce, don’t feel pressured into accepting something that you may not be comfortable with. Take advice.

 

A divorce will bring your marriage to an end as far as the law is concerned but it will not necessarily deal with other vital issues, in particular money and children.  These issues have their own separate procedures.

 

Finances

 

Inevitably there will be financial issues to be addressed and possibly financial claims to be made. Even if you think you have agreed these matters, or if there is nothing much to share, it is important that they are formalised so that financial claims are not revived in future.

 

It is essential that there is full and frank financial disclosure by both husband and wife regarding their finances.  Sometimes pressure needs to be applied in order to get the full picture.  Again, we have the necessary specialist expertise.

 

Fees

 

In appropriate cases we can offer a fixed fee for undefended divorce work.  We charge £750(exclusive of VAT and court fees) when instructed by a Petitioner and £660 (inclusive of VAT) when instructed by a Respondent.

 

Wills

 

Finally, a word of caution.  A divorce has the effect of revoking legacies and executorships in favour of the former spouse so both parties’ Wills should be reviewed and amended as soon as possible.

 

 

For more information please contact:
Bells Solicitors Limited.   Registered in England and Wales no. 07827988.   Authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.   SRA number 569030.   VAT registration number 137595285