Separation and divorce is one of the most stressful times a person can experience. There are a number of steps that you need to take on order for it to progress as smoothly as possible. You and your partner may need to consider childcare arrangements, financial details, property and other possessions. In order to end your marriage you may choose to;
Even if you separate informally you will have to inform certain organisations of your new arrangements. These may include your benefits office, HM Revenue and Customs (tax credits) and your local council (housing benefits and council tax).
If you both agree you can make arrangements about children, money, property and possessions without having to go to court. However, there is a risk that any informal decisions you make now may impact your future, so it is wise to seek independent advice before progressing with an informal separation agreement.
This is a written agreement between a couple who intend to stop living together. It details financial, property and childcare arrangements. It may include details such as financial maintenance for the other partner and also maintenance details regarding any children as well as how child custody arrangements would work.
The advantages of the written agreement are that the details are clear and both parties know where they stand. It is advisable to speak with a solicitor when drawing up formal separation agreements. However, it's useful if you and your partner agree the broad details beforehand as it will reduce the legal costs not to mention the stress you will encounter.
In order to apply for a divorce you must have been married for at least one year. The marriage must be recognised as valid by UK law and you must meet UK residency rules.
If both you and your partner agree to the divorce it is known as a 'undefended divorce' ; if you don't agree it is known as a 'defended divorce'.
If you have a simple situation (married, no children and easily separated financial situation) then you may not need to involve a solicitor at all. You can download the relevant forms from the Family Court and progress the divorce yourself. However, it may be useful to speak to a family solicitor beforehand as they will be able to advise you on whether there are sufficient grounds and which grounds may be appropriate and what evidence may be required.
In a defended divorce you should always consult a solicitor. The case will be heard in the Family Court and you may also need to instruct a barrister. As lengthy court battles mean very high legal fees, it is advisable that you and your partner try to resolve as many disputes as possible beforehand.
The court will grant a divorce if you or your partner can show that the marriage has broken down irrevocably and that it cannot be repaired. An irretrievable breakdown is a result of;
The partner who is applying for the divorce is called the petitioner. The other partner is the respondent.
If you are happy that you know what you are doing and no not need professional advice, you can download the appropriate forms from the Ministry of Justice website. The court office will tell you which forms you need, but court staff are not allowed to give legal advice to either partner or help you fill in the forms.
If you both agree to the divorce, the court will look at the petition and grant an order called a decree nisi. No court hearing is needed. Six weeks after the court grants the decree nisi, the partner who applied for the divorce can apply to the court for a final order called a decree absolute. This confirms the divorce. After a decree absolute has been made, either partner can marry again or enter into a civil partnership.
If you start divorce proceedings and your partner doesn't agree, they will have to fill in court papers called an Answer. They have to say why they don't agree that the marriage has broken down. There might be a court hearing for a judge to decide whether the marriage has broken down. These hearings are very rare, as in most cases a defended divorce will be resolved before a court hearing.
If the court agrees to grant the divorce, they will grant a decree nisi. Six weeks after the court grants the decree nisi, the partner who applied for the divorce can apply to the court for a decree absolute. This confirms the divorce. After a decree absolute has been made, either partner can marry again or enter into a civil partnership.