How do I actually get divorced?
You marriage has to have broken down ‘irretrievably’ meaning that there must be no prospect of reconciliation i.e. getting back together with your partner. You have to prove one of five facts on the application form and provide a statement in support of your application e.g. if relying on your partner’s unreasonable behaviour, you will have to list half a dozen examples which are timed/dated by way of illustration for the court. These are known as ‘particulars’.
How long will it take?
The process can take at least 6 months. There is an administration backlog currently within the courts (with the new centralised divorce units). Further, if you intend to sort a financial settlement this may prolong the finality of a divorce too as you ordinarily obtain a financial Court Order before you apply for to finalise your divorce. It is not unknown for a case to run for up to 2 years (if the finances are somewhat complex). The process may take longer if you or your partner are not resident in the UK or your marriage occurred overseas (out of/not in England and Wales).
What do we do about finances, the house and our debt?
You can agree arrangements between yourselves informally however this type of agreement would not be legally binding or enforceable by the Court. You can apply to the Court for a Consent Order where the Court will formally record your mutual agreement and can help protect each of you in the future. If matters are complex, protracted or disputed then Court proceedings can be issued to have the Court intervene to make the final decision.
To do either of the above, you and your partner will be required to provide full information regarding your current financial circumstances. This would mean current bank statements for each and every bank/building society account you have, interests in any properties or businesses, current pension provisions and liabilities such as loans, credit or store cards. You will also be asked about your current outgoings and standard of living to determine your financial needs. This information will demonstrate what assets, income and liabilities there are available within the marriage/civil partnership for negotiation and settlement.
If we agree finances now, can my ex later come back for more?
Yes, unless you have obtained a ‘Clean Break’ Court Order. This is another good reason to have any financial arrangements formalised through the courts rather than informally agreeing matters between ourselves. Whilst things may be amicable at present this position may change in the future and one party may also have a significant change in circumstances, for example an inheritance or new relationships.
Who will the children live with?
Again, this can be mutually agreed between partners however, If this cannot be agreed amicably, parties can consider the assistance of a family mediator. As a last approach, an application may have to be made to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order to determine with who the child shall live and how much time is to be spent with the parent the child does not live with.
What happens if my partner won’t agree?
If your partner may refuses to sign and return the Acknowledgement of Service which is the document that they are sent by the Court following your application to the court, you will have to prove to the court that your partner has in fact received the papers but is just not co-operating. There are a number of ways of doing this, for example instructing a process server.
Your partner may indicate on the Acknowledgment of Service form that they do not agree with the reasons for the divorce that you have put on the application. Your partner has to state the grounds on which they disagree with your statement and they may wish to defend the divorce.
Your partner may also refuse to contribute towards the court fee of £550 for the application to be processed by the Court.
If your partner is hostile to the divorce they may also not provide all the relevant financial information documentation to enable each party’s financial circumstances to be determined and a fair financial settlement reached. Financial proceedings therefore may need to be issued to run alongside your divorce.
All of the above may cause delay, additional legal fee costs and stress.
What is certain with every divorce is that each couple, their relationship and their attitudes to separation are unique and that whilst there is plenty of material to read and advice flowing on the internet, it is always beneficial to speak to a specialist legal adviser. There really is no substitute to a confidential discussion with a solicitor as to your own circumstances and what divorce may mean to you as a divorce is a very personal experience.
Our trusted Family law team have a wealth of experience in divorce, financial and childcare matters, include members of the specialist Resolution group (https://resolution.org.uk/) and also include trained mediators meaning that you can have peace of mind that your separation is in safe hands. Contact your local Clark Willis office at either Darlington or Catterick Garrison to make further enquires and see how we can help.