Divorce - frequently asked questions answered
PUBLISHED: 11:30 23 May 2017 | UPDATED: 11:53 25 May 2017
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Often one of the most daunting parts of going through a divorce or separation is knowing what steps to take first and how to deal with financial issues which arise. Here, Jessica Palmer of Streathers Solicitors in Hampstead, offers answers to commonly asked questions
What do I need to prove to get a divorce?
In order for a court to grant a divorce they must be satisfied that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. Couples can use one of five facts to establish this. These are:
• Unreasonable behaviour
• 2 years separation with consent
• 5 years separation without consent
You must have been married for at least 1 year prior to petitioning for divorce.
Does it matter who caused the divorce?
It will make no difference who caused the divorce except in very extreme cases. A court will not delve into the circumstances of why a couple separated and it will have no impact on any financial settlement.
Does it make any difference who petitions who for divorce?
Whether you are petitioner or respondent in the divorce will make no difference to how the financial situation is resolved.
As petitioner you will be responsible for making most of the necessary steps for progressing the divorce. If you think your ex may drag their heels and be slow at progressing with the documentation, it may be better to be Petitioner. On the downside, as Petitioner you will be responsible for paying the court fee (currently £550) although you could potentially claim some of these costs from your ex. If you are relying on unreasonable behaviour in your petition, as petitioner you will be responsible for naming your ex’s unreasonable behaviour rather than them naming your unreasonable behaviour.
Will I have to attend court?
This will very much depend on your case. If you and your ex are in agreement to the divorce, to any costs arising out of the divorce and have reached a financial agreement then you will not need to attend court.
If your ex defends the divorce, if there is a disagreement over costs or if you cannot reach a financial agreement then you may need to attend court in order for a judge to make a decision regarding the issues in dispute.
My ex and I have tried to discuss the divorce and finances but we cannot seem to agree on anything. What is my next step?
I would recommend that you and your spouse try mediation. Mediation involves both of you sitting down with an independent, trained professional who can work with the two of you to try and reach a solution regarding the finances. You can also discuss other issues arising out of the separation including arrangements for any children. For more information and to find your local mediator visit - familymediationcouncil.org.uk
What happens if I manage to reach an agreement with my ex?
If you manage to reach an agreement then that is fantastic but it is important to ensure that it is made into a binding Consent Order to prevent complications in the future. You should contact a solicitor who will be able to assist you with making sure that it is drafted properly.
What happens if I cannot reach an agreement with my ex?
Ultimately, if no agreement can be reached with your ex either between yourselves, at mediation or via solicitors then one of you will need to make an application to court. Ideally it is best to avoid having to go to court but in some cases there is no option.
I do not want to go down the route of divorce yet but can I still deal with the financial issues?
If you are not yet ready to divorce but you and your spouse have reached an agreement, you could enter into a separation agreement. This is effectively a contract between you which can detail what the financial arrangements will be both during the period of separation and once divorce proceedings are issued. This is not binding in the same way as a financial order made as part of divorce proceedings but it is a good temporary measure to deal with issues in the short term.
If I leave the home now, will I lose any rights which I have over it?
No. Just because you have left the home, it does not mean that you will no longer be entitled to a share of it. If the property is in your ex’s sole name, you do however, need to make sure that you immediately register your matrimonial home rights over the property to protect your interest. This can be done via a solicitor or on the land registry website – gov.uk/government/organisations/land-registry. If the property is in your joint names then you do not need to do this.
How long will the whole process take?
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to that question as in most cases it is the resolution of the financial issues which delays matters. In some cases, the whole process can be completed within 6 months but in others it can be much longer.
Do I need to instruct a solicitor?
It is not compulsory to instruct a solicitor but the issues arising out of divorce, particularly in relation to the finances, can be complex and difficult to navigate. You should therefore seek legal advice to ensure that you do not enter into any settlement which may not be in your best interests and will not protect you (and your children) in the long-term.
For more information please contact Jessica Palmer on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 7317 7224. You can also visit streathers.co.uk
Streathers Solicitors, 1 Heath Street, Hampstead, NW3 6TP