Divorce proceedings
John Boon

Divorce Proceedings

When a marriage comes to an end, or in the event that there are difficulties in your marriage, it is important that you take the right advice from the outset. Errors made at the start of the process can have an impact on the final outcome.

Speaking to a professional will help to clarify key issues, take away some of the inevitable confusion and set right misconceptions. We are on your side and will do everything to help make the process as smooth and as trouble free as possible.

For expert advice and support about getting a divorce, contact our divorce solicitors at your local branch in Alconbury, Peterborough, Spalding, Nottingham or Birmingham. Alternatively, please fill in our online enquiry form and a member of our team will be in touch shortly.

How can we help?

Going through a divorce can be an extremely stressful time and decisions made during the process will have a significant impact on your future.  Our team members are specialists and have the experience and ability to reduce the stress and hardship involved, assisting you with the various issues which arise.

We will:

  • make sure that you understand the process and explain the legal issues involved;
  • help you to think clearly about the consequences of decisions;
  • strive to ensure that the best possible outcome is achieved.

Our family team is ranked by the Legal 500 (a directory of the top regional and national law firms) for our ‘immediately impressive service’.

Our fully inclusive service covers all aspects of the divorce process, including:

  • The procedural aspects of petitioning for divorce and applying for the decree nisi and decree absolute
  • Helping you sort out arrangements for children, such as:
    • Where they will live
    • How much time they will spend with each parent
    • Whether their names can be changed
    • Whether they can be taken abroad
  • Helping you sort out your financial arrangements, such as:
    • Deciding how you will divide your assets and property
    • Agreeing spousal maintenance and child maintenance

The divorce process

There are three main stages in a divorce:

  • Filing the Petition for Divorce;
  • Applying for a Decree Nisi – if the Judge is satisfied that the parties are entitled to a divorce, a Judge will set a date for the pronouncement of the Decree Nisi;
  • Applying for the Decree Absolute – this finally terminates the marriage.​

Our skilled divorce lawyers can provide clear, practical advice at all stages of the process. Divorce is commonly accepted to be one of the most stressful events you can go through in your life. Our goal is to make the process as simple and straightforward as possible for you (and your children if you have any) so you can start moving on with your life without delay.

How to petition for divorce

To get started with the divorce process, either you or your spouse must file a Divorce Petition.

Upon filling out the petition, you need to send it to court who will serve a copy on your spouse. Your spouse then has 8 days to respond with an acknowledgement of service either agreeing or disagreeing to the divorce.

If they agree, the judge will be happy to allow the divorce and you can apply for a Decree Nisi.

43 days after the Decree Nisi, you can apply for a Decree Absolute. Only once this final document is issued will you officially be divorced.

If your spouse does not agree to the divorce, they have a further 28 days to respond to the Divorce Petition. There is likely to be a hearing where a judge will examine the evidence and decide whether to allow the divorce.

What are the grounds for divorce?

It is possible to get divorced as long as you have been married for at least one year and you are able to demonstrate to the Courts that your marriage has broken down irretrievably. In order to demonstrate this to the Court, a Petitioner must rely on one of five facts.

These are:

  • adultery;
  • unreasonable behaviour - your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with them;
  • desertion – your spouse has deserted for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition;
  • two years separation with consent – you and your spouse have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition for divorce and your spouse consents to a decree being granted; and
  • five years separation without consent – you and your spouse have lived apart for a continuous period of at least five years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition for divorce.

What is a Decree Nisi?

The Decree Nisi is issued by the court as formal recognition that the petitioner has sufficiently proved the contents of the petition and the parties are entitled to a divorce, unless sufficient cause can be shown that the marriage should not be dissolved.  However, this is not the final decree, and the parties are still married unless and until the decree absolute is pronounced.

What is a Decree Absolute?

The Decree Absolute represents the final decree, which finally dissolves the parties’ marriage.

How long does it take to get divorced?

We are often asked how long a divorce takes, but there is no definitive answer. Typically, an uncontested divorce suit will take around six months from start to finish. The precise length of the proceedings will depend on a number of factors, including the level of co-operation from the other party, the efficiency of the court and whether formal attendances at court are required. The time taken to resolve the financial claims arising out of the breakdown of the marriage may also have an impact.

Once we have managed to obtain a clear picture as to the circumstances of your case, we will provide you with an estimate of the likely timescale for concluding the proceedings, but please be aware this is only an estimate.

How much does a divorce cost?

Generally speaking, an application for a divorce will cost about £500 plus VAT and court fees.  The cost of the proceedings will however depend on a number of factors, including the level of co-operation from the other party and whether formal attendances at court are required. The court fee for filing a petition with the court is presently £550.

Once we have managed to obtain a clear picture as to the circumstances of your case, we will provide you with an estimate of the likely cost of the divorce proceedings.

How are assets divided in a divorce?

The financial claims arising from the breakdown of a marriage are resolved by reference to the criteria set out in Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, the overriding objective being a fair outcome.

How do I know what is a fair division of the assets?

In order to establish how to divide the “matrimonial pot” we will first need to establish what is in the pot and will thus need to compute both parties' resources. Once we have a clear picture of the finances, we would then, within the context of the section 25 criteria, consider ways of distributing those resources fairly between the parties by reference to three principles, namely need, compensation and sharing.

The starting point for all divorce financial settlements is a 50/50 split of all the parties’ financial resources. However, the consideration of the section 25 criteria and the guiding principles will ultimately determine the final split.

The section 25 criteria require the parties to consider:

  • The income, earning capacity and financial resources of both parties
  • Each party’s financial needs and obligations both now and in the foreseeable future
  • The standard of living enjoyed by the parties before the relationship breakdown
  • The parties’ ages and duration of the marriage
  • Any mental or physical disability of either party
  • The contributions made by each party to the marriage, including the contribution of looking after the home and raising the children
  • Any benefits either party will lose as a result of the divorce, such as pension entitlements

This criteria should be considered with reference to the three principles:

  • Sharing – marriage is a partnership and the parties’ financial resources should be split as equally as possible
  • Needs – divorcing couples should consider what each party needs to maintain a good standard of living in the future, for example, income and housing
  • Compensation – rarely invoked in divorce cases, this may be relevant where one party has made a valuable sacrifice to the marriage, such as giving up a lucrative career so their spouse can excel in theirs. It is usually only an issue in high net worth divorce cases

Do assets I own before marriage get shared?

Yes. Unless you have a prenuptial agreement saying otherwise, even assets you acquired before you got married can be considered in divorce proceedings.

What is a clean break?

A clean break is an arrangement to a divorce between the parties and approved by the court, which will enable them to sever their financial responsibilities and entitlements. The court has a statutory duty to consider a clean break in every case. However, it is not always possible and will very much depend on the facts of each case.

What can I do if I think my spouse is hiding assets?

Spouses trying to conceal assets can cause a divorce to become fraught and combative. Both parties have a duty upon divorce to be upfront and open about their financial resources. However, if your spouse is being less than honest, the court has powers to uncover and even preserve hidden assets, including injunctions to freeze money and property.

If you discover your former spouse hid assets after the divorce financial settlement is finalised, the court also has the power to reopen the proceedings to ensure you receive a fair award.

What happens to the children on divorce?

Following divorce (and even the separation of non-married couples), the parties need to agree suitable arrangements in respect of the children, i.e. who they are to live with, etc.  The paramount consideration is the children’s welfare. If the parties are able to agree suitable arrangements which are in the best interests of the children’s welfare, then the court will not seek to intervene. However, unless suitable arrangements can be agreed, then a party may have no option but to make an application to the court. The court could be asked to make one of three orders provided for in Section 8 of the Children Act 1989, namely a:

  • Child arrangements order – for decisions about thing like where the children will live and how much time they will spend with each parent
  • Prohibited steps order – to prevent someone with parental responsibility from making a particular decision about the children. For example, to prevent one party from taking the children abroad
  • Specific issue order – to make a specific decision about the children, such as where they will go to school

Can I move abroad with the children?

As a parent with parental responsibility, you have the right to make decisions about your children’s upbringing. However, your former spouse also has this right so you will need their consent to take the children abroad.

You may be able to seek a court order allowing you to take them abroad, however, this can be a lengthy process and you should remain in the country as the proceedings go on, otherwise it could amount to child abduction.

As with all decisions about children, their welfare will be the paramount consideration. It is usually deemed best for the children to have regular contact with both parents (particularly if they are young). This could prevent you from taking them abroad for a long period of time (such as a permanent move). However, if you just want to take them on holiday abroad, the court if much more likely to agree.

Will I have to go to court for a divorce?

We endeavour to deal with divorce proceedings ‘on paper’. The process is administered by the local divorce unit, with a view to saving time and costs.  However, court attendances may be required in the event of a defended divorce suit, or if there is a dispute over who pays the costs of the divorce proceedings.

Formal attendances at court may also be necessary to determine the financial claims arising from the breakdown of the marriage, or to address any issues which may arise in respect of any children unless, again, an agreement can be reached out of court. Attendances at court can cause delays and can be very expensive. They can also be very stressful for the parties and, therefore, we endeavour to use the courts as a last resort.

Get in touch with our divorce solicitors today

If you are currently experiencing difficulties in your marriage, are contemplating issuing divorce proceedings, your spouse has indicated an intention to issue proceedings to you, or has already issued proceedings, it is very important you speak to someone as soon as possible.

Please contact our divorce lawyers for an appointment. They will listen to your concerns, explain how they can help and outline the options available to you. You can give us a call at your local branch in Alconbury, Peterborough, Spalding, Nottingham or Birmingham. Alternatively, please fill in our online enquiry form and a member of our team will be in touch shortly.

 

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