We’ll guide you through every step of the divorce or dissolution process, helping you to get the best possible outcome whilst keeping legal costs to a minimum.
Divorce can be a complex issue, so we’ve provided some questions and answers below to help you get a better understanding of what’s involved. We can also send you our Practical Preparation for Divorce guide which provides a useful checklist to help you gather together all the information and paperwork you’ll need during divorce proceedings.
Common Questions & Answers
What is divorce / dissolution?
Divorce is the legal process of bringing an end to a marriage. Although it allows you to remarry, it does not actually end all legal ties between the husband and wife, as marriage gives rise to a financial relationship that does not end on divorce. A court order is needed to end this financial relationship, which can be done by agreement between the divorcing couple (called a Consent Order) or, if no agreement can be made, the Court can decide what the divorce settlement should be.
Dissolution is the same as the divorce process, but for those ending a civil partnership.
What is the difference between divorce and separation?
A divorce is a legal process and will end the marriage and is the only way to make a legally binding financial settlement.
A Separation Agreement or Separation Deed is an option if there is some reason why a divorce does not suit your needs.
Some people use something called Judicial Separation, but the process for this, and therefore the cost, is exactly the same as a divorce, but it leaves you still married. It is designed for people whose religious beliefs do not allow them to divorce. It does not allow for orders in respect of pensions, so it is not for everyone.
Some people just choose to separate and agree and implement a settlement between themselves and do not involve solicitors or the Courts but this leaves them vulnerable to possible future claims and unable to remarry. In our news section we report on a recent case where no formal financial settlement was made when the couple divorced. Twenty seven years later, after the husband became a millionaire, the wife made a claim for a divorce settlement. Read more about this case Family Law and Divorce News.
You can formalise a separation by entering a Separation Agreement (also known as a Separation Deed) but these do not end the marriage and do not prevent a Court from coming to a different view of what is fair at a later date if one party wants to escape the terms of the Separation Agreement.
When is the right time to start divorce proceedings?
There is no right answer to this. It depends on the people involved and what is right for them. There is no rush, providing you take steps to preserve your position, such as making a will and separating any joint accounts, but it is important that legal advice is sought at an early stage, so you can properly consider your options.
What are the grounds for divorce?
Technically, there is only one ground for divorce and that is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. There are five “facts” you can rely on to prove that, which are:
- The other party’s adultery, which can only really be proved if they are prepared to admit it in writing.
- The other party’s unreasonable behaviour, which does not require the other party’s co-operation and the allegations do not have to be very serious to use this basis successfully.
- Two years separation, provided that the other party will consent to the divorce: this generally is physical separation and the only proof of separation the Court requires is both of your words. It is possible to be separated and continue to live under the same roof, but you will need advice on this to be sure you have enough to proceed with a divorce on this basis.
- Two years desertion: this is quite rare. Your former spouse must have left without your consent.
- Five years separation: this does not require the other party’s consent, but any periods of living together will mean the five years may not be achieved.
There is no current fact which allows for a no fault divorce.
How to start divorce proceedings?
A divorce petition has to be sent to the Divorce Court Unit that covers your area. For the West Midlands, this is Stoke. This petition sets out the ‘fact’ you wish to rely on. You can get this form from your local Court office or your solicitor can complete it for you.
Guidance issued by the Court suggests it is a good idea to send a draft copy of the divorce petition to the other party before sending it to the Court. This is to reduce the impact of the divorce process and allow the other party to seek advice before proceedings are issued.
What is the full divorce procedure?
You will need to supply your original or an official copy of your marriage certificate, as this has to be sent to the Court and is needed to draft the divorce petition. Once a decision has been made on the basis for the divorce, a draft petition will be prepared and sent to you for approval. Once you have approved it, you then need to consider whether you wish to comply with the pre-action protocol that applies to divorce proceedings.
All the protocol suggests is that a copy of the divorce petition be sent to the other party to allow them to consider it and perhaps take legal advice themselves.This is a step the Court encourages people to take in order to try and minimise the emotional impact of divorce. High running emotions lead to greater animosity and higher costs, as well as being potentially more damaging for any children. The protocol suggests allowing 7 days for the other party to consider their options. It is not mandatory, but can help smooth the ride and keep costs down. Once those 7 days have passed, if nothing is heard from the other party or their solicitors, the petition can then be sent to the with the Court with the marriage certificate, which won’t be returned.
The Court will arrange to serve a copy of the papers to the other party and they will then have fourteen days to return a document known as the ‘Acknowledgement of Service’ to the Court. If they fail to do that within that time, you can then ask a process server to serve a further copy of the divorce papers and, once the process server has confirmed that that has been done, you can then proceed with the divorce.
Either when the Acknowledgement of Service has been returned or the process server has confirmed the papers have been served, you will have to sign a formal statement confirming that the contents of your original divorce petition are true and that you wish to proceed with the divorce. Once that document has been sent to the Court, all of the divorce papers will be placed before a Judge who will decide if you have sufficient grounds for the divorce to proceed.
If the Judge decides that you have sufficient grounds for a divorce, he will place your case in the waiting list for the Decree Nisi hearing and he will issue a document called the ‘Certificate of Entitlement’, which will notify you of the date of that hearing.
Although the Decree Nisi is a hearing, generally there is no need for anyone to attend the Court unless there is a dispute about costs. If there is a dispute, you are best advised to seek legal advice from a divorce solicitor. Six weeks and one day after the hearing date, you can then apply for the Decree Absolute.
What is the cost of divorce?
There is a petition fee of £550 that is payable to the Court to cover their costs. If you are on a low income, or on certain benefits, you can apply for an exemption from having to pay this fee.
The total typical cost for an undefended divorce, including VAT and the Court fee is usually between £1,000 and £1,500, depending on the basis for the divorce and how co-operative the other party is.
There may be separate legal costs associated with the divorce financial settlement and for matters regarding divorce and children.
Do I need a divorce solicitor?
It is possible to do your own divorce without the need for a solicitor. However, some people prefer the guidance, expertise and reassurance of a family law solicitor.
Are there any alternatives to court? What are the options for resolving financial issues as part of a divorce or dissolution?
When it comes to negotiating an arrangement regarding finances, children or both, the easiest and cheapest route is if a divorcing couple can reach an agreement between themselves about the division of property and, where applicable, childcare arrangements. The role of a solicitor is then to simply to create and gain court approval for the Consent Order.
Alternative Divorce Options
However, divorcing couples have often gone past the point of effective negotiation and so third party intervention is more than often required. Please download a printable pdf version of our Divorce Options Flow Chart which summarises the options available to divorcing couples to effectively negotiate a fair settlement.
In divorce who gets the house?
It depends on the circumstances. The Court has to take the needs of any minor children of the family into account first, so the principle carer will often end up with a better settlement as a result, but each case is decided on its own particular facts.
The house is often the object with the highest value, both financially and emotionally, and so we have created a section of the website dedicated to Divorce and Property
How do we organise finances during and after the divorce / dissolution?
Let us do it for you: we will deal with all the technicalities and complex issues for you. You still call the shots, of course, but we will explain it every step of the way. We answer many of the common questions about finance and money in Divorce and Finances, or you can download our Divorce Options Flow Chart which summarises the options available to divorcing couples to effectively negotiate a fair settlement.
Does divorce involving children make it complicated?
As far as the divorce itself is concerned it does not make any difference. The Court will not become involved in making any decisions over the children’s future as part of the divorce.
In the wider context of the breakdown of the relationship it does not have to be complicated. However, it only takes one party to make the situation difficult for everyone. The Court encourage parents to put their children’s needs first and it will only be concerned about what is in the children’s best interests if there is an issue about who the children should live with and how much time they should spend with the other parent.
In relation to divorce and finances, the existence of children is the first factor the Court have to look at, so children will have an impact on the Court’s decision.
Divorce, separation or any kind of relationship breakdown involving children is covered in more detail in Child Contact and Care Arrangements
What is the best way to prepare for divorce?
You will need to prepare yourself both emotionally and practically.
Even the most amicable of divorces can be emotionally draining but it is important to remember that once the divorce and finances are finalised, it could be your opportunity to make a fresh start.
Practically, to prepare for divorce, you need to get organised. Try and collate all your documents in relation to your marriage, your home, your children and your possessions before you begin divorce proceedings. This could help reduce legal costs .
To help you collate the required information you can request our Practical Preparation for Divorce Document.