Divorce Advice Information
When a marriage breaks down there will be a number of issues to deal with. Such issues may include how to get divorced, complex financial matters and children matters, both domestic and international. Men & women like you will be looking for divorce advice.
Here at Divorce Advice you will find free information and answers to some of the most common divorce advice questions. In addition, our divorce solicitors at Osbornes can provide you with expert divorce advice on all issues which may arise as a result of your divorce, making a commitment to providing you with advice which is in your best interest, as well as any children involved.
It is not our aim to see you go through lengthy court proceedings and where possible, depending on your circumstances, our solicitors will do all that we can to avoid this. A number of our solicitors are trained mediators and we house one of London’s premier collaborative law departments.
Top divorce advice questions:
Yes we certainly do. All of our specialist family solicitors will be happy to meet with you for a one hour initial fixed fee consultation meeting costing £199.00 inclusive of VAT.
On contacting us just quote "divorceadvicepro" and we will arrange an appointment for you at our London office.
First of all, you need to consider whether you wish to obtain a divorce or whether you wish to see whether there is a way to save your marriage. If you believe your marriage can be saved then there are organisations such as Relate who can help. Their website is www.relate.co.uk.
If you do wish to obtain a divorce then in the UK you need to file Divorce Petition on the basis that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. To prove that, you have to issue a divorce on one of five different reasons being:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Two years separation with consent of your spouse
- Five years separation without consent
Please feel free to contact any member of our specialist family department who can provide you with further information or assistance.
There are many options from which you can choose to try and resolve disputes with your partner/spouse and they can include mediation or adopting a collaborative approach.
Neither mediation nor the collaborative process has as its central aim a reconciliation in the relationship between you and your partner/spouse, but rather it is a way to resolve areas of dispute as sensibly as possible. In mediation, the Mediator's role is to remain neutral. They cannot give advice, but will encourage you to get advice where necessary. Mediation in the right circumstances can prove to be a faster and more cost effective way of resolving areas of conflict.
If you and your spouse have separated, then you do not need to take any steps at all, unless you wish to take steps to officially separate. The only means of an official Court separation is what is known as Judicial Separation. The process to obtaining a Judicial Separation is primarily the same as a getting a divorce, save that instead of a Decree Nisi, you obtain a Decree of Judicial Separation. To prove to the Court you can judicially separate you have to issue proceedings based on one of five different reasons being:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Two years separation with consent of your spouse
- Five years separation without consent
This means of separation is usually important to someone with strong religious beliefs, whereby they wish to separate from their spouse, but not obtain a divorce.
You and your spouse can of course preferably reach a resolution between you both, albeit it may be sensible to obtain legal advice to ensure that the settlement which is proposed is a fair and reasonable one, especially if there are children involved. Another way is through mediation. For further details about mediation, please contact one of or many experienced family mediators. It is now almost compulsory to have to be assessed for mediation, albeit the Mediator may decide that mediation is not appropriate, before you can commence financial proceedings through the Courts.
If Court proceedings are issued then the Court must take into account a variety of issues, which include any children you may have, your respective needs, the respective financial positions of you both, the length of the marriage, the standing of living during the \marriage and other important matters, such as health. Our team of family lawyers can discuss in greater detail with you those issues which are pertinent to your case and how they may impact upon the fair distribution of income and capital resources between you and your spouse.
As you are not married, different considerations and a different approach applies. The main matters to be considered are whether or not you have any children, whether or not there have been any direct financial contributions between you and your partner, and vice versa, and if your home/s are in only one person's name. Consideration will also have to be given to what were the intentions when the property was bought. As these matters can be potentially very complex. We have a dedicated specialist family department team who can advise you more fully of this.
Prenuptial Agreements are there to try and limit one person's subsequent claim in a marriage against the other. The aim also is to try and limit costs and reduce the potential areas of dispute and the stress if people separate following a divorce, as the terms of their on-going financial arrangements will have been sorted out in advance. There are some strict procedural steps which need to be taken if a Prenuptial Agreement is going to be upheld by a Court if it is disputed at later stage and consideration as part of the Prenuptial Agreement will have to look at some important long term issues, not least of which is what has happened during your marriage and if you have any children.
If you wish to receive any further advice in this matter then please contact a member of the family department.
As with any areas of dispute between partners or spouses, direct and constructive discussions between you both to try and resolve those areas of disagreement is usually the best way forward. This is because you and your partner/spouse know the specific requirements of each of your children and thus are likely to appreciate the best way for your child/ren going forward.
However, if that is not possible then you and your partner/spouse could pursue other means of resolving matters, such as mediation. It is now almost compulsory for parents of a child, if they disagree, and so Court proceedings have to be commenced, to attend at a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting so that a Mediator can assess their situation as to suitability for mediation. Not all disputes are suitable for mediation. For further details about the mediation process, please contact one of our many experienced family mediators. If there is no agreement following mediation and providing that Social Services are not involved then, if your case does proceed to Court, the Court will often seek the assistance of CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service). Often a CAFCASS Officer is present at the first Court hearing, which is known as a Conciliation Appointment, and the Judge will in a more relaxed Court environment than would for example be the case if there was a Final Hearing, to try and appreciate the issues between you and your partner/spouse and see, with the assistance of the CAFCASS Officer, if those areas can either be limited or resolved.
If no agreement can be reached and the Court case continues, the Court will make a decision in what the Court believes is in the best interests of your child/ren. The main areas of dispute are either the long term living arrangements for a child, how frequently the person not living with the child should see that child, education, health, or possibly even the right to permanently remove the child/ren from this country to live abroad.
If you wish to discuss this further then please feel free to contact a member of our specialist family department.
If Social Services do become involved, they may not necessarily issue care proceedings because normally they may wish to undertake an assessment of you and the children if they have concerns about your parenting.
Social Services become involved because they have been asked to ensure that your child/ren are safe.
Social Services have wide powers and there are very complex future arrangements which Social Services could recommend and that the Court may ultimately order relating to the long term or even short term care of the children. As matters can be so complex, it is recommended that you should at the earliest opportunity obtain legal advice.
We always emphasise that it is best to co-operate with Social Services, even though you may feel an understandable grievance, if not resentment, at their involvement, but ultimately as they have significant influence over the potential long term/short term care arrangements of your child/ren, it is in your best interests to listen to what they say and then take advice about the same.
Our specialist family department children's team, a number of whom are members of the specialist Law Society Children's Panel, have represented many parents who have successfully retained the full time care of their children.
If your children are living with you under the terms of a Court Order to that effect then you should immediately notify the police and take urgent specialist family advice. This is particularly so if you genuinely fear that your ex-partner/spouse is going to take the children away from the United Kingdom to live abroad.
It is quite common that when a relationship breaks down sometimes a parent, if not both, may act in a way which is not their normal behaviour which could, for example, mean that they keep the child/ren longer at the end of a contact visit or they refuse to return the child/ren. Although that is potentially a very distressing incident, especially for the child/ren, that will not amount to abduction but may necessitate involvement of the police and certainly would be an incident about which you would benefit in obtaining urgent legal advice.
If your child/ren has been or is being abducted then if the child/ren are still in this country, an order known as an All Ports Alert can be actioned which means that the UK border officials are on notice that the child/ren are being removed from the UK and they may hopefully be able to prevent that taking place.
If your child/ren has already been removed abroad then complex legal issues apply. Court proceedings adopt procedures and rules in which what are known as Conventions, which have been entered into by a number of countries, but not all countries, throughout the world.
You may also wish to obtain further information from a specialist charity who are involved in cases involving the abduction of children which is called Reunite. Their website is www.reunite.org.
We have a specialist international abduction lawyer who is on the Law Society's Child Abduction Panel. There are also other members of the family department who would be able to assist if you require further advice.
To start with, you need to decide whether you would wish to adopt a child living in this country or living abroad. Our specialist child adoption team would be able to advise you on this and the process of the home study assessment of your suitability to adopt by a local authority or a voluntary adoption agency. We would also be able to advise you on the various legal steps which you will need to take to pursue either a domestic or international adoption. This firm has had many international adoption clients who are living and working abroad. We are able to advise on the issues and implications of this, both while you are living abroad and also when you wish to return to settle in this country. One of our members of our adoption team is a member of the Law Society Children Panel and is widely regarded as the leading expert in international adoption in this country.
If you have been harassed or threatened or you are subjected to actual violence then normally you would be best advised to report the matter to the police. The police often have a dedicated domestic violence department who may be able to support and assist you. If the police decide that they wish to pursue the matter, they may simply question them and in effect, give them an informal reprimand, or if they decide it is more significant they may give them a formal warning or harassment notice. In the more serious cases, the police may charge that person with a criminal offence and if that matter then proceeds to a trial and if the person is found guilty, a sanction which the Court may order could involve a term of imprisonment.
You will also be able to seek an injunction from the Family Courts. A Non-Molestation Order is where you seek protection from your partner if you have been subjected to harassment, intimidation or threats of domestic violence. In certain circumstances, you can apply in the first place for a Non-Molestation Order without giving notice to your partner. If an Order was made on that basis, there would be a subsequent hearing at which your partner could then give their evidence so the Court could decide whether or not to continue with the Non-Molestation Order.
The Court further has the power to make orders relating to the occupation of the home in which you and your partner are currently living, with such an Order being known as an Occupation Order. The Court could even make an Occupation Order on the basis that one of you may have to leave the home or alternatively, if one of you has left the property, the Court may order that person to be able to return to live at the property.
Depending upon your financial circumstances, it may even be possible to be able to obtain legal aid to seek an injunction. If you wish to have further advice then please feel free to contact a member of this firm's family department.
There is only one ground for divorce in England and Wales and that is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. In order to show that the marriage has broken down, the person petitioning for divorce (known as the petitioner) must use one of five ‘facts’ to rely upon in their petition. These are as follows:
- That the other party to the marriage (known as the Respondent) has committed adultery and the Petitioner now finds it intolerable to live with them;
- That the Respondent has behaved in such a way that the Petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the Respondent;
- That the Respondent has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of at least 2 years prior to the date of the petition for divorce;
- That the parties have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 2 years and the Respondent consents to a divorce being granted;
- That the parties have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 5 years.
Determining which fact will be most appropriate in your case will depend on the individual facts of your case and you can discuss this in detail with your solicitor. You must wait a minimum of 1 year from the date of your marriage before you are able to petition for divorce.
It is not possible to give a fixed time estimate as how long it will take for your divorce to be finalised, however, based on our experience of these matters, it is estimated that the process from issuing your divorce petition to obtaining your final divorce decree( decree absolute), will take in the region of 4-8 months. This estimate is based on the assumption that there are no particular difficulties or reasons for delay in your case which may cause the process to take longer.
The cost of a divorce can vary. If your husband / wife agrees to you obtaining a divorce then the total costs are likely to be between £1,200 to £2,000 including VAT. This includes the court fees of £340 to issue the divorce petition and £45 to apply for decree absolute. Fully contested divorce proceedings are very rare.
If there are disputes about finances or children then the costs depend on the circumstances of the case and how long it takes to resolve matters.
In some circumstances you may be eligible for public funding or fee exemptions which will cover the costs of your divorce.
Where there are no issues concerning finances or children, and your former partner agrees to the divorce, then the cheapest way to get divorced is to do it yourself. It must be borne in mind however that there will be court fees to be paid including an initial issue fee and a fee attached the application to make the decree nisi absolute. If you are not comfortable conducting the divorce proceedings yourself then we can assist in progressing the divorce.
The best way to avoid significant costs is to try and reach agreement as soon as possible, and ideally before any proceedings are issued. If agreement can be reached regarding the format of the divorce petition in advance of it being issued then this can help prevent costs and well as stress. Similarly, if agreement can be reached swiftly regarding the care arrangements for any children and regarding the division of the matrimonial finances upon divorce then this will help to minimise cost.
The Court does not require you to have a solicitor to get divorced but you may find it preferable to use a solicitor. A solicitor can advise you about all steps for obtaining a divorce including the procedure for obtaining a divorce, they can advise you about the grounds for the divorce and the most suitable grounds in your case. The Solicitor will be able to draft the documents correctly so that they are approved by the Court.
If as part of the divorce you need to make arrangements in relation to the care of children and / or the division of finances then, whilst there is no obligation to instruct a solicitor, a solicitor may be able to assist you in reaching agreement.
A clean break divorce is when your finances are totally separated. It means that there is no maintenance (other than child maintenance) and that there can be no future claims against each other. Many people feel that this is the best arrangement for them but it is not suitable in all cases, such as where there are young children.
On filing an initial application for divorce, dissolution of a civil partnership, annulment or judicial separation, the Court fee is £340. Following this, when it comes to applying for your Decree Absolute, a further Court fee of £45 is payable.
If you wish to make an application for financial relief against your spouse/civil partner, this will incur a separate Court fee of £240.
In some circumstances, such as if you are in receipt of income support, you may be eligible for a fee exemption meaning that you do not have to pay these fees.
A Form E is detailed form used to set out financial disclosure in the course of financial remedy proceedings.
After one party has applied to the court for a financial order upon divorce, the court will require both parties to the marriage or civil partnership to complete the Form E as part of the financial disclosure process. The Form E requires the parties to give details of all their assets and income and to provide documentary evidence in support, for example, bank statements for the last twelve months for each of their bank accounts. The Form E will be used to work out what the current financial position of both parties is and to assist in determining the appropriate financial settlement in any given case.
When two people divorce or dissolve their civil partnership, the court has the power to make various orders to ensure a fair financial settlement. The main orders which can be made are as follows:
- Lump sum order (order that one party has to pay the other a sum of money);
- Property adjustment order (order that a property be transferred from one person's name into another's or from joint names into sole names, or vice versa);
- Pension sharing order (order that one party's pension be shared with the other);
- Spousal maintenance order (order that one person pay the other regular payments); and
- Order for sale (order that a property belonging to the parties or one of the parties be sold).
A financial settlement may incorporate any number or combination of the above orders. When determining what the terms of any financial settlement should be and which orders should be made, the court will consider the guidance set down in s25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. This guidance requires consideration of a list of factors including the length of the marriage or civil partnership, the age of the parties, each person's needs and financial resources and each person's earning capacity. The paramount concern will be the interests of any children of the family under the age of 18.
In most cases the Court is primarily concerned with the reasonable needs of each party and particularly of the children. There is no numerical formula which is applied to work out how the finances on a divorce or dissolution should be decided but rather it will depend on the circumstances of the individual case.
A separation agreement should normally incorporate all the things that would be dealt with in a final financial consent order following a divorce or dissolution. This is to prevent problems arising later on when the parties formalise their separation through divorce or dissolution proceedings. Although every case is different, it is sensible to cover the following:
- What should happen to any property and where each party will live;
- How any capital assets should be shared including savings, shares etc;
- Whether one party should pay the other maintenance and/or child support;
- Whether any pensions should be shared and if so how;
- What should happen to any joint bank accounts;
- When and how the parties intend to formalise their separation by legally dissolving the marriage or civil partnership.
The separation agreement should also confirm whether or not legal advice has been taken and that the parties are both aware of the other’s financial circumstances.
A decree of nullity (annulment) can declare that a marriage is either void from the outset (treated as never having existed) or is voidable (treated as being valid and subsisting at the time but no longer valid).
Examples of when a marriage will be void are:
- The parties are too closely related to each other;
- Either party was under 16 years old at the time of the ceremony;
- Either party was already lawfully married;
- At the time of the marriage, the parties are not respectively male and female (although of course this is not a ground for annulment of civil partnerships).
Examples of when a marriage could be voidable are:
- The marriage has not been consummated, either due to incapacity of one party or wilful refusal
- There is a lack of consent to the marriage, for example due to duress, mistake, unsoundness of mind or otherwise
- At the time of the marriage one party was pregnant by some person other than the other party
Annulling a marriage is different to a divorce as an annulment declares that the marriage either did not exist or should not have existed whereas a divorce just ends the marriage.
Those on very low incomes or in receipt of some benefits can in some obtain funding under the Legal Help scheme in order to seek advice regarding divorce. Legal Aid is available for some individuals, primarily those on income support or very low incomes, to cover applications with regards matrimonial finances or regarding disputes about the care of children.
Legal Aid for financial and children applications available to those who the legal aid board feel have merit in their case and who are on low incomes. Under the merits test, the Legal Services Commission have to be satisfied that your case has a reasonable chance of success. If you pass the merits test then consideration will be given to your financial circumstances.
If you are in receipt of Income Support, Income Based Jobseeker's Allowance, Income Based Employment and Support Allowance or Guarantee Credit and if you pass the merits test then you are automatically eligible for legal aid. If you are not in receipt of any of these benefits your capital and income will be assessed to establish whether you fall within the criteria provided by the Legal Services Commission.
At the present time the courts of England and Wales do not have a vehicle through which an online divorce can be obtained. Petitioners are therefore required to complete a hard copy version of a divorce petition and deliver it by post or by hand to the Divorce Registry or the County Court along with the requisite fee. Petitioners are also required to complete applications for Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute at the appropriate stage of their divorce. This is the case whether you instruct solicitors or try and deal with your divorce through an online divorce provider.
Whilst we do not offer a fully online service, in many circumstances a lot of the work can be undertaken via email and we can provide the detailed and specialist divorce advice that may be lacking from so called “online divorces”.
Mediation can help where both parents wish to resolve matters in a constructive and organised manner with a third person who is neutral. The Mediator's role is to assist both parents in being able to discuss properly and reasonably issues which affect their children. It is a non confrontational approach to resolving issues. It is always best if the parents themselves can reach a resolution about a matter rather than leaving it to the Court to make a decision.
You do not need to attend at Mediation to get a divorce. Mediation is strongly encouraged by the Courts if you wish to issue an application concerning your children or the family finances.
This is more properly known as a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting. If you wish to commence Court proceedings then you should go and see an independent Mediator who assesses your case as to whether or not it is suitable for Mediation.
Mediation is a way in which both parties can hopefully resolve or limit issues between them concerning the children or financial aspects and thus hopefully reach a more amicable settlement than commencing Court proceedings, with the assistance of a neutral third party who is the Mediator
Mediation, where it is appropriate, can often prove to be a swift and relatively inexpensive way of resolving areas of dispute.
These are the Court proceedings about the division of finances upon divorce. These financial proceedings run parallel to the divorce proceedings and it is within these proceedings that you can obtain a court order about the division of the matrimonial assets. Financial proceedings are started, once a divorce petition has been issued, by issuing a Form A at court and paying the court fee of £240 and the court will then set a timetable. The proceedings involve applications for property transfers, lump sums, child and spousal maintenance and sharing of pensions amongst other things.
The first step is for both parties to provide full and frank disclosure of their financial position using a form, known as a Form E, by a certain date. Further questions can then be asked to try and clarify the position. Both you and your spouse/partner will then need to attend a court hearing, with your solicitors if you have one. At this hearing, the judge will consider your respective questionnaires and also consider making orders for any further investigation that he/she deems reasonable, such as a market appraisal of the marital home or an accountant’s report of a family business.
Once this information has been obtained the next hearing is used to try and negotiate an agreement, it is called a Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR) hearing. Most cases settle at or before this hearing. If agreement cannot be reached then the case will be listed for a final hearing where the Judge will make an order as to how the finances of the marriage should be divided.
No, you cannot fast-track a divorce. Often you will see references to ‘quickie divorces’ in the media in respect of celebrity marriage breakdown. Provided your divorce is straightforward and there are no complications or finances to resolve, your divorce is likely to take approximately between 3-6 months. You will need to follow the court’s paper exercise of issuing a Petition, serving these papers on your spouse/partner, waiting for your spouse/partner to return the Acknowledgment of Service to the court, issuing your application for a Decree Nisi at court and waiting for the court to pronounce your Decree Nisi. Once your Decree Nisi has been pronounced, you will need to wait a minimum of 6 weeks and a day before filing your application for a Decree Absolute. Once you obtain a Decree Absolute from the court, your marriage will be dissolved. If you have on-going financial proceedings to be resolved you should obtain advice from your solicitor as to whether or not you should go ahead and obtain your Decree Absolute before you have a final sealed consent order or court order in respect of your marital assets.
You can try to make the process as quick as possible by agreeing the contents of the divorce petition with your spouse / partner in advance.
No it is not possible for a civil partnership to be dissolved on the grounds of adultery. As such you would not achieve a separation on these grounds. For the court to be satisfied that the civil partnership has broken down irretrievably at least one of the following facts must be proved:
- The respondent civil partner has behaved in such a way that the applicant cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent
- The civil partners have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 2 years immediately preceding the making of the application and your partner consents to a dissolution order being made
- The civil partners have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 5 years immediately preceding the making of the application, whether or not your partner consents to the divorce
- The respondent civil partner has deserted the applicant for a continuous period of at least 2 years immediately preceding the making of the application.