If you have been married for more than a year, and you are sure your marriage has irretrievably broken down, you can start divorce proceedings at a Family Court (now regionally based).
Within the next 12 months it is expected that long-awaited reforms to divorce law will be brought into force by Parliament. The new laws will remove the need for fault-finding in divorce proceedings – watch this space. Online divorce is being trialled in a number of areas in England and Wales, so that all stages of a divorce application can be dealt with electronically. Again, watch this space for developments
We will advise you what evidence you need to establish the right grounds but we will also discuss with you the possibility of marriage guidance. There are a number of organisations such as Relate who could help you and your spouse, if appropriate.
If you have received divorce papers or are about to, we will advise you on the merits of the petition (it is very rare to defend divorce proceedings) and help you with the court forms.
You will also need advice about your rights and responsibilities for your children. Decisions will have to be made about how much time the children spend with each of you and what level of financial support they will need.
Dividing the matrimonial assets and deciding what happens to the family home, can be one of the most challenging areas of marriage breakdown. We will advise and guide you through the legal complexities with the aim of reaching a fair and workable solution. You will need to know what and how much of your and your spouse’s property and finances belong to whom and how a fair division can be achieved, according to legal principles and the needs of you, your spouse and especially the children.
It is more usual than not to conclude cases with consent orders, rather than having to go to Court for a judge to make decisions on financial matters or those affecting your children. The climate for solicitors nowadays is to work with their clients to achieve agreed outcomes, rather than adopting the more oppositional approach of past times.
Mediation has gained prominence in recent years, as an option for negotiating to an agreed solution in family issues following separation. Mediators are professionally trained but cannot offer legal advice. We will provide you with information about this process which you may choose to attempt with your partner with a view to reaching an agreement over finances and/or your children. If successful, the brokered agreement would then be brought to your solicitors for implementation within the divorce proceedings.
Please read about the collaborative law option for information about an alternative approach to marriage breakdowns.
Whether or not you chose the collaborative route, we will endeavor to reach an agreement on disputed issues with your spouse, that protects your interests but also causes the least emotional fall-out.
It may be that you recognise that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, but you don’t want to start divorce proceedings just yet. If that is the case, everything that is referred to above concerning arrangements for your finances and your children, can be achieved on a time limited basis, under a Separation Agreement.