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Family Law questions answered
August 2022

Following the recent growth of our Family Law team and announcement of our competitive fixed fee divorce solution, our Family Law team answer all your frequently asked questions.

  1. How does the divorce process start?

The divorce process can involve up to three separate elements:

    1. the divorce itself (i.e. the ending of the marriage);
    2. agreement on the financial arrangements, such as how the assets will be divided and whether any maintenance will be payable; and
    3. agreement on the arrangements for looking after any dependent children.

Since 6 April 2022, divorce law has changed. Divorce is now on a ‘no-fault’ basis, to encourage amicable proceedings. The whole divorce process has become much simplified.

 

  1. Are no-fault divorces right for everyone?

The decision whether to end your relationship is, of course, one for you rather than your lawyer. However, whilst you might wish to separate from your spouse, divorce can have far-reaching implications and you should take legal advice before you act. Timing can be a very important factor, and it may be advisable to wait or to separate for a period of time before divorcing. In some cases, it may actually be more suitable to separate without getting divorced at all. At Jolliffes, our specialist Family Law solicitors can explain the advantages and disadvantages of each option to you.

Furthermore, if you (or your spouse) have any international connections, you may need to consider whether it is more appropriate to get divorced in another country. You should discuss this with one of our Family Law solicitor as early as possible as where you get divorced could make a big difference to any financial settlement.

 

  1. How does the divorce process work?

Once you or your spouse (the “applicant”) has submitted the divorce application, a copy of the application document is sent to the other person (the “respondent”) along with a document called “Notice of Proceedings”. The respondent is then asked to return an “Acknowledgement of Service”, confirming that the documents have been received.

After the application has been checked by both the respondent and the applicant, the court will issue the application. There is then a “cooling off” period of 20 weeks before you can apply for a conditional order, which is the first stage of the divorce. This was historically called the “decree nisi”.

The court reviews the application and sets a date when the conditional order (decree nisi) will be given. Six weeks and one day after that date, the applicant can then apply for the final order (previously, the “decree absolute”). When this final order (decree absolute) has been granted, you are divorced (and free to remarry, should you wish).

 

  1. Does it make any difference who starts the divorce proceedings?

It should make no difference to the outcome; however, in practice, there may be circumstances where it is more appropriate for either you or your spouse to be the applicant.

If only one spouse wants a divorce, they will inevitably be the one who files for divorce. More broadly, the applicant’s solicitor tends to drive the divorce process. For example, chasing up the respondent’s solicitor if documents have not been returned on time. Also, a spouse who has religious objections to divorce may prefer to be the respondent.

The applicant who files for divorce will need to pay the court fee, which (at the time of publication) is £593, but an agreement may be reached between your spouse and you as to any sharing of the costs.

 

  1. How long do I need to have been married before I can get divorced?

You must have been married for at least one year before you can get divorced. If your marriage breaks down before you have been married for a year, you may want to separate in the meantime and to agree issues such as financial arrangements and who will look after any children. Alternatively, in certain circumstances, it may be possible to apply for an annulment (and you should speak to one of our Family Law solicitors if you feel this may be relevant in your circumstances).

 

  1. What is a “quickie divorce”?

The idea of a “quickie divorce” is a myth; there is no such thing in England and Wales.  You may see reference to a “quickie divorce” in the media, when reporting that decree nisi has been made, but the decree nisi (now known as a conditional order) is only the first stage in a two-stage process (as mentioned in an earlier FAQ).

 

  1. What information will my solicitor need to help me get divorced?

Your solicitor needs to understand the background to the divorce; what financial assets are involved; and whether there are any children. The information you provide should include:

    1. which of you will be applying for the divorce and whether you have both agreed that you should divorce;
    2. what you and your spouse’s major assets are, such as savings, pensions, houses etc;
    3. what you and your spouse’s income and outgoings are; and
    4. details of any dependent children (under the age of 18, still in full time education, or having special needs).

The more information you can provide, the easier it is for your solicitor to understand the circumstances and to advise you.

At the same time you provide this background information, you should also let your solicitor know what your major objectives are. For example, arrangements regarding the children staying in the family home and so on.

 

  1. How can I make the divorce as difficult and painful as possible for my spouse?

At Jolliffes, we understand that divorce proceedings are very often traumatic and expensive enough, without matters being aggravated by court proceedings; a responsible Family Law solicitor will not deliberately agitate what is already a difficult situation. Making things difficult can also result in costs out of all proportion to the financial assets involved and may distress you (and any children) as much as your spouse.

You should be aware that if there are financial proceedings and if your unreasonable behaviour results in increased court costs and legal fees, the court could require you to pay both your own and your spouse’s costs.

 

  1. Do we have to go to court in person to get divorced?

It would only be necessary to attend court in connection with the divorce application itself where the respondent is contesting the application for divorce. This is a rare occurrence and is even more unlikely now that divorce law has changed to a ‘no fault’ basis. That being said, if an agreement relating to any children and/or finances cannot be reached, then it may be necessary to attend court to deal with those aspects. However, in many cases, we may be able to resolve these through collaborative law or mediation.

 

If you have any Family Law or divorce related questions, or wish to discuss our  fixed fee divorce solution, speak to Marie Proud on 07834 175690 or at mp@jolliffes.com or to Sam Ishaq-Forsyth on 07921 697134 or at sf@jolliffes.com

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