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Going through a divorce is rarely easy, but by getting the right advice early on it is often possible to make the process much smoother and more amicable. That way you can end your relationship quickly, cost-effectively and with minimal stress, while still ensuring your interests are protected.
HCB’s expert divorce solicitors can guide you through the entire divorce process, whether you are initiating divorce proceedings, or responding to proceedings started by your spouse. We can make sure you get a fair financial settlement and that any children you have are adequately provided for. That way, you will be free to move on with your life with complete peace of mind.
We are experts in family mediation for divorce, which is often the fastest, most cost-effective and least stressful way to legally end your relationship. However, where going to court is the best or only sensible option, we will robustly represent your interests, ensuring you get a fair settlement.
Speak to one of our highly experienced divorce solicitors today by contacting your local HCB office.
Our divorce services
HCB’s nationwide divorce solicitors can help with every aspect of divorce and separation, including all related considerations, such as financial settlements and arrangements for children.
We can help you with:
- Preparing and submitting a divorce petition
- Responding to a divorce petition
- Defending a divorce petition
- Family mediation for divorce
- Representing you in divorce court proceedings
- Negotiating financial settlements, including property and other assets
- Negotiating arrangements for child custody, visitation and maintenance
- Civil partnership dissolutions
- Any other legal issues related to ending your relationship
The divorce process
To get a divorce in England or Wales you need to have been married for at least one year and you will have to demonstrate that your relationship has irretrievably broken down. If you have been married for less than a year, you may be able to get your marriage annulled under certain circumstances (see below for details).
There are various key steps to getting divorced:
- One or both spouses submit a divorce petition to your local divorce centre.
- The spouse or spouses who receive a petition need to respond, either agreeing with the divorce, or disagreeing and stating their reasons for disagreeing.
- You apply to court for a decree nisi – this is a court order specifying when the divorce will become finalised, if not contested.
- If the court accepts that your divorce is valid, they will issue a decree nisi, if they decide your divorce is not valid, you will normally be sent a notice of refusal specifying why you cannot divorce.
- If the court has accepted your application, you must then wait at least 6 weeks before you can apply for a decree absolute, which legally ends your marriage. If your spouse is defending the divorce, they will have 21 days to state their reasons.
- If your spouse chooses to defend the divorce, or both sides file divorce petitions, you will normally have to go to court for a hearing to discuss the case. The judge will then decide whether to grant the divorce or not.
- Arrangements for children and financial settlements must be made separately to the main divorce process. You can make these arrangements privately by agreement with your spouse, or you can ask a court to decide for you if you cannot reach an agreement. If you decide a financial agreement privately, you can ask a court to make this binding with an application for consent order. If you want a court to decide custody and the financial settlement for you, you will normally need to attempt mediation first.
Grounds for divorce
There are 5 accepted grounds to apply for a divorce:
- Adultery – Where your spouse has had sex with someone of the opposite gender. Sex with someone of the same gender is not classed as adultery under current UK law and you cannot use adultery as a reason for divorce if you have continued to live as a couple for 6 months or more after you found out.
- Unreasonable behaviour – Where your spouse has behaved in such a way you cannot reasonably continue to live with them e.g. domestic abuse (physical or verbal), refusing to contribute financially, lack of emotional support etc. You will often need to give 3 or more examples of unreasonable behaviour for a strong divorce petition.
- Desertion – Where your spouse has left you without your consent or a good reason with the intent to end you relationship for more than 2 years out of the last 2.5 years.
- Having lived apart for 2 years or more – If your spouse consents to the divorce
- Having lived apart for 5 years or more – Whether your spouse consents to the divorce or not.
A divorce solicitor can advise you on the most appropriate grounds to select when putting together a divorce petition, giving you the best possible chance of success.
“No fault” divorce
There is no such thing in the UK as a “no fault” divorce, where both sides can simply agree they no longer wish to be married and get divorced. Most couples who want a quick divorce in the UK do so on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour, as this is the only grounds other than adultery that does not require you to wait.
If you and your spouse both wish to divorce each other, it is worth consulting a divorce solicitor together so you can produce a divorce petition you can both agree to that will be strong enough for a judge to accept.
Divorce for same sex couples
Divorce for same sex couples is mostly the same as for heterosexual couples, except that same sex couples cannot currently use adultery as grounds for divorce (unless it was with someone of the opposite gender). However, a sexual relationship with someone of the same gender can be included under unreasonable behaviour.
Civil partnership dissolution
You can apply to end a civil partnership if you have been in the partnership for at least one year. You will need to submit a dissolution application to court to ask for permission to end the civil partnership, giving your reasons for ending the relationship. Grounds for ending a civil partnership are the same as for marriage, except adultery is not an option – this instead comes under unreasonable behaviour.
You can then apply for a conditional order. If your partner accepts the dissolution, you then simply have to wait for 6 weeks, then apply for a final order, officially dissolving your civil partnership. If your partner contests the dissolution, you will normally need to go to court where a judge will decide whether to grant the conditional order.
If you simply wish to replace your civil partnership with a marriage, you do not need to dissolve the civil partnership first. Instead, you will need to make an appointment with the superintendent registrar at your local register office to sign a conversion into marriage declaration. You will need your original civil partnership certificate and your ID and will be issued with a marriage certificate.
Having a marriage annulled
You can get a marriage annulled at any time if you meet either of the following 2 conditions:
- The marriage was not legally valid, e.g. you are closely related, one of you was under 16 or one of you was already married.
- The marriage is defective, e.g. the marriage wasn’t consummated, you didn’t property consent to the marriage, the other person had a sexually transmitted disease when you got married or the woman was pregnant by another man when you got married.
Family mediation for divorce
Family mediation offers a non-confrontational way to resolve disputes over a divorce or civil partnership dissolution. It involves both parties sitting down with a trained, neutral mediator who will encourage you to talk through the issues and work towards a mutually acceptable resolution.
Mediation is often significantly faster, more cost-effective and less stressful than relying on litigation to end a marriage or civil partnership. It can avoid the need to go to court and often makes it easier to maintain an amicable relationship with your ex – something with can be especially important when you have children you will need to continue co-parenting.
Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM)
For most couples in England and Wales, you will be required to attempt mediation before you will be allowed to take your divorce to court. The only exceptions to this are where there have been incidents of domestic violence or there are child protection issues to consider.
The first step in the mediation process is to have a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting. This involves sitting down with a mediator to discuss how mediation works and whether it might be appropriate for you. This initial meeting can be just between you and the mediator, or can involve your ex-partner as well.
The mediator will make a judgement about whether mediation is right for you. If they decide mediation is a viable option, they will then arrange with you and your partner when you will meet for your first mediation session. If mediation is not an option for your divorce, the mediator will give you a signed declaration to that effect, which you will need to show to a court to be allowed to proceed with your divorce in court.
Collaborative law for divorce
Collaborative law is an alternative to mediation. Instead of a neutral mediator working with both parties, each instead has their own lawyer, trained in collaborative law. You will then sit down in a four-way meeting, with both spouses and your lawyers, and attempt to negotiate a divorce settlement in a non-confrontational way.
This can be an effective alternative to mediation if one or both spouses would prefer to have a legally trained representative supporting them during negotiations.
Going to court for divorce
Going to court may be the best option for your divorce under a number of circumstances, including:
- You cannot agree on a financial settlement or childcare arrangements, even after mediation
- Your spouse is not giving you all the information you need to decide on a financial settlement
- Your finances are too complicated to sort out privately
- There has been domestic violence, the threat or domestic violence or a child protection issue
- Divorce proceedings have been started in another country
Having the right legal advice and representation from an expert divorce solicitor when taking a divorce to court is essential to ensure that your interests are properly protected and that you receive a fair settlement.
Financial settlements for divorce
Sorting out your finances is one of the most complicated and confusing parts of any divorce. There are 4 main elements to consider:
- Covering immediate financial commitments – ensuring day-to-day costs, such as mortgage payments, bills and basic costs of living are taken care of.
- Maintenance agreements – deciding how much should be paid, to whom and how long for after the divorce, including child maintenance payments.
- The family home and other assets – which party gets to keep the family home and other assets, or whether they should be sold and the money divided.
- Savings and pensions – what should happen to any savings and pension plans that you have.
Financial settlements can be agreed voluntarily, or by a court. Voluntary arrangements can be made legally binding by a court with an application for consent order.
Arrangements for children after divorce
How you children will be cared for and supported after you divorce is usually one of the top priorities for divorcing parents. You will usually need to decide:
- Where the children will live
- When they will spend time with each parent
- What level of child maintenance will be paid
You can decide these arrangements for yourselves, or get a court to decide. If you do choose to make your own arrangements privately, it is often a good idea to use a solicitor to make the agreement legally binding.
Other considerations when getting divorced
Depending on your unique circumstances, there may be any number of other issues to consider when getting divorced. Two common issues you may need a solicitor’s help to resolve are:
Handling business relationships – If you co-own a business, you may want to arrange for one partner to buy the other out. Alternatively, if you want to keep running it together, you may need to create a new structure, including producing a formal partnership agreement if you don’t already have one.
Updating your Will – If you already have a Will, you will likely want to update it to reflect any change in your priorities following your divorce. If you do not currently have a Will, it is a good idea to create one to ensure your wishes will be honoured in the event of your death.
Why choose HCB’s divorce solicitors?
HCB is a large network consisting of 24 local offices spread across the Midlands, South East (including London), North West and South Wales. This means that wherever you are in the England and Wales, we likely have an office nearby.
The size of our legal network also gives us an extraordinary depth and breath of knowledge around all aspects of divorce and related areas. For our clients, this means that whatever comes up during the process of getting divorced, we will have someone in the team who has the relevant expertise and experience to find the best possible solution.
Our team of divorce solicitors across the UK includes many specialists in mediation and collaborative law, including members of Resolution (a network of legal professionals dedicated to non-confrontational approaches to family legal issues). This means wherever a non-confrontational approach is possible, we will pursue this option according to your wishes, allowing you to get a fast, harmonious and cost-effective resolution to your divorce.
However, our solicitors are also highly experienced at representing our clients in court proceedings. Where this is required, we can put together the strongest possible case on your behalf to make sure your interests are protected and that you get a fair settlement.
To consult our highly experienced divorce solicitors, get in touch with your local HCB office.
When there’s a fight to be had the team did not back away, however, when there was a deal to be done the team did it.
For divorce advice and representation you can depend on, even in the most complex of cases, contact HCB Solicitors for free initial advice.