Divorce lawyers and expert family law advice in South West London
If you are getting divorced, or at the stage when you are thinking about doing so, it is likely to be an emotional and stressful time. You will require sound, sensitive advice from an experienced divorce lawyer.
Why do I need a divorce lawyer?
Our solicitors will give you clear, cost-effective legal advice so that you are able to achieve the best possible outcome. You can expect our experienced divorce and family lawyers to be friendly, approachable and understanding. For more information about how we can help talk to us.
How do I start the divorce process?
You will need to complete a divorce petition and lodge it at court together with your marriage certificate and court fee of £550. The spouse starting the divorce has to rely on one of five facts as the basis for the divorce: adultery; unreasonable behaviour; two years separation and you both agree to a divorce; five years separation or desertion. You cannot start a divorce if you have not been married for at least a year.
What will happen to my home in a divorce?
The family home is a matrimonial asset even if it is registered in the sole name of one spouse. The starting point for a division of matrimonial property is 50/50 with consideration being given to your respective housing needs and the needs of any minor children. If the family home is in the sole name of your spouse, you should register a matrimonial home rights notice against the property which will prevent your spouse from selling or mortgaging the property without your knowledge.
What happens to our children in a divorce?
If you cannot agree on child arrangements directly, mediation can help to reach an agreement with the assistance of a neutral third party. If this is unsuccessful, or unsuitable in your case, an application for a child arrangements order can be made, dealing with where children shall live and how they spend time with each parent.
How will my business assets be affected in a divorce?
It is not uncommon for business assets to make up a substantial proportion of the assets of a marriage or civil partnership. Business assets generated solely by one spouse or partner will not be excluded or ring-fenced from consideration by the courts. It is therefore important that advice is sought on any potential issues that could arise in the context of divorce proceedings
Our team of divorce lawyers
Our dedicated team of family lawyers provide advice on all aspects of family law including separation and divorce, financial settlements including cases involving high value and complex assets, disputes over children including child arrangements orders and relocation abroad, cohabitation disputes and cases of domestic violence. They also assist those seeking prenuptial agreements and cohabitation agreements.
All our solicitors aim to reach a negotiated settlement wherever possible but are also very experienced in guiding clients through contested court proceedings, including representation at court.
Getting divorced usually takes between four to six months. In most cases, it is a paper process and there will be no need for you or your spouse to attend court. Either party can apply for a divorce. The process begins by sending a divorce petition to the court together with the court fee. The petitioner is the person who makes the application and the respondent is the other party.
The petition needs to show that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This is done by relying on one of the grounds of divorce. These include adultery, separation for two years and unreasonable behaviour. Unreasonable behaviour is the most common ground. Often the parties agree the terms of the petition before it is sent to the court.
The decree nisi
Once the court has received the petition and both parties have told the court they agree to the divorce (by way of the respondent filing an acknowledgement to the court upon receipt of the petition), the petitioner can apply for a decree nisi. If the judge is satisfied that the documents have been properly filed, they will issue the decree nisi confirming that there is no reason why you should not divorce.
Applying for the decree absolute
The final stage is the issue of the decree absolute. An application for a decree absolute can be made six weeks after the decree nisi has been issued. The decree absolute formally ends your marriage.
We charge a reduced fee of £200 plus VAT for the initial one hour meeting.
For an uncontested divorce the fee will be in the region of £1,000, plus VAT, and the court fee of £593 to include preparing the divorce petition and progressing the application to decree absolute. If the proceedings are defended or if your spouse attempts to evade service, or if there are other complications, the fee may increase.
If you are the petitioner and relying on the facts of adultery or unreasonable behaviour you can make a claim in the petition for your spouse to pay your divorce costs or make a contribution to them.
The costs of resolving the finances and child arrangements will depend on the complexity of the case and the stage at which an agreement is reached. For more detailed information on our fees please contact us to arrange an initial meeting.
For those that do not wish to divorce for religious or other personal reasons but wish to formalise their separation and live apart you may want to consider a judicial separation. This could also be an option for those who have not been married a year. If you wish to live apart from your spouse and separate your finances we can also assist with agreeing the terms of a separation agreement.
We also advise on the process of annulment which will declare a marriage null and void. A decree of nullity can declare the marriage ‘void’ which means that the marriage was never legally valid in the first place or ‘voidable’ which means that the marriage is defective. The grounds for annulment are very specific and so it is important to seek legal advice at an early stage to determine whether you meet the relevant criteria and to guide you through the process.
What is Family Mediation?
Family mediation is a confidential form of dispute resolution for separating couples. A mediator is a neutral third party who is trained to help a couple resolve issues surrounding their separation, such as housing, finances and the children. Often described as ‘a better way’ than battling things out in court, mediation keeps the separating couple talking and listening and aims to improve communication even in the trickiest cases.
The mediator’s role is to help you to clarify what issues you can agree on and what issues need to be resolved. Mediators that are legally trained can give you legal information but will not advise either client specifically, as their role is impartial – they will not ‘take sides’. By exploring the options with you both in detail, it is hoped that a workable solution can be found.
When do you mediate?
Mediation can be used to tackle certain issues or a whole range of issues on divorce/separation. Often clients will have consulted solicitors and it is recommended that they retain their services to provide them with specific advice along the way. Some clients will only use mediation until an agreement is reached. Once an agreement is reached in mediation (because the agreement remains confidential), the solicitors will then draw up a legally binding document to be filed at the court.
Benefits of mediation
There are many benefits of mediation, but a few are listed here:
- Mediation can be less stressful, less time consuming and less costly than the court process. The timetable is set by the clients to fit their own busy lives.
- Mediation gives the couple the power to address their issues between themselves and make their own proposals rather than having a decision ordered by the court.
- Mediation provides a controlled and managed environment to discuss often tricky issues.
- Clients can cover all aspects of separation/divorce within mediation.
- By communicating with each-other directly, mediation can help clients to both move on from the relationship with dignity and look ahead to the future, rather than dwelling too heavily on the past.
- Mediation is less expensive as clients split the cost of the mediator’s hourly rate between them. Most work is done in the sessions themselves so costs can be kept down.
For more informationThe Resolution website and Government website have detailed information available about mediation. Should you wish to know more and whether it may be the right process for you, please contact us.
Will a divorce based on the adultery or unreasonable behaviour fact impact on the financial settlement?
The reason for the divorce will not impact on the outcome of the financial settlement unless it is very serious personal or financial misconduct. Ideally, you should speak with your spouse to agree who should start the process and agree as far as possible the content of the petition. If you are relying on the unreasonable behaviour fact the examples of unreasonable behaviour do not have to be contentious and can include mild examples.
What if my spouse does not cooperate or agree with the divorce?
Once the petition has been issued, the court will arrange to send a sealed copy to the respondent together with an acknowledgment of service form to complete. You can only apply for the first decree, the decree nisi, once the court is satisfied that the divorce paperwork has been received by the respondent. If the respondent fails to return the acknowledgment form we can arrange for a process server to personally serve the petition on the respondent or if you received written confirmation that your spouse has received the paperwork you can consider an application for deemed service. Defending a divorce is a lengthy and costly process and is rarely successful.
Does it matter who starts the process?
If you can, you should speak with your spouse to agree who should start the process. The person who starts the process has more control over the pace at which the divorce progresses as they apply for the decree nisi and then the final decree, the decree absolute. The person who starts the divorce can also ask the court to make an order that the respondent pay their divorce costs if they are relying on the unreasonable behaviour or adultery facts.