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.

You will want to know what the next steps are, what the financial consequences are likely to be and what your rights are in relation to your children (if you have any).

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 during what can be a difficult period.

The three key elements to a divorce are:

  • The divorce process
  • How you look after your children (if you have any)
  • How financial matters are dealt with – your money, property and possessions and how your monthly expenditure needs will be met moving forward

All our divorce and family lawyers are members of Resolution. Resolution is an organisation for family lawyers who follow a Code of Practice that promotes a non-confrontational approach to family problems.

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 to a marriage 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

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.

On divorce, both parents retain parental responsibility for any child or children. This is regardless of how they divide their time between their parents. The court will only make a decision about how children are looked after if the parents cannot agree between them.

If the court is asked to make a decision, it can make a child arrangements order. This can include a decision on which parent the child or children will live with and the time that they spend with the other parent.

The reason for the breakdown of your marriage will rarely have an impact on how the family finances are dealt with. The court will treat the financial matters arising from your divorce separately to the divorce itself, though proceedings usually run alongside each other and most petitioners in a divorce suit will not apply for decree absolute until the finances have been addressed.

How the finances of divorcing couples are dealt with can be a difficult and contentious issue. We use our expertise and experience to help you achieve the best possible settlement, as no two cases are the same.

This includes using alternatives to court proceedings such as mediation and collaborative law.

Most financial settlements take one of two forms:

  • A ‘clean break’ where a settlement is made between the parties, completely ending the financial obligations between them
  • Capital provision and spousal support. This can include the transfer of property and other assets, and on-going maintenance over a number of years.

We can also assist separating partners in civil partnerships.

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 finances and the children. A mediator should help you to clarify what areas you agree on, and what issues need to be addressed. Mediators can give legal information, but will not give advice to either party, as their role is to assist you both and therefore they are impartial and will not “take sides”.

Mediation can be less stressful, less time-consuming and less costly than the court process. It gives the couple the power to address their issues between themselves and make their own proposals for dealing with matters in a controlled and managed environment. You can cover all aspects of separation in mediation, finances, children and the divorce, rather than potentially having separate court proceedings for each issue.

Mediation is child-focused and the welfare of the children is put at the forefront of any discussions.

Unlike counselling, the mediator is not trying to help you get back together, but to deal with the issues you need to sort out following your separation. By communicating with each other directly, mediation can help you both to move on from the relationship with dignity and look ahead to the future, rather than dwelling too heavily on the past.

If you wish to know more about mediation and whether it may be the right process for you, please contact us.

There is plenty of further information on the Resolution website and on the Government website.

Many unmarried couples live together. A common misconception is that after living as a couple for a period of time, two people become common law husband and wife. As such, it is believed they have the same rights as a married couple. This is wrong; a common law marriage does not exist.

If you live with someone, we can help you take steps to provide some legal protection for you and your partner. This includes minimising legal and financial issues that can arise if you separate or one of you dies. A cohabitation agreement can be a worthwhile step to help prevent a later dispute and our family lawyers are experienced in preparing these.

Many couples now enter into agreements that set out how their assets are dealt with if their relationship breaks down.

A pre-nuptial agreement (or ‘pre-nup’ as it is often called) is an agreement made by a couple before they get married or enter into a civil partnership. A post-nuptial agreement is made during a marriage or civil partnership. Both agreements set out how the couple wish their assets to be divided if they get divorced or dissolve their civil partnership.

Pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements are especially popular with people who marry later in life, if they have children from a previous relationship, or where there is inherited wealth or business assets they are bringing to the marriage and which they want to be ring-fenced.

Although these types of agreement are not strictly legally binding yet in the UK (because the UK courts retain a wide discretion in determining financial settlements on divorce), if properly drafted using the guidance of case law, they are likely to be persuasive.

Q – I want to get divorced, what next?

A – There are various options when contemplating divorce and a financial settlement. What process is best for you will depend on the particular circumstances of your case and largely on your relationship with your spouse. You should take early legal advice on which process is best for you.

Q – What is collaborative law and how is it different from mediation?

A – With the collaborative process (another form of dispute resolution) both parties appoint their own collaboratively trained solicitor. All the parties then meet in a series of four-way, face to face meetings with a view to reaching a settlement. With this process, the parties have their own adviser present for support and advice at each meeting.

Q – Can my solicitor just come to a deal on the finances with my spouse’s solicitor?

A – It is possible for solicitors to negotiate a financial settlement. Solicitors will need to see financial disclosure from both parties to be able to advise their clients on what a reasonable settlement might be. Negotiations can take place in correspondence or at a round table meeting.

Q – Can we just sort out the finances ourselves?

A – Yes, although you should ask a solicitor to formalise your agreement and file the same at the court in the form of a “consent order” so that it is legally binding.

Q – What about going to court?

A – It is open to either party to make an application to the court, although this should be a last resort as it can be costly, time consuming and potentially create further animosity.

Q – How can Peacock & Co help?

A – Our highly experienced, specialist family law solicitors can offer all the services referred to above and we are happy to have an initial, no-obligation telephone call with you.

If you require advice in relation to divorce or a family law matter, please get in touch.