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My marriage has come to an end but do I need to divorce in order to separate?
You do not need a divorce to separate, but you need the grant of a Decree Absolute within divorce proceedings to bring your marriage to an end. There are a number of reasons why couples may decide not to divorce and instead look to agree to separate and set up separate homes. Couples remain married until the court has granted a Decree Absolute even if there has been an agreement to separate. There is no law that dictates that when a relationship has broken down that there must be immediate divorce proceedings. It is primarily a matter of personal choice. However there are both advantages and disadvantages in deciding which course of action is the best and it is important that expert legal advice is sort. Stephensons are experienced in helping in the decision making process.
For couples who decide to delay divorce proceedings but instead want to agree how to move forward and separate there is the option of entering into a Separation Agreement. This Agreement regulates various aspects of the relationship ending including who will start divorce proceedings and when, and how the assets are divided. The basis of any Separation Agreement is that a couple work together to disclose and agree all the information about their financial position, both jointly and separately, with both having the intention of negotiating a clear and fair outcome. This should be done with the assistance of a specialised family solicitor.
Once the Separation Agreement is signed, the couple will each retain a copy with a view to complying with the terms of the Agreement. In the future it can form the basis of a Final Court Order within the divorce proceedings which will formally conclude the financial claims that each have against the other. The advantage being that when the divorce proceedings are underway at a later date, there should be no issue about the financial aspects as this will already have been resolved by way of the Separation Agreement. All that is required is a Final Court Order confirming those arrangements which can be done without the need for anyone to attend at Court.
However, a Separation Agreement is not legally binding as a Court Order would be. It has not got the finality of a Court Order or the enforceability. It is evidence of an agreement reached between the couple but it does leave open the potential for one person to seek to withdraw from the agreement at a later date. Should there be a dispute concerning the division of the assets after the Separation Agreement has been signed, then it is a matter for a court to decide whether the agreement should be adhered to.
There are some couples who simply separate without doing anything about their marriage or their assets. Again that is a matter of personal choice however in these circumstances they would strongly be advised to seek expert legal advice as there are very important legal consequences which can affect them personally and financially.
How much will a divorce cost me?
For those who are eligible assistance is available from the Government to help with the cost of a divorce. This is known as the Legal Help & Advice Scheme and Stephensons' solicitors are able to offer this scheme.
If you do not qualify for the scheme a fixed fee of £1,120 is available. This fixed fee covers the cost of getting divorced but does not cover financial or children matters.
Stephensons' solicitors can offer a number of options to pay for services, contact us on 0203 816 0548.
My partner has met someone on Facebook, can I have a divorce?
The first decision is whether or not there is a belief that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. If this is not the case and there is a wish for the marriage to continue, there are agencies that can offer help, advice and support, for example Relate. They have a helpful website at www.relate.org.uk.
If however there is a decision that the marriage has come to an end and the length of the marriage is more than 12 months then a divorce is possible if one of the grounds for a divorce exists.
In these particular circumstances there are likely to be two possibilities to consider. If there is an admission that there is a new relationship which has become intimate, and not just socialising and chatting on the Internet, then the ground for adultery is established.
However, if the relationship is denied or there is little evidence to prove an intimate relationship has begun then it is possible that these circumstances may support a divorce on the basis of your unreasonable behaviour. A solicitor will be able to talk through with you which ground is the most appropriate for the particular situation.
My partner won't give me a divorce, what can I do?
If the marriage has a length of more than 12 months and it can be shown that it has irretrievably broken then in some circumstances a divorce can be obtained without the cooperation or agreement of the partner.
One of the grounds for divorce relies upon the fact that there has been a period of separation in excess of 2 years and there is consent to a divorce. In these circumstances, agreement to divorce is specifically required and if it is not forthcoming then consideration would need to be given to an alternate ground.
The ground of unreasonable behaviour, does not require the specific agreement. An experienced solicitor will be able to detail the best option in the specific circumstances. A lack of consent does not automatically prevent a divorce.
How long will a divorce take?
In asking this question, it is important that it is made clear about the question itself. Getting a divorce is about bringing the marriage to an end and does not specifically include resolving the split of assets and/or resolving any disagreement about the arrangements for children.
A divorce that is accepted and is straight forward is likely to take between 4 and 6 months if there is the benefit of expert legal advice.
It is always possible that within this timescale there is agreement in relation to how the assets are to be divided and/or the arrangements for the children. It really depends on the intentions of the couple themselves and how they wish to deal with these additional issues. If there are complicating factors then sorting out the assets and/or resolving any dispute about the children could potentially take longer.
Will I have to go to court?
The majority of divorce proceedings are uncontested. Most divorces are on the basis that a couple accept that their marriage has irretrievably broken down and although there might be some disagreement about the specifics of the relationship breakdown, this does not normally lead to a contested divorce. The vast majority of divorces are dealt with by the court without the need for the couple to attend.
One question which will arise within the proceedings is who is going to pay for the divorce? If there is a dispute about this then the court can give the opportunity for the couple to attend for a short hearing to deal with the specific question of costs. However, if there is no dispute about costs then there is no need to attend court. However, there are circumstances where going to court is necessary and these relate usually to dealing with disagreements about the division of the assets or any dispute about the arrangements for the children.
Although there might be dispute about these, there are ways of trying to reach agreement without the need to go to court. Experienced solicitors offer round table meetings to enable a couple to try and work together to resolve any disagreement, or the couple can agree to engage in a process of mediation. Stephensons' solicitors specialise in family work will be able to discuss the most appropriate option.