Getting a divorce or civil partnership dissolution
For convenience our divorce solicitors offer a choice of ways to provide instructions by meeting face to face or using telephone or email. Stephensons have a modern approach to the legal role and take full advantage of technology to provide an efficient separation service whilst being available for advice and support without the need for office-based appointments. Our solicitors are only ever a click or telephone call away.
Our specialist divorce solicitors are delighted to be able to offer case consultations and assessments of up to an hour from £300.
Divorce solicitor FAQs
For the purposes of the questions below the same applies for civil partnership dissolution proceedings.
How long does it take to get divorced?
The introduction of the no-fault divorce from April 2022 has resulted in the divorce application process now taking a minimum of 26 weeks. The exact length will depend on other factors including:
- Whether you make a sole or joint application for a divorce
- Any financial arrangements to agree and how long that takes
What are the stages of divorce?
Divorce application – person or persons seeking a divorce file the application at court. This can either be a sole or joint application.
Notification to the respondent – the court will send the application to the respondent (the other person).
Acknowledgement of service form – the respondent replies to the application by sending a completed acknowledgement of service form to the court.
Confirmation of acknowledgement sent to petitioner – the court will send the acknowledgement of service form to the petitioner.
Application for conditional order (called decree nisi for applications before 6 April 2022) – you must wait 20 weeks after the divorce application has been issued to apply for the conditional order.
Conditional order granted – the judge will consider the application and decide whether they are satisfied that the grounds for the divorce have been met, if so the judge will grant a certificate of entitlement with a date for conditional order.
Application for final order (previously called the decree absolute) – six weeks and one day after the conditional order has been granted, the applicant can apply for the final order to end the marriage. If the applicant does not apply then a further 3 months later the respondent can apply for the final order.
Final order granted – the marriage is dissolved.
How much does it cost for representation in relation to divorce and finances?
The cost of representation for divorce and financial matters depends on how amicable the parties are. If both parties are agreeable to the divorce then we may be able to offer a fixed fee. We may also be able to offer a fixed fee for financial consent orders, although this will depend on the value of the assets involved.
How can I protect myself from financial claims in the future?
Whilst a final order will legally end a marriage it does not bring to an end the financial links between divorcing couples. The only way to protect yourself from a former spouse pursuing a financial claim against you in the future is to obtain an order from the court which includes a clean break clause.
A clean break order allows you to break all financial ties with your former spouse and once an order has been made, all potential future claims are dismissed so you cannot claim further money or assets from a former spouse. The order can only be obtained once the court has the power to deal with financial issues, which occurs during the divorce process at the decree nisi stage.
When is annulment an option?
Annulment is a way of ending a marriage, like divorce. You may wish to have an annulment if you have religious reasons for not wanting a divorce, however an annulment is only an option if you can show the marriage was either not valid in the first place (void), or is defective for one of the reasons given below (voidable).
Void marriages – you can annul a marriage if it was not valid in the first place, examples include:
- You are closely related
- One or both of you were under 16
- One of you was already married or in a civil partnership
- If a marriage was not legally valid, the law says that it never existed.
Voidable marriage – if your marriage is defective, you can annul a marriage for a number of reasons, including:
- It was not consummated – you have not had sex with the person you married since the wedding (this does not apply for same sex couples)
- You did not properly consent to the marriage – you were drunk or forced into the marriage
- The other person had a sexually transmitted disease when you got married
- The woman was pregnant by another man when you got married
What are irreconcilable differences?
There is only one ground for divorce in England and Wales, namely that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. In brief, irreconcilable differences means when a difference or differences between two people in a marriage or civil partnership cannot be changed which makes it impossible for the relationship to continue or intolerable for the couple to live together.
What if children are involved in the divorce?
Even when a couple have separated their children still deserve a happy and secure childhood with both parents in their lives. It is important that children are protected from conflict by not becoming involved in adult matters including speaking negatively about the other parent to them or discussing details of the separation with them.
The law encourages separated parents to work together for the benefit of their children and try to resolve disputes between themselves and not through court intervention. If both parents agree the arrangements for their children (where they will live and how much time they will spend with each parent etc.) the court does not need to become involved. However, if there is a dispute about the arrangements for the children then either party can apply to the court for resolution of the disputed issue, whether it be who the children live with, how much time they spend with the non-resident parent or more specific issues such as which school they attend or should the child’s name be changed.
Before an application can be made to court the person who is making the application must first attend a family mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM). Mediation is the process by which parents seek to reach an agreement about arrangements for children. There are exceptions to this requirement in particular circumstances, for example if there is evidence of domestic violence or child protection concerns, or the matter is urgent.
Does unreasonable behaviour or adultery impact the financial settlement?
It is very unusual for the reasons cited within a divorce application to be relevant to the outcome of financial matters and the court does not seek to penalise one party financially because of any 'bad' conduct during the marriage. The divorce is a separate process to finances, for the purposes of dissolving a marriage.
What if finances are involved in the divorce?
At Stephensons, several of our divorce solicitors are members of Resolution and are therefore committed to resolving disputes in a non-confrontational and constructive manner wherever possible. It is therefore our aim to promote an agreement, but court proceedings may be needed if the other party does not respond to approaches or if agreement cannot be reached.
Many financial agreements are capable of resolution by way of early negotiation, either directly between the parties, mediation, collaborative law or solicitor-based negotiation. If an agreement is reached it will need to be approved by the court, to ensure it is reasonable and to make it legally binding.
If agreement cannot be reached, then it will almost certainly be necessary for one party to submit an application to the court for determination. It is still possible however to reach an agreement within the court process. Most financial court proceedings are resolved without the need for a judge to make a decision at a final hearing, however if no agreement is reached throughout proceedings the final stage will be a judge ultimately deciding the division of assets.
How is a financial settlement reached?
Advice at Stephensons is based on not only legislation and case law but our years of considerable experience to give you the best guidance on how an individual case may be considered by the court. There are a number of key factors that are taken into account in an assessment of how capital should be divided and whether income should be considered, they are as follows:
- The income, earning capacity, property and other financial assets which each party has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future
- The financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each party has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future - this includes in relation to any relevant child of the marriage
- The standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage
- The age of each party to the marriage and the duration of the marriage
- Any physical or mental disability of either of the parties to the marriage and their health
- The financial and non-financial contributions which each of the parties has made or is likely in the foreseeable future to make to the welfare of the family - including any contribution by looking after the home or caring for the family
- The conduct of each of the parties - this is only considered in limited circumstances and if that conduct is such that it would in the opinion of the court be inequitable to disregard it
- Financial loss to any party of the divorce
What is a final order in divorce?
The final order is a court order that ends a marriage or civil partnership. It cannot be made for at least 6 weeks and 1 day from the date of the final order.
Is it possible to separate without getting a divorce?
In short yes, it is possible. If you have decided to separate, but do not want to consider a divorce, there are several options including, a separation agreement or judicial separation.
A separation agreement which is a document which sets out the arrangements a separating couple wish to make for issues like finances, children and property. You can have a separation agreement if you are married or not. If married the separation agreement can be used to agree the terms of your separation before the arrangements are finalised in a divorce if you wish to do this later. The agreement will aim to tie up loose ends to avoid future issues. A separation agreement is not legally binding in the same way as a court order, however it is a contract between two people so it can be challenged in court in the same way as any other contract. It is therefore important that a separation agreement is drafted by a solicitor.
Judicial separation is sometimes called a legal separation. This is a formal separation ratified by a court. It is more than just a couple deciding not to live together and more about their separation being endorsed. The process enables the court to make orders about the division of money and property, similar to a divorce but without terminating the marriage.
When separation is an alternative to divorce:
- Religious or moral reasons prevent a divorce/dissolution
- You have been married/in a civil partnership for less than a year but wish to resolve the financial issues on separation
- You require time and space to decide whether you want to end the marriage/partnership
- It can be less traumatic
- There may be some financial benefit in not divorcing/dissolving your partnership, for example where there is significant disparity in the ages of the couple and their respective pension provision
What if I don’t agree to the divorce?
From 6 April 2022 if your husband/wife/partner has applied for a divorce/dissolution you can only dispute the divorce/dissolution if you have a legal reason, for example the validity of the marriage or a question over the jurisdiction of England and Wales for the divorce to be issued in. Disagreeing means a court hearing will have to take place. You will have to attend and come to an agreement.
Will I have to go to court when getting divorced?
If there is no disagreement to the divorce, there will be no need to attend court. In addition, if you can reach a reasonable agreement between yourselves in relation to finances and looking after dependent children it is unlikely you will need to attend court in person. If there are any disagreements in relation to finances and the children that cannot be resolved either by agreement or in mediation this may require the determination of the court, and this will involve attendance at court.
Can I get legal aid when getting divorced?
Legal aid is available for divorce and finance matters where you have evidence of domestic abuse. There is a very specific list of what counts as domestic abuse on the government website: What counts as evidence - domestic abuse.
How to get evidence
Legal aid is not available to help you obtain the evidence itself. If you think you may still be eligible for legal aid, you can contact a solicitor for advice. Alternatively, you can download and print sample letters for domestic abuse or sample letters for child abuse.
This helps you get the proof you need, depending on whether:
- You have been a victim of domestic abuse or violence
- Your children have been victims of domestic abuse or violence
You can give the letter to the person you are asking to provide evidence. They should be able to fill in the details for you. You should then take this evidence to a solicitor who may be able to apply for legal aid for you to be advised or represented at court.
Who should I bring to my first meeting with you to discuss divorce?
You do not have to bring anyone to a meeting with us to discuss divorce. We pride ourselves on being approachable, sympathetic and clear speaking. We hope that you will feel after your meeting with us that your questions have been answered in a way that you can easily follow and that we have reassured you on any things that may have been worrying you.
But some people still like to bring a family member or close friend for moral support. We have no objection to that but we would caution you that we are going to have to discuss your marriage in some detail and there may be some things that you would prefer to keep private. You may not want to discuss deeply personal or emotional things in front of a friend or family member. On the other hand you may find it supportive, but if so you need to choose carefully. For these reasons it is usually not a good idea to bring children to the appointment, if you can avoid it.
If preferred you do not have to travel our the office for meetings with your family member as we offer the convenience of video appointments where you and/or your family can be together in the same house or in your own separate homes.
Get in touch with our divorce solicitors
Our team of divorce solicitors can help and support couples who wish to begin divorce proceedings or any other related service including dissolving a civil partnership or separation agreements. Speak to our experts confidentially on 01616 966 229 or complete our online enquiry form and we will contact you directly.