Divorce is a stressful time for everyone involved, from the divorcing parties to children and relatives. The easiest way to make it as painless and swift as possible is to ensure you understand what’s involved in the process.
What are the grounds for divorce?
There is only one ground for divorce and that’s irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or civil partnership. ‘Proving’ an irretrievable breakdown will rely on one of five factors in the case of a marriage and four for a civil partnership:
- Adultery (marriage only)
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Separation for a period of 2 years (if both of you consent)
- Separation for five years (no consent needed)
What are the timelines for divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership?
There are obviously a number of variables, the most crucial of which is whether there are arguments over the financial settlement. An undefended petition that is dealt with relatively quickly will usually be final within four to six months. The Decree Absolute (or Final Order if you have a civil partnership) is only issued after everything is settled and financial matters can delay this considerably.
What happens to children when there is a divorce?
It’s worth remembering that the faster the process of the divorce, the less children will suffer. The worst-case scenario is where parents use children – and access to them – as a bargaining chip and where arguments become too emotionally charged to allow for a swift resolution for the sake of the children. If you can agree between you what happens to your children after the divorce then this is by far the best option. The courts won’t need to step in if you’re managing this process yourself and this generally saves a lot of heartache and money.
What’s the process for dealing with disputes over children?
If it becomes necessary to formalise the negotiations over how children will live after a separation then alternative dispute resolution (for example, mediation) is a useful process. The very last resort – if no agreement at all can be reached - is to make an application to the court to ask it to deal with issues in a more formal way.
What does a financial settlement need to take into account?
Income is probably the primary factor that comes into play when looking at how a financial settlement should be decided – this could be employment income, as well as rental income and investment income. Capital is another important factor i.e. any properties that you own, shares, or savings. Finally, pension value is taken into account (both private and state pension) – this could be even more valuable than a property so should not be discounted.
What about a separation agreement?
This is a useful document for setting out how a separation will work, including the financial aspects. However, bear in mind that this is not legally binding and would not be effective in any future divorce proceedings. If you do not get a divorce or a civil partnership dissolution then you will not have a final and binding financial order that will deal with financial matters once and for all.
How is a financial settlement negotiated?
If this can be done amicably between the parties – or even using mediation – then this can be fairly swift. If both parties have solicitors, and the basic issues are not heavily disputed, then the time period may be as short as five to six months. If the process is made formal via the courts then a set timetable is followed and a formal hearing is usually 12 months away.
Andie Brown is a specialist divorce solicitor, helping our clients in both Lancaster and Preston. Click here to contact Andie Brown or call 01524 386500.