The breakdown of marriage is painful for both parties, particularly when children are involved. What started as a commitment of love can become nothing more than a jumble of unfamiliar legal terms and bitterness in the hands of the wrong firm of lawyers. Instead of rushing and signing a contract with the first family law specialist you contact, it will greatly benefit you and your family to find Divorce Solicitors who will handle your case with care and compassion so it is possible to end your marriage without acrimony.
The Role of Divorce Solicitors
Family law regarding divorce and separation is complex. Your rights can change depending on your living arrangements, whether you have children and even the country where your divorce is submitted to a court. A divorce law solicitor supports and guides their client through the process of legal separation, effectively ensuring their rights are protected.
Family law solicitors:
- Guarantee the legality of all documentation drawn up for, or signed by their client
- Communicate with their client to obtain the information necessary to support the grounds for divorce
- Assess and advise their client regarding the law and their rights
- Communicate with the other party’s lawyer, and the court where necessary
- Represent their client in court if required.
Separating couples should each engage their own family lawyer who works for a separate firm so they can be sure there is no conflict of interests. Your lawyer is not there to exploit or punish your ex-partner. Rather, their role is to make sure your rights are protected, and your best interests are represented.
What to do if You Are Considering a Divorce
Even though you know your relationship has irretrievably broken down, you may feel like the prospect of divorce is too painful to contemplate. It will be a stressful time, and no divorce solicitor will tell you otherwise, but with the right solicitor, you can have a good ending to your marriage and a bright start to the next phase of your life.
The most important considerations are:
- Children and parenting
- Financial arrangements
- Your Home
Children and Divorce
Child arrangements need to be something you and your partner agree on to minimise discord and friction. It is usually considered to be to the child’s benefit if both parents are involved in their upbringing. Divorce can make children feel vulnerable and anxious. To make them feel secure, they need to know in advice when they will see each parent and for how long. Although it can be difficult, children also need to see their parents cooperating in a respectful way. If you are unable to agree on childcare arrangements without arguing, talk to your family solicitor about mediation.
Although the general perception is that mothers have more right to primary residential custody than fathers, this is not the legal default. If a father wants to apply to be his children’s primary caregiver, then he should seek family law advice early in the discussion process. Ask your older children what their wishes for their living arrangements are so you can take these into consideration. Children can also be involved in the mediation process, which can be helpful to know if there is friction between you and the other parent, or you have several children with different ideas about where they want to live.
If you are a father without parental responsibility, seek legal advice about applying for it. Without parental responsibility, you will have no say in where your child lives and goes to school, their healthcare, and how often you can see them, and the sort of contact they can have with your extended family. You can also not prevent your ex-partner from changing your child’s surname or moving abroad, although you may still be responsible for contributing financially to their upbringing.
What to do if You are the Petitioner in a Divorce
The person who initiates the divorce is called the petitioner. It won’t make a difference regarding your settlement whether you instigate the separation or are the respondent, but it is worth knowing that the petitioner normally had to do more work proving grounds for divorce which can make their legal costs higher.
Contact us for a divorce solicitor to advise you about English family law and divorce. The process can vary slightly from couple to couple, but typically involves:
- The petitioner notifying the other party of their intention to divorce them. If you are the petitioner and it is possible, warn your partner of this in advance and let them know your reasons for doing so. Legal terminology can sound impersonal and aggressive, and you can help reduce animosity by speaking to them first. You can apply for a Court Order for your spouse to pay part of your legal costs if you are divorcing them on the grounds of adultery.
- The petitioner’s divorce law solicitor will draft the petition that states why they plan to divorce and the proof to support this. English family law states that you must fulfil one of five criteria for your petition to be valid:
- That your spouse was sexually and unforgivably unfaithful
- That your spouse has behaved unreasonably, and you can no longer live with them
- Your spouse moved out at least two years ago with no valid reason and with the intention of ending your relationship (desertion)
- That you have been separated for at least two years, and you both agree to a divorce
- That you and your spouse have been separated for at least five years
The criteria for being able to petition for a divorce varies within Europe and the rest of the world, so talk to a specialist international divorce solicitor if you are considering divorcing overseas.
3) Communication and Negotiation
You and your spouse need to at least consider mediation if you are divorcing within England or Wales. Mediation can be a useful tool to agree on certain aspects of your life after your divorce including child arrangements and maintenance. Your lawyer will submit your request to your spouse who will review it with their solicitor before responding to your lawyer with an acceptance or request for amendment. Any agreed amendments are made and your petition is sent to the court.
4) Notice of Issue and Acknowledgement of Service
The court issues a Notice of Issue once they have issued your petition – usually within two weeks of receiving it from your lawyer. Your spouse will also receive a copy of the Notice of Issue which can either be posted or, if you want to be confident they have received it, in person by your lawyer. Your divorce cannot progress until the court is satisfied your spouse has been served the Notice of Issue.
A form called an Acknowledgement of Service is included with the Notice of Issue. Your spouse will need to return this within eight days from the date the petition was sent. If they do not, your solicitor will arrange a personal delivery service through a court bailiff or professional server so the court is satisfied your spouse has been served.
5) Decree Nisi
Once your solicitor is happy that you and your spouse have all the relevant paperwork your lawyer they will apply for a Decree Nisi. Together with child arrangements if applicable, if the judge agrees you are entitled to the divorce, they will issue a Certificate of Entitlement to a Decree and Notice of Satisfaction. If there are any aspects they are not happy with they will detail these, and you will need to rectify these before you can proceed. A Notice of Refusal is only issued if a judge believes you are not entitled to a Decree Nisi.
6) Decree Absolute
You need to wait six weeks and one day – from the issue of your Decree Nisi – for the first day you can apply for a Decree Absolute. This will finalise the end of your marriage and prevent you from making any further claims on your spouse’s assets. There may be reasons why your solicitor may delay your application for your Decree Absolute relating to financial issues or pensions.
You can see from this simple overview that there are several places delays can occur, including if you and your spouse can’t agree on financial or child arrangements, and if they do not accept the serving of the Notice of Issue.
What to do if You are the Recipient in a Divorce
The steps for a recipient are similar as for the petitioner only you do not have to prove to the court that you have legal grounds for a divorce. Your spouse will be the one who will need to demonstrate that you committed adultery by providing dates and places, or by giving examples of unreasonable behaviour. They will also need to prove the date you deserted them, or that you moved out of the family home at least five years previously.
You can delay the divorce by not returning the Acknowledgement of Service; however, such a tactic will not be looked on favourably by the court and you will have to pay for the cost of having your notice served in person.
Mediation and Collaborative Law
Some couples can readily agree on the terms of their divorce. If you can’t reach an agreement, then your solicitor will recommend you try either mediation or a collaborative law approach to resolving the conflict and move forward with your divorce. Mediation sessions are conducted by a trained mediator who is independent of both of you. They will facilitate sessions where you and your spouse can look at different ways you can compromise to reach an agreement you are both happy to accept.
Mediators will not give you the answers, but they will help you find them for yourselves. They also won’t give legal advice which is why some couples use collaborative law. As with mediation, collaborative law requires a discussion in person; only you will each have your own divorce law solicitor present to support and advise you. Both approaches to divorce can help you maintain an amicable relationship with your spouse, which is so important if you share custody of children.
Questions to Ask Your Divorce Lawyer
It’s a good idea to note down questions as you think of them so that you can email them to your family solicitor or ask them in person at your next meeting. Frequently asked questions you may be considering are:
- Will I have to leave my home?
- Will my children be able to live with me?
- Will I have to go to court?
- How much will getting divorced cost, and will you give me a breakdown on my invoices?
- What is mediation and do I have to have it?
- How long does it take to get divorced?
- Will I have to see my ex-partner in person?
- Who will be my main point of contact?
- Does it matter what country I get divorced in?
- How does the divorce process work?
- Why do I need a divorce lawyer?
- Can I access joint savings while the divorce is being finalised?
- I don’t want to get divorced, but my partner does. What can I do?
- How can I be sure my ex-partner is not lying about their assets?
- Do I have to pay more if I am at fault?
Taking the Final Step
There is no reason you need to rush into a divorce just because you are separating. If neither of you is ready to end your marriage altogether – maybe because you require more time to consider your options, or possibly because there is a chance you may reconcile – Your divorce law solicitor can also help you draw up a separation agreement, the terms of which can form the basis of your divorce agreement if you decide to proceed in the future.
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Expert family law solicitors working for you
At The Family Law Experts, we work with specialist solicitors in all aspects of divorce, separation, matrimonial, family and childcare law.
We offer an expert approach at a personal level for all our legal support. When dealing with family issues and family legal problems, our aim is to deal with each case in the least confrontational way possible, whilst still achieving the best results for our clients. We understand that when family issues arise and family relationships break down, real lives are affected, and the need for expert legal help and support is essential.