Divorce Guide

Divorce

Experiencing a divorce or separation can be extremely stressful, especially if you’re unsure about the divorce process and how it unfolds. This lack of clarity can make the whole situation feel overwhelming.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act, which came into effect on April 6, 2022, has revolutionised the law. Now, one party or a couple can initiate proceedings without assigning blame or providing a specific reason for the divorce.

Additionally, divorce terminology is being updated to reflect modern times, aiming to clarify each aspect of the process. This effort is intended to reduce confusion and make it easier for people to understand the journey they are undertaking during this challenging time.

What are the stages of getting a divorce?

Here’s a breakdown of the stages involved in getting a divorce, divided into seven clear steps:

  1. Initiating the Divorce Application
    One person or both partners jointly begin the divorce application, either online or through a paper application. Under the new law, there’s no need to provide a reason for the divorce; it’s primarily based on the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
  2. Reflection Period
    After the application, the court sends a copy to the other partner, marking the start of a crucial 20-week reflection period. This period ensures a minimum of 20 weeks between the application and the conditional order (previously called decree nisi), followed by an additional six weeks before the final order.
  3. Conditional Order Application
    The applicant applies for a conditional order and decides on making a financial claim. Although not mandatory for every divorce, financial disclosure forms help clarify both parties’ financial positions, aiding in fair financial settlements.
  4. Application Review
    The court reviews the application, requiring submission of the marriage certificate or an official copy. A fee of £550 is payable, usually by the applicant(s), but costs can be shared or assistance sought for low-income individuals.
  5. Conditional Order
    The court grants the conditional order, initiating a six-week cooling-off period. The respondent acknowledges receipt of the application within seven days, eliminating the option to contest the divorce under the new law.
  6. Final Order Application
    Six weeks and a day after the conditional order, the applicant can apply for the final order, officially dissolving the marriage.
  7. Final Order Granted
    The court grants the final order, which must be filed within a year of the conditional order to avoid further delays and proceedings.

These steps streamline the divorce process, emphasising transparency and understanding to navigate this challenging period effectively.

Can I get divorced if we have just drifted apart?

The implementation of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act in April 2022 eliminates the requirement to provide a reason for initiating divorce proceedings. One party or a couple can now commence proceedings without specifying a cause. Typically, the divorce process spans between six and nine months; however, it may extend further if financial arrangements remain unresolved.

Do I need to communicate with my ex-partner during the divorce process?

While it’s not mandatory, maintaining communication with your ex-partner can be beneficial, especially if you have children. Co-parenting during a divorce or separation can be challenging, but it’s important to prioritise your children’s well-being. Even though the marital relationship is ending, fostering a cooperative relationship with your ex-partner can benefit everyone involved, including when negotiating financial settlements.

However, we understand that communication may not always be feasible. If speaking with your ex-partner is difficult, particularly in cases involving domestic abuse, it’s crucial not to put yourself in an uncomfortable or risky situation. Our divorce solicitors can assist you in navigating the process, alleviating stress, safeguarding your interests, and pursuing a positive and efficient resolution tailored to your needs.

Can I proceed with a divorce if my partner is unwilling?

Yes, following the introduction of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act, divorce proceedings can be initiated by one party or jointly by both parties.

Will my partner receive 50% of our assets if they have cheated?

In England, courts typically begin with a presumption of a 50/50 split of assets during divorce proceedings. However, several factors can influence this division, including the duration of the marriage or civil partnership, significant inheritances or post-separation financial gains, and the presence of children. Importantly, fault, such as infidelity by one partner, does not affect the division of assets.

What am I entitled to in a divorce settlement?

The outcome of a divorce settlement is influenced by several factors, including the duration of the marriage, custody arrangements for children, the assets involved, the income of each party, and the ages of those involved.

After undergoing a thorough process of financial disclosure, a specialised divorce attorney can provide insights into what a judge might deem a fair financial settlement in your situation. Typically, matrimonial assets, including joint and individual assets, are considered for an equitable distribution.

Do I have to split my pension if we divorce?

With the shift towards a “no fault” divorce process, more couples are handling divorce proceedings themselves, often overlooking significant financial considerations, particularly regarding pensions. If you are pursuing a DIY divorce, it’s important to understand that pension sharing is one of the available options, offering a clean break by dividing pension assets immediately.

If your combined pensions exceed £100,000, the Pensions Advisory Group recommends obtaining a pension report from a pension expert, also known as a Pension on Divorce Expert (PODE). These specialists focus on assessing the impact of divorce on pensions, ensuring fair evaluation and division of pension assets through a detailed Pension Sharing Report.

In cases where one partner has been the primary caregiver while the other has been employed and contributing to a work-based pension, the employed partner typically accumulates a significantly larger pension fund.

To balance pension incomes upon retirement, a pension expert can be engaged to assess and recommend a percentage transfer from the employed partner’s pension pot to the primary caregiver’s pension. This process aims to ensure equitable pension income for both parties in the future.

It’s essential not to overlook pensions during divorce proceedings, as neglecting this aspect could jeopardise your future financial security. Consulting with a specialist family lawyer who can engage a pension expert is crucial for protecting your financial interests and ensuring a fair division of pension assets.

Do I have to return my engagement ring if we divorce?

This question is frequently asked during divorce proceedings. Generally, unless it can be demonstrated that the ring was given conditionally, the law considers it an absolute gift, and you are not obligated to return it to your ex-partner.

However, matters concerning household contents, or ‘chattels,’ are often best resolved directly between the parties to avoid escalating legal costs. High-value jewellery, like wedding or engagement rings, can become contentious due to their sentimental and financial significance.

Legally, the act of giving a ring is typically viewed as a gift, and therefore, it does not need to be returned. While there might be arguments if an engagement is called off, suggesting that the ring was conditional upon marriage, the recipient is generally not required to return it, even though this outcome may seem unfair.

That said, if the ring holds substantial monetary value, its worth may be factored into the overall divorce settlement discussions.

Do I need to hire a solicitor?

While it’s possible to proceed with a divorce without legal representation, doing so may expose you to significant legal risks, such as the “remarriage trap.” This term refers to the potential consequences of remarrying without first obtaining a financial order. In such cases, you could be barred from seeking maintenance and other financial claims in the future, potentially leaving you vulnerable to financial liabilities down the road.

Without a comprehensive legal severance, your ex-partner could pursue claims on assets you acquire later in life, including pension funds, inheritances, or windfalls like lottery winnings. Hiring a solicitor can help ensure that your divorce settlement is legally binding and protects your financial interests both now and in the future.

We're not married, but we've been together for years – will I get 50%?

In the absence of marriage, there is no legal concept of a ‘common law wife/partner’. Cohabiting couples often assume that living together for an extended period automatically grants them certain legal rights, such as entitlement to a share of property owned by one partner; however, this is not the case. If you opt not to marry, it’s advisable to consider a living together agreement to safeguard your interests and clarify property ownership.

What occurs during a divorce if the couple has a prenuptial agreement?

The court will assess whether to uphold a prenuptial agreement if both parties entered into it voluntarily with a complete understanding of its consequences.

The primary consideration is fairness. The court will examine whether the agreement was entered into freely and whether the parties comprehended its implications. The agreement must be equitable given the prevailing circumstances, including any children born during the marriage.

Top Divorce Tips

Our top five tips for navigating a divorce:

  1. Maintain civility and amiability: Keep discussions about divorce and financial matters separate from interactions with children. Emotions can run high, but it’s crucial to shield children from parental discord. Remaining civil and friendly with your ex-partner in front of the children can make the divorce process less traumatic for everyone involved.
  2. Exercise caution in communications: Assume that any text message, conversation, or email exchange with your ex-partner may be scrutinised by a judge. Pause and reflect before sending messages in the heat of the moment, as regrettable statements could impact your case later.
  3. Seek legal advice before major decisions: Refrain from making significant decisions like leaving the family home or emptying bank accounts without consulting a divorce lawyer, as such actions may have adverse consequences for your case.
  4. Maintain a detailed diary of events: Divorce can be emotionally tumultuous, making it challenging to recall important details later. Keeping a diary and documenting all significant events ensures you have essential information readily available. Note missed contact sessions or any plans shared by your ex-partner, such as opening new bank accounts.
  5. Define Specific Objectives: Setting clear goals can streamline the divorce process. Prioritise what matters most to you and communicate these objectives to your divorce lawyer from the start. Whether it’s safeguarding a pension, retaining the family home, or ensuring fair custody arrangements, defining specific objectives will guide your legal strategy.

Remember, neither party will achieve all the desired outcomes in a divorce. Be prepared to compromise on less critical matters while prioritising what’s most important to you and your future well-being. A focused approach can lead to a more efficient and less contentious divorce process.

How We Support You Through the Divorce Process

Navigating the divorce process can be complex and emotionally challenging. Here’s how we guide you through:

  • Initial Consultation: We start by understanding your unique situation and objectives. This helps us tailor our approach to your specific needs.
  • Legal Advice and Strategy: Based on your circumstances, we provide clear legal advice and develop a strategic plan to achieve your goals.
  • Document Preparation: We assist in preparing all necessary legal documents accurately and efficiently, ensuring compliance with legal requirements.
  • Negotiation and Mediation: We advocate for your interests during negotiations and, if suitable, facilitate mediation to reach amicable resolutions.
  • Court Representation: If court proceedings are necessary, we provide strong representation to protect your rights and achieve a favourable outcome.
  • Emotional Support: Throughout the process, we offer empathetic support and practical guidance to help manage emotions and stress.
  • Post-Divorce Matters: After the divorce, we can assist with post-divorce matters, such as enforcement of orders or modifications, to ensure ongoing legal protection.

Our goal is to guide you through every step of the divorce process with professionalism, empathy, and dedication to achieving the best possible outcome for you.

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DLS Solicitors

Our team of professionals are based in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. We offer clear, specialist legal advice in all matters relating to Family Law, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Lasting Power of Attorney and Court of Protection.

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