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A divorce can take as little as six months from the date the Divorce Petition is issued at court, however, this depends on prompt application for each stage of the divorce and the Respondent’s co-operation. The time taken is also very much governed by the complexities of the finances (division of family assets). It is generally the financial settlement that takes the most time.
The cost of a divorce will vary. It will depend on whether you are the Petitioner or the Respondent, whether the divorce will be defended or not, and whether there are going to be any difficulties serving the Divorce Petition on the Respondent. Please contact us for further details regarding our fees. We offer fixed rate charges for undefended divorces.
Under the law in England and Wales, there is only one ground for divorce, and that is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. To satisfy the court that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, the Petitioner, who is the spouse issuing the Divorce Petition, must prove one of the following five facts:
The law sets out the criteria which must be taken into account when formulating a financial settlement. The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 section 25 sets out what factors the court must consider. The court is required to balance the criteria when considering the claims of each partner. There is no formula when it comes to deciding how the family assets should be divided. Each case is decided on its own set of facts.
There are essentially five ways to deal with the issue of dividing family assets. You can:
1. Reach an agreement directly with your spouse
2. Negotiate a settlement with the assistance of a mediator
3. Negotiate a settlement with the assistance of your solicitor
4. Negotiate a settlement using the collaborative process
5. Issue court proceedings to ask a judge to decide the matter
Whichever method you choose, the first step to a fair settlement is to ensure that both you and your partner provide a clear and accurate picture of your assets. This procedure is called financial disclosure.
Most cases are settled by negotiating an agreement. However, sometimes it may be necessary to issue court proceedings. Even where court proceedings are issued, most people will reach a financial settlement during the proceedings and very few will actually be resolved by a final hearing in front of a judge.
If you and your partner jointly own a property, it is important to know whether you own it as Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common. This will affect how your share in the property is dealt with on death and in the event of your relationship breaking down.
If you own the property as Joint Tenants, your share will automatically pass to your partner on your death irrespective of intestacy rules or the terms of your Will. If the relationship breaks down, it is assumed that you own the property in equal shares although this can be challenged in certain circumstances.
If you own the property as Tenants in Common, your share will not automatically pass to your partner. If you have a Will it will pass to whoever you have named as your beneficiary otherwise it will pass in accordance with intestacy rules. In the event of your relationship breaking down, determining your respective shares in the absence of clear evidence can be very difficult and complex.
If you and your former partner cannot agree on such matters, the best way to initially deal with the matter is to attend mediation with a view to reaching an agreement. Mediation may not be suitable for all couples (especially where there has been domestic violence). We advise that you contact your local mediator for further information. If mediation is unsuccessful or unsuitable, the parent seeking contact with the children can apply to the court for a Contact Order (previously known as Access Orders). This is an order requiring the person with whom the children live to allow them to visit or stay with the person named in the Contact Order.
You are not legally required to have a Living Together Agreement when cohabiting with your partner but we advise that, in some circumstances, it is best to have one so that you may each protect any assets brought into the relationship in the event of it ending. The agreement can set out the arrangements which will apply while you are living together and those that will apply in the event of your relationship ending. The kind of issues that you may wish to cover in your Living Together Agreement are: clarification of the ownership of the family home, a provision about how the mortgage payments, bills and home improvements are to be shared between you, how you will divide the family assets in the event of the relationship ending etc. Although the Living Together Agreement can, and should, include a provision regarding the ownership of the family home, it is best to also have a Trust Deed clarifying ownership.
Pre-nuptial agreements are agreements made before marriage dealing with what will happen in the event of a divorce. Pre-nuptial agreements are still not binding in English law, however, following the judgement in the case of Radmacher v Granatino (October 2010), the court should uphold such agreements if the parties entered into it freely, with a full appreciation of its implications, unless in the circumstances prevailing, it would be unfair to hold the parties to the agreement. If you do wish to enter into a pre-nuptial agreement, we advise that both you and your partner obtain independent legal advice and that you enter into the agreement at least 21 days prior to the marriage.
In the past, if the parent with care of the children was receiving Income Support, Income-Based Jobseeker's Allowance or Employment Support Allowance, and was also in receipt of child maintenance, their benefits were reduced accordingly.
However, on the 12 April 2010 the law on child maintenance changed. As of April 2010, parents with care of the children who are on benefits can keep all of the child maintenance they receive without their benefit being affected. In addition, receiving child maintenance will not affect Council Tax Benefit, Housing Benefit or Tax Credits either, regardless of the amount of child maintenance received.