The beginning of January tends to see a surge of enquiries from families who have found the Christmas period difficult. “Divorce Day” (a label from the press) does not take into account the significance or how difficult it is for families when marriages/civil partnerships breakdown and the need for this to be handled sensitively and by skilled professionals.
If you are considering separating from your husband, wife or civil partner there may be a number of questions that you require answers to and this blog aims to address some of the most common queries.
- Who can instigate divorce/dissolution proceedings?
Anyone who has been married or in a civil partnership for a year or more can start divorce/dissolution proceedings so long as one or the other of you is ‘domiciled’ in England and Wales or has been resident here during the year beforehand.
- Who is the Petitioner and who is the Respondent?
The Petitioner is the party who issues the divorce petition or dissolution application and the Respondent is the other party.
- What grounds are there for instigating divorce/dissolution proceedings?
There is only one ground in England and Wales and that is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage/civil partnership.
- How do I prove that the marriage/civil partnership has irretrievably broken down?
By relying on one of five facts:
1. That your husband or wife has committed adultery and you find it intolerable to live with him/her (this ground is not available to civil partners)
2. That your husband, wife or civil partner has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with him/her
3. That your husband, wife or civil partner has deserted you for a continuous period of at least 2 years.
4. That you and your husband, wife or civil partner have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 2 years and your husband, wife or civil partner agrees to a divorce.
5. That you and your husband, wife or civil partner have been living apart for 5 years or more whether or not your husband, wife or civil partner agrees to the divorce/dissolution
- Are the divorce/dissolution proceedings public?
Family matters are usually private. However, the first decree of divorce/dissolution known as the decree nisi is announced in a court room to which the public and the press are allowed access. The press is able to publish the fact that a divorce/dissolution has been pronounced. The information that it may disclose is however very limited.
- Is there a Court fee?
There is a fee of £550 unless you qualify for fee remission/exemption.
- What happens to my marriage/civil partnership certificate?
This is retained on the Court file and will not be returned to you. The Decree Absolute/Final Order is intended to replace your marriage/civil partnership certificate.
- Will I have to go to court?
If matters are uncontested, then nobody needs to attend when the decree nisi or conditional order is pronounced, normally, only the names of the parties are read out. However, either party may have to attend if there is a dispute over who should pay for the divorce/dissolution. If matters are contested, then it may be necessary for the parties to attend court. You may have to go to court on other occasions if you ask the court to resolve financial issues or you cannot agree about the arrangements for the children but these are dealt with as separate issues.
- How does the other party find out I am petitioning for divorce/dissolution?
Under the Family Law Protocol, the other party should be sent a copy of the draft divorce petition/dissolution application and be given an opportunity to comment on the same and request any amendments. This is good practice and the aim is to reduce hostility and the potential for the divorce/dissolution proceedings to be contested.
- Does the decree nisi/conditional order mean that the marriage/civil partnership has been dissolved?
No, you are still married or in a civil partnership following the pronouncement of the decree nisi or conditional order. The marriage/civil partnership is only finally dissolved when the decree or final order is made absolute.
- When can the decree nisi/conditional order be made absolute/final?
As the Petitioner you can generally apply for the decree absolute/final order by sending a form to the Court six weeks and one day after the date of the decree nisi/conditional order. If you do not apply for the decree/conditional order to be made absolute/final then your husband, wife or civil partner can apply for the decree absolute/final order three months after the first date upon which you could have made an application.
- How long will it take?
You should allow 6-8 months. There can sometimes be delays at the court even if everyone else involved deals with each step quickly.
- Does the divorce/dissolution resolve the financial matters?
In short no. The divorce activates your financial claims and these will need to be resolved either by filing a Financial Consent Order if matters can be agreed or by issuing Court proceedings.
Our lawyers are members of Resolution which is an organisation of family lawyers committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes, Members follow a Code of Practice that promotes a non-confrontational approach to family problems.
We offer a free assessment meeting if you are interested in our mediation service. Mediation is generally much quicker and less expensive than Court proceedings, helps separating parties to cooperate and communicate to reach agreement and the process is less stressful and upsetting than going through Court proceedings.
We also offer an initial one hour consultation at £100.00 plus VAT to advise you about the applicable law and possible outcomes, the various ways your case could be funded and provide an estimate of the costs involved. This includes a letter to you to confirm the advice given during the appointment.