Choose The Right Path
If you decide that your marriage or civil partnership is over, talk to us about Separation or Divorce. The procedure is usually straightforward. The difficulties tend to lie in resolving related issues such as how to separate, where to live, arrangements for the children and money matters. Our expert Family Law solicitors can advise you on all these issues at the outset and every step of the way.
We know that this will be a difficult time. We listen and understand, we act with sensitivity, and we help you to get the solution that’s right for you.
Ways forward on separation include a divorce, a separation deed, a judicial separation or an annulment.
How you choose to deal with divorce and separation can determine the true success of the outcome. Options include "kitchen table" discussions with your ex (after taking initial legal advice), mediation, collaboration, arbitration, solicitor correspondence, round table meetings and, if necessary, the family court. At a fixed fee first meeting we can discuss and explore with you the options which will best suit you and your family’s circumstances.
As long as you have been married for more than a year you can go to court to file for a divorce. A divorce can be undefended if you both agree (also called an uncontested divorce), or defended if not.
Both undefended divorces and defended divorces are handled by the Family Court. With an undefended divorce, although you both agree you should speak to a divorce lawyer to make sure you have sufficient grounds and what evidence you might need. For a defended divorce you should always consult a Family Law solicitor.
A divorce is granted if it can be shown that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, which means one of the following grounds for divorce must be proven:
- unreasonable behaviour
- your partner deserted you at least two years ago
- you have been living apart for at least two years (if you both agree to the divorce)
- you have been living part for at least five years (if one of you doesn’t agree to the divorce)
Before you start the actual process is worth considering divorce mediation. The more you can agree in advance the better for both of you.
You may prefer to reach an agreement about all issues arising out of your separation without involving any court procedures at all. The way this can be achieved is for you to sign a written legal document, called a Separation Deed, which incorporates the agreement you have reached. Commonly such agreements deal with confirmation that you are to live apart and the manner in which money and property are to be dealt with. There are no restrictions on what can and cannot be included in such an agreement. If one of you fails to comply with the terms of a Separation Deed, the other can sue for breach of contract. In any enforcement proceedings, the Separation Deed will not be held to be binding unless you both give full and frank disclosure of your financial circumstances when entering into the agreement. It is important to bear in mind that should either of you make a subsequent financial application to court, the court is not bound by the financial arrangements contained in the Separation Deed.
A judicial separation is virtually identical to that which applies to a divorce. The essential difference is that the court pronounces a decree of judicial separation rather than a divorce and therefore you and your spouse would remain married. This option might appeal to you if you have a religious or cultural objection to divorce or you wish to remain married in order to retain your automatic entitlements arising under your spouse's pension.
An annulment is an alternative to a divorce if you can show that the marriage was either not valid in the first place or is defective (is a ‘voidable’ marriage).
Examples of reasons why a marriage might not be legally valid include:
- You are closely related
- One of you was under 16
- One of you was already married or in a civil partnership
Examples of reasons why a marriage might be defective include:
- It wasn’t consummated
- You didn’t properly consent - e.g. you were drunk or forced into it
- Your partner had a sexually transmitted disease when you got married
- The woman was pregnant by another man at the time of the marriage