Separating from your partner can raise lots of questions. What’s the best way to formally end your relationship? How does the divorce process work? How long does it take? And how much does a divorce cost? Here, you’ll find a comprehensive series of guides to help you through your separation and divorce, from the forms you need to complete to specific issues and the alternatives to going to court.
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Grounds for divorce
In England and Wales there is technically only one ground for divorce. This is ‘that your marriage has irretrievably broken down’.
From April 2022, a new law removed the former requirement for a spouse to apportion blame for the marriage breakdown (e.g. ‘unreasonable behaviour’, or adultery) by allowing one party, or both parties jointly, to simply make a statement that their marriage has broken down irretrievably. This is know as ‘no-fault’ divorce. No further evidence is required beyond this statement.
The new law will also limit the ability of the other party to challenge the divorce based on their reason for wanting to divorce. In other words, anyone can now choose to divorce their spouse and in almost all cases, the other party cannot object to it.
If you’re thinking of getting a divorce, you will need to know how the divorce process works. How long does the divorce process take? What forms do you have to complete? And are there any fees to pay?
Here, we talk you through the divorce process, step by step. Find out how you apply for a divorce, whether you have to go to court, and how issues such as finances and childcare arrangements are resolved. You’ll also find out how long the divorce process takes and what can happen to delay things along the way.
How long does a divorce take?
Even if you and your spouse agree to end your marriage, there’s no such thing as a ‘quickie’ divorce in England and Wales.
Every couple who splits has to go through a formal legal procedure, and there can be rigid timescales associated with this process. In this guide you’ll discover the various factors that affect how long your divorce will take, and how long it takes to issue the legal decrees that end your marriage.
You’ll also find a handy divorce timeline explaining the main stages of the process and how long each takes.
Does it matter who applies for a divorce?
At the end of the divorce process when your marriage is formally ended, the outcome is likely to be the same whether you or your spouse filed for divorce.
However, if you are the person who files for a divorce it can make a difference to the timings involved in the process, the potential costs, and even where the divorce will take place.
In this guide, you’ll understand the differences between being the Applicant (the person who applies for the divorce) and the Respondent (the person who responds to the divorce). You’ll also find out how you’ll be affected if you live outside England and Wales.
Divorce forms and documents
Getting a divorce involves the completion of a number of different forms and documents. From applying for divorce to disclosing your financial position, ensuring all paperwork is completed correctly can help to make the divorce process run smoothly.
In this guide, you’ll find out about all the main forms and documents you’re likely to encounter as part of the divorce process. You’ll get detailed advice on how to complete the main divorce forms, help with paperwork regarding financial arrangements and children, and details of the documentation you’ll need to provide.
No-fault divorce removes the requirement to establish one or more ‘facts’ to prove the marriage has broken down irretrievably (such as ‘unreasonable behaviour’ or ‘adultery’), although it will retain the sole ground of irretrievable breakdown of the relationship. The language of divorce has also been updated and its previous archaic language modernised:
- ‘Decree Nisi’ becomes ‘Conditional Order’
- ‘Decree Absolute’ becomes ‘Final Order’
- ‘Petitioner’ (the person submitting the divorce application) becomes the ‘Applicant’.
It also introduces joint applications where both parties can agree that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, although if they cannot agree, applicants can still submit their own application.
Paying for divorce and divorce costs
What does a divorce really cost? How much are court fees and a solicitor fees? And what are the ways you can pay for your divorce?
In this comprehensive guide, you’ll find out about the factors that influence how much your divorce will cost. You’ll find details of the court fees, how solicitors charge for their time, whether you can get help with legal costs and which spouse pays for the divorce.
You’ll also find useful advice on the various ways that you can fund the costs associated with your divorce.
Can I dispute or contest a divorce?
In almost all cases, a divorce is ‘uncontested’, meaning that the spouse who hasn’t applied for the divorce cannot object to it. Following the change in law on 6th April 2022, a spouse can only dispute, or ‘contest’ the application in limited circumstances. A spouse is not able to dispute whether the marriage has broken down. They can only dispute the application because:
- They dispute the jurisdiction of the court in England and Wales to administer the proceedings. For example, this could happen if neither party lives or has any connection with England and Wales.
- The validity of the marriage or civil partnership is in dispute. This could occur if the parties did not enter into a legally valid marriage.
- The marriage or civil partnership has already legally ended. For example, if the marriage or civil partnership has previously ended in proceedings outside of England and Wales.
- It is also possible to challenge an application for reasons such as fraud or procedural compliance.
If you want to settle any disputes you have with your ex-spouse when you divorce, then mediation is one of the options available to you. Mediation can help you avoid the lengthy and costly court procedure.
But what is mediation? When is it appropriate? How does it work? And how much does it cost? In this guide we answer these questions and more. You’ll find out everything you need to know about mediation and divorce, from what happens in a mediation session to how you formalise any agreement that you make.
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Going to court to settle financial or child matters during divorce can be stressful and expensive. Collaborative divorce gives you the option of resolving your disputes outside court and reaching an agreement without the need for a court hearing.
Collaborative options include arbitration and mediation and involve both parties negotiating an agreement that they are satisfied with.
Find out how collaborative divorce works, the pros and cons, the costs of collaborative divorce, and why you might choose this option to resolve your disputes.
If your marriage has broken down but you don’t want to divorce, you generally have two options. In this guide you’ll find everything you need to know about legal or judicial separation and separation agreements.
This guide outlines the main differences between the types of separation, identifies cases where one might be more appropriate than the other and gives information on the legal implications of both.
You’ll also find out why separation might be a better choice for you, and the pros and cons of legal separation.
While divorce is the most common way to end a marriage, under certain circumstances you can have your marriage or civil partnership annulled. Essentially, this means your marriage is treated as if it never existed.
For example, you may never have consummated your marriage or civil partnership or one of you may have never properly consented to the marriage.
Your guide looks at the circumstances in which your marriage can be nullified, the differences between annulment and divorce, and why you might choose to annul your marriage.
Arbitration and divorce
Are there issues on which you can’t come to an agreement with your ex? If so, and you’d prefer to avoid going to court, arbitration is a possible option.
Under arbitration, a qualified arbitrator can hold one or more hearings and then make an award which is binding on both of you.
In your complete guide, find out how arbitration works, the advantages of using arbitration in your divorce, how much it costs, and how you obtain an arbitration award.
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Divorce and the family business
Reaching agreement on your finances can be tough at any time. If you run a family business, then deciding what happens to your company is likely to be a key part of your divorce settlement.
In this complete guide, you’ll find out what constitutes a family business and whether your spouse has a claim on the business. We also answer questions about how a business is valued, how you can continue trading if you have to divide your assets, and whether there are ways you can protect your business in the event of divorce.
Domestic abuse and divorce
Domestic abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, age, race, religion or sexuality. It can encompass psychological, sexual, financial and emotional abuse, as well as physical.
Identifying, acknowledging and reporting domestic abuse can be a daunting prospect, and it can take courage to decide to divorce an abusive spouse.
In this guide, you’ll find out how to recognise domestic abuse, and the steps you can take to report it. You’ll also find all the information you need about getting a divorce due to domestic abuse, where you can get help, and whether you’re eligible for Legal Aid to assist with the costs of your divorce.
Ending a civil partnership
While a divorce ends a marriage, ending a civil partnership is done through different means such as dissolution or judicial separation, although the process has now been consolidated.
In this comprehensive guide, you’ll find out about the differences between marriage and a civil partnership, your options for ending a civil partnership, and the various orders that the courts can make.
You’ll also find answers to questions about the costs of ending a civil partnership, what the grounds for dissolution are, and how you come to a financial settlement.
It is not uncommon for unmarried couples who are cohabiting, or living together, to believe they have legal, or “common law” rights when they separate. The reality is, there are no such rights, and couples who are either not married, or in a civil partnership, are not protected when their relationship ends. Not all couples are aware of this.
Even though cohabiting couples are not legally recognised in England and Wales, there are some steps that can be taken to protect your assets if the worst should happen. One way to make sure there is some legal protection in place is to enter into a cohabitation agreement.
Reconciliation contracts explained
Before committing to formally ending their marriage, couples are increasingly turning to reconciliation contracts as a way of trying to get their marriage back on track.
This guide explains what exactly a reconciliation contract is, the advantages of entering into one and the legal implications of doing so. We look at the differences between a reconciliation contract and a post-nuptial agreement and whether these contracts are legally binding.
You’ll also find out about the pros and cons of a reconciliation contract, and when they can be used.
Pet custody after divorce
With more than ten million cats and nine million dogs living in UK households, it’s perhaps no surprise that pets are sometimes a contentious issue when couples separate.
But who gets your beloved pet on divorce? Do you have to go to court for access? And what is a ‘petnup’? Read this guide for answers to these questions and more.
The information on this website is to be considered a guide and is therefore not legal advice. You use this information with the understanding that Wiselaw does not accept liability for any direct or indirect losses as a result of anyone relying on or acting upon the information on this website. Whilst we endeavour to provide accurate information, Wiselaw does not accept liability for any errors or omissions on this website.