It is always a difficult decision to end a marriage, and even after the emotional turmoil of ending a relationship, there is still a lot to do.
After coming to an agreement that you do want to dissolve the marriage, it is then up to you to make an application for divorce. Doing so requires a number of practical considerations that must be taken into account before you begin the process.
Divorce can be a purely an administrative process, and will not require you to attend court, but, to ensure this, both parties do need to come to an agreement on a range of issues, including things like your home, shared savings and pensions, arrangements for children and so on.
It is always sensible to obtain legal advice when applying for a divorce, as this can provide specialist guidance that will help you to make the process as straightforward as possible.
What are the steps involved in a Divorce?
The document that needs to be filed in order to start the divorce process is called a petition. A petition may only be presented to the Court if the marriage has lasted for at least a year and you can prove that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. This is currently the only ground for divorce and relies on proving one of the five causes as listed in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. These are:
- Unreasonable Behaviour
- Two years of separation (if both parties consent to the divorce)
- Five years of separation (if both parties do not consent to the divorce)
One spouse will begin the divorce process and they are referred to as the ‘Petitioner’. The other party is known as the ‘Respondent’.
Once the petition is filed, it is sent to the Respondent, and they need to fill out a form that acknowledges that they have received it. They will also take this opportunity to either agree or contest the divorce.
Once this is complete the Petitioner can apply for the Decree Nisi which is the first stage in the divorce process. If granted it means that the court agrees that you have proved the cause and there is no reason that you cannot get a divorce.
You must then wait six weeks and one day before you can apply for the Decree Absolute. This is the second and final stage in the process. When the Decree Absolute is granted your marriage to your spouse is formally dissolved and you are free to remarry should you wish.
A ‘no-fault divorce’ bill is currently making its way through Parliament. If passed, it could simplify this divorce process requiring the Petitioner to prove only that the marriage has broken down and not one of the five causes as well. Its aim is to avoid blame and the emotional trauma of divorce but will include a new minimum six month waiting period from the time the petition is filed before the divorce can be finalized to allow for reflection.
Finances and Children
Whilst the legal part of an uncontested divorce is simple, it is also necessary for the couple to settle their finances and agree arrangements for any children.
This can be done voluntarily if both parties agree on children matters and on how the finances should be divided. However, if one party needs more of the matrimonial assets than the other because, for example, they will be caring for the children or because of financial hardship but the other party disagrees, or if one party feels that they are owed a larger portion of the assets, then involvement of the Court in the financial proceedings may become inevitable.
If you are able to agree how the matrimonial assets should be divided, your solicitor will draw up a Consent Order. If the Judge is satisfied that the agreement is fair then it will be approved, receive the Court seal and be considered legally binding.
If you cannot reach an agreement at this stage, then you have two options. One is to participate in some form of arbitration or mediation which, if consensus can be reached, will result in a legally binding agreement which will eventually take the form of a Consent Order as described above. If this is not an option or is not successful, then you will need to go to Court and argue your case.
What Happens at Court?
If it becomes necessary for you to go to court, your solicitor will complete an application form that announces that you want to begin Court proceedings. If you have not yet attempted mediation then you will usually have to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM),which has the aim of assisting the parties to negotiate in a civil fashion with the help and encouragement of an impartial mediator.
If mediation is unsuccessful and you begin Court proceedings, you will need to attend the following three Court appointments:
First Directions Appointment (FDA)
Here, the Judge will decide what further facts or information the Court needs in order to help it (and the parties) to decide how the assets should be divided. This will usually include information such as property valuations and details about other major assets the couple own.
Final Dispute Resolution (FDR)
The aim of the FDR is to encourage both parties to attempt to reach an agreement. During the course of the hearing the Judge will give the parties an indication of how they would decide the division of assets if the case went to a final hearing. This is to prompt the parties to carefully consider their positions and see if agreement can be reached.
Final Hearing (FH)
Should a resolution not be reached at the FDR, a final hearing will be held, at which a new Judge will consider all of the evidence and make a final order which will be then become binding on the parties.
Help with Divorce Proceedings
Vyman Solicitors have specialist solicitors experienced in the area of family law. Their aim is to support and guide you through your relationship breakdown via discussion and negotiation, in the hope that compromises can be reached and there is no need for expensive litigation.
For all enquiries relating to Family Law, please contact Zharna Sutaria on 0208 427 9080 or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org.