Friday, 13 July 2018

Divorce – An Overview

By Adam D.A. Manning LLB, LLM      

Please note the following is only for general advice. If you need further help, please see a Solicitor.

The application form to start a divorce is available from the government's website and this has to be completed and filed with the Family Court. You will need to have your spouse's full name and address and a copy of the marriage certificate as well, along with the issue fee, which at the time of writing was £550. You may be able to get help to pay the fee if you are on benefits or low income.

In England and Wales, to apply for a divorce you will need to prove that the marriage has broken down. To do this, you need to show one of five different reasons. The first is that your spouse has committed adultery, which is defined as sexual intercourse between a man and a woman. The second is unreasonable behavior, that is your spouse has behaved in a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with them. This might involve physical, sexual or verbal abuse, drunkenness or lack of financial or emotional support and often involves several aspects of the spouse's behavior.

Thirdly, there is desertion, which is where your spouse, without good reason, has left you for more than two years out of the last two and a half, so as to end the relationship.  Fourthly, living apart for more than two years is a reason to show the marriage has broken down, but your spouse has to agree in writing. The final basis is where you have lived apart from your spouse for more than five years, even if your spouse disagrees to the divorce.

Your spouse then has to acknowledge receipt of the form and send this back to the Court.  Once this has happened, the next stage is called Decree Nisi, which entails the person who started the divorce completing a further application to support the original applications.  Once Decree Nisi is issued by the Court, normally there is a six week waiting period before it is possible to apply for Decree Absolute, the final stage of the divorce. Once Decree Absolute is issued by the Court, the marriage is at an end.

Many people issue divorce proceedings themselves, without using a Solicitor, but those that do will have to pay their Solicitor's fees in addition to the issue fee. The amount of the fees really depends on the amount of work that is involved.

Other factors that can be involved include sorting out arrangements concerning children.  It can be helpful to take advice from a Solicitor about this and there is an emphasis on parents and caregivers trying to resolve these issues without using the Courts if at all possible, through mediation if needed.

Similarly, it may be helpful to take legal advice on the financial issues that need resolving during a divorce.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, the general principle here is one of equality and again there is much more emphasis on spouses resolving their issues, using mediation for instance, without the need to involve the Courts.

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