As expert divorce solicitors we regularly get asked the same questions and hear the same myths surrounding separation and divorce. James Chittenden a Trainee Solicitor within the Family Law department at Humphries Kirk debunks the myths and answers the most common questions asked:
Where do I begin if I want a divorce?
Starting the divorce process is another step in what is already a challenging time for you and your relationship.
Here’s a step by step guide:
- The Petition – to start the process you must complete the Petition form, which will detail the reason for divorce. This is sent to the court, given a case number and returned (this can be done online or by post).
- The court sends the Petition to the other party – If the divorce Petition is correct and the necessary fees have been paid then the court send the Petition to the Respondent.
- Acknowledgement of service – the respondent, must respond by filling in an ‘acknowledgment of service’.
- Petitioner files for the Decree Nisi – once the acknowledgement of service has been returned to the court, the petitioner can apply for a Decree Nisi along with a statement in support of divorce. At this stage, you are asking the court permission to divorce. A judge will review the contents of your case.
- Decree Nisi pronouncement – the judge will consider the divorce petition and if the grounds for divorce are accepted, the petition gets listed for pronouncement. The District Judge will pronounce that the petitioner is entitled to a divorce, failing which the Petitioner can end the marriage by applying for the Decree Absolute. However, the Decree Absolute is generally not applied for until there is a financial settlement. Unless there are any disagreements about costs at this point, this is a relatively straightforward procedure that does not require attendance at court.
- Financial settlement – The next stage is dealing with the untangling of finances. This is by far the most substantial part of the process. There is more on this below, but broadly, if an agreement cannot be reached between the parties, then the court will decide who should get what by making a Financial Remedy Order.
- Apply for the Decree Absolute – this can be applied for after a minimum of six weeks and 1 day. Once the Decree Absolute is granted, the divorce process has concluded and you are legally divorced.
So, how long will this all take?
The time frame varies, as no case is the same, but unfortunately, it can be lengthy. It could take anywhere from six months to one year or more if a Financial Remedy Order is required, but this will shorten if an agreement can be reached. Although the Coronavirus has pushed many court hearings online, the courts are still dealing with a significant backlog of cases.
How do we sort out our finances and assets?
Untangling the finances is often a sore spot for many couples – each of them wondering who keeps what, will they have anything left, or will the children be looked after financially. The approach in divorce proceedings is a full and frank disclosure; any pensions, property, savings and investments of the parties will be put on the table so the fairest split can be decided. Sometimes disagreement arises between the parties over who is entitled to what, and will there may be tax or other financial consequences to consider. It is therefore essential to get advice on what should happen to your finances in the breakdown of a relationship.
What’s the best way to protect my assets?
Our expert solicitors can help to secure your financial position early on, which could save time and cost. For example, if you have assets that you accumulated before your marriage, you may want these protected during the proceedings. Or for example, if you own a company, your soon to be ex-partner may feel that they are entitled to a share of the business, or its earnings. If this company was set up before the marriage, it may be possible to ring-fence such pre-marital assets and protect them from unwanted claims. Often this will come down to negotiation, so the earlier your position can be established the stronger it will be, so you can formulate a strategy.
Pensions are also an asset that will require careful consideration. They could be split in the same way as a property or bank account, and the judge can make a Pension Sharing Order to authorise the division. But what if the pension assets aren’t equal? If one partner stayed at home looking after the children while the other accumulated a large pension, you will need specialist advice on the best mechanism to achieve a fair outcome.
At the end of the process, when an agreement has been reached, it is very important to obtain a Consent Order from the judge. This will prevent your ex-spouse making any future claims against your assets. This is because without a financial settlement, even if you are divorced, if the other part has not remarried, they can come back asking for more money even if you think you have settled matters informally. You may feel that you are saving money in the short term by not having the finances finalised by a lawyer, but this could be expensive in the long run if not concluded with a Financial Order.
Please also note that even if you have reached an agreement between you – claims are only dismissed by order of the court.
Humphries Kirk has a highly experienced specialist team that can give you the correct legal advice to safeguard your commercial and personal wealth. This team draws on expertise from all areas of family and divorce law and can assist not only in finances, but in child matters, prenuptial agreements and cohabitation issues too.
Furthermore you can speak to our specialists regarding all matters of family law – children matters, asset planning, cohabitation rights and pre-nuptial agreements, as well as disputes over property and inheritance claims and will disputes or disputes when people die.
We are understanding and compassionate during the most difficult and challenging times.
Specialist family law solicitors
“People who come to see me almost all say the same thing by the time they leave; “I wish I had come to you sooner”. In spite of what people might think about lawyers, one of my first tasks is to get people to sit down and think about whether or not their relationship is really over, and then plan a strategy to move forward”.
“When relationships breakdown, many people bury their heads in the sand in the hope that things will somehow resolve themselves. The problem here is that there are often so many complex things that must be considered – financial aspects like settlements, tax implications and pension schemes or children issues like access and visitation. That’s where I can make a difference – by giving clients the information they need so they know where they stand. Suddenly the fog of despair lifts and people can see some light at the end of the tunnel and a way forward”. Kay Levene