Divorce & Separation
Please note that from April 2013 the scope of Legal Aid no longer includes Divorce unless there is domestic violence involved.
We advise upon all issues following separation including:
- Divorce proceedings
- Separation Agreements
- Financial Arrangements on Divorce and Separation
- Arrangements for children following separation
Considering divorce or separation
To get a divorce in England and Wales, you have to show that you have been married for more than a year and that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. Irretrievable breakdown of a marriage needs to be proven for one of these reasons:
- Adultery (that your spouse has had an affair).
- Unreasonable behaviour (that your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot be expected to live together).
- That your spouse has deserted you for at least two years.
- That you have been living apart for two years and your spouse also wants a divorce.
- That you have lived apart for five years.
The divorce is started by lodging a petition with the court. The petition set various facts including details of the marriage and the grounds for divorce. The petition is sent to the court with the court fee (unless you qualify for legal aid). The court will stamp the petition and send a copy to your spouse (who will be known as the respondent).
When your spouse receives a copy of the petition, they must fill in a form to say they have received it and that they accept the divorce. This is known as an Acknowledgment of Service. If they agree, your divorce will be known as an undefended divorce. If they say that they do not want a divorce (known as contesting), this will be a defended divorce. If your partner does not return the form, you can pay the court to serve the papers in person (using a court bailiff).
The court will check the divorce papers and if they are happy with them, will issue a decree nisi. A decree nisi means the court agrees that your reasons for the divorce has been proved. A decree nisi does not mean your divorce is final. You must wait six weeks to apply for a decree absolute.
Six weeks and one day after the decree nisi is granted you can apply for the decree to be made absolute (or final), which finally ends the marriage. If you (as the petitioner) do not make an application within three months, your partner (respondent) can then apply for it.
If the other person defends the divorce, there would have to be a hearing at the court or a more convenient court hearing centre but this is extremely rare.
Alongside that process, you and your partner will need to work out arrangements for any children and sort out your family finances and housing arrangements.
The divorce usually takes 5–6 months from start to finish.
Our Fees for Divorce
We offer a fixed-fee package for the divorce (please refer to our ‘Fixed Fee Divorce’ page for more information.
In many cases, parties who decide to separate do not wish, or are in no hurry, to be divorced. As an alternative, parties can opt to simply separate and live apart. In this situation we recommend that parties enter into a written agreement know as a Separation Agreement. This agreement is essentially a contract between the parties declaring that they intend to live separate and apart. Within the Agreement, parties can include agreed arrangements relating to division of their marital assets and arrangements for their children (whom the children will live with and the time that they will spend with their absent parent).
Our Fees for preparing Separation Agreements
Our fees are on a time-spent basis at the rate of £240 + Vat per hour.
Generally we would estimate on average spending around 3 hours (including meetings) were matters are agreed at the outset and so a fee of around £600-£700 + vat. In cases where we need to assist with negotiating a settlement then our fees will be more than quoted above. We will be able to give a much clearer indication of fees following our initial consultation with you.
A crucial element in the divorce proceedings is finances, and this generally runs hand in hand with the divorce petition. We advise clients to resolve Finances at the same time as dealing with the divorce petition, as this is often the best opportunity to negotiate a clean break. Until an order of the court has been obtained your spouse (or former spouse) can potentially claim on any assets you hold.
Financial arrangements are often the most contentious aspect of any separation but we are experienced in negotiating on behalf of our clients to achieve a fair settlement. Where both parties agree the financial arrangements, the Court will usually approve this agreement by way of Consent Order.
In absence of any agreement, it may be necessary to apply for a financial remedy order whereby the Court determines the financial split.
Our experienced and accredited divorce lawyer will work hard ensure that the financial affairs of all parties are fully explored and a fair settlement is achieved, by negotiation if possible but by Court Order if not.
All issues relating to children are considered at the same time as divorce, but form an entirely separate application to the Courts if this needs to be formalised.
Please see our information on Child Related Matters for further information.
Arranging the initial meeting
To arrange an initial meeting please call us and speak with a member of our family team.
It is helpful if you could bring along to that meeting:
- Your marriage certificate
- Two forms of identification, including one photographic form of ID.