It is a sad fact that January is historically the busiest time for divorce lawyers up and down the country.
Often married couples who have agreed to separate, particularly those with children, wish to get through one last Christmas as a family before taking that next step.
Christmas is a busy time and understandably the last thing on anyone’s to-do-list is to find out how does a divorce work and how are we going to begin to sort out our finances? Followed by, how are we going to tell the children and who will have them when?
This blog is designed to answer some preliminary questions if you have decided that there is no prospect of reconciling with your spouse and that you wish to seek advice on divorce in the New Year.
There is one ground for the divorce and that is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. One of five facts can be relied upon when presenting a Petition for Divorce to the Family Court. You can expect the divorce proceedings, if amicable and very straightforward, to take between 4 and 6 months to conclude from the time you issue your Petition until the pronouncement of the final order, a Decree Absolute. Any person bringing the divorce proceedings can decide to call a stop to the divorce at any time up until the Court has pronounced the Decree Absolute.
To save yourself some money you can opt for a DIY divorce. Anyone can download from the Justice website, or collect from their local Family Court, the forms for divorce and submit a Divorce Petition themselves. There is also an option to submit a Divorce Petition online via the Justice website. However, it is often the case, when a person issues their own divorce, that problems arise later on when a Judge sees the paperwork and sees there are errors which need correcting. If there is a problem down the line it may cost more money to rectify it than if you were to instruct a lawyer in the first place. Do therefore bear in mind that if you instruct a family lawyer from the outset, they will do all of the work for you, they are experts in dealing with divorce and you will have advice and support available to you in relation to other matters that arise on divorce.
Spouses have a duty upon separation to provide each other with full disclosure in relation to their financial positions. That means you must provide documentary evidence to each other in relation to your income, outgoings, assets, liabilities, capital and pensions. Whilst it is said that the starting point to any financial separation is a 50/50 split of the assets, there is no set formula and each marriage will be different and considered on its own circumstances. A number of factors will need to be considered when looking at who should get what, which are all set out at Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.
It is important to get sound legal advice from the beginning in relation to financial matters. Finances should be resolved as part of the divorce proceedings and not left to be dealt with in years to come.
In 2016, the Supreme Court made it very clear to Mr Vince, a self-made millionaire after divorce, that even though he had been divorced from Ms Wyatt in 1992 there was no law preventing Ms Wyatt from bringing an application for financial relief against him over two decades later.
If you cannot afford to instruct solicitors to deal with financial matters for you and wish to keep costs to a minimum you can make a referral to a local Mediation Service. Mediation is designed to assist couples in reaching an agreement without the need for court action. It is now compulsory in most circumstances that you try mediation before you issue an application to the Court for financial relief.
It is considered to be in the child’s best interests to have an on going relationship with both parents after separation. Mothers and fathers have a duty to promote and encourage the children to see and spend time with the other parent upon separation. As parents, agreeing a routine of arrangements very early on is imperative, unless of course there is a genuine risk. You should always take legal advice in relation to arrangements for children if there is a dispute. Children need stability and security to thrive. Remember that separation is a very difficult time for the children as well as the parent and they will often seek reassurance that they will still be able to see both parents.
Again a referral can be made to a local Mediation Service to try and resolve any dispute before making an application to the Court. Court proceedings should always be a last resort.
Often people worry about who should and will pay the mortgage/rent and utility bills upon separation. They also worry about how they will manage financially to support any children of the family. All of these questions can be explored with a lawyer upon having considered your individual circumstances.
There are other matters to consider too. Such as, you remain married until the pronouncement of Decree Absolute. If either of you were to die before the Decree Absolute is pronounced you will still inherit from each other. It is important you consider making a new will. Whilst it may sound a little morbid, it is important to plan for the future and for any unforeseen circumstances.
If you own a house together you must also consider, if you were to die before matters were resolved whether the house will pass under your new will or whether it will go to your spouse. Again this is something that can be advised upon by an expert in family law.
At Farleys, we have a team of specialist lawyers who can offer advice at an initial case management meeting tailored to your circumstances. Farleys can also offer a number of affordable packages in relation to divorce, finances and children matters. Other areas of advice include separation agreements for cohabiting couples, pre nuptial agreements, cohabitation agreements, domestic abuse, change of name deeds, care and social services.
Contact us now or in the New Year at your convenience for any advice needed. Call us on 0845 287 0939 or complete our online enquiry form.