Despite the seemingly eternal wrangling of some couples when undergoing relationship breakdown, in most cases, the actual divorce, or ending of the marriage, is a fairly straightforward process. When newspaper journalists report on high-profile divorces that have taken years to settle, they are usually talking about other issues relating to divorce, rather than the ending of legal ties.
So, what actually happens in divorce?
There are three basic issues to be settled when a couple decide to formally end their marriage or civil partnership. These are; dissolving the legal union between the spouses, making sure that any children involved are going to be looked after, and sorting out the finances.
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Dissolving the legal relationship – When a couple enters into marriage or civil partnership, they are undertaking a solemn legal contract which binds them to each other in the eyes of the law. A divorce, or civil-partnership dissolution, ends this legal relationship. Even if spouses live apart for a number of years, unless they undergo divorce they will still be joined in the eyes of the law. Once the union has been formally dissolved, with the granting of a decree absolute by the family court, the spouses are then free to remarry – and not before. To apply for a divorce/dissolution/judicial separation one spouse must fill in a form D8.
Arrangements for children – If the spouses have children, the court will want to be assured of their welfare before the divorce can be ratified. When the petitioner files for divorce they will need to complete form D8A – Statement of arrangements for children. This will give details of where the children will live on a day-to-day basis, i.e which parent will have residency, and how much time the non-resident parent will have with the children (contact).
It is always a good idea to try to reach agreement about the arrangements before applying for a divorce. If the respondent to the divorce petition (the other spouse) does not agree with the stated arrangements, the court may require the spouses to seek mediation. If this is unsuccessful the parties may make applications to the court for residence or contact orders.
Financial settlement – For many couples, the financial arrangements can be the most contentious issue and may take much longer to resolve than the actual dissolution of the marriage.
Form D8A asks questions about maintenance for children and, once again, it is always preferable to try to agree how much will be paid in child maintenance prior to making an application for divorce – this is known as a family-based arrangement. If the spouses cannot agree, the court will require an application to be made through the Child Maintenance Service (formerly Child Support Agency).
Dividing up the family finances and sharing assets such as the house, savings and pension pot, will need careful consideration. If the spouses cannot agree a suitable financial settlement on divorce, the courts will expect them to attend a MIAM (mediation information and assessment meeting) with a view to resolving the dispute without the need for a court hearing. If agreement cannot be reached, an application can be made to the court for a financial order.
It is highly recommended that spouses involved in negotiating a financial settlement seek the advice and representation of an experienced divorce solicitor so that their best interests can be upheld in a divorce financial settlement.
Do you need to speak to a divorce solicitor?
Healys’ divorce solicitors in London and Brighton can help you if you are seeking a divorce or have been served with a divorce petition. We provide representation for clients across the south of England and will be happy to discuss your circumstances on a no-obligation basis.
Our many years of experience as specialist family lawyers means that we understand the difficulties of relationship breakdown and we offer a sensitive, yet pragmatic service to provide comprehensive divorce legal advice and guidance.
Call our offices today or email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org