PDF Divorce - A Guided Tour

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The beginner's guide to divorce, written by someone who's been through the process The process took us awhile, and it was a bumpy ride.
Table of contents

If you have been legally married for at least one year, either you or your spouse can apply for a divorce. Some foreign or religious marriage ceremonies are not recognised by the law of England and Wales. The English courts can dissolve foreign marriages so long as there is an appropriate connection, for example if one or both of you live in England or Wales or you are both from England or Wales. It may be that you and your spouse have connections with more than one country and that you have the option to get divorced here or abroad. Choosing the right country to get divorced in is important as it can have a big impact on how the marital finances are shared.

If you think your spouse intends to start divorce proceedings in another country, you should seek family law advice urgently as you may wish to start divorce proceedings in England or Wales before they do. This is known as a petition race. The only ground reason for divorce is that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. Irretrievably means the marriage has broken down permanently and cannot be fixed. To prove that your marriage has broken down irretrievably, you must state one of five facts in your divorce petition:.

Adultery — your husband has committed adultery with another woman or your wife has committed adultery with a man. Adultery is sexual intercourse between a married person and a person of the opposite sex who is not their spouse. If your husband or wife admits to adultery and agrees to the divorce proceedings, the divorce is likely to be accepted by the court. If your spouse does not admit to committing adultery you will need to provide the court with evidence of the adultery.

In addition to the adultery, you must also prove that you find it intolerable to live with your spouse, either because of the adultery or because of some other behaviour.

Intolerable means that you cannot bear to be in the marriage any longer. If you continue to live with your husband or wife for 6 months after you find out about their adultery, then you cannot use that incident of adultery as the reason to divorce. However, if you do so you will have to send the divorce papers to that person as well as to your spouse.

This will cause additional expense and delay if they do not co-operate. Unreasonable behaviour — your husband or wife has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with them.

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Unreasonable behaviour can include a wide range of behaviour from domestic violence to withholding love and affection. It may be helpful to include the first, the worst and the most recent incident of the unreasonable behaviour during the marriage. If you continue to live as a couple for 6 months after the last incident of unreasonable behaviour, it may be harder to prove to the court that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with your spouse. You need to show that your spouse left you in order to end your relationship, without your agreement and without a good reason, for at least two years.

This is difficult to prove so it is very unusual to use this fact. Two years separation with consent — you and your spouse have been separated for a continuous period of two years and you both agree to the divorce. You need not necessarily have lived in separate homes but you need to have had separate lives, for example, eating and doing domestic chores separately and sleeping in different rooms.

Your spouse must agree to the divorce on the basis that you have been separated for a continuous period of two years. It is a good idea to check whether your spouse will agree before sending your divorce petition to the court. Five years separation — you and your spouse have been separated for a continuous period of five years.

If you have been separated for 5 years you are entitled to apply for divorce, even if your spouse does not consent. Your spouse can only oppose the divorce if they can argue that ending the marriage would result in serious financial or other hardship. How much will it cost? If you are on a low income the court may waive or reduce the fee if you complete an Application for a fee Remission form EX This form is available from your local County Court or can be downloaded from www.

Court fees do change from time to time and you should ask your local County Court or check: Many law firms now offer a fixed fee for divorces. Legal aid is not usually available for divorce. See our legal guides Family Court proceedings: You will need to decide whether you wish to include a claim for your legal costs in your divorce petition. The court may order that your spouse should pay all or some of your costs, or you might be able to agree to share the costs between you. The application process To apply for divorce you must complete a divorce petition Form D8 , setting out details of your marriage and of the fact you are relying on see Grounds for divorce above.

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You can get a petition form and Notes for Guidance from your local County Court or from www. On the last page of the petition it asks if you intend to make a financial claim against your spouse. It is advisable to tick all the financial claims you could possibly wish to make in future, or you may later be prevented from doing so. If you want to make a financial claim see our legal guide A guide to financial arrangements after marriage breakdown. The forms are designed to be completed without needing a solicitor, but you should seek advice from a solicitor or our legal advice line if possible.

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Housing law is extremely complicated; you should definitely get advice about what your rights to stay are or what the implications of leaving are. They also have helpful information about your rights to stay in or return to the family home - see 'Links to other websites'. The first thing to do is to make a full list of all the assets savings, pensions, investments, property, car etc you own jointly and individually, what you each earn, and a list of any debts. Before you start making decisions about how to divide them, it is a good idea to get advice from a solicitor, even if you are going to do everything else yourself.

Take the full list of assets with you. It is best to agree how to divide smaller items like furniture, the TV, the DVD collection etc between yourselves. Some will offer one-off help for a fixed price; others may offer a first meeting for free. Some of the things you will need to think about are: Alternatively, Wikivorce has produced an online calculator that estimates what a fair financial settlement might look like. This is useful for many couples to use as a basis for their negotiations, but it is not the same as getting advice from a solicitor.

We sorted out all the smaller stuff and furniture ourselves with the help of a packet of coloured stickers. We took it in turns to choose something so we each got the things that were most important to us. It is best to bear in mind that this is only for the divorce papers, and that there is no way for the person asking for the divorce to mention their own failings that may have contributed to the end of the relationship.

Also remember that what you say when you ask for a divorce rarely makes any difference to how money or property will be divided, or where the children will live. It felt like he was asking me to take all the blame for the end of the relationship. My ex and I discussed flipping a coin for who would ask for the dissolution.

It took all the hurt and anger out it. It will help your divorce to move as smoothly and quickly and cheaply as possible, and removes the possibility of your ex-partner fighting the divorce which would complicate matters and make it more expensive. It can all feel very hurtful when written down and people worry about how it looks even though ordinarily only the people involved in the case see the papers. Use non-inflammatory wording and agree it beforehand if you can.

We explain what a separation agreement is in 'Things to understand'. This means that your husband or wife has had full sexual intercourse with a person of the opposite sex. This reason is only available to married couples; you cannot end a Civil Partnership using this reason. It can include things like not doing the washing up, watching boring TV programmes all the time, working too much so the other feels isolated, or a busy social life that excludes your partner, as well as more obviously unreasonable things like violence, insults or unkindness.

About half of all divorce petitions use this reason. This means that your ex-partner has left you against your will, and you have been living apart for at least two years. As you can get a divorce if you have been living apart for two years and you both agree, this reason is not used very often. This means you have been living apart for two years and both agree to the divorce.

Your ex-partner may still be able to block it by trying to prove to the court that the divorce would cause gross financial or other hardship, but this rarely happens. People often want to stay put, but it may not be feasible. Stretching your joint finances to cover the cost of two homes is going to be tricky.

Both of you are likely to end up at first poorer than you were. If you are still at the stage where you are considering your options it will be helpful to think through the money side of things. If you have been working part-time or not working up till now you may need to think about getting back into the job market. Now is a good time to think about what you want to do. If you need to plan for this, or budget for it, now is the time to do it.

Your local Jobcentre plus adviser can tell you about what help is available for you to find new work and any financial help you could get with moving back into work. Gingerbread has useful factsheets about going back into work or further education. In fact, before you can go to court over the money or property or arrangements for the children, you have to show the court that you have met with a mediator first and considered mediation, or tried to. This is because the government thinks it is usually better that you decide these things between yourselves if you can.

See Using Family Mediation after a break up. You can of course use different methods to agree different things. Many people can agree arrangements for the children between them, but need help from solicitors to agree what to do about money and property. Agreeing things without help is far from easy. To start with, one or both of you may be too upset and angry to discuss it. You will need to find ways to discuss the issues without your emotions getting in the way. Agree in advance with your ex-partner how and when you will try to come to agreements.

For example, will you find a date to meet on neutral territory, do it over email, or will you use a family mediation service? Nobody likes to feel ambushed and you have a much better chance of agreeing something if you both arrive at it feeling that you have chosen this approach and you want it to succeed. If you have a lot to discuss, try and agree what is urgent and deal with that first. You may have different priorities, but dealing first with the things that are most worrying for each of you can make things go much more smoothly.

If you have to discuss arrangements for the children and finances consider dealing with them separately — maybe at separate meetings. But things often go more smoothly if you take a little bit of time. Before you discuss it, think about the outcome you would like and where you can be flexible. My ex and I sorted out quite a lot of stuff over email. The best piece of advice I was given was to take two days before replying to any email. That gave me time to get really angry and calm down again before I said anything.

Try to stick to the point as much as you can. If you are meeting in person, having the main points written down on a piece of paper can be helpful and can give you something to focus on if you feel yourself starting to get upset or angry, or if your ex-partner strays from the point. This is where you meet together with your ex-partner and a mediator, who has been properly trained to help you put your feelings aside and focus on the issues that need to be sorted out. Many people say that a positive side-effect of mediation is that it helps them to communicate again. This is extremely valuable if you have children together.

Most people have to pay for family mediation.

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Whilst the fees are usually charged per person, it is open to you and your ex to decide who will actually pay or how the cost will be shared. If you are entitled to legal aid that is help from the government to pay for legal advice you can get mediation, and a small amount of legal advice alongside it, for free. You can find out if you are likely to be able to get it by using the legal aid checker see 'Links to other websites'.

For more information about Family Mediation and how to find a good mediator, see Using Family Mediation after a break up. Your other option is to use a solicitor to negotiate on your behalf. This is likely to be quite a bit more expensive than mediation. It can still be relatively quick and avoids all the expense and stress of going to court.

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It can feel a lot safer to have an expert on your side, making your case for you. If you are entitled to legal aid that is help from the government to pay for legal advice it will be much cheaper. You can find out if you are likely to be able to get it by using the legal aid checker. Another option is to each use a collaborative lawyer. This is a bit like a mixture of family mediation and solicitor negotiation. You and your ex-partner each have a collaborative lawyer not all family solicitors can do collaborative law — they have to have had special training and you agree that you will not go to court using these solicitors.

You then sort everything out in a series of face to face meetings between you and your collaborative law solicitor and your ex-partner and their collaborative law solicitor. Like mediation, collaborative law aims for an amicable solution that both of you have worked out rather than had imposed on you. It may be cheaper than the conventional way of using solicitors because it can mean that you use less of their time.

Reasons for divorce or dissolution

You can find out more about the collaborative law process and find a collaborative trained lawyer near you on Find a Resolution member for family law. When you have reached agreements about any children you have, it is useful to write down what you have both agreed. When you have come to agreements about your money and property, it is best for each of you to see a solicitor separately. She or he will check the agreement for you, and help you ensure that neither of you can make another claim in the future. They will usually advise you to turn it into a court order, which is legally binding.

Sometimes starting the court process helps to get your ex-partner talking and focussed on the need to make agreements.

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I learned to block the endless replays of what happened in my head. You have to police your thoughts. It is difficult to do at first, but it comes with practice and it is a great help for moving on. Remember that the court will usually want evidence that you have met with a mediator first and considered mediation, or tried to, before they will consider making a decision for you.

The difficulty is that using solicitors to take matters to court can be very expensive. The legal fees can quite easily end up being more than the value of what you are arguing about. Even if the matter does end up in court, the judge will still encourage you to agree the issues with your ex-partner as this is always the preferable solution. Doing it yourself is unfortunately not easy because it is quite a complicated procedure.

You have some options about what kind of help you use. They may have no qualifications, no experience, and, importantly, no insurance. They often cannot give you legal advice so they cannot help you avoid mistakes that could have serious long-term consequences and you also cannot complain about them to the Solicitors Regulation Authority or the Legal Ombudsman. So if it all goes wrong or they act dishonestly it is hard to do anything about it. Other services suggest that they are free or very cheap, but only provide very basic information for free and then charge for anything more helpful — make sure you are clear what is included in any service and what you will have to pay extra for.

This is probably the easiest route but of course many people will struggle to afford one or would prefer to save their money. Some people on a low income who have been hurt or abused by the partner they are divorcing may be able to get help to pay for legal help. Check if you are likely to be able to get it by using the legal aid checker see 'Links to other websites'. Some solicitors have changed how they work and now offer to help you with the paperwork for a fixed fee rather than charge you by the hour this is often only available for less complex cases. This makes it easier to work out how much it will cost in total.

If you are the person asking for the divorce, you have to do the bulk of the paperwork and so should expect any fixed fee you have to pay to be substantially higher than a fixed fee service for the person who is being divorced. Some solicitors offer a fixed fee service which does it all using email or over the phone, which reduces your costs further and better suits some people. Remember that even if you do everything yourself, one expense most people cannot avoid is the court fees. In this case, Red and Blue have decided to get a divorce. They have agreed that Red will ask for the divorce and will use the reason of unreasonable behaviour.

They have agreed what examples Red will give and Blue has agreed not to defend it. This is how the process works, step by step. Divorce and separation, like bereavement, take a long time to get over. You need to get used to no longer being part of a couple and that your expectations of your future have changed.

For most people it takes about one to two years before they start feeling okay again. Bit by bit it should start getting better. Children will also need time to adjust. There are lots of places where you can get some help to recover from the effects of divorce and separation.