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Divorce & Separation

We are Family Law Solicitors, specialising only in dealing with family law legal issues arising from the breakdown of your relationship. We offer up-to-date legal expertise and a Divorce & Separation service you can both trust and rely on.

Divorce and Dissolution of Civil Partnerships

At Barnes Clark Family Law we appreciate the major impact the breakdown of your relationship can have on your whole family, both emotionally and financially. Our aim is to guide you expertly through each and every stage of the divorce process, clearly outlining your options and providing you with the information you need to make your own decisions. We aim to help you achieve a constructive resolution of your differences by the quickest and easiest route available to you.

Please note the process for dissolution of Civil Partnership is the same as divorce. Where the term “divorce” is used it should be taken to include dissolution of civil partnership.

The Process

The process for dissolution of Civil Partnerships is the same as divorce. Where the term “divorce” is used it should be taken to include dissolution of civil partnership.

The only exception is adultery which is a specific legal term relating to heterosexual sex and which cannot, therefore, be used as grounds for dissolving a civil partnership. If your partner were unfaithful then the ground would be unreasonable behaviour.

How do I get a divorce in England and Wales?

To initiate divorce proceedings you need to show that you have been married for at least 1 year and show that that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The only ground to divorce is the irretrievable breakdown of marriage and this must be evidenced by one of the following five reasons for divorce:

  • Adultery

It must be proven that your spouse committed adultery. You must also show that you find it intolerable to live with the respondent (although this does not have to be because of the adultery).

Adultery is defined as voluntary sexual intercourse between a man and woman who are not married, but one or both of the parties is married.

However, you cannot rely on this fact if you have lived with your spouse for 6 months (or periods equalling 6 months) since the date you found out about the last act of adultery

  • Unreasonable behaviour

You must prove that your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with them. The Court will consider the nature of your spouse’s behaviour and the impact that behaviour has had on you when determining if this fact has been proven.

The alleged behaviour can range from domestic abuse to sleeping in separate bedrooms, socialising separately, and carrying out household tasks separately.

However, you cannot rely on this fact if you have lived with your spouse for 6 months (or periods equalling 6 months) since the date of the last incident relied upon within your petition and/or the date of separation.

  • 2 Years Separation

It must be proven that you and your spouse have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years’ and that your spouse consents (in writing) to the divorce.

You do not have to have been living separately for those two years, as you can be considered as living ‘separate and apart’ whilst still living in the same property.

  • 5 Years Separation

You and your spouse must have lived apart for a continuous period of 5 years or more. Your spouse does not need to consent to the divorce.

However, there are two possible defences to this fact, which can be relied upon by your spouse. These are that they deny that there has been a separation of 5 years; or that the divorce would cause them ‘grave hardship’.

  • Desertion

This fact is rarely relied upon as it is difficult to prove. You must prove that there has been a separation; your spouse has deserted you for a period of two years’; that they intended to desert you and that they had no just cause to do so, and that at no point did you consent to the separation taking place.

One or more of these grounds may apply to you, we will be able to advise you as to which is most suitable. It may be necessary in some cases to give limited examples of the behaviour and how it has affected you. It is also possible to try and agree this information with your spouse beforehand.

What is the Divorce Process?

The first stage of the divorce process is to prepare the documents. The “petition” outlines the ground/fact on which your divorce is based. The person issuing the divorce is known as the “petitioner”, the person being divorced is referred to as the “respondent”.

Once the petition has been issued, copies of the documents will be sent to your spouse. They are then required to complete an Acknowledgement of Service form stating whether they agree with the divorce. If the Respondent does not defend the petition, you can then look to apply for Decree Nisi and then later down the line, Decree Absolute.

Is there a Court fee?

There is a court fee of £550, which is required to be paid upon issuing the petition. There is a possibility that you can claim costs of the divorce from your spouse and we can advise you in respect of that. We will also advise you at the outset of our likely costs in relation to the divorce proceedings.

What if the Respondent does not agree?

Unfortunately, if your spouse does not agree to divorce, this makes matters more complicated. We can provide you with specific advice, should this be the case.

What is a Decree Nisi?

Decree Nisi is the mid-way point of divorce proceedings. It is also the point at which the Court can consider making an order to resolve financial matters.

What is a Decree Absolute?

Six weeks and one day after Decree Nisi has been pronounced, the person issuing the divorce can apply for Decree Absolute. At this point, the marriage is dissolved. The respondent can apply to the Court for Decree Absolute 4 and a half months after Decree Nisi has been obtained, if the petitioner does not make the application before then.

Can I get divorced if we are still living together?

Yes. However, in these circumstances, you will have to prove that you have maintained separate lives. To fulfil this requirement, it can include explaining to the Court that you cook and eat separately, you no longer share a bedroom, you do not socialise together, you each do your own household chores, etc.

Please be aware however that there are some restrictions to this if you wish to rely on the fact of either adultery or unreasonable behaviour for your divorce (as discussed above).

What about Financial Matters?

Financial arrangements upon divorce should be resolved. Please see our Financial & Property page and contact us to see how we can assist you further.

What is Judicial Separation?

Judicial Separation is the same process as divorce but there is no Decree Absolute, which means the Court officially recognises the separation but you can’t remarry. This process is usually used by people with deep religious or personal beliefs against divorce.

What about Arrangements for the Children?

If arrangements for the children cannot be agreed then you may need specific advice. Read more about Child Arrangements.

Can I do the divorce myself?

The short answer is yes you can.

Unfortunately, however, everybody’s divorce & separation circumstances are different, and trying to resolve matters yourself at such an emotional time can often cause difficulties further down the line.

We are here to advise you of all the ends that need tying up to ensure that once you have dealt with the issues that arise from divorce & separation you can get on with your life, comfortable in the knowledge that nothing is going to raise its head in years to come. Whilst of course you will have to pay for legal advice, it will be worth it to have this peace of mind.

Wills

We would always recommend that you consider making a will if divorce proceedings are being considered so that you can avoid assets passing to your spouse in the event of your death before the divorce is concluded. If you die without a will then your estate may simply pass to your spouse under the rules of intestacy.

You should also consider amending or revising your will once Decree Absolute has been pronounced as the divorce will affect the validity of any previous will you may have.

For further information, or to arrange an appointment please contact us on 01274 861096 (Liversedge) or 01423 637272 (Harrogate) or email enquiries@barnesclarkfamily.law. Please note that we offer a free half an hour consultation.

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