If your marriage is coming to an end, you’ll have to go through a legal process before you can get divorced. What are they and what are the first steps you should take if you’re thinking of getting divorced?
Where you divorce
If divorce is going to happen it’s important to get the right advice before decisions are made and before divorce proceedings are started.
- You may be able to choose where you get divorced. If you and/or your husband are from a country outside England and Wales (Scotland and Northern Ireland have different systems for divorce) or one or both of you lives in another country – even temporarily – you may have a choice about where divorce proceedings start.
SAVVY TIP: This is important and could affect the financial consequences. If this applies to you, get advice from a lawyer who deals with international cases.
See a lawyer
Arrange a meeting with a specialist family lawyer so you know what your options are, even if you plan to deal with the divorce yourself. A good place to start is the website of the family law group Resolution for England and Wales, the Family Law Association in Scotland and The Law Society of Northern Ireland in Northern Ireland.
SAVVY TIP: You don’t have to use a lawyer to divorce (although if there are financial issues to be resolved or you have concerns about your children, you should take advice). You will find all of the information and forms that you need on the Court Service website.
The grounds for divorce
There is only one ground for divorce and that’s irretrievable breakdown of marriage. But to prove this you must show one of more of five ‘facts’, which are:
- Unreasonable behaviour.
- Two years’ separation with consent.
- Two years’ desertion.
- Five years’ separation without consent.
If you’re dissolving a civil partnership, you can only use four out of the five facts as adultery isn’t allowed as a reason to dissolve the civil partnership.
SAVVY TIP: In Scotland you can get divorced after a year’s separation with consent and after two years without consent, but desertion is no longer accepted as a ‘fact’. If you live in England or Wales, you can’t get divorced until you’ve been married for a year, whereas in Scotland there’s no minimum period and in Northern Ireland the minimum period is two years.
Financial settlements on divorce
Divorce lawyers are often asked in the early days how much someone may receive or have to give up when they get divorced. It’s quite difficult for them to give a direct answer as cases vary (except in Scotland, where the guidelines are more closely adhered to), but in very broad terms, you can usually expect to divide equally all the assets – such as home, investments, pension etc – that have been built up during the marriage.
SAVVY TIP: Only a very small percentage of financial settlements are decided by the courts. Most divorcing couples make their own arrangements either directly or with the help of a lawyer or mediator, but get the agreement ratified by the court so that your ex can’t make a claim against you later.
Where to get emotional support
If you need emotional support, the relationship counselling service Relate deals with marriage and relationship breakdown as well as helping couples stay together. You may find it easier to talk to someone you don’t know or you might hate the idea of opening up to a stranger, but make sure you have a network of support as you’re likely to need it.
Useful links: You can find a list of lawyers that specialise in divorce and relationship breakdown in the SavvyWoman directory.
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