Ten Things You Should Know about Divorce

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Chris Fairhurst

Partner, Family Law and Divorce Solicitor

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Divorce is a subject people think they know a lot about, usually from stories through the grapevine. We hear about it all the time, perhaps from articles in the celeb gossip magazines or the experiences of our own friends and family. So, we probably don’t ever doubt that we know how the divorce process works.

But just because you know how someone else’s divorce was settled, that doesn’t mean the same will happen for you. Two divorcing couples could have similar lives, but their divorce settlement could finalise very differently.

Nevertheless, there are many common misconceptions surrounding divorce, so this article provides details on ten aspects of divorce law which you may need to know about.

For initial advice get in touch with our Divorce Solicitors.

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Quickie Divorce Doesn’t Exist in England or Wales

We often hear the term “quickie divorce” in the press when a celebrity couple are splitting up. But in truth, celebs can’t fast-track the divorce process any quicker than the rest of us.

What we hear in the press refers to a Decree Nisi, a legal document that confirms the Court’s permission for the divorce to be finalised with a Decree Absolute. However, it usually takes several months for a Decree Absolute after this point due to the fact that there is a mandatory 6 week “cooling off” period which can be further delayed until a financial settlement has been reached which can take some time to navigate.

 

You Don’t Have to Assign Blame to Get a Divorce

In April 2022, no-fault divorce was introduced which means that couples can now file for a divorce without one of the spouses being blamed for the breakdown of the marriage. Instead, they can both agree amicably that they don’t want to be married anymore. The fact that you’re applying for a divorce is enough reason now in UK law and the marriage needs to have irretrievably broken down.

Under this new law, couples no longer need to have 2 years of separation to apply for a divorce either.

You can make this application by yourself, or you can do a joint application, which can both be done online. If you complete the application yourself, your spouse can no longer contest the divorce. However, there are some exceptions where it may be possible for you to contest a divorce. If you’re unsure whether your spouse will be able to contest, speak with one of our Divorce Solicitors, who will be able to advise you further.

 

Fixed Fee Divorce

As an extension of the no-fault divorce option, our expert solicitors can help you with a No-Fault Fixed Fee Divorce service. We are 100% transparent with our costs, so you always know exactly where you stand. Our Fixed Fee Divorce costs £600 (incl. VAT), plus the Court fee.

We will support you throughout the process and we will help remove all the stresses that a divorce procedure can bring. We will handle everything for you, so you can focus on you and your family.

 

You Won’t Get a Bigger Settlement if Your Partner Committed Adultery

The reason why a marriage broke down is not a factor in deciding how financial assets are divided in divorce. So, if your partner has had an affair, you can’t automatically expect a generous settlement, with your ex being penalised for their indiscretions.

Ultimately, the Court isn’t there to pass moral judgement on a person’s conduct but determine how a divorcing couple’s wealth can be split fairly. All the Court is focused on is how the couple can part ways amicably with both parties getting what they deserve and what is fair.

 

English Courts May Be Generous to the Financially Weaker Person

Divorce courts in England and Wales will often look to divide assets on a 50/50 basis or thereabouts, which means the breadwinner and the homemaker may walk away with roughly the same amount of money in capital terms. That means the person who is in a weaker financial position won’t necessarily lose out.

However, it’s important to note here that 50/50 isn’t guaranteed at all and this will very much depend on your individual circumstances.

 

Stay-at-home Mums May Not Get Maintenance Payments for Life

While it’s true that many women who have stayed at home to look after the children are in a weaker financial position than their husbands, divorce Courts have become increasingly keen to manage expectations on what they’re entitled to after divorce when it comes to maintenance. This was noticeably stricter after the financial crash where income is more precarious. Indeed, decisions are increasingly being based on the fact that the financial weaker person will have to get a job if they need money, rather than rely on indefinite payments from their wealthier ex-spouse.

If the Court decides that you do need maintenance it will likely be awarded for a specific timeframe, such as five years or ten years. The Court may even decide that you should receive maintenance payments until your children have finished secondary education.

 

Assets You Held Before Getting Married Can’t Always Be Separated

A divorce Court will consider the needs of both partners when making financial decisions, which means a settlement may include assets that one person held before they were married if housing requirements dictate the asset should be invaded. This can include pension contributions.

This is one reason why couples may enter into a Prenuptial or Post-Nuptial Agreement, as it outlines the division of assets and income and says how these should be dealt with in the event of a divorce. However, a Prenuptial Agreement isn’t technically legally binding, so while divorce Courts are taking these into consideration if properly entered into, they are not compelled to apply them if it would mean an unfair result would be achieved. For example, a mother with primary care of a child being homeless.

 

Courts Won’t Look Kindly On Hiding Assets

Divorcing couples are required to give full disclosure of any financial assets they hold worldwide. This means committal proceedings could be brought against anyone who knowingly tries to hide their assets in divorce, which could result in imprisonment even though it is a Civil rather than Criminal Court.

At the very least, a Court will be less sympathetic towards a person who has tried to withhold information and costs orders may be made if time has been wasted because of the lack of disclosure. If your financial situation changes after you’ve petitioned for divorce and disclosed your assets, you still need to make this new information known on an ongoing basis.

 

Don’t Try Reading Your Ex’s Emails

Many couples will know each other’s online passwords, the answers to security questions and have devices synced up with each other. It may be tempting to try peeking at your ex’s sensitive information, such as emails, online photos, financial documents, company information, and scheduled appointments. However, this is against the law and can carry a hefty fine, and maybe even a prison sentence.

You also must not take copies or hold electronic copies. While we’re on the subject, it’s worth taking some basic cyber security precautions of your own, such as changing your passwords and separating synced up accounts, to prevent your spouse trying to spy on you.

 

Finances on Divorce Don’t Follow a Formula

Many couples getting a divorce are under the mistaken impression that a formula is applied when the division of assets is being worked out. But as we said earlier, divorce Courts usually start from the position of dividing capital assets on a 50/50 basis and then working out each person’s individual needs. So instead of applying a one-size-fits-all formula, decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, with each couple’s unique and specific requirements considered throughout the divorce process. The practice is an art not a science and therefore legal advice must be sought to avoid mistakes being made.

Why Choose Us as Your Divorce Solicitor

If you have decided to divorce your partner, we can help you with the legal proceedings. Whether you just have a few initial questions or you’re looking for a solicitor to oversee the entire process, we’re here to help.

We are Law Society Accredited, and our solicitors are also members of Resolution, a national organisation who takes a non-confrontational approach to family law and divorce.

If you and your partner are separating amicably, you may find our Separating Together service beneficial and more suitable to you.

Get in touch with us today to arrange a discussion about your divorce case. After we’ve gathered all the details that we need from you, we’ll let you know the best legal options for you. We’ll outline everything in plain English, so you know exactly where you stand.

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Chris Fairhurst Profile Picture

Chris Fairhurst

Partner, Family Law and Divorce Solicitor

Areas of Expertise:
Family Law

Chris is a Partner and Family Law Solicitor based in Northwest England, with more than 25 years’ experience in this area of law.

His areas of expertise include, but not limited to, dealing with complex financial arrangements in separation and divorce and relationship breakdowns for clients in England, Wales and living overseas often involving high value cases including multiple assets often involving pension funds of several million pounds.

References

GOV.UK. (2022). ‘Blame game’ ends as no-fault divorce comes into force. [online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/blame-game-ends-as-no-fault-divorce-comes-into-force

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