Divorce and separation
Why use a solicitor when getting a divorce?
While it is possible to dissolve a marriage without using a solicitor, we strongly recommend first seeking legal advice from an experienced divorce lawyer. Before starting divorce proceedings, there are likely to be many legal and practical issues that need to be considered, such as financial obligations, taxation issues, and if you are an international couple then deciding which country is best for you to divorce in and whether the courts of England & Wales even have jurisdiction.
Your divorce lawyer can communicate with your partner or their chosen solicitor, support you through alternative dispute resolution (such as mediation) and where necessary, represent you in court. Without a divorce lawyer, you are more at risk of making choices that are financially punitive to you, and you could leave the marriage with an unfair financial split.
The divorce process
The process of dissolving a marriage is, in most cases, a straightforward process dealt with online. Before you can apply, you must have been married for at least one year, the courts of England & Wales need to have jurisdiction (which can present complications for some international couples), and the marriage must have broken down irretrievably. An application for divorce can be made either with your partner, or on your own as a sole applicant. It is important to note that divorcing your spouse, and therefore dissolving your marriage, does not resolve the financial split between you or terminate the financial obligations you have towards one another because of your marriage. This can only be done with a final financial order which is applied for separately. See below for more details.
- Apply for divorce: It is possible to apply for a divorce yourself through the court portal. However, for administrative simplicity, we recommend that your solicitor makes the application on your behalf (this is a nominal fee). They can then monitor the process and action any updates, whilst keeping you in the loop.Historically, to divorce without waiting at least two years, the petitioner had to blame their spouse for the relationship breakdown and the only evidence that could be provided in support was adultery or behaving unreasonably to an objective standard. However, since April 2022, a no-fault divorce law was enacted which now means neither individual is blamed for the breakdown of the relationship.
- Apply for conditional order: 20 weeks after the court has issued your application (subject to some exceptions), you can apply for a conditional order. A conditional order is an interim order in the divorce process and does not dissolve your marriage, however once it is made, the court can now make final orders in relation to financial matters – see below for more information.
- Apply for a final order: 6 weeks and 1 day after your conditional order is approved, you can apply for a final order, which dissolves your marriage. You may however still have child and financial matters to resolve. Our lawyers will discuss with whether you should delay applying for this order based on your individual circumstances.
Final Financial orders
A final financial order is a legally binding court order which sets out the division of your finances and any ongoing financial obligations such as maintenance payments. Without a final financial order, the claims that both spouses may have against one another remain alive, both during their lifetime and upon the death of their ex. Financial orders are applied for separately to the divorce application. A final financial order can ultimately be made either by consent (so jointly made by consent of both you and your ex) or by the court or an arbitrator determining the matters on your behalf following a final hearing in contested proceedings.
A final financial order can only be applied for once a conditional order is made by the court.
Obtaining a final financial order is the only way to provide certainty and close down the claims that you may have against one another. Without it, and regardless of your marriage being dissolved, your claims against one another remain open in perpetuity.
Divorce fees and costs
Our team provides you with a clear cost estimate from the outset of your case and throughout the process for transparency. We are able to meet with you online or in person, at times to suit your needs. We have no geographical limitations on the clients we can meet with, to include those currently living overseas.
Our Family Law Partner, Sue Andrews is joined by Sally Lomax in a short podcast, where they discuss the topic of a good “enough” divorce, what it may actually look like, and what it takes to be in the right head space for the process:
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