The breakdown of a relationship can be a very emotional and confusing time. You may find yourself asking: ‘What do I do now?’ or ‘Where do I start?’ This is completely normal. Our specialist solicitors understand the difficulties you are experiencing and they are here to help you. They will provide you with clear, comprehensive and constructive advice so that you feel confident to be able to make informed decisions about how to proceed in order to resolve the various issues arising out of the breakdown of your relationship.
Here are some of the questions that our team are frequently asked:
How do I get a divorce?
You can apply for a divorce provided that:
- You have been married for over a year;
- You can show that you, or your spouse, have a specific connection to England and Wales; and
- You can satisfy the Court that your marriage has broken down irretrievably. To do so you will need to prove one of five facts:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Desertion for a period of at least 2 years
- Separation for a period of at least 2 years and your spouse consents to the divorce
- Separation for a period of at least 5 years.
If you think that an of the above apply to you, or even if you are not sure, please contact our solicitors as they will be able to explore the facts further with you.
Once satisfied that the grounds for divorce have been proved, the Court will pronounce Decree Nisi (a conditional order). This is followed some time later by the Decree Absolute which is the final order that formally ends your marriage after which you will be free to remarry.
The divorce process itself does not deal with any financial claims that may exist between you and your spouse as a result of your marriage.
But is it going to be expensive?
In terms of the costs, it’s difficult to be precise as it very much depends on your individual circumstances. Generally, the costs of the divorce on its own (excluding any financial and/or children issues), if undefended can be fairly reasonable and inexpensive.
Will my divorce from abroad be recognised in the UK?
If you have been divorced outside of the UK, your divorce may be recognised by the Courts of England and Wales provided that:
- The divorce is effective under the law of that country;
- At the date of the commencement of the divorce proceedings either party to the marriage was habitually resident, domiciled or a national of that country.
It should be noted however, that there are circumstances where your foreign divorce may not be recognised in England and Wales even if you are able to show that it is recognised in the country where it was obtained. It is therefore essential that you seek specialist advice from the outset.
If you think that this applies to you, or if you have any other questions concerning your foreign divorce, please contact us.
How can I end my civil partnership?
The process of dissolving (ending) a civil partnership is very similar to that of a divorce, as set out above. One exception however, is that you cannot rely on adultery when applying to dissolve your civil partnership.
If satisfied that the grounds for dissolution have been proved, the Court will issue a conditional order. This will be followed some time later by a Final Order which formally ends your civil partnership.
As with the divorce process, the dissolution of a civil partnership does not in itself deal with any financial claims that may exist between you and your civil partner as a result of your civil partner.
Can I convert my civil partnership into a marriage?
Not a present. There are provisions within the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 for civil partnerships to be converted into marriages but the government has yet to set out how this is to be achieved. If you have a civil partnership you will need to petition to dissolve your civil partnership first before applying to get married.
For more information about the dissolution of your civil partnership please contact us.
What happens to my children on divorce/dissolution?
The Court prefers families to agree the arrangements for children privately between themselves or through mediation. They will only become involved if called upon to do so by either parent or another interested third party. The Court will only make an Order in respect of a child if it considers that it is in the best interest of the child to do so.
Do I need a financial settlement?
Yes. A Decree Absolute in divorce proceedings or a Final Order in dissolution proceedings will not deal with the potential financial claims arising as a result of your marriage/civil partnership. Unless these financial claims have been formally dismissed by an Order of the Court they remain alive. This means that a financial claim can potentially still be brought many years after a marriage/civil partnership has ended. It is therefore advisable to resolve the financial issues before finalising the divorce/dissolution, so that you can both move forward in your lives with peace of mind.
Can I apply for a financial order following my overseas divorce?
If you have been divorced outside of the UK, you may apply for a financial order provided you can demonstrate that:
- Your marriage has been dissolved or annulled, and that divorce or annulment is recognised as valid in England and Wales
- You are either habitually resident or domiciled in England and Wales, or that the marital home is in England and Wales.
It’s a two stage process. Firstly you will need to apply for permission from the Court. If permission is granted, then you will be able to proceed with your application for a financial order in relation to income or capital.
Our team are very experienced in dealing with international financial issues. For more information please contact us.
How are assets split in divorce/civil partnership?
You can agree the division of any assets directly with your spouse/civil partner or with the assistance of say a Mediator. If you are unable to reach an agreement about how the financial issues are to be resolved, then either the Court or an Arbitrator can make the decision.
The Court has broad powers to determine how the matrimonial assets are going to be divided on Divorce/Dissolution. They can make orders in relation to income and capital. There is no mathematical equation that the Court will adopt when dealing with the division of the assets as each family is different and every case unique.
The Court will take into account all the circumstances of the case and give first consideration to the welfare of any child of the family. They will also take other factors into account such as:
- Income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources.
- Financial needs, obligations and responsibilities.
- The standard of living enjoyed before the breakdown of the marriage/civil partnership.
- The age of each party, health and the duration of the marriage/civil partnership.
- Contributions made by the parties (this can include looking after the home or caring for the family).
Why do I need financial disclosure and what is a Form E?
When attempting to sort out the financial issues it is extremely important that both parties provide full and frank financial disclosure, so that everyone knows exactly what the financial resources are in order to make informed decisions on what should happen. You will find that solicitors and barristers will be unable to advise you properly on the merits of any settlement proposals without full disclosure being given by both parties.
Financial disclosure is usually provided by the use of a financial statement form called a ‘Form E’ setting out full details of assets, liabilities and income.
How are pensions divided on divorce/dissolution?
Spouses/civil partners are entitled to share each other’s pension from the date of marriage/civil partnership to the date of separation. On divorce/dissolution, the Court has the power to make orders in relation to the parties’ pension assets. When doing so, the Court will usually view pensions separately from other assets as it is widely acknowledged that funds in pension schemes may not be readily available and that pensions come in many types.
There are various ways in which the Court may deal with your pension in divorce/dissolution. These can include:
- Off-setting - giving one party a greater proportion of the assets to compensate for their lack of pension or loss of benefit.
- Attachment Orders - requiring payments to be made to the spouse/civil partner of the pension holder.
- Sharing Order – requiring the pension scheme to transfer a share of the member’s pension into the other spouse/civil partner’s pension scheme.
What is maintenance?
The word ‘maintenance’ is frequently used when referring to income orders on divorce/dissolution. There can be maintenance for you (the spouse), or for your children.
Orders for spousal maintenance (also known as periodical payments) are payable from one spouse to the other. The level and duration of spousal maintenance will very much depend on your income needs, and the available resources to meet those needs.
When it comes to maintenance for any children, this is now largely dealt with by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). The CMS will calculate what income the ‘paying parent’ is required to pay to the ‘receiving parent’ based on a fixed percentage of their gross weekly income. It is not necessary to make an application to the CMS for them to calculate what maintenance the absent parent is required to pay, as this can be agreed between the parents. This is what is known as a “family-based arrangement”. However, if a dispute later arises then an application would then have to be made to the CMS to resolve the issue and fees will apply.
There are some circumstances for which the CMS does not have authority and which require an application to be made to the Court. These are as follows:
- Where the absent parent lives overseas
- For stepchildren
- If the absent parent earns more than £3,000 gross per week
- If money is required to pay University fees
- If money is required to meet the costs of a child’s disability
- For children who have completed secondary education.
Once again you are expected to have attempted to reach an agreement directly with the other parent before considering making an application to the Court.
If you have any questions about the division of assets, or financial disclosure, or financial orders that the Court can make, please contact Mark Kosmin (firstname.lastname@example.org), Georgina Stavrou (email@example.com), or Rebekah Gershuny (firstname.lastname@example.org) or who all specialise in the field of matrimonial finances. Alternatively, you can contact us by completing our online contact form.