Getting a Divorce – a step by step guide
The last thing couples think about when getting married is that it might end in divorce, yet every year in the UK more than 100,000 couples get divorced. If you or someone you know is thinking about getting divorced or has decided to separate or end a marriage or civil partnership, it is important to take some legal advice in order to understand what is involved. It is worth noting that the rules for ending a civil partnership are different to divorce. So too, the rules in Scotland vary to those in England and Wales. Whatever your circumstances, you need to ensure a good level of support and sound advice to help you make the right decisions about your future.
There are six main steps to getting a divorce, as set out below:
- Get legal advice and support
Getting divorced is a legal process and it will help a lot to have reliable and appropriate advice throughout. Whether you are just thinking about divorce, or you or your spouse have decided to end the marriage, it is important to take some legal advice before you make any decisions which might impact your future. If you do not wish to get divorced, a lawyer can draft a legal separation which allows you to live separately but stay married. Couples may choose this option for a variety of reasons, including religious reasons, inheritance and so on.
Certain legal rules apply to divorcing couples. The first thing is to make sure you are allowed to get divorced. That may sound silly, but your marriage needs to be legally recognised in the UK and the UK needs to be the permanent home of either you or your spouse. Additionally, you must have been married for more than one year and the marriage must have irretrievably broken down.
- Before you apply
You need to think about how to divide up the property and finances of the marriage and make workable arrangements for any children. You can choose what is going to be best for you as a family, but if you cannot agree, these matters can be decided by a court. Before you are allowed to apply for financial remedy, both you and your spouse must attend a mediation session to see whether it might be helpful in sorting the disputed issues. The court process is lengthy and costly and may drag on for months or even years after the divorce itself is settled in law, so it is best to try and reach settlement through the process of mediation even if it takes several sessions.
- Applying for a divorce
When you apply for a divorce, you are effectively petitioning the court to end your marriage. The process for getting a divorce changed on 6 April 2022, and introduced ‘no fault divorce’. You must pay a £593 fee and you will need to know the address of your spouse and their full name. You need the original marriage certificate and any change of name documents. You can apply online or post three copies of the form to the closest Regional Divorce Centre. Your divorce lawyer should be able to help with all aspects of the form filling.
- The conditional order
After the divorce papers are filed, the court will check them and send copies to your spouse. For some people, this may be the first time that they become aware that their spouse wants a divorce, which can come as a shock. If the divorce is by mutual consent, both spouses should apply for the conditional order. A conditional order is a document that says the court does not see any reason why you cannot divorce.
You remain married even after the conditional order has been granted. You’ll have to wait 20 weeks before you can apply to actually end the marriage.
- The final order
The final order is the document that legally ends the marriage. In so much as the marriage certificate proves you are married, the final order proves you are divorced, free and allowed to marry again. It should normally be applied for within 12 months of the conditional order. However, if you and your spouse could not come to an agreement regarding property, money and children and you want a legal binding arrangement in place, you should apply to the court for a financial order before applying for the final order. A judge will decide how the assets are to be split and make a court order regarding the children.
- And finally…
The last thing to think about from a legal point of view once you have received the final order is making a new will, changing your name and telling banks, mortgage lenders and other relevant officials that your circumstances have changed.
Having a family lawyer guide you through the divorce and property division process can help take some of the stress out of an otherwise difficult situation, and ensure your legal rights are protected.
Paradigm Family Law have a team of experienced lawyers to help guide you through the process of divorce, just waiting to hear from you.
If you would like more details on this or want to discuss your family law matter, please do not hesitate to contact James, Frank, or Evelyn. Paradigm Family Law offers a free initial consultation and our fixed fee solutions cover financial proceedings from start to finish. You can call us on 01904 217225 or email us to [email protected].