Divorce FAQs & Myths
Divorce can be a minefield and If you are contemplating getting a divorce you are likely to have many questions.
Use these simple FAQs to get an understanding of the divorce procedure and everything else that you need to be aware of.
These FAQs and myths are not a substitute for professional legal advice, but they will help put you at ease with the process.
Does it make any difference who starts the divorce proceedings?
In terms of the practicalities of the divorce process, it makes no difference who instigates the divorce proceedings.
The procedural outcome will be the same, irrespective of who formally begins the divorce process.
How do I start divorce proceedings?
To begin the process of getting divorced, either spouse needs to make an application for a matrimonial order.
The initial steps consist of completing an online form with various details of both spouses and paying a standard fee of £593.
Can we separate formally without getting a divorce?
An alternative to getting divorced is to obtain a separation agreement. This essentially sets out the financial arrangements between a married couple who decide to separate but are not yet divorced.
But although it can be useful if a dispute arises, it is not a formal court document and is not legally binding.
Does it matter which grounds for divorce we use?
Although there is only one overall reason for divorce – that the marriage has irretrievably broken down – there are currently five possible facts that establish this reason, and one needs to be selected in the divorce application:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Living apart for more than two years (with agreement)
- Living apart for more than five years (without agreement)
Proving certain facts may be necessary for a divorce which is contested. But in practice, most couples who agree to get divorced will select “unreasonable behaviour” as a catch-all reason.
It’s worth noting that no-fault divorce will come into force in England and Wales in April 2022, which essentially dispenses with the need to select from the historic five reasons.
How long does a typical divorce take?
A divorce normally takes around 4 – 6 months, assuming that both spouses want to get divorced and that their affairs are relatively straightforward.
The first step is to obtain a decree nisi, which generally takes a few weeks following the initial application for divorce.
The decree absolute – which is the final official confirmation that the marriage is over – can only be applied for 43 days following the granting of the decree nisi.
How much does the average divorce cost?
The basic administrative fee which must be paid in order to file for divorce is currently set at £593. However, there will generally be a variety of other costs involved with obtaining a divorce settlement and arranging financial affairs.
If divorcing couples use solicitors to get divorced, the entire process can cost upwards of £2,000 per spouse.
Using an online service such as Divorce Online can cost a fraction of the solicitors’ fees, and our Managed Divorce Service is only £199.
What is a no-fault divorce & when is it becoming law?
Currently, the reason for getting divorced must be stated on the divorce application in England and Wales: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, or living apart.
But new divorce laws are coming into effect on 6 April 2022 which will dispense with the requirement of specifying one of these reasons for divorce.
Instead, there will be no need to apportion blame or imply that either party was at fault for the breakdown of marriage – hence the name “no fault divorce”.
Should I wait for no-fault divorce to start proceedings?
- Myth: Once we’re divorced our financial ties automatically end. Reality: Financial ties continue until a clean break consent order has been obtained – or else until both spouses have remarried.
- Myth: We don’t need to sort out our finances because we have no money or assets. If one divorcing party ends up acquiring assets following divorce, their former spouse (as long as they have not remarried) can pursue them for these future assets – unless a clean break consent order has been obtained.
- Myth: Prenuptial agreements are only useful and suitable for rich people. Reality: Both prenups and postnups can be useful as a way of setting out the intentions of spouses regarding assets in the event of a divorce, regardless of wealth
- Myth: A 50/50 split is always fair and the desired outcome of a divorce settlement. Reality: Although this is the starting point, what is considered a fair divorce settlement will differ drastically depending on the specific circumstances of each divorcing couple.
How long do I need to have been married before I can get divorced?
A marriage must have lasted for at least one year before a divorce application can be submitted.
Do we have to try mediation or counseling before applying for a divorce?
There is generally no requirement to undergo mediation or counseling prior to divorce.
However, if there are contentious issues that cannot be resolved and need to be heard by a court, both spouses must first attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM).
The MIAM essentially sets out the possibility of mediation and explains how it might help the couple to resolve their issues without going to court.
Do I have to use a solicitor to get divorced?
No – there is no requirement to use a solicitor in order to obtain a divorce.
However, getting a financial consent order will generally require some legal help – both to ensure that (i) it has been drafted correctly and (ii) each spouse has received independent legal advice.
Do we have to go to court in person to get divorced?
If both spouses agree to the terms of a divorce, there will be no need to go to court. A contested divorce may end up in court, although it is advisable to attempt mediation first.
What happens if my spouse refuses to get divorced?
From 6 April 2022, there will be no requirement to obtain the consent of the other spouse in order to apply for divorce in England and Wales.
So if you think it is likely that your spouse will refuse to get divorced, it might be worth waiting until 6 April to apply.
Do we have to agree on what will happen to our children before we can divorce?
It is a good idea to agree on child arrangements as soon as possible following separation and certainly before getting divorced.
However, this is not strictly necessary – and it is possible to obtain a divorce first.
Do we have to agree on a financial settlement before we can divorce?
It is advisable to reach a financial settlement prior to finalising a divorce. But it is possible to make one following divorce.
If I leave the family home during divorce negotiations, will this put me in a weaker position?
This should not affect the final outcome of the divorce or any financial settlement.
At what stage of divorce proceedings do we need to agree to a financial settlement?
It is possible to agree to a financial settlement at any point during the divorce proceedings.
However, it can only be approved by the court in the form of a consent order following the granting of the decree nisi – and it will then come into force when the court issues the decree absolute.
Can I settle any financial claims once and for all following a divorce?
Even many years after a divorce, either former spouse (unless they have re-married) can make financial claims on their ex-husband or wife.
The only way to prevent this is to obtain a consent order which includes a clean break clause. Divorce Online provides a Managed Clean Break Consent Order service for £599 including VAT.
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