Divorce is a huge topic. What is relevant for one person isn't necessarily relevant for another. It is hard to pick out the most important bits of advice because its all important! But, not being one to turn down a challenge, I've made the attempt anyway.
- The only ground for divorce in England & Wales is "irretrievable breakdown" of the marriage and you have to prove this by establishing one fact from a list of five: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years separation with consent, or five years separation without consent.
- Saying that your spouse has had an affair isn’t usually enough to establish adultery. You need evidence which means a pregnancy, photographic evidence of them actually in the act (ugh!) or your spouse needs to admit it within the divorce papers – not just to your face.
- If you want a divorce now and don't have evidence of adultery, you are obliged to rely on alleging 'unreasonable behaviour'. This means giving examples of behaviour that has made it unreasonable to expect you to continue living with them. The most important part of the allegation is how it made you feel – the actual behaviour may be something minor, or something the judge does every day without his wife being upset by it. If you felt unloved, upset or let down by it, it is unreasonable.
- Because 'unreasonable behaviour' is so subjective, the court doesn’t bother testing the merit of most allegations, which means you don't need to lay it on thick. As long as your soon-to-be-ex-spouse doesn’t argue, the judge will accept it as true. You just need to make sure there is enough.
- It is usually pointless to contest divorce proceedings because a marriage takes two to work: if it has broken down so much that one of you issues divorce papers, it is probably irretrievable.
- Celebrities seem able to obtain “quickie divorces” in Splitsville but it actually takes about 4 to 6 months for an undefended divorce from start to finish. This includes the time it takes for the court to process the various papers, and a minimum wait of at least 6 weeks between the 'decree nisi' (nearly divorced), and the 'decree absolute' (grand finale).
- The grounds for the divorce almost never have any impact on the division of assets or arrangements for children. And it makes no practical difference who starts the divorce. Sure, the law requires that somebody is to blame, but the judge knows it isn’t usually that black and white.
- You don’t need to have all the financial arrangements in place before a divorce is started. All that stuff can be sorted out at a later date. But it’s a good idea to get the financial issues resolved before the divorce is finished.
- Unless there is a dispute about costs, arrangements for children, or finances, you wont need to go to court. It can get done by post. Your solicitor can organise all this for you.
- Don't make the mistake of using your solicitor as a therapist. They charge by the hour with no discounts if you spend half that time crying or discussing your emotions.
- It’s a good idea to try reaching agreement on arrangements for the children and the finances without resorting to the courts. But remember, such agreements are not legally binding.
- Legal aid is still available for mediation to resolve children or financial issues provided you are on a low income and have less than £8,000 in savings, shares, investments or property. But you can only get legal aid for divorce proceedings if you've been a victim of domestic abuse.
I bet you have some great snippets of your own. What did you learn in your own divorce?
Let us know in the comments.
If you have questions about divorce, book a slot with one of the Picasso Legal team at the Free Advice Open Day on 14 October 2015 – more information coming soon!
— Lisa Pickering, Picasso Legal, Solicitor
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