Do I need a solicitor to get divorced in England and Wales?

Divorce is often a complex matter as there are can be years of finances, assets and affairs to untangle. Divorcing couples may also have childcare arrangements to consider. Although it is possible to get divorced without a solicitor, even in seemingly straightforward cases it is still advisable to contact a matrimonial lawyer at the earliest sign of separation in order to give you the best start. You are likely to have a lot of questions surrounding the separation and your assets and it is important to seek advice on the divorce process at as early stage as possible.

If I live in England or Wales but got married elsewhere, can I get divorced here?

You can still get divorced in England and Wales if you were married elsewhere, provided the English court has jurisdiction. We can advise you on jurisdiction and also help you consider whether or not it would be advantageous to file for divorce in a different jurisdiction (if you are entitled to), as different countries have different matrimonial laws. Before making any firm decisions about separation, you should seek independent legal advice, separate to your partner, to make sure you are protecting yourself.

What does no-fault divorce mean?

There is a new bill passed by MPs in June 2020 which should make the divorce process quicker and easier. At the moment, you have to wait up to five years and live apart from your partner if you want a divorce when there is no fault on either side. The current ‘five facts’ for the grounds for divorce include adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years’ separation with consent, and five years’ separation. The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 has not come into law yet in England and Wales.

If you are considering a divorce from your spouse, you should talk to a matrimonial lawyer who can advise you on when you should begin your divorce proceedings and what fact(s) you can rely on for your divorce.

What are the grounds for divorce in England and Wales?

There is only one ground for divorce in England and Wales: the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. In order to prove that the ground has been met, you must establish one of the following five facts: adultery; unreasonable behaviour; desertion; two years separation (provided your spouse consents); and five years’ separation (no consent required).

Does it matter which party applies for divorce first?

Assuming that there are no jurisdiction issues, it is unlikely to matter which party applies for divorce.  That said, some people do prefer to be the petitioner and in being so, have more control over timings.  You can get in touch with a member of our team for some initial advice on what your options may be. You can also use our online tool which provides you with instant, personalised and complimentary advice. It records your information, reducing time and costs if you do decide to book an appointment.

How quickly will the divorce process take in total?

The timeframe for divorce varies greatly. If the parties are unrepresented they are able to use the court’s online service which is much quicker than the paper service solicitors are required to use. The online divorce process can take as little as two or three months. However, we generally advise clients to agree not to apply for Decree Absolute (the final stage in the divorce) until the finances have been resolved as it can result in the loss of certain benefits.

It is also worth bearing in mind that there is some backlog in the courts at the moment due to Covid-19 and so it could take longer than expected. Our lawyers can guide you throughout the process on the timeframe.

Is it better to wait until after Covid to apply for divorce?

This will depend on your individual circumstances so you should contact us in the first instance for advice on this aspect. If you are in threat of physical or mental violence during your marriage then you must take measures to protect yourself. Regardless of your situation, we are able to work remotely to help you start divorce proceedings. It has been reported that Covid has caused an increase in separations during lockdown so we expect family courts to be busy in 2021.

Do I need to be physically in England or Wales to start divorce proceedings?

No, you do not. It is important that you do instruct a family lawyer who will be able to advise you of divorce law in England and Wales. Our team is able to speak to you regardless of where you are based in the world.

What happens when I contact a divorce solicitor?

When you contact Collyer Bristow we will take the time to understand your unique circumstances, providing you with tailored advice on the best steps to take. Having a family lawyer on your side early means you have the best possible chance of achieving your desired outcome of the separation. Your solicitor will guide you through the entire divorce process (from the petition for divorce, through to Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute), advising on the necessary court papers and costs along the way. Finances and children are treated separately to the divorce but we are of course able to provide you with advice on these aspects.

What happens with child arrangements during a divorce?

Ideally parents will be able to agree child arrangements between themselves, however this is not always possible and court intervention may be required. If child arrangements cannot be agreed, you can apply to court for an order. This may be an order concerning contact arrangements, who the child should live with, or perhaps what school they should go to.

How do I keep my divorce private?

Going through a divorce is incredibly stressful and draining. The last thing you need is for your private details to be publicly known. Family cases are generally heard in private and there are strict rules of confidentiality in these proceedings. We have vast experience of handling family law matters and understand the sensitivity around keeping your affairs confidential.

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