Divorce and Separation

Our specialist family law team can guide you through the entire process of divorce or separation, including reaching an agreement over financial assets (both domestic and overseas) and arrangements regarding children. Working from our offices in the City and the West End of London, our experienced family lawyers will explain the options available to you, with the aim of achieving the best outcome for your case in an efficient, cost-effective manner.

Our expert lawyers are members of Resolution, and are committed to making the process of divorce or separation as painless as possible.

We welcome any enquiries on any issue relating to family law, divorce (or dissolution of civil partnerships) and separation, including disputes over property or financial assets that may arise from a relationship breakdown.

How the process works

Initial consultation

At your first meeting with us, we will discuss the reason for the breakdown of your marriage; any arrangements for the children of the marriage (if applicable) and your future plans, if these have been devised. Assuming that you are certain that your marriage has no future (referred to in law as “the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage”), we will advise you on how best to proceed.

Divorce procedure

Our first task is to draft your divorce petition. The person initiating divorce proceedings is referred to as the Petitioner; the other person is the Respondent. There are prescribed facts upon which the Petitioner may rely to demonstrate the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. These are:

  • Your husband/wife has committed adultery and you find it unbearable to continue living with them;
  • Your husband/wife has behaved unreasonably;
  • You have lived apart for two years or more and your husband/wife consents to a divorce;
  • You have lived apart for five years or more (in these circumstances the consent of your husband/wife is not necessary)
  • Your husband/wife has deserted you for a period of two years or more immediately preceding the presentation of your divorce petition

From start to finish, the divorce procedure itself takes between 3-6 months, assuming that your husband/wife is co-operative. If your spouse is not co-operative, we will take appropriate action to finalise your divorce in spite of this.

There are certain circumstances where we would defer in applying for your Decree Absolute (the final order that legally dissolves your marriage). A common example would be where there is a long marriage but financial issues are not yet agreed. In such circumstances, as a matter of procedure, the Decree Absolute is not applied for until financial issues have been either agreed between the parties or determined by the Family Court. If there is any need to defer the application, we will advise you throughout any delay, always working to ensure your interests are protected.

Financial issues

We appreciate that, for the majority of clients, financial issues and children are the major concerns in any divorce or separation. Where will you live as a divorced couple, how the matrimonial assets will be divided and how childcare is split between parents are common issues, and ones our team has considerable experience in resolving.

The first step is to identify what the matrimonial assets are (what family solicitors refer to as the ‘matrimonial pot’). This will include the family home and any other properties in the UK or abroad, but may also include business and other financial assets (in the case of self-employment or running your own business, for example).

Both parties make a full and frank financial disclosure to the other, usually by completing the standard form designed for this purpose. This allows both sides to make an informed decision about the financial terms of the divorce. (If you believe your spouse has not been frank in their disclosure, we can also advise on the relevant steps to take).

If mediation is the best option to resolve these issues, we can refer clients to experienced family mediators, providing there is mutual acceptance that this forum is appropriate. If, for whatever reason, it is not possible to reach an agreement with your spouse, the family team have a wealth of experience in representing clients in matrimonial financial proceedings, including those involving complex, international or high value assets.

Among the issues we advise on are:

  • Achievable outcomes;
  • Legal costs (for those who are concerned about meeting our professional fees, we can - subject to a client’s eligibility - arrange a litigation loan with an appropriate lender:
  • Timescale

The relevant law

Every case is unique, and our advice is always tailored to the wishes and circumstances of our clients, aimed at getting the best possible outcome for you (and your children).

But while our advice on every case is bespoke and designed to fit your needs, there are common factors which will affect any settlement, and which the Family Court will take into account when dividing the matrimonial pot. Our team’s experience in family law means we are expert at making sure our advice takes into account all of these factors (and any interplay between them) to ensure you are getting realistic, commercial and practical advice for your individual case.

Relevant factors include:

  • The length of the marriage;
  • The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources of each person;
  • The respective financial needs of each party to the marriage;
  • The standard of living enjoyed during the marriage;
  • The age of each person;

Children and divorce

The well-being of children is often the most contentious and sensitive issue to arise from any divorce or separation. Our family team will aim to guide you through the process of securing suitable arrangements with the minimum of acrimony and maximum efficiency, making it as stress-free as possible for you and your children.

As members of Resolution (the professional body to which most family solicitors belong), we adhere to the code of practice in trying to promote an agreement between separating couples if possible. However, where agreement really is not possible, we will advise you fully on your various options.

Mediation is always an option, but if proceedings concerning a disagreement about children are unavoidable, we will advise and represent you as necessary, including if things progress to Family Court.

A Family Court is empowered to make various orders under the Children Act 1989. These are:

• Child Arrangement Orders (regulating with whom the child lives and, where appropriate, when the child sees his/her non-resident parent). These orders cover what used to be called ‘custody’ and ‘access’, which are terms no longer used in legal circles. • Specific issue orders (for instance, relating to issues such as education, which religion a child is raised in, etc.). • Prohibited steps orders (where one parent objects to the other’s course of action – for example, relocating with the child to another city).

Relocating abroad with children

After a divorce or separation, one parent may wish to relocate and take the child or children with them – perhaps because they wish to move back to their country of origin to be near family, or perhaps they wish to pursue a career option overseas.

Where this is opposed, the departing parent is obliged to make an application to the Family Court for leave to remove the children from the jurisdiction. Our experienced family solicitors can advise and represent clients in such proceedings, whether they are the Applicant or the Respondent/recipient of such an application.

Please contact our family team with any queries on divorce and separation.

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