March 6, 2015

How to understand and manage the divorce process

The breakdown of a marriage is one of life’s most stressful events and one that few people take lightly.

It often entails separating couples – who feel at their most vulnerable – embarking on a life changing journey.

Divorce is like bereavement and we haven’t been given lessons or a handbook in how to deal with it – and we don’t attend divorce preparation classes. Instead men and women, who are often emotionally wrung out and physically exhausted, are expected to make decisions with far reaching consequences for themselves and their children.

The path to divorce can seem overwhelming. As specialist family lawyers, our team at Jones Myers is particularly adept at supporting and guiding clients on that difficult journey.

Here are seven steps to help you understand and manage the divorce process:

  1. The basics

You must have been married for longer than a year in order to divorce. Your marriage must be recognised by UK law and either you or your partner must be living in England or Wales when you apply for the divorce. You will need to produce your marriage certificate – so find it now rather than leaving it until the 11th hour.

  1. Grounds for divorce

In England and Wales there is only one ground for divorce and that is the irretrievable breakdown of your marriage.  You must show one of five facts exist for divorce

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour – this is one of the most common grounds for a speedy divorce and can be based on quite mild allegations such as one party being a workaholic
  • Desertion
  • Two years’ separation – if both parties agree to the divorce, this is the easiest way to divorce
  • Five year’s separation – if you have lived apart for five years, even if one party doesn’t agree to the divorce
  1. Seek early professional advice

Having made the decision to separate, you will require sound advice and practical help. A good family lawyer will give you straight talking information about the process, including matters relating to finances and children.

  1. Legal process

There are three steps in the legal process for obtaining a divorce:

  • The person seeking the divorce files a divorce petition with the family court, outlining the reason – one of the five listed above – for wanting the marriage to end. Your family lawyer can complete this paperwork or you can do it yourself, but it must be completed correctly
  • Decree Nisi is the next stage and is an interim certificate that says you are entitled to a divorce after a period of six weeks. A court may refuse to grant a Decree Nisi which is why it is vital that you have taken expert advice, particularly regarding finances and matters relating to children
  • Decree Absolute is the legal document that officially dissolves your marriage and is issued six weeks after the Decree Nisi. Take care to sort out the financial issues first especially – if there are insurance polices or pensions.
  1. Telling your children

Parents often find that telling children about their impending separation is the hardest aspect of splitting up. Don’t leave it too late to do this and, if possible, break the news together after planning your approach and what you will say. Don’t blame each other, aim to be consistent in what you say – and reassure them that they are loved.

  1. The family home

Don’t be tempted to change locks on the family home as this could antagonise the situation. If possible, it is better if one party can move out as it helps to avoid confrontation and stress.  He or she will not lose their share in the home by doing so.

  1. Finances

Moving money from bank accounts or hiding finances is likely to be viewed in a negative way by a court. If a judge feels that assets have been hidden, he or she could ask a forensic accountant to investigate. If you have joint finances, including bank accounts, mortgage, loans, credit cards or investments, you should take legal advice promptly. A lawyer will advise on freezing joint accounts and you should be aware that bad debts in joint names could affect your personal credit history in the future. Being open and honest is what is required and it will be the easiest and quickest way to sort out everything.

You will find that our blog is a useful resource for finding out more information, including different options in the divorce process such as mediation, and how to support your children’s practical and emotional needs.

If you have any questions or comments about separation or divorce please call us on 0113 246 0055, leave us a comment below or drop us an e-mail.