The last thing couples think about when getting married is that it might end in divorce, yet every year in the UK more than 100,000 couples get divorced.
If you or someone you know is thinking about getting divorced or has decided to separate or end a marriage or civil partnership, it is important to take some legal advice in order to understand what is involved. It is worth noting that the rules for ending a civil partnership are different to divorce. So too, the rules in Scotland vary to those in England and Wales. Whatever your circumstances, you need to ensure a good level of support and sound advice to help you make the right decisions about your future.
There are six main steps to getting a divorce, as set out below:
- Get legal advice and support
Getting divorced is a legal process and it will help a lot to have reliable and appropriate advice throughout. Whether you are just thinking about divorce, or you or your spouse have decided to end the marriage, it is important to take some legal advice before you make any decisions which might impact your future. If you do not wish to get divorced, a lawyer can draft a separation agreement, sorting out finances, where you to live separately but stay married. Couples may choose this option for a variety of reasons, including religious reasons, inheritance, pensions and so on.
Certain legal rules apply to divorcing couples. The first thing is to make sure you are allowed to get divorced. That may sound silly, but your marriage needs to be legally recognised in England and Wales and you or your spouse needs to have some connection with England or Wales to be able to divorce here. Additionally, you must have been married for more than one year and the marriage must have irretrievably broken down.
- Before you apply
We think it is best to tell your spouse that you want to apply for a divorce, rather than it coming as a surprise ‘present’ on the doormat.
You will need to think about how to divide up the property and finances of the marriage and make workable arrangements for any children. How you start the process can set the ‘tone’ for these discussions.
You can choose what is going to be best for you as a family, but if you cannot agree, these matters can be decided by a court.
- Applying for a divorce
When you apply for a divorce, you are effectively applying to the court to end your marriage. The process for getting a divorce changed on 6 April 2022. You must pay a £593 fee and you will need to know the address of your spouse and their full name. You need a colour copy of original marriage certificate that can be digitally uploaded and any change of name documents. You can apply online or post three copies of the form to Bury St Edmunds Divorce Centre. The digital system is always the first option to use. Your divorce lawyer should be able to help with all aspects of the form filling.
- The conditional order
After the divorce papers are filed, the court will check them and send copies to your spouse. For some people, this may be the first time that they become aware that their spouse wants a divorce, which can come as a shock. We think you should avoid that, for the reasons set out above. You could make a joint application for a divorce and then a joint application for the conditional and final orders. A conditional order is the first part of the divorce.
You remain married even after the conditional order has been granted. You can only apply for a conditional order after 20 weeks from the date you applied for the divorce. You can only apply for a final divorce order after a lapse of 6 weeks and 1 day from the date of the conditional order.
There are also processing times with the court to build in to that so it can take now between 8 and 9 months to get divorced.
- The final order
The final order is the document that legally ends the marriage. In so much as the marriage certificate proves you are married, the final order proves you are divorced, free and allowed to marry again. It should normally be applied for within 12 months of the conditional order. However, if you and your spouse could not come to an agreement regarding property, money and children and you want a legal binding arrangement in place, you should apply to the court for a financial order before applying for the final order.
- And finally…
The last thing to think about from a legal point of view once you have received the final order is making a new will, changing your name and telling banks, mortgage lenders and other relevant officials that your circumstances have changed.
Having a family lawyer guide you through the divorce and property division process can help take some of the stress out of an otherwise difficult situation, and ensure your legal rights are protected.