Getting a divorce is a process that no-one ever images themselves going through. But if your marriage has broken down to the point that you can’t see a future with your partner this can become the option that is best for both sides. Indeed official numbers from the Office of National Statistics estimate that 42 per cent of marriages in England and Wales end in divorce. However, divorce can be exceptionally complicated especially if you are estranged from your partner or there is a dispute over financial matters. Here are eight frequently asked questions about getting divorced.
Here, freelance writer Mike James – working with George Ide, discusses some of the most common fears surrounding getting a divorce, and how to ensure a fair arrangement is secured for the future.
Editor’s note: While this article uses examples from England and Wales and some of the terms and laws may be different, the questions and answers are pertinent no matter where you live.
Do I need a solicitor (lawyer) to get divorced?
It is advisable in almost any divorce that you should use a solicitor. This is especially true if there are complicating factors to proceedings such as children or division of assets. In any case a solicitor will be able to advise you on your rights and help you to understand what you can expect from the divorce. They will also be able to negotiate settlements for you on any financial matters or how children are to be looked after. Trying to go through the process without a solicitor will make things far more difficult for you and will mean you my face complicated legal matters without expert advice.
What do I need to prove to get a divorce?
You may often hear the term ‘irresponsible differences’ quoted when celebrities break up, but in British law these are not acceptable grounds for divorce. Instead you need to show that you marriage has reached a point of irretrievable breakdown by proving one of following:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Desertion (for at least two years)
- Two years of separation and an agreement from both spouses
- Five years of separation
In the majority of cases, divorces are settled on the basis of unreasonable behaviour, which is open hugely to interpretation. You can talk to you solicitor about different options you have available to you.
I think my partner is having an affair. Can I divorce on this basis?
If your partner won’t admit to adultery it can be very challenging to show there are grounds for divorce on this basis. Ultimately even if you have a reasonable amount of evidence it may be more sensible to prove unreasonable behaviour such as on the basis that your partner has been seen in romantic situations with other people in public.
What counts as ‘unreasonable behaviour’?
Unreasonable behaviour is the most common grounds for divorce. In legal terms it simply refers to behaviour of your partner that would make it unreasonable for you to be expected to remain married. In reality this can refer to huge variety of things ranging from lack of emotional support or criticism to verbal abuse or violence. Again this is down to interpretation and what someone feels is unreasonable behaviour will differ entirely to someone else.
What if my partner refuses to divorce?
In the majority of cases both spouses are settled that getting a divorce is the sensible way to move forward. However, in some cases – for example where one partner accuses another of adultery as the grounds for divorce – there can be no agreement. The first thing to do in this situation is to look at alternative grounds such as unreasonable behaviour. In the rare case that the partner simply will not consent to a divorce on these grounds the worst case scenario would mean separating from your partner for five years, at which point the courts would grant a divorce whether your partner wanted it or not.
How much does a divorce cost?
The cost of the divorce itself encompasses the fee for your solicitor and the court fees. Solicitors will commonly charge anywhere between £600 and £1,000 plus VAT as well as court fees for the entire process. However there are other costs to a divorce including the financial settlement between partners and other on-going costs such as childcare or other forms of support.
How long does a divorce take to go through?
The simplest divorce cases where there is no dispute from either side will often take anywhere between three and five months to be finalised. However, it is common for there to be disputes in during the divorce proceedings which can often slow things down. In this case your divorce can ultimately take years to be fully resolved, especially if no agreement can be found on the grounds for divorce. A good solicitor, however, will almost always be able to find better ways to speed up the process.
If we change our minds, can we stop the divorce proceeding?
The simple answer is yes. Up until the moment when the divorce is completely legally finalised you are considered to be married, and the divorce can be halted or called off at any point before this happens without legal consequences. You will still have to pay your solicitor, however.