QualitySolicitors are reliable divorce solicitors with offices in the Birmingham area, we understand the need to get clarity and clear advice throughout the divorce process. Below we will explain:
- The grounds upon which a divorce petition can be based.
- The process of divorce.
- What happens during a defended divorce or when the respondent ignores the petition
Taking Care of you and your Family
Our role is to help you understand all the options available, providing certainty and clarity, to you and provide you with effective legal representation that will lead to the best result for you.
Why choose us?
As a well-known and reliable law firm, QualitySolicitors Davisons are able to offer confidential legal advice on a range of family law matters including divorce, financial settlements and child arrangement orders. Our offices are located across Birmingham and surrounding areas and our team of experienced divorce solicitors offer a free, ten-minute initial assessment over the phone (with no obligation) to help identify how we can help you going forward. Call us today on 0121 514 5279 or drop us a line to see how we can help.
Understanding the Basis of Divorce
The latest statistics show that 42% of marriages in the UK end in divorce so what are the reasons for divorce?
To file the petition, you must have been married for at least one year and you or your spouse must live in England or Wales.
- Unreasonable Behaviour – one of the most prevalent grounds for divorce is unreasonable behaviour, this can include domestic abuse, substance abuse or refusal from either party to contribute towards living costs, whether that’s accumulating debts or refusing to find employment. It is important to remember that a courts role is not to rule on whether or not allegations of unreasonable behaviour are true but whether or not the marriage has broken down. Many mistakenly believe that if such allegations were proven, it would have a detrimental effect on any financial settlement.
- Adultery – Adultery is also a very common ground for divorce, however, unlike unreasonable behaviour, you must prove adultery has taken place. It is also important to understand what adultery is in the eyes of the law is, as it is not considered to be any type of infidelity and is only recognised if your husband or wife has had intercourse with a member of the opposite sex. Same-sex relations are not recognised as intercourse by the law. Again, admitting to adultery will not influence the financial settlement or custody of children. It’s important to note that you cannot petition for divorce if it is your own adultery or unreasonable behaviour that is the cause of the breakdown of the marriage.
- Two Years of Separation – in order to start proceedings, you must both agree in writing that you have been living separate lives for at least two years. This does not necessarily mean that you have been living in separate households, as you may still be living together due to financial constraints or for the children in the family, but you will need to demonstrate that you have had separate domestic, or sleeping, arrangements.
- Desertion – desertion is when your husband or wife has deserted the marriage for a minimum period of two years (within the last two and a half years), desertion includes leaving you without a good reason, agreement or to end the relationship. It can be difficult to prove and as such is rarely used as grounds for divorce. You must demonstrate that your spouse had the intent of divorcing you, or ending the marriage, at the start of the two year period, when in fact they may have not formed that intent until a year later following a change of circumstances, such as working abroad. However, if your spouse were to accept a job working abroad without having a discussion and obtaining your agreement, you could file a petition for divorce under the grounds of unreasonable behaviour.
- Five Years of Separation – Contrary to popular belief, five years of separation does not automatically allow you to divorce your spouse without their knowledge. In fact, applying for divorce on the grounds of five years of separation is a lot easier if your spouse is contactable and in agreement. If your spouse does not agree, lives abroad or if you do not know the address of your spouse, things can become a lot more complicated and costly.
- No-Fault Divorce – The ‘no-fault’ grounds will be introduced in the Autumn of 2021 as the result of an amendment to The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill. The change to legalisation allows for co-operative divorce and is hoped to cause less stress and anxiety for all parties, especially where children are concerned.
Our role as expert divorce solicitors is to help you understand the options that best suit your unique circumstances and how to avoid complications that may arise, whether you are the petitioner applying for a divorce or the respondent to the divorce. It is important that you can trust us to maintain confidentiality so that our solicitors can assist you to the best of their ability.
What Happens once the Divorce Petition has been Filed?
Once you have decided on what ground you will file for divorce on, your divorce solicitor will assist you in completing and filing form D8 (Application for a divorce, dissolution or (judicial) separation). The form will ask for your marriage certificate, the grounds for divorce and a court fee of £550 (if you are on a low income our solicitors can discuss fee remission options with you).
Once the court receives your petition and processes it, they will send the respondent (your spouse) an acknowledgement of service form, the respondent will then have the option to agree, defend or ignore the petition. If the respondent agrees, you will be able to apply for decree nisi, which if granted, signifies that the court recognises that you have met the legal requirements for divorce but you are not legally divorced as of yet. Once the decree nisi has been issued, the petitioner (you) will have to wait six weeks and one day before applying for the decree absolute, which dissolves the marriage. It is advisable to wait for the financial statement before applying for the decree absolute, but this does depend on your personal circumstances.
If the respondent chooses to defend the divorce, that’s to say contests the breakdown of the marriage, there will be a short hearing in which the judge will ask for further information and evidence before listing the matter for a contested hearing at which the court will decide on whether or not the marriage should be dissolved. The issue with a defended divorce is that it is very hard to prove that the marriage has not irretrievably broken down when your husband or wife has already prepared & petitioned for divorce and successful contested divorce cases are very rare as a result. Defended divorces will also result in much higher costs, as well as taking approximately between six and nine months, depending on the complexity and court listing.
When the respondent chooses to ignore the divorce petition on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour, five years of separation or desertion, there is still room to proceed with the divorce petition, however, there will be further costs involved. Alternatively, if your grounds for divorce are adultery or two years separation, you may need to amend your divorce petition to reflect one of the above grounds to divorce.
If you spouse has not returned the acknowledgement of service form within fourteen days, we would normally advise using a process server (at a cost) who will endeavour to serve the petition and acknowledgement of service form upon the respondent and supply either a statement of service or a statement of attempted service, which will allow you to proceed with the divorce.
Once the court is satisfied that you can prove the respondent has been served you can continue to apply for decree nisi, this is known as deemed service.
Finally, if you are not able to locate your spouse and can demonstrate that you have exhausted all options to locate and contact your spouse, you can make an application to dispense with service, which will allow you to apply for decree nisi without either acknowledgement or proof of service.
Finances and Children in Divorce
Understanding the grounds for divorce and the process of becoming divorced is only part of the process, in fact, the most stressful part of divorce is usually negotiating the financial settlement and child custody.
Ideally, you would want to negotiate the financial settlement prior to divorce proceedings being concluded, allowing any financial orders to be made alongside the decree nisi but this isn’t always possible.
The court will always try and divide finances as fairly as possible, having regard to a number of factors set within the matrimonial Clauses Act 1973. Who has care of the children will be a relevant factor when considering any financial settlement.
In some instances not all assets will be considered in the financial settlement, the court will set out to identify what are and are not matrimonial assets, which are but not limited to:
- The family home
- Other real estate acquired throughout the course of the marriage
- Cash, savings, stocks, bonds and mutual funds
- Furniture, appliances and furnishings
Non-matrimonial assets are assets acquired before or after the marriage, but they will not always be excluded from matrimonial assets, for example, if you have inherited real-estate that you use as the family home. What is and not included depends on your individual circumstances and any pre-nuptial agreements made.
It is important to remember that the grounds for divorce will not necessarily affect who has care of any children or child arrangement orders, unless the grounds are unreasonable behaviour, such as violence or substance abuse, in which case they may have an impact.
The court will always seek to make arrangements that are in the best interest of your child or children. This is done by taking into consideration what contact a child has with their parents, any contested disputes, such as where a child goes to school and listening to both parents’ concerns, to name a few. The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) will spend time and interview the family to help the court determine this and if arrangements in respect of any child(ren) cannot be agreed an application for a child arrangement order can be made.
If you can determine these aspects between yourself and your spouse, we can help draw up a legally binding agreement.
How we can help
At QualitySolicitors Davisons we boast a team of knowledgeable and experienced divorce solicitors in the Birmingham area who will guide you throughout the divorce process and be behind you providing expert guidance and representation. We will always answer any questions you may have and ensure you understand the process involved.
We understand that not every divorce will be the same, that’s why we offer a free initial assessment, enabling you to discuss the particulars of your divorce and attain how we can help with no obligation.
To take the first step to gain control of your future, call us today on 0121 514 5279 or leave us a message and speak to a member of our friendly team.