Many people assume that an online divorce service will be quicker, easier and less costly than instructing a lawyer. However, online services are usually for uncontested straight forward divorces and whether you choose an online service or a solicitor, the Court fee is additional. (Currently, the court fee is £550.00).
Grounds for Divorce
In order to apply for divorce, or make a divorce petition, you and your spouse must have been married for at least 12 months, have experienced a permanent breakdown in the relationship and either you or your partner must be a permanent resident of the UK. Grounds for divorce include:
- Adultery – where your spouse has performed sexual intercourse with a member of the opposite sex, intercourse with the same sex is not considered grounds.
- Unreasonable Behaviour – this includes violent and verbal abuse, as well as drug and alcohol abuse and the refusal to share living expenses
- Desertion – where a spouse has left the marriage and not lived with you as a couple for two years or more
- Separation – where the two of you have not lived as a couple for two years or more. If you have been living under the same roof, you may still be able to apply for divorce under these grounds if you are able to demonstrate that you were not living as a couple.
The final requirement in applying for divorce is that both parties must agree on the grounds, unless there has been a separation of over five years, in which case, the responding spouse is not required to acknowledge the grounds for divorce.
Applying for Divorce when your Spouse has Contested or Refused to Sign
Of course, the reason for divorce is not the only thing you and your spouse may disagree on, children and financial settlement can also be points of contestation. If you have issues relating to children or financial matters, a lack of knowledge may result in mistakes being made which can end up with the wrong result and costing more. Therefore, we would always recommend that you seek legal advice before you begin the divorce process so that you are aware of all the options available to you.
Similarly, professional divorce lawyers are able to advise on the quickest and effective route of resolution should your spouse fail to return and sign the acknowledgement of service, whether that be a physical service, an alternative proof of receipt or applying for a dispensed service.
Though rare, a defended divorce happens when either party disagree on the grounds for divorce (detailed in the divorce petition issued to the court) or they disagree that the relationship has broken down.
Defending a divorce is not advised, as it can be a costly and drawn-out process and it is extremely unlikely that the court will enforce anyone to stay in a marriage.
If you disagree with the grounds of divorce or your spouse has defended your divorce petition, it is advisable that you seek immediate legal advice from an experienced family law solicitor or firm.
Matrimonial assets (or marital assets) are the financial assets that have been accrued throughout the duration of a marriage. In the event of a divorce, the court will seek to divide these assets in the fairest and equal way possible. So, rather than being split 50/50, the court takes several factors into consideration, such as child custody, the financial needs of each party and the likelihood of future earnings. Examples of matrimonial assets include:
- The family home and other property/real estate
- Furniture and fixtures of owned property
- Cash in the bank, savings, stocks and bonds
- Businesses owned by one or both parties
To the contrary, non-matrimonial assets are financial assets that existed or were acquired before the marriage. This does not always mean that they will be excluded from divorce settlements and whether or not some of the non-matrimonial assets are split in the settlement depends on a range of circumstances, such as written agreements, investments during the marriage and whether assets from before the marriage naturally fall into matrimonial assets (a family home, for example).
Choosing the Best Representation
If you decide to instruct a divorce solicitor, the next step is which one to choose? An initial consultation should enable you to feel confident that the lawyer has the knowledge, experience and personality to understand and suit your needs.
The approach that the solicitor has to the proceedings should be considered and having an aggressive approach can result in greater costs being incurred and whilst that may be the approach that you seek at the beginning of the process, it may be something that you do not wish and regret at the end, particularly if there are children to be considered. Courts prefer a conciliatory approach (or non-confrontational approach) but this does not mean that you shouldn’t use a solicitor who will fight your corner.
Understandably, for people going through the divorce process, costs are an issue. Most firms provide details of their hourly rate with guidance as to the likely overall cost. If court proceedings are involved there are many factors to be taken into consideration which may affect the final cost. Be wary of firms offering a lower rate as they may not include any additional costs.
You may wonder whether the size of the firm makes any difference. It tends to make no difference in cost but in larger firms, the majority of solicitors specialise in a particular area of family law and are able to support one another. Smaller firms may not be able to offer a range of services or have the experience. If it is one solicitor within the firm undertaking family work, the question you should ask is what happens if they are not available, for example being on holiday.
The correct choice of a solicitor or lawyer can make all the difference in how you approach, deal and cope with this stressful time.
At QualitySolicitors Parkison Wright we are able to offer a wealth of experience, not only in family law but specifically in handling divorce and adopt a sensitive and proactive approach in doing so. Call us today on 01905 401 893 for an initial assesment so that you know what to expect in terms of cost and time before choosing one of our specialist divorce solicitors to represent you.