The thought of embarking on a divorce can be an anxious and daunting time and often there can be lots of input from family, friends and online sources that perhaps muddy the waters in terms of fully understanding how a divorce works.
In this blog, Katy Osborne, Head of the Family Team, discusses the process of a divorce and how it connects with things such as your assets and your children.
What is a Divorce?
Divorce is the legal ending of a marriage and is applied for online via the HMCTS website. It is a three-stage process that can take at least 26 weeks to be finalised.
What does it involve?
- The first step is the divorce application, and this can be completed as a sole or joint application. There is a Court fee associated with this of £593.00 and is payable whether you complete the divorce yourself or instruct a solicitor to do so. Since April 2022, divorce is ‘no fault’- that means when applying for a divorce, you do not need to explain why you are doing so, you simply need to state that you wish to end your marriage.
- Once the application is approved by the Court, the 20-week settling period starts. This gives couples a chance to decide upon their finances and other related matters.
- The respondent in the divorce will need to complete a form called an Acknowledgement of Service, which will confirm that they have received the divorce application and do not intend to contest it.
- Once the 20-week period is, an application can be made for a Conditional Order. At this point, any financial settlement can be submitted to the Court for approval.
- Six-weeks and one day after the Conditional Order is granted, an application can be made for a Final Order. This is the last part of the divorce and once received, confirms that the marriage has officially ended.
Do I only need to complete the online form?
No – the legal ending of a marriage does not only consist of a divorce application, but the division of assets too. Whilst a divorce will legally dissolve your marriage, the financial ties which exist between a (formerly) married couple exist until severed by way of a Financial Order.
Due to a lot of misinformation online, the process is often unclear to those considering divorce. Many online agencies advertise divorces and suggest that they can complete them quickly, when in fact it is not possible to circumvent the Court timetable, and nor should the process be rushed. All aspects of your life as a married couple need to be considered and this involves more than the online divorce application.
What about our house?
Property, and other assets such as savings, shares and pensions need to be considered upon divorce too. Whilst they are not dealt with in the online divorce application itself, they are still incredibly important.
It is advisable that the division of these assets is decided upon prior to completing the divorce process i.e before you obtain a Final Order. This is primarily relevant when there are pension assets to be shared but is also recommended as it ensures that everything is completed and settled and both parties can begin to move on with their lives.
This financial settlement is included in a document known as a Financial Remedy Order and is submitted to the Court once signed for the approval of a Judge.
What about our children?
Whilst children and their wellbeing are of course intrinsic to any separation or divorce, the legal process of formalising child arrangements is a separate entity that is not included in the divorce application or within any Financial Remedy Order. This is something that can be discussed throughout the proceedings or completely separately from it. See blog post – Child Arrangements Order – What are they? for more information.
When should I engage a solicitor?
A solicitor can be involved as much or as little as you would like with the divorce application. You could instruct a solicitor from the very beginning to do the divorce application for you, or you may decide to apply for the divorce online yourself.
In terms of the financial arrangements. you may decide to instruct a solicitor to conduct negotiations on your behalf and then complete the Financial Remedy Order for you. Alternatively, you may be able to reach an agreement with your spouse directly yourself (or via mediation), and a solicitor can then assist with ensuring any agreement is fair and by drafting a Financial Remedy Order for you to reflect the terms agreed. Dealing with the division of finances can be difficult to navigate and getting legal advice on this is recommended.
There are all manner of ways in which a solicitor can help. We have an experienced and friendly team here at Howell Jones and we aim to provide a service that best fits you, your situation and your family. Please do contact us if you would like any more information or assistance with applying for divorce and/or dealing with the financial and child arrangements.