The end of a relationship is an upsetting and stressful time for everyone involved.
Having a supportive and knowledgeable family lawyer at your side can help make the process easier by removing the burden of dealing with the legal formalities involved.
expert family lawyers in surrey.
With a number of experienced family lawyers on our team, know we’ll do all we can to make this difficult time a little easier for you.
an experienced family law team.
Our family law team helps with everything associated with the end of a relationship, whether that’s a marriage, civil partnership, or families who live together but are not married.
This includes divorce, dissolution, separation, finances and child arrangements. It also includes things you may wish to consider at the start of a relationship such as cohabitation agreements and pre and post-nuptial/registration agreements.
Divorce is never quite the easy ride one hopes it might be, and I enlisted the help of Clare Marion of Howell Jones to guide me through the process. The inevitable hold ups and periods of acrimony made the whole process sometimes seem more trouble than it was worth. Obviously though, there were assets to divide equally or otherwise, so it had to be done.
Throughout the whole process, I found Clare’s professionalism, and understanding to be a massive support. On a personal level I also found Clare to be a very caring and kind person, who understood exactly what I was going through.
After what seemed an eternity, mainly due to excessive demands and stalling tactics, Clare brokered a settlement and the divorce was sanctioned.
I will always be grateful to Clare for basically keeping the process, and indeed myself, on the rails.
I have no reservations whatsoever in highly recommending Clare and the company she represents.
Sound advice from experienced solicitors, with prompt and courteous service. I would thoroughly recommend them to attend to any legal affairs with competence.
how we can help you
Perhaps divorce is a step too far and not right for you at this time. You may decide to separate to make sure that a divorce or dissolution is what you really want. Or perhaps you are not married or didn’t have a registered civil partnership in the first place.
No matter what your situation, you should enter into a written agreement called a separation agreement before you separate. This details how financial matters are to be dealt with and can also deal with intended arrangements for any children.
A separation agreement is the best way to protect your financial position and is something we can help you draft. A well-drafted separation agreement can be incorporated into a binding, final agreement should the separation result in divorce.
Before starting the divorce/dissolution procedure, you must be certain your situation qualifies for a divorce/dissolution.
the basic legal requirements for a divorce/dissolution.
- You need to have been married or in a civil partnership for at least one year and one of you has to have been resident in England or Wales.
- The court needs to be satisfied that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The “no fault” procedure has been in force since April 2022. This means that it is no longer necessary to establish blame or grounds for divorce.
the simple mechanics of the process – the divorce/dissolution procedure explained.
The divorce/dissolution procedure is simply a matter of the court making two orders.
The first is a conditional order (previously decree nisi) which says that the court believes there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or civil partnership and that the correct legal procedure has been followed.
The second is the final order (previously decree absolute) and is the legal document that ends the marriage or civil partnership. You can apply for the conditional order after 20 weeks and apply for the final order after a further 6 weeks and a day.
the basic steps involved in the divorce/dissolution procedure.
- One of the parties starts the process online. The court notifies the other party. This can be done jointly.
- The other party formally acknowledges the process has been started.
- After 20 weeks one of the parties asks the court to make the conditional order.
- If satisfied, the court will grant the conditional order. There is no need for either party to attend court.
- After 6 weeks and one day, one of the parties applies for the final order.
- Court makes the final order and ends the marriage or civil partnership.
Going through a separation or divorce can be an emotional and stressful time. Deciding how to divide the family assets and agreeing on arrangements for children can cause a significant upset.
what is family mediation?
Mediation is a process where a professionally trained, impartial mediator helps both parties reach an agreement.
Most couples MUST meet with a mediator at least once before making an application to the court to determine financial arrangements or arrangements for the children.
This is known as a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM).
We can make a referral on your behalf to a suitable mediator.
Mediation is a process that does not usually involve lawyers. Instead, the parties meet with a trained mediator (together or individually), separately from the legal process. Our trained lawyers use their skills to support and guide you through the mediation process, providing an extra dimension to negotiation and helping achieve a compromise.
Find out more about mediation.
what is family arbitration?
Arbitration is a form of dispute resolution that allows for both financial and children matters to be settled outside of Court. A private arbitrator is jointly instructed and has powers akin to a Judge within the public Court setting. The private nature of an arbitration means that there is more flexibility, collaboration, speed and potential cost savings than lengthy Court proceedings.
Arbitration usually takes place over one day and allows for time to negotiate and for the arbitrator to hear submissions by both parties, or their legal representatives, either on paper or orally. The arbitrator will then give a written decision that is as binding as a Court Order.
The sensitive nature of the end of a relationship and changing family circumstances can weigh heavily and turning to a more time friendly, but equally as informed and certain outcome can really help families begin to move on with their lives.
how can we help?
We work with barristers and other professionals who offer mediation and family arbitration. We can work with you in sourcing a mediator or an arbitrator, we can include this as an option in resolving your issues and we will work with you to prepare you for mediation or arbitration itself.
Whether you and your partner are divorcing or separating, the division of financial assets must be decided and ideally recorded in a written settlement. A final settlement has far-reaching consequences and will deal with income, properties, lump-sum payments, pensions and other capital assets.
Because of the importance of this settlement, it should be professionally drawn up. Doing this also ensures that the arrangements are intended to be in full and final settlement and that you are not open to claims in the future.
The main capital asset of the marriage is often the property in which the family live. Deciding whether the property should be kept or sold is an important factor in any financial settlement. Priority will be given to the needs of the parties and any children with the aim to achieve a fair balance between the parties. Depending upon the value of the matrimonial assets, this does not always mean equality.
When divorcing or separating, it may be difficult to meet outgoings on your own. You may need to agree on monthly payments to bridge any shortfall. Equally, you may want to take steps to minimise claims on your income.
Ideally, every effort should be made to achieve a clean break, with no ongoing financial links. “Spousal” support can be limited in time, reduce in an amount over an agreed time or be dismissed entirely depending on the circumstances.
Support for the other party is not the same as support for children within the family. Child support must always be paid where relevant and any problems with child support would be referred to the government child maintenance service.
There are different methods of dealing with splitting pensions, as this can be a valuable asset to secure your future.
It is very likely that an expert report will be required to ascertain the appropriate division of pension assets to achieve a fair income in retirement.
We are committed to guiding you through this process expertly and sensitively in order to help protect your interests and secure a future for you and your children.
living together relationship breakdown.
If your relationship breaks down and you do not have agreements in place for financial arrangements or any children, you may need help and guidance from our trained lawyers to reach an agreement. This can then be confirmed in a separation agreement if necessary. A separation agreement would include details such as how to deal with contributions you have made to properties you each own, agreements regarding businesses you might run together as well as liabilities, bank accounts and arrangements for children.
If you cannot negotiate an agreement, our team of family lawyers can help. They will offer clear and pragmatic advice about your rights in the property in which you live and whether you could consider an application to the court to confirm or establish your interest in the property. It’s important to know that these are civil law proceedings and can be very costly. Your claim would be dealt with under The Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996, which will not treat your circumstances with the same discretion towards “fairness” as would be the case with a marriage breakdown. In some circumstances, you can make applications on behalf of children from your relationship under Schedule 1 of the Children Cat 1989, but again this is complex and costly.
Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse regardless of age, gender, marital status, sexuality and ethnicity.
Domestic abuse takes many forms, but it is always about your abuser having control and power over you. Unsure of whether you or someone you’re close to is a victim of domestic abuse? These guidelines provide helpful advice.
We can help you and your children get protection from the courts from a violent partner or spouse (non-molestation order) and keep you safe in your home (occupation order).
If you have received a non-molestation order or an occupation order from the court, we can advise you on how to deal with this in a sensible manner whilst taking steps to protect your position in respect of future proceedings in relation to the house and the children.