You may be thinking of starting a divorce to end an unhappy relationship, or you may be on the receiving end of a divorce petition from your spouse.

Whatever has happened, it’s natural to start worrying about the future, your finances, your home and your children. Divorce is rarely a straight forward process and the law can be difficult to navigate without the right help. Understanding the journey ahead is essential: this isn’t a process you are likely to have experienced before or would want to experience again. Your divorce solicitor will guide you through the process and advise you on the approach that is right for your individual circumstances.

As a starting point we would like to offer you the following guide as a useful reference tool:

  • Talk it over if possible

    It is usually best to talk things through with your spouse before taking any legal steps.  One of the first things to consider before you call the solicitors is – can my marriage be saved?

    Is Divorce Essential?

    Thinking about divorce?

    What is an annulment and should I do that instead of divorce?

    But if you are sure your marriage has broken down and cannot be repaired, then it is time to seek out the right legal advice from a specialist in family law.  Taking this first step is often the most difficult and our team of specialist divorce solicitors will be able to help you through it.

  • How to choose the right solicitor for you

    Every divorce is unique due to the individuals involved, their relationship, family and assets. It is therefore very important that the solicitor you appoint has the relevant special skills to get the result you want. It is important that you are comfortable with your solicitor, that you feel they understand your legal needs and, just as importantly, the emotional aspects of your situation.

    We will match you with the right solicitor, ensuring the very best mutual understanding for your case. We believe it is important you have the opportunity to speak with your potential solicitor before you decide to proceed with your case. Our guide to choosing the right solicitor can assist you in selecting the right individual to guide you through the process.

    For more information see our guide to choosing the right solicitor

  • What to expect from the first meeting with your solicitor

    At the first meeting you will discuss the reasons for the breakdown of your marriage. You will be asked to provide the date of separation, details of any children of the family, including proposed future arrangements for their care, details of your own and your partner’s assets, income, savings and pension interests. The first meeting is very much a fact finding exercise to enable your solicitor to advise you properly on the best next steps. In that meeting you can expect to learn more about your options including what processes you can use to reach a resolution in your case whether through negotiation, collaboration, mediation, arbitration or litigation. You will also have a better understanding of what your future could look like

  • Are there grounds to divorce?

    In the petition, the party who filed for divorce has to prove that the marriage has broken down irretrievably by reference to one of five legally defined facts:

    • Adultery – proven by an admission from the other party
    • Behaviour
    • Desertion for a period of two years
    • Two years’ separation with the agreement of both parties to a divorce
    • Five years’ separation (with or without agreement to a divorce)

    The facts most commonly cited are adultery or behaviour. People are often unwilling to wait for two years to divorce without attributing blame. Whether the behaviour of the other party has been of such a nature that you would not be expected reasonably to live with them is both a subjective test (i.e. seen through the eyes of the person issuing the petition) and also objective (i.e. as assessed by the Judge who is reading the particulars of behaviour) however the behaviour in question does not need to be extreme. The other party does not have to admit the allegations made against them about behaviour are true. They can choose simply not to defend the petition.

    It is worth bearing in mind that the reason for the breakdown of the marriage rarely affects how the finances are divided and in most cases, the content of the divorce petition is agreed before it is sent to the court. It is always advisable to seek the advice of a qualified divorce solicitor before taking any action. For more detailed information see our guide on grounds for divorce

     

  • The divorce process: filing the paperwork and timescales

    Whilst the particulars of each divorce will vary from case to case, the divorce procedure in England and Wales follows a process which starts with the filing of a divorce petition with the court and ending with a Decree Absolute. In the vast majority of cases there will be no need to attend court at any stage and the process can proceed on paper with documents being filed by post.  The process can take as little as four to six months though the pronouncement of a decree absolute may be held up if there are financial matters which still need to be resolved. Your solicitor will draft, prepare and lodge the necessary paperwork with the Court.

    For a more detailed look at process and paperwork, see our guide on how to get Divorced

     

  • Making arrangements for children and family finances

    Very few cases involve only bringing the marriage to an end. Usually there are arrangements to sort out for the children of the family and the finances including property, investments, businesses, pensions and income.

    Negotiating a financial settlement in divorce is a skilled and complex task. There is no set formula – questions of spousal and child maintenance are resolved in each case according to the particular facts, figures and circumstances.

    A number of guiding considerations are taken into account, including: the length of marriage, the ages of the parties, their assets, incomes and earning capacities. We also consider the standard of living you had during your marriage, what your financial needs are and the contributions you have both made to family life and the acquisition of your wealth. Our team of specialists will explain the relevance of each of these factors to your circumstances. There is no single answer to any particular case but we will explain with as much clarity as we can and as soon as we can the best settlement likely to achievable.

    Why are divorce settlements different

    Typically a crucial stage in reaching a fair and reasonable settlement is the requirement on both parties to engage in what is called ‘financial disclosure’. All assets owned by each spouse and liabilities in their sole name, as well as those jointly held, need to be documented and the information exchanged with the other party. These assets typically include the family home, pensions, stocks and shares, cars, business assets and so on.

    More information on finances

    Uniquely at Stowe Family Law, we have an in-house forensic accountancy team focused solely on supporting our clients through this process. They can assist with the preparation of financial disclosure, investigate the accuracy of disclosure provided by the other party – particularly when there are business or offshore interests – and provide valuable assistance with financial settlement-related tax issues.

    We will advise you on the range of possible outcomes which may be achievable both in and out of court and on the different ways we can assist you in reaching a financial settlements when you are going through a divorce.

    Children

    Ideally, parents who are separating should try to reach an agreement on arrangements for their children during and after divorce.  We can give you advice on the types of arrangements one might expect to find in your particular situation and help to negotiate an arrangement that’s suitable for your children and suitable for you. Sometimes though, neutral assistance may help, and parents may benefit from mediation or a process called ‘collaborative law’ to help them reach an agreement out of court.

    In cases involving children, court action should only be taken as a last resort and the children’s welfare is the primary consideration. However, such important decisions can be difficult to agree on, especially in the midst of an acrimonious divorce and a child arrangements order or in scenarios where similar legal interventions under the Children’s Act 1989 may be required.

    At Stowe family Law we can help you as a parent to support your children through this difficult period in your lives. We can also advise you on your legal options if disputes arise.

  • Do I go to court to get an agreement on financial matters and arrangements for children?

    Resolution out of court

    Financial disputes and arguments about children that reach the courts can often be costly and stressful compared to other solutions. Dispute resolution outside court can reduce both the time required and your costs, as well as offering greater privacy and the chance to avoid protracted court proceedings. At Stowe family Law, we recognise the benefits of other appropriate forms of dispute resolution. Our team of solicitors includes well regarded mediators and collaborative lawyers.

    Arbitration

    When both parties agree to arbitrate their financial or child disputes, they appoint a suitably qualified person to adjudicate. They accept that the arbitrator’s decision will be final and binding and that, if necessary, they will need to apply to court for an order to give effect to it. At Stowe Family Law we have qualified arbitrators who offer this service.

    Mediation

    Mediation is a voluntary process which the courts actively encourage. You and your partner meet together with a family mediator to discuss your issues in a safe and non judgmental environment. The mediator will help you to firstly identify just what those issues are, then guide you towards finding solutions during face-to-face discussions.  The offers that are exchanged in the mediation process are “without prejudice” – i.e. they are private and cannot be reported to the Court. The mediator cannot impose a decision on either party. The intention is to encourage openness and a willingness to negotiate, with both parties working towards a settlement.

    Collaborative law

    Both parties and their solicitors commit to reaching solutions by agreement rather than through the courts. Face-to-face communication between the parties can help to reduce costs and improve the chances of working together well in the future.

    Going to court

    Sometimes there is no alternative. If it is not possible to agree on arrangements regarding your finances and the children, it will be necessary to go to Court.

    Court proceedings are usually necessary if:

    • Your partner is not giving you all the financial information you need
    • There are complex financial issues that you need a divorce court to help you agree upon
    • There is no other option as other out-of-court routes have failed to achieve a fair settlement on finances and child arrangements after divorce
    • There is domestic violence or the threat of this so you feel that you need to remain at a distance from your partner and wish to have matters conducted through solicitors
    • There is an issue of urgency to getting your case before the court. It may be to take steps to protect your children or preserve assets. It may be because there are competing jurisdictions and you need to win a race to be the first person to issue in your preferred jurisdiction
  • How much does divorce cost?

    Typically, the form-filling element of divorce is relatively inexpensive. Settlement of the financial and child issues can be more costly however.  Costs will reflect, firstly, the attitudes of the parties involved and secondly the complexity of their issues.  Once we have agreed on the right approach for your case, your solicitors will give you a clear indication of what your divorce case should cost from the outset. Whilst we cannot predict with certainty how your case will proceed we will keep you regularly informed and advise you if there are any reasons why our initial view of your case needs to change.

    For more please visit our guide on divorce costs

  • How do I fund the process or avoid debt?

    There are many ways of paying for legal fees. We will always advise you of all available options for funding your case.

    See our funding divorce guide for further details.

  • Is my will accurate?

    If you already have a will, then a pending divorce will mean it’s time to update it, especially if your ex-partner or spouse is entitled to receive your estate under your existing will.  If you have not made a will previously, it is important to know that without a will your ex- husband/wife or civil partner will be entitled to a significant share of your estate in the event of your death. Our team at Stowe family Law can help with this process including the preparation of a will that reflects your wishes for the future.

  • What if my case involves an International element

    If you have a connection to another country or a different part of the UK, you or your partner might choose to start proceedings there.  Please note that England and Wales is one jurisdiction and has different procedures to Scotland or Northern Ireland (both separate jurisdictions).  Scotland in particular has very different rules with regard to financial matters. In Europe and beyond, where you start proceedings, known as the jurisdiction, could affect how your finances are divided. With regard to children, the relevant law will usually be that of the jurisdiction in which they live but it is important that you take legal advice as this issue is very complicated and can have significant consequences for children and their parents.

    Circumstances to consider include:

    • If your marriage took place in another country
    • If you, your spouse, or possibly both were born outside of England and Wales
    • If you spent the entirety, or the majority, of your married life in another country
    • If you married or divorced overseas and you are concerned about whether this change in circumstance will be legally recognised upon your return to the UK
    • If you are worried about the possibility that your spouse could abduct your child or children and take them abroad
    • If you or your spouse have property overseas, either separately or jointly owned

    Early advice is essential to ensure that the most suitable jurisdiction is secured for a client, particularly in European cases where parties may find themselves in a “race” to issue proceedings in different countries (also known as ‘the race for jurisdiction’). In such cases, assuming that the grounds to proceed exist in that country, the case will be heard in the first court in which proceedings are issued. This can have a dramatic impact upon the eventual financial settlement so timing is of the utmost importance.

    Should any of these apply to you, we suggest you seek advice immediately. Our dedicated International Family Law Team will be able to guide you through any International issues.

     

  • You’re all done

    You have freedom and choices. You cannot know if the path ahead will be smooth, but at least you are moving forward.  With time and the space to look at your life you will be able to move on even if it does not feel like that right now. For now, there remain a number of practical and emotional matters for you to consider.

    For more, please refer to our guide on counsellors

  • Post-divorce legal issues

    Even if you have achieved a resolution, whether in or out of court, there may still be other legal matters to attend to. These can include issues relating to child maintenance – whether, for example, the arrangement in place is a private one or is to be administered by the Child Maintenance Service.

    Maintenance issues are common in the cases we advise on. Circumstances may change, leading one party to believe that the previously agreed level of maintenance is too low or too high. Or it might be time to bring the maintenance to an end either by getting the court to order that the maintenance is to cease or by achieving a final payment of capital to achieve that financial clean break.

    Maintenance

    In addition, our children and international family law departments also deal with an increasing number of cases involving so-called ‘external relocation’, when the parent with care of the children wishes to move to another country or ‘internal relocation’ when the desired move is to another part of the same country against the wishes of the other parent.

    International children’s law