Our specialist family team advises individuals on relationship breakdown and related children and financial issues.
Divorce happens when a marriage irreparably breaks down, and a couple permanently ends their relationship. Our specialist family law team based in Birmingham comprises divorce lawyers who advise individuals on relationship breakdown and related children and financial issues.
To be able to divorce your spouse, you must have a legally recognised marriage in the UK, be married for at least a year, and have a completely broken-down relationship. A legal separation might be applicable if you want to live apart without ending the marriage, and, in some cases, you might be able to annul the marriage.
Relationship breakdown is very stressful. It can affect our ability to get on with the day job and is an added pressure to our already hectic lives. As well as the present, it affects our future; we will need to make critical decisions about our personal and business lives, any childcare arrangements and any child maintenance payments. Having the right support is key to getting these decisions right.
When you apply for a divorce, you will need to prove the break-down of your marriage by providing one or more of the following reasons:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Separation for more than two years and you both agree to the divorce
- Separation for at least five years if your spouse disagrees with the divorce.
The divorce process
- To apply for the divorce, you will need the full name and address of your spouse, your marriage certificate and proof of your name change if you’ve changed it since you married.
- You will need to pay a £550 fee.
- If your application is correct, you will receive a notice that your application has been issued, a copy of your application with the stamp of the divorce centre, and a case number.
- Your spouse will receive a copy of your application and an ‘acknowledgement of service’ form, as will anyone named in the application, e.g. the other party in any adultery claim.
- Your spouse must respond to the acknowledgement of service if they intend to defend the divorce or object to paying any claimed costs within eight days.
- If your spouse doesn’t defend the divorce, you can apply for your decree nisi, which says that the court can’t see any reason why you cannot divorce. If they do intend to defend the case, you’ll have to attend a hearing for a judge to decide whether to grant the decree nisi.
- If you can’t divorce, you will receive a ‘notice of refusal of judge’s certificate’ form explaining what to do next.
- After this, you must wait at least six weeks and a day after the date of the decree nisi to apply for your decree absolute, which is the legal document that ends your marriage. You must apply for this within twelve months of receiving the decree nisi.
Our family law team is regarded as one of the top teams in Birmingham, and our team of divorce lawyers in Birmingham regularly receives recognition with top rankings in both the Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners. We base our success on a practical yet compassionate approach, good working relationships and, most importantly, treating all clients, regardless of status, with respect. We work in partnership with you and will explain all stages of the divorce process so that you know what is happening and your requirements.
The main expertise of our divorce lawyers is in advising fellow professionals and business owners, often with complex commercial or trust related structures. We advise on preventative, proactive steps that can be taken pre-marriage to safeguard family interests, such as prenuptial agreements.
As specialist divorce lawyers, going to court is a last resort for us. Our guide ’10 things to do before calling your divorce lawyer’ explains measures you can take before you initiate divorce proceedings. A whole range of activities starting, where possible, for example around the kitchen table, can result in early agreement although we recognise most people will have exhausted some of those possibilities before coming to us. Being able to ‘do business’ with your soon-to-be ex is critical where children are concerned.
With the largest team of Accredited Family Mediators in the Midlands, we can help with negotiations before divorce proceedings/civil partnership dissolution, including Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAMs), which are now a compulsory part of the court-application process. Our mediators are also able, where appropriate, to speak to children directly.
For more information about how our team can help you, or make an appointment, please contact us.
Changes to Legal Aid funding
From 1 April 2013, the overhaul of the availability of public funding (“legal aid”) for a range of areas of law for individuals on low incomes saw the introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. This has affected the funding of many new cases. For further information, see our useful Changes to Legal Aid guide.
As a respected law firm, our divorce solicitors are passionate about delivering expert legal advice to support you every step of the way. Our experienced team has the knowledge, experience and sensitivity to assist individuals and their families through periods of uncertainty and difficulty.
A forced marriage is a marriage conducted without the valid consent of one or both parties and where duress is a factor.
Everyone has the right to choose who they marry and when, or whether they marry at all. A forced marriage is a marriage conducted without the valid consent of one or both parties and where duress is a factor. Duress can be physical, such as threats or physical or sexual violence, or emotional, such as being made to feel as if you’re bringing shame on your family.
For more information on how we can assist in cases of forced marriages, click here.
I feel like you have been on this journey with me and I most certainly would recommend your firm for anyone else I know who needs divorce representation. You have been amazing and don’t know what I would have done without you. To think I have cleared my name and character, got my children back, finalised the divorce, sorted financial matters its been the most difficult time of my life but with your help we have been successful.Mr A.
Thank you for all of your work securing my clean break. I am extremely grateful that everything concluded in the way it has and thank you for making this so. Should any of my friends and associates find themselves in a similar, perplexing position, I will recommend the services of you and your practice whole heartedly.Mr F.
Frequently asked questions
What do matrimonial lawyers do?
We deal with relationship breakdowns (marriage, civil partnerships or cohabitation) and all of the consequential challenges that flow from the breakdown itself. This usually means helping parties to resolve disputes about how their children will be cared for, and how their finances will be managed post-separation.
We also represent people who have been exposed to domestic abuse and want to take protective measures or, respond to allegations that they have abused someone else. These kinds of proceedings will often involve an application for an injunction such as a Non-Molestation or Occupation Order.
In addition to working with clients who are dealing with ongoing disputes, we work with individuals who are about to begin (or have begun) new relationships and want to take protective measures to safeguard particularly valuable assets they are bringing into their new relationship. We are often instructed to advise and then draft pre-nuptial, post-nuptial and cohabitation agreements.
What is the divorce process?
The divorce process usually involves three separate applications being submitted to the court. With the advent of the online divorce portal, it is now possible to submit these applications online which takes significantly less time than processing the divorce process via paper (as was previously the norm). The applications are, The divorce petition itself, the application for Decree Nisi (where the court confirms whether they believe the marriage has irretrievably broken down) and the application for Decree Absolute. The Decree Absolute is the document that finally dissolves the parties’ legal relationship.
Although the introduction of the online divorce portal can mean divorces now take as little as four months, it is advisable to consider how a change in the parties’ legal relationship will impact the financial settlement they are likely to achieve. For instance, in respect of pensions. It is often sensible for parties to deal with matters in such a way that the financial settlement and divorce elements conclude at the same time.
How long does the process last?
A typical divorce and civil partnership dissolution normally takes six to eighteen months to complete depending on the issues involved. You can find out more about the divorce process here.
What are the main challenges facing couples engaging in divorce?
A fault-based approach is still required in cases where parties want an immediate divorce. Elizabeth Wyatt, Partner, outlines why this, and other factors, provide challenges to couples facing divorce here. There are additional challenges to those same-sex relationships, and we have discussed those separately here.
Are divorces always acrimonious?
Whilst a relationship breakdown is clearly a very challenging time, the divorce process does not have to exacerbate the upset the parties are experiencing. It is a largely administrative exercise, and we encourage clients to take a pragmatic approach wherever possible. Certainly, the divorce process is predominantly concerned with untangling the parties’ legal relationship, rather than stirring up animosity.
What is the No Fault Divorce Bill and when will if come into force?
The No Fault Divorce Bill will allow parties to separate without demonstrating that the other party is at fault for the breakdown of the relationship. It is hoped that No Fault Divorce will encourage divorcing spouses to be less preoccupied with apportioning blame and instead be able to focus on having constructive discussions about making financial and childcare arrangements for the future.
The No Fault Divorce Bill has received Royal Assent and it is a matter of when, not if, it will become a law. We anticipate the No Fault Divorce Bill will become binding legislation in autumn 2021.
What is mediation?
Mediation is a recognised, dispute resolution mechanism that parties often use to resolve disputes about child arrangements and finances outside of court. An independent mediator will work with the parties to engage them in discussions about the matters in dispute, with a view to exploring possible solutions.
As well as understanding the key legal and commercial concerns the parties are likely to have, mediators are also trained to help the parties communicate in a constructive and pragmatic way. These softer skills are geared towards preventing any antipathy in the parties’ relationship from derailing settlement discussions.
Crucially, mediation is unlikely to involve anywhere near the time, money and emotion that protracted court proceedings can entail. This is important in helping parties to preserve their relationship post-separation.
Parties are not compelled to mediate. However, the applicant party must attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) prior to beginning court proceedings. At that meeting, the mediator will assess how suitable it would be for the parties to embark on a mediation, or series of mediation sessions.
At Anthony Collins we have a team of mediators who are willing to assist with both MIAMs and mediations themselves.
How do you deal with child matters?
Child matters are dealt with in a conciliatory manner where possible, keeping stress to a minimum. We encourage negotiation and mediation as a means to settlement.
What are my rights in respect of my children?
In recent times, there has been a shift away from perceiving parents as having defined rights over their children, to focussing on the idea of ‘parental responsibility' (or “PR”). PR dictates that parents who have parental responsibility have a variety of responsibilities, duties and obligations concerning how their children are cared for.
This child focussed approach chimes with the overriding principle of children’s law which is that the court should make decisions that are in the child or children’s best interests.
As such, parents are encouraged to consider not: “what rights do I have over my children?” But instead to ask: “what can I do to ensure that my children are able to thrive?”
What am I entitled to financially?
In any financial settlement, it is critical that parties engage in a thorough disclosure exercise whereby they disclose their assets and income to the other spouse so they can jointly identify what is in the matrimonial “pot of assets”.
When this disclosure exercise has been carried out, the starting point is that assets should be divided equally. However, this division is then adjusted by considering a variety of factors including, the parties’ needs, available resources, contributions to the marriage (financial and otherwise) and the length of the parties’ relationship.
Therefore, whilst the starting point is usually an equal division, the variety of factors means there is scope to depart from equality depending on the facts that underpin the parties’ financial relationship.
We have been recognised for the work we do
From 30 September 2021, the costs of issuing certain applications in the Family Court will increase, following the implementation of the Court Fees Order.
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