How to get a divorce …www.gov.uk style
When I decided to write a piece about Divorce, I had a look on the internet at accessible resources, and this took me on to the www.gov.uk website. There is a fair amount of information to be found there. Some of it is useful, but other parts are less helpful. I have posted a piece on the grounds of divorce. Here is a piece on the Divorce process. The site content is in green and italics. There is a lot of content, so I only made notes against the main sections.
The Basic point, is that there is that the importance of Legal Advice is downplayed. There is a lot of complex and vague law surrounding divorce and finance. It has always been the case that Mediation has as a fundamental principle that couples are making informed choices. Informed choices mean accessing legal advice and understanding what their rights are. There is a lot on the my site about the importance of Legal Advice, both on its own and in the context of mediation. But the www.gov.uk treats it almost as an optional extra, rather than an essential.
The other thing, is that there was very little mention of domestic abuse and safety in the Divorce and related pages, or if there was, well, I couldn’t find it.
Lets start with the overview page at; https://www.gov.uk/divorce
Get a divorce
You can get a divorce if you have been married at least a year and your relationship has permanently broken down.
You must have a marriage that is legally recognised in the UK, and have a permanent home in England or Wales.
There are 3 main steps to getting divorced:
- File a divorce petition – you have to apply to the court for permission to divorce, and show reasons why you want the marriage to end.
- Apply for a decree nisi – if your spouse agrees to the petition, you’ll get a document saying there’s no reason you can’t divorce.
- Apply for a decree absolute – this legally ends your marriage – you need to wait 6 weeks after you get the decree nisi before you can apply.
It starts well enough. The Ground for Divorce is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, but permenant amounts to the same thing. Does whoever wrote this think that people no longer understand the word “irretrievable”? I am all for plain English. But why not rename “Decree Nisi” and “Decree Absolute”?
Arrange your own divorce
You may be able to arrange your own divorce without involving solicitors if you agree on:
- the reasons for a divorce
- how you’ll look after any children
- how you’ll split up money, property and possessions
If you agree on these things beforehand, you won’t have to go to a court hearing, and the divorce paperwork should be fairly straightforward.
You may be able to get legal aid for ‘mediation’ – help working out an agreement with your husband or wife about money, property or children.
This is where I have a problem. You may be able to agree to the division of money in an unfair way and you may be able to agree to arrangements for your children in a way which is unreasonable or is not in their best interests, or if you are a victim of abuse and are intimidated, you could probably agree to everything the other wants! So if you can agree, they suggest Legal Advice is Unnecessary!
No, No No! This is wrong. The best decisions are informed decisions. The best agreements are informed agreements. Agreements are best negotiated as equals who have all the relevant knowledge.
Informed decision making in the context of Divorce means….. Legal Advice!
Not necessarily much, but enough is an essential.
Next; Legal Aid;
Correct “You may be able to get legal aid for ‘mediation’ – help working out an agreement with your husband or wife about money, property or children”. But you can also still get Legal Aid if you are a victim of abuse, with prescribed evidence. This is Legal Aid for Court proceedings, not just in support of mediation. Why have they left this out here? I just don’t understand.
You can avoid the cost of going to court and large legal fees by working out an agreement with your partner.
Well of course you can! But you can also enter into a grossly unfair agreement and agree your self out of money that you should be fairly entitled, and lose thousands of pounds by trying to save a fraction in Legal Fees.The job of a Solicitor is to advice their client and to assist them to make informed decisions and to act in the clients best interests. Solicitors do not set out to go to Court or to incur “large legal fees” for their client.Most Family Law Solicitors are members of Resolution and are committed to its code of practice. This is about reaching fair and sensible outcomes, ideally with negotiation, including Mediation and Collaborative Law.
Its also noteworthy that there has been a fall off in Mediation since April 2013 (following the Legal Aid changes), because people have been reluctant to go to mediation without having a Solicitor to validate the importance and value of mediation.But some money does need to be spent.
There needs to be full and frank financial disclosure. Advice can be given when this is received. Action may be required if the other person tries to evade disclosing relevant information.As I said above; a victim of abuse is perhaps more likely to agree to anything just to get the other off their back.
Use the divorce and separation calculator to work out your finances and what you own.
Once you’ve reached an agreement, you can get the court to make it legally-binding, by applying for a ‘consent order’.
If you can’t agree
You can ask the court to decide using a ‘financial order’ if you can’t agree.
You’ll usually need to consider mediation before you go to court.
Get legal advice
Find a solicitor if you’d like legal advice.
Mediation is a good idea for most, but not all couples. But Legal advice is not an option if you feel like it; Legal Advice is essential!
You’ll need to make arrangements for your children if you split up from your partner.
A court won’t let you divorce or dissolve a civil partnership until you can show you’ve arranged things like:
- where the children will live
- when they’ll spend time with each parent
- who’ll pay child maintenance
You’ll usually need to prove that you’ve considered mediation before you go to court.
Get legal advice
Find a solicitor if you’d like legal advice.
Note; You need to prove you have considered mediation for child matters, but you only need to consider mediation in the children section!
The idea is that everyone should meet with a mediator to consider mediation before applying to Court. An FM1 form is issued by the mediator if mediation is unsuitable, which goes with the application. Except the Courts have not been brilliant at enforcing this rule since April.A form called the Statement of Arrangements is sent to the Court with the Divorce Petition. However if the children’s arrangements are not agreed, this does not mean that the Divorce will not go through.Unless there is a safety issue, mediation is always the best way to sort out children’s arrangements because it is about getting parents talking to each other again.
There is stuff elsewhere on my site about making the most of mediation.