I want a divorce where do I begin?

I want a divorce – where do I begin? a couple getting divorce, ring on table

You’ve come to the painful conclusion that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. You want a divorce, but where do you start?

The situation can seem overwhelming. Your entire life appears to hang in the balance: with whom you live, with whom your children will live, where you will live, and what you will live on – both now and possibly for the rest of your life. There are so many things to resolve, but where do you begin?

Well, the obvious answer (and the one you might expect from a firm of solicitors!) is to instruct a good family lawyer. Whilst that is certainly true, it’s not particularly informative. And in any event, it is useful to start thinking ‘in the right way’, even before you consult a lawyer.

 

Step 1: Think of the children

child and parent in meeting with solicitor

Father and toddler daughter in therapist office during counselling assessment meeting.

If you have any dependent children then obviously their welfare must be your primary concern.

You will need to sort out arrangements as to with whom they will live after you and your spouse separate, and as to what contact they will have with the other parent, assuming one parent is to be the primary carer.

And so much can flow from this decision. Obviously, any parent with whom the children are to live must have suitable accommodation for them. This may in turn have a bearing upon what should happen to the former matrimonial home (which is, after all, also the children’s home). It may be, for example, that the children and their primary carer should remain there, assuming that that is a practical possibility.

Otherwise, it will be necessary to ensure that any parent caring for children has the means to obtain suitable accommodation.

Decisions as to arrangements for children will also determine the financial needs of each parent, including whether one parent should pay child maintenance.

 

Step 2: Gather financial information

The other major issue that will need to be sorted out is the financial settlement. However, before this can even be considered, you will need to gather information, not just about your own finances, but also your spouse’s finances. Only then can consideration be given to what the financial settlement should be.

Clearly, you may not have full details of your spouse’s finances. It will therefore be necessary for both parties to disclose details to the other. Hopefully, this process can be achieved voluntarily, although if a party is not prepared to cooperate, then the court can require them to disclose details.

 

Step 3: The grounds for divorce

It may seem odd leaving this until last, but the grounds for divorce really aren’t that important. They are merely a ‘hook’ upon which to hang the divorce, and soon it won’t even be necessary to choose a ground, once no-fault divorce comes in, hopefully next year.

The grounds for the divorce will normally have no bearing upon arrangements for children, or the financial settlement.

The only problem may be if your spouse opposes the divorce, or opposes a particular ground for the divorce, for example adultery.

If your spouse opposes the divorce entirely that does not necessarily mean that they can stop you from getting divorced. However, contested divorce proceedings should be avoided, if possible. You could instead simply proceed with a separation at this stage, sorting out arrangements for children and finances, and leave the divorce to a later date – perhaps after no-fault divorce has come in.

If your spouse opposes the ground for divorce, it may be possible to avoid contested proceedings, by choosing a different ground.

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There are no hard and fast rules as to where you should begin when your marriage breaks down. There may, for example, be urgent matters to be dealt with, such as domestic abuse, or child abduction. However, we hope that the above helps to give an indication as to how you should be thinking.

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