Will divorce ruin me financially?

That may sound like quite a drastic question, but it is a genuine fear held by many people facing the prospect of divorce. They see their wealth, which they may have carefully accumulated over years of hard work, suddenly coming under threat from an avaricious spouse.

But do they really need to fear financial ruin?

The answer to that is almost certainly ‘no’, although it should be pointed out that many divorcing couples have brought financial ruin upon themselves, simply by spending all of their wealth arguing over who should have it!

Leaving that to one side, let’s have a closer look at what is likely to happen to a person’s wealth when they get divorced.


Basic principlesno-fault divorce image

There are a number of factors that must be taken into account when considering what is an appropriate financial settlement. We will not list them all here, but the most important is the financial needs of the parties and, in particular, any dependent children.

If the court is asked to sort out the financial settlement it will want to ensure that those needs are met, if possible (sometimes there simply won’t be enough assets to meet the needs). ‘Needs’ include not just income needs, but also housing and (if appropriate) pension needs.

How this will work out in practice depends upon the circumstances of the case and, in particular, the amount of assets available. (Note that the court will take into account the needs of both parties, although obviously the needs of any dependent children will take precedence.)

Accordingly, for example, if one party has to provide a home for themselves and the children, then their needs will be greater than the other party, and they may therefore receive a greater share of the assets. This does not, however, mean that the other party will receive nothing, unless there are simply no other assets available after the needs of the children are met.

If there are more assets available than what is required to meet the needs of the parties and any dependent children then, subject to what we say below, any balance will usually be shared between the parties.

It is also of course possible that one party will be required to pay maintenance for the other, or any dependent children. However, the amount of the maintenance will take into account the payer’s own income requirements.

Those are the basic principles. However, two types of assets often give rise to particular concerns: assets acquired or owned prior to the marriage, and business assets.


Premarital assetsLady holding house

We said above that assets over and above what is required to meet needs are usually shared equally. However, any assets acquired or owned prior to the marriage are usually excluded from this sharing, if they have not become ‘mixed’ with assets acquired during the marriage. These premarital assets will therefore remain the property of the party who owned them prior to the marriage, although note that premarital assets can be used to meet needs, if there are insufficient other assets available.


Business assets

Business assets are perhaps the most common type of asset that give rise to the ‘financial ruin’ fear. The party who owns the business will often have built it up through their own hard work, over many years. They worry, for example, that the other party will be entitled to half of the business, or that they will have to sell the business to meet the other party’s financial claims.

It is true that a business can sometimes be used to raise capital to pay off the other party. However, the business will usually be the main source of income, from which all the family will benefit, even after the divorce. The court will not want to jeopardise that by damaging the business. Dividing a business may irreparably damage it, and selling it deprives the family of income. There is no rule that says a business must be divided or sold as part of a divorce settlement.


*  *  *


It will be seen from the above that divorce does not automatically mean financial ruin and, indeed, the court will endeavour to ensure that that does not happen.

Obviously the above is just a very brief outline of some of the principles involved in sorting out financial settlements on divorce. For more detailed advice specific to your case, you should consult an expert family lawyer.


New rules require parties to make early settlement proposals in financial remedy proceedings

The rules governing the procedure to be used in family court proceedings (the ‘Family Procedure Rules’) have been amended. The new rules include amendments that will affect how many cases are dealt with, and will therefore be of interest to many litigants, particularly those involved in financial remedy proceedings connected with divorce.

We will not cover all of the amendments here (you can find a link to them below), but the following are probably the most interesting.


Compulsory settlement proposalsearly settlement proposals in financial remedy proceedings

Perhaps the most important amendment relates to the putting forward of settlement proposals in financial remedy proceedings.

Until now parties to financial remedy proceedings were not required to put forward settlement proposals until just prior to the final hearing of the case. That is not to say of course that it is not a good idea to put forward proposals – it is usually best to try to settle the case by agreement, rather than go to an expensive final hearing. We would normally therefore advise clients to put forward proposals, once they have sufficient information to ascertain their entitlement (including information about the other party’s means.)

However, as from the 6th of July, when the new rule comes into effect, there will be a duty on the parties to put forward settlement proposals much earlier.

In most financial remedy cases the court will fix a Financial Dispute Resolution appointment (‘FDR’) shortly after the financial remedy application has been issued. The purpose of the FDR is to provide the parties with an opportunity to negotiate a final financial settlement, with the input and assistance of a judge.

The new rule provides that where the case has not been settled at the FDR the court can direct that the parties put forward open settlement proposals, by such date as the court directs. If the court does not make a direction, then the proposals must be put forward within 21 days after the date of the FDR appointment.

This new rule is obviously going to affect many financial remedy cases, the intention obviously being that more cases will be settled earlier.


Stricter rules on costs estimates Stacks of pound coins

The new rules also introduce stricter requirements regarding the filing of costs estimates in financial remedy proceedings.

One requirement is that not less than one day before every hearing or appointment within the proceedings, each party must file with the court and serve on each other party an estimate of the costs incurred by that party up to the date of that hearing or appointment.

The intention here is to try to keep control of spiralling costs in financial remedy proceedings. Whether the rule is successful in achieving this, we will have to see.


Disclosing communications with the court

The last new rule that we want to mention refers to all family proceedings, not just financial remedy proceedings.

The rule introduces a requirement that any communication between a party to proceedings and the court must be disclosed to, and if in writing (whether in paper or electronic format) copied to, the other party or parties or their representatives, unless there is a compelling reason for not doing so.

The rule applies to ‘substantial’ communications, not communications that are purely routine.

All communications required to be disclosed must state on their face that they are being copied to the other party or parties, and if they do not they will usually be returned to the sender without being considered by the court.

The rationale behind this new rule may be to stop any litigant, particularly one who is not represented by a lawyer, attempting to gain an advantage by communicating with the court without telling the other party.

If you are interested, you can find the Family Procedure Rules here, and the amendment rules here.


Former President calls for action to address crisis in family justice

The former President of the Family Division Sir James Munby has warned about a “crisis in private family law”, as a result of sustained criticism of the system.


Heavy and sustained attackfamily law

In a speech that he prepared for a conference on shared parenting in Edinburgh he said that the system was under “heavy and sustained attack” from two very different viewpoints:

  • One is the viewpoint of those who have experience of the system as litigants: here, he said, much of the debate is “polarised and largely gender-based”.
  • The other viewpoint is that of many experienced and responsible journalists, and of increasing numbers of legally qualified family practitioners, whose experiences and opinions feature both in the print and broadcast media and on the blogosphere and other online social media.


Complaints under the first viewpoint included:

  • That judges are failing to give effect to the statutory presumption that, unless the contrary is shown, involvement of both parents in the life of their child will further the child’s welfare;
  • That judges are not sufficiently alert to the behaviour of women who are alienating their children from their fathers; and
  • That judges are not sufficiently robust in ensuring that their orders are actually complied with by recalcitrant mothers.


Complaints under the other viewpoint included:

  • That judges are not sufficiently alert to and understanding of the very serious problem of domestic abuse in all its forms, and its effects on both the parent and the children, especially when the allegation is of coercive and controlling behaviour;
  • That there is an increasing tendency to revert to a culture of ‘contact at all costs’;
  • That judges are too accepting of some supposedly expert evidence in support of allegations of parental alienation;
  • That judges are not doing enough to prevent the process itself becoming abusive; and
  • Generally, that many applicants find the entire process so daunting and demoralising that they simply ‘give up’, preferring, for example, not to pursue even serious allegations of domestic abuse.


On many topics, Sir James said, the system is criticised from those on both sides of the debate. However, he continued: “there is no room for the complacent assumption that if you are criticised by both sides you are probably getting it right. On the contrary, it surely suggests that we are getting it very wrong.”

As an example of this, he referred to a recent case in which a family judge was heavily criticised for finding that a woman was not raped because she took ‘no physical steps’ to stop the man. Sir James said: “Some will say that this particular judgment is not typical, that it is an outlier. Others no doubt will say that it is no more than the very small tip of the proverbial iceberg. Without research, we simply do not know, but I fear that the latter view is probably very much closer to the truth.”


Addressing the crisismother and child - family law

Sir James suggested a number of ideas to address the crisis, including:

  • Diverting many more private law cases away from the family court before they ever get there, for example into mediation;
  • Urging judges to publish more judgments, however seemingly mundane, in private law cases, especially in cases where there are allegations (whether substantiated or not) of any form of domestic abuse;
  • Enhanced judicial training;
  • Repealing the restrictions on reporting family cases, and replacing them with “much less restrictive, more narrowly drawn and more focused legislation better suited to the modern world”; and
  • A detailed programme of rigorous, independent research by suitably qualified academics, including research into the existence, causes, and consequences, and means of identifying, parental alienation and domestic abuse, in all its forms.


Sir James concluded:

“These criticisms are immensely damaging and, unless addressed, and seen to be addressed, with vigour, and with a complete lack of either complacency or sentimental self-protection, will sooner rather later, I fear, bring the system to its knees. Confidence in the system is at an all-time low, and unless drastic steps are taken, it will sink even lower.”

You can read the full speech here.


Award winning South West Family Law SolicitorsAward winning South West Family Law Solicitors seeks top talent to join our team (various roles)

We are the very proud to have been named as the Modern Law Boutique Law Firm 2020 (11+ employees). This follows closely our founder and managing partner being highly commended in the category of practice manager at the Law Society Excellence Awards 2019.

Based in Devon and Somerset

We are a fast growing and innovative family law practice with office locations across Devon and Somerset. We are in the process of relocating our main centre to nice new offices in Exeter.

We are committed to the best practice of family law. We are active Resolution members. Ian Walker is the long-standing Chair of Resolution’s Devon Region. Ian is also a member of Resolution’s DR committee.

All areas of family law practice

We practice all areas of family law from high-value divorce to legal aid childcare law to collaborative law and family mediation. We value the commitment of all our team and are a real living wage employer.

Ian Walker Award winning South West Family Law SolicitorsWe are recruiting for the following roles

We have exciting plans for 2020/21 and are currently recruiting for the following:

  • Head of Divorce/Finance
  • Head of Public Law Children
  • Head of Private Law Children

These are all roles for experienced family lawyers. In all cases the successful candidate would be responsible for the management and development of their team. They would work alongside our existing highly experienced team members in a supportive environment.

There are equity prospects for the right candidates.

In addition, we are also seeking:

  • Finance Manager

Our ideal candidate for this role is a qualified accountant who has good experience working within the law industry. The successful candidate would be responsible for the financial management of the practice (in conjunction with and Managing Partner) and would be tasked with improving our financial performance. Again, there are equity prospects for the right candidate.

All these roles are employed. Salaries offered will be competitive.

We also have opportunities for family lawyers with all levels of PQE

In addition, we are also very happy to receive CVs from family lawyers of all levels of PQE. Positions could be either as fee share consultant’s or salaried employees – depending upon preference and circumstance.

Candidate specifications

All candidates will need:

  • Excellent IT skills.
  • a commitment to the highest professional standards and self-improvement (e.g. obtaining relevant qualifications and panel membership is encouraged).
  • a good sense of humour and commitment to team working.

A bit more about us

We were founded by Ian Walker seven years ago and our rapid growth has been driven by client demand and the coming together of a very experienced team of family law specialists.

We are committed to being a forward-looking practice

  • Our IT is all cloud-based and homeworking/smart working and flexible is positively encouraged.
  • We have gained and retained Lexcel Accreditation 6.1 with minimal non-compliances#
  • We have Legal Aid Contracts for family law and for mediation (which means we could offer a route to mediation accreditation if that were wanted).
  • We have built and maintained a strongly performing website (traffic has increased by more than 4x even in the last year).(More improvements are also in the pipeline).
  • We have established a business model which has delivered a growth in turnover of around 50% each year for the last 5 years.
  • We all enjoy working together and have a good team ethic.

How to apply/find out more

Please email and/or send your C.V. in confidence to Ian Walker; ianwalker@familylawandmediation.co.uk


Can divorce proceedings be stopped?

Few people commence divorce proceedings without proper consideration. – they will only do so if they are sure that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. Even so, they can sometimes have a change of heart, and reconciliation is attempted. But can divorce proceedings be stopped, and if so, what is involved?


The basicsdivorce lawyer meeting - Can divorce proceedings be stopped?

The first thing to say is that whether or not the divorce can be stopped depends upon the other party. If both parties want it to stop then it can be stopped. But if one party wants the divorce to continue, then it is unlikely that the divorce can be stopped. If that party is the one who commenced the divorce then they can simply proceed with their divorce petition, and if they did not commence the divorce, then they can finalise the divorce themselves if the decree nisi has been pronounced, or cross-petition if it has not.

The second thing to say is that divorce proceedings do not have a life of their own. They are not ‘automatic’ once started. Each stage of the divorce (decree nisi and decree absolute – see below) will only take place if a party applies for it. Thus, if no one applies for the divorce to proceed, then it is effectively stopped. However, the divorce proceedings will remain on the court file, and could therefore be ‘resurrected’ at a later date.

This may not be what is wanted, in which case it may be necessary to take other steps. What steps, if any, depend upon what stage the divorce has reached. A divorce takes place in three parts: between the issuing of the divorce and the pronouncement of the decree nisi, between the decree nisi and the decree absolute, and after the decree absolute.


Before decree nisi

Stopping the divorce before decree nisi is relatively simple, as the court has not yet made any orders.

However, the divorce petition will still be on the court file, and this may not be what is wanted.

What to do to ‘get rid’ of the petition depends upon whether the other party has been served with the divorce papers.

If they have not been served, the party who issued the divorce may simply write to the court to request that the petition be withdrawn.

If the other party has been served with the papers then, if both parties agree, they can apply to the court to have the petition dismissed.


After decree nisi

divorce gold wedding rings - Can divorce proceedings be stopped?The decree nisi is when the court pronounces that the person(s) seeking the divorce (usually the petitioner – i.e. the person who issued the divorce petition) is entitled to the divorce.

The decree nisi does not finalise the divorce – that does not happen until the court makes the decree absolute – but if the parties do not want to proceed with the divorce they will want to have the decree nisi cancelled (the legal term is ‘rescinded’).

Either party can apply to the court for the decree nisi to be rescinded. The court will grant the application, provided that the other party consents.


After decree absolute

The decree absolute can be applied for after six weeks have elapsed since the pronouncement of the decree nisi. The decree absolute finalises the divorce.

Once the court has made the decree absolute the divorce is over and it is too late to step back. The decree absolute is final, and cannot be rescinded unless (very unusually) there has been some irregularity.

The only thing to do if a reconciliation occurs after decree absolute is to remarry (it does happen!).


We are Modern Law Awards 2020 Winners

We are very proud to have been named as Boutique Law Firm of 2020 (11+ Employees) at the prestigious Modern Law Awards in Manchester on 6 February 2020.

The Modern Law Awards

The Eclipse Proclaim Modern Law Awards were launched to celebrate and identify sparkling talent and success in entrepreneurship, market development, business management and best practice in the modern legal services arena.

The Judges included:

  • Simon Davis: President of the Law Society
  • Michael Napier CBE QC (Hon); former President of the Law Society and for 30 years the senior partner with leading practice Irwin Mitchell.
  • Professor Thom Brooks FAcSS FHEA FRHisS FRSA: Dean of Durham Law School, Chair in Law & Government.
  • Sarah Walker-Smith; Chief Executive of leading practice Shakespeare Martineau LLP.
  • Tony Fisher: Senior Partner of leading practice Fisher Jones Greenwood.

Boutique Law Firm of 2020 (11+ Employees)

The category in which we were recognised was Boutique Law Firm of the Year (11+ Employees)

These are prestigious awards and there were a lot of entries. We are honoured to have been singled out for recognition.

Ian Walker was highly commended at the Law Society Excellence Awards last Autumn, but this award is special to us because it recognises the very hard work of all of our team.

All of our team have played a big role in our success. What we have achieved together in the last 7 years has been incredible – a real team effort.

What did we need to demonstrate for the Judges?

The criteria against which we were judged were:

  • Being a firm who practices in a niche/specific area of law
  • Being a practice that has performed exceptionally in terms of establishing itself in its chosen market
  • That within the last year, we have demonstrated extensive development and progress as a business, including, but not limited to; strategy, growth, financial performance, employee development, diversity and training
  • Being an innovative practice that can demonstrate its ability to creatively and effectively compete with multi-practice firms
  • Being a practice that exceeds the expectations of basic client care and professionalism

Some of our achievements in the last year

These have included:

  • New offices in Torquay and Weston-Super-Mare to add to our existing offices in Exeter, Honiton, Taunton and Yeovil.
  • Adding Fiona Griffin ad Nicole Phare to our team which is one of the most experienced team of family lawyers in the South West.
  • The introduction of our Client Service Guarantee.
  • A 50% growth in turnover as a result of increased client demand.
  • The introduction of new software solutions.
  • The commencement of our own trainee lawyer programme with on emphasis on increasing access to the legal profession.
  • Ian being highly commended at the Law Society Excellence Awards.

Modern Law Awards 2020 – 6 February 2020

Unfortunately we couldn’t take the whole team to Manchester. On the night we were represented by Ian Walker.

We would like to say a big thank you to Modern Law and to the Judges and everyone on the night for making us so welcome.

We also wish to congratulate the other winners and say a big thank you to all who were shortlisted and to all who entered.

It was a fantastic night!





Can divorce ever really be amicable

One often hears the expression ‘amicable divorce’. It seems like a contradiction. After all, divorce entails the breakdown of the relationship between the spouses. Surely, that means that the divorce will be characterised by animosity, rather than good will?

Well, not necessarily.

The answer to the question as to whether a divorce can really be amicable depends of course upon the parties, and whether they are both prepared to proceed in an amicable fashion. If the other party is not prepared to adopt such an approach, then an amicable divorce may not be possible.

But the approach that you take towards the divorce can also improve the chances of it being amicable.

Here are four things to consider:


Non-confrontationalcouple considering divorce

The first, and perhaps most obvious, piece of advice is to put your feelings to one side, and concentrate upon being constructive in your dealings with your spouse.

There will be much that needs to be sorted out: the divorce itself (see below), arrangements for any dependent children, and resolving financial and property matters. If you can adopt a non-confrontational approach to these matters, then it is much more likely that you will be able to sort them out by agreement, saving yourself the time, expense and stress of contested court proceedings.

Our lawyers are members of Resolution, the largest membership organisation for family justice professionals in England and Wales. Resolution members sign up to a Code of Practice, promoting a non-confrontational approach, which results in better outcomes for families and children.



Of course, it is not always possible to agree matters directly with your spouse, even through solicitors.

However, there are other ways to sort things out in a way that avoids the conflict and confrontation of contested court proceedings.

One such way is family mediation, whereby a couple meet with an independent mediator, who will assist them to discuss and resolve the issues that they wish to resolve.

Mediation is purely voluntary, but if you want an amicable divorce, why not consider using it to sort out arrangements for children and finances?

We offer a family mediation service – for further details, see here.



At present we have a divorce system whereby if you have not been separated from your spouse for two years then you can only proceed with a divorce by blaming them for the breakdown of the marriage, either because of their adultery or because of their ‘unreasonable behaviour’. Needless to say, attributing blame in this way can make an amicable divorce less likely.

But there are ways around this. You could, for example, sort out arrangements regarding children and finances now, and agree to divorce without blame after two years have elapsed from the date of the separation. Alternatively, you could try to agree allegations of ‘unreasonable behaviour’ with your spouse, before issuing the divorce proceedings.

Of course, if the Government’s Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill passes, then we will have a no-fault divorce system in which it will never be necessary to attribute blame for the breakdown of the marriage. However, it is still likely to be some time before the Bill becomes law, as we explained in this post.


Put children first

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, when dealing with your spouse put your children first. This does not just mean put them first when sorting out arrangements as to what time the children will spend with each parent. Other decisions will also affect the children, for example decisions regarding the former matrimonial home. And remember that children will be affected by animosity between their parents.

If your spouse sees you putting the interests of the children before your own then they are obviously likely to realise how important it is that the children’s interests should come first. They are therefore more likely to adopt a similar approach, making an amicable divorce more likely.

* * *

If you follow these simple rules then the chances of achieving an amicable divorce will be much greater, and of course if both parties follow these rules then an amicable divorce is quite possible.


Can divorce force the sale of my house?

When a divorce takes place any matters relating to the parties’ finances and property need to be sorted out. If the parties are not able to agree matters, then either may ask the court to sort things out for them. But does this mean that you could be forced to sell your house (i.e. the former matrimonial home) against your will?

The answer to the question, as with so many things, is: it depends.

It depends upon the circumstances of your case. The court certainly has the power to order a sale of your house, but whether it will do so depends upon whether that is the appropriate thing to do in the circumstances.


Equal sharing starting-pointLady holding house - Can divorce force the sale of my house?

The starting-point when considering a financial/property settlement on divorce is that all matrimonial assets, including the former matrimonial home, should be divided equally (note that it does not usually matter whether the home is owned jointly, or just by one party). Thus if the matrimonial home has an equity, i.e. the value of the property less any mortgage, then that equity should normally be divided equally between the parties.

That does not, however, mean that the property has to be sold. If one party wants to keep the property, then they can buy out the other party’s share by paying them half of the equity, or by agreeing to them having other assets to the same value. If this is a feasible possibility, then the court would usually agree to it, rather than forcing a sale and ordering that the net proceeds of sale be divided equally.

Whether it is feasible depends upon such things as whether the buying party can afford it, and whether the other party can be released from any mortgage on the property if, as is usually the case, they wish to be released. Note that if the mortgage is not being paid off, then it is up to the mortgagee, not the buying party, whether the other party is released.


Equal division not always appropriateMeeting - Can divorce force the sale of my house?

But that starting-point of equal division is not always appropriate, in which case the amount needed to buy out the other party may be considerably less, or even nothing. There are any number of reasons why this may be so, and we couldn’t possibly list them all here. For example, if it was a short childless marriage and one party owned the property before the marriage, it may be appropriate for that party to keep the whole property, with the other party having nothing from it.

Or the earning capacity of the two parties may be considerably different, meaning that the lower earner will need a greater than half share to rehouse themselves, due to their limited mortgage capacity. And if they don’t have any significant mortgage capacity, it may be appropriate for them to have the whole house.

If the parties have been separated for a considerable time and one party has remained in the former matrimonial home ever since, paying the mortgage and other outgoings, then that may be a reason for them to have a greater than half share of the property.

Another common scenario is that the house is required as a home for any dependent children. Here, the court would not usually want the house to be sold, unless it was really necessary (the sale could, for example, be delayed until the children have grown up). Of course, if there is not enough money available to keep the house (in particular to pay the mortgage), then a sale may be unavoidable.

In summary, the court can force the sale of your house on divorce, and will usually do so if it considers that the other party is entitled to a share, and you are unable to buy them out.

The above is of course just a brief summary of what may happen to the former matrimonial home on divorce. This is a complex subject, and if you require detailed advice then you should consult an expert family lawyer.


No-fault divorce on the horizon at last

The Ministry of Justice has announced that the Government has reintroduced the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, which will bring in a system of no-fault divorce, to Parliament. The Bill was first introduced in June 2019, but was lost due to the General Election.

If, as expected, the Bill is passed it will not be the first time that Parliament has passed an Act bringing in no-fault divorce. An Act that did that was passed back in 1996. However, the no-fault divorce provisions in that Act were considered by some to be unworkable, and never became law.


Statement of irretrievable breakdown no-fault divorce image

The new Bill will retain the one ground for divorce as at present – that the marriage has broken down irretrievably – but will do away with the need to prove irretrievable breakdown. Accordingly, it will no longer be necessary to show that the other party has committed adultery, that they have behaved unreasonably, or that the parties have lived separately for a certain period of time.

Instead, it will simply be necessary for one or both of the parties to file with the court a statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

If the statement is filed by only one party, the other party will not be allowed to contest the divorce. Defended divorces will therefore become a thing of the past.

As drafted, the Bill provides that there must normally be a 20-week ‘period of reflection’ after the start of the proceedings, before the party or parties that filed the statement can apply for the divorce to continue.

The court will then make a conditional divorce order, equivalent to the present decree nisi. As now, it will not usually be possible to apply for the final divorce order (equivalent to the present decree absolute) until six weeks has elapsed after the making of the conditional order.

Commenting upon the Bill Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland QC MP said:

“The institution of marriage will always be vitally important, but we must never allow a situation where our laws exacerbate conflict and harm a child’s upbringing.

“Our reforms will stop divorcing couples having to make unnecessary allegations against one another and instead help them focus on separating amicably.

“By sparing individuals the need to play the blame game, we are stripping out the needless antagonism this creates so families can better move on with their lives.”

The Bill has been generally welcomed by family lawyers and those working in or around the family justice system.


When will it become law?boy with family cutouts

It is not yet clear when the Bill is likely to be passed and, if it is, when its provisions will come into effect. The Bill had its first reading in the House of Lords on the 7th of January, and its second reading, when all aspects of the Bill will be debated, is yet to be scheduled. After that the Bill will have to go through committee and report stages, before passing through the House of Commons, and finally receiving Royal Assent.

The Bill is supported not just by the Government but also by the other main parties. It is therefore expected to pass. However, much work remains to be done, including the making of the necessary rules to give effect to the new law, and it seems unlikely that it will come into effect until late this year, at the earliest.

The Bill will also make similar changes to the law governing the dissolution of civil partnerships.

It should be noted, however, that the Bill will not alter the way in which financial arrangements between the parties on divorce/dissolution of civil partnership are dealt with.

You can follow the progress of the Bill here.


What will a divorce lawyer ask me?

Consulting a divorce lawyer can be a worrying prospect for some.

Divorce lawyer in a meetingDivorce is such a personal matter, and many people are reluctant to give details of their private life to someone who is, after all, a stranger.

So exactly what information will your divorce lawyer want from you?

Well, apart from basic personal details like names, addresses and dates of birth, the answer depends of course upon what your case involves. We will look at some of the possibilities in turn (note that we are only giving examples of the information your solicitor may require).


Information relevant to the divorce

If you are instructing your solicitor to issue divorce proceedings, then they will require details of when and where the marriage took place. Provide your solicitor with your marriage certificate, if you have it.

Otherwise, your solicitor will need information to prove to the court that your marriage has broken down irretrievably (this will no longer be necessary once the Government introduces a system of no-fault divorce). What information is required depends upon how you intend to prove irretrievable breakdown.

If you are alleging that your spouse has committed adultery then your solicitor will need to know the date when you first become aware of the adultery and, if known, the dates and places where the adultery took place. They will also want to know if your spouse is likely to admit the adultery. They will not, however, usually need to know the identity of the other party involved.

If you are alleging that your spouse has behaved unreasonably, your solicitor will need some examples of that behaviour, including the worst and most recent incidents.

If the divorce is to be on the basis of separation, your solicitor will need to know the date of the separation and the date upon which you came to the conclusion that the marriage is at an end. If the divorce is to be on the basis of two years’ separation, your solicitor will also require confirmation that your spouse consents to the divorce.


Information about your children

If there is any dispute about arrangements for any dependent children then your solicitor will need full details.

These will include the children’s personal details, with whom they are living, mother and childwhat schools they attend, what arrangements each parent is proposing and why, any special needs that the children have and, if they are old enough, whether the children have expressed any preferences about what the arrangements should be.


Financial information

Your solicitor will want to know whether you have agreed financial arrangements with your spouse.

If arrangements have been agreed then your solicitor will still want some basic details of the financial circumstances of yourself and your spouse, including your incomes, the value of any assets, what is to happen to the former matrimonial home and whether either party has a pension.

If arrangements have not been agreed then your solicitor will want full details of all financial matters (note that if you have to ask the sort to sort out finances then the court will require both parties to disclose full details of their means).


Where there has been domestic abuse

If either party is alleging that the other has abused them then your solicitor will require full details of any such allegations, including what happened, when and where. If you have needed medical treatment for injuries suffered at the hands of your spouse, then your solicitor will want details of the treatment.


As stated, the above is not an inclusive list of everything your divorce solicitor will ask you – it is just intended to give an indication.

As will be seen, your divorce lawyer will not generally want intimate personal details of your marriage, as the court will not usually require such details. Your solicitor will only request the information that the court will require, and sufficient information to allow them to properly advise you.