Divorce and Dissolution

There is no question that divorce or separation from a partner can be one of life’s most painful and stressful experiences. Emotions are high and the circumstances intensely private. At a time when you’re feeling raw, angry and vulnerable, we understand It’s difficult to open up to someone who can advise you and help you make the right decisions.

Having encountered every kind of relationship break up, we know it is crucial to resolve matters sensitively, cost-effectively and, where possible, amicably in order to give the relationships involved the best possible chance of transitioning into friendships in the future.

This is especially important when children are involved, as children almost always retain contact with both parents, meaning their parents will need to continue working together in their best interests.

The process

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not usually necessary to attend court in order to obtain a divorce. However, you must have been married for at least a year and be willing to provide evidence that your relationship has irretrievably broken down (given that UK law doesn’t yet recognise the concept of a ‘no fault’ divorce).

The process generally takes a minimum of five months. We advise clients not to proceed with the ‘decree absolute’ (which is the document that formally ends your marriage) or the ‘final order’ (which formally dissolves a civil partnership), until you’ve finalised how your assets should be split. This is because you may lose your right to some of the assets once the divorce or dissolution becomes final.

    How can we help?

    Our expert family law team can draw on decades of experience supporting clients through divorce and separation to find realistic and pragmatic solutions to any areas of complexity or contention. We’ll work with you to ensure your priorities and interests are fully protected, and work effectively with your partner and their lawyers to reach a compromise that, hopefully, everyone can get behind.

    We’ll handle your case with the utmost sensitivity, with the aim of making the entire process as simple and painless as possible. This includes doing all we can to avoid court proceedings, and the time, stress and costs that these can entail.

    Moreover, where court proceedings prove to be the only way forward, we will provide you with robust and knowledgeable representation, and guide and advise you through the entire process. 

    Rest assured that we’ll treat you with respect and without judgment, and will be on hand to support you every step of the way, recognising that this will be a very difficult time for you and your family. So, give us a call and let’s talk through your needs and your options.

    We’ve included more information below about some of the key considerations and processes that may be involved.

    Taking a collaborative approach

    Collaborative Family Law refers to a process that couples can follow with a view to avoiding court when divorcing or separating. It involves the couples and their lawyers working collaboratively to resolve any issues that have arisen out of the relationship breakdown in order to reach a compromise that everyone is willing to get behind.

    How can we help?

    You would be represented by Director Michael Brady, who is a trained Collaborative Solicitor. You and Michael would meet your partner and their lawyer in a solicitors’ office and sit at the same table to discuss the division of assets and any related issues or concerns.

    This is a much more informal setting than a court room, and can be conducive to more open, collaborative and amicable discussions. It also offers greater control and flexibility in terms of how the discussions and negotiations are structured.

    This approach can make it easier to plan for the future and begin rebuilding new lives in an atmosphere of respect, while ensuring that the needs and interests of any children are prioritised. For these reasons, Michael and many other Collaborative Solicitors highly recommend the process, especially for couples who still feel able to work together.

    Resolving financial matters

    The division of assets, including the implementation of financial provision for the future, often ends up being the most contentious and complicated aspect of a divorce or separation. It’s where parties often reach a deadlock, meaning the right legal guidance is essential.

    Many couples initially decide not to focus on their financial affairs, prioritising getting the divorce or separation over the line instead. Some want to believe that time will resolve any outstanding issues, but in our experience, this isn’t the case.

    In fact, it is vitally important that your financial affairs are fully resolved before the divorce or separation is finalised, or you may find yourself negotiating with your partner in the future, having lost of number of your rights to what were previously ‘collective’ assets.

    How can we help?

    We routinely advise on divorce and separation across the full spectrum of wealth and financial complexity. Whether your divorce or separation involves businesses assets, investments, trusts, property portfolios or even farmland, our family law team has the skill and experience to handle it.

    Once we’ve helped you to reach a settlement, it is crucial for that settlement to be properly documented and formalised. Some people are happy to do this by way of a Separation Agreement – a simple written agreement between the parties detailing how their financial assets are to be dealt with – and we can help to draft and negotiate this.

    However, a word of caution: whilst a Separation Agreement records the parties’ intentions, it does not have the same finality as a court order, meaning a court could potentially depart from the terms of the Separation Agreement in the future (for example, if your ex-partner decides they are no longer happy with the terms of the Separation Agreement and challenge it in court).

    For this reason, once the financial terms are agreed, we would strongly recommend that they are incorporated into a ‘Consent Order’. This is a legal document that a judge can review and, provided that they are satisfied with the terms, formally approve. We would be very happy to help you to draft and file a Consent Order, and make any required representations on your behalf in court, should the need arise.

    If you and your partner are unable to reach a compromise without court intervention, then an application will need to be made to the court for ‘financial remedy’. The financial remedy process generally involves three court hearings, during which the parties (or their lawyers) will make representations to the judge. The judge will expect the parties to continue trying to agree a financial settlement throughout the process, but should this fail, the judge will then make a final decision as to how the assets should be split. We can guide you throughout this entire process and make representations in court on your behalf, should you wish.

    Childcare arrangements

    Divorce or separation can be equally as (if not more) painful for any children involved, and custody disputes can be the most distressing and emotive aspects of a relationship breakdown. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that their needs and interests are prioritised.

    It goes without saying that it’s better for all concerned if the parents can agree custody arrangements between themselves, but we appreciate that this is not always possible, especially when the parents’ relationship – and ability to communicate – has irretrievably broken down.

    How can we help?

    Sometimes we speak to a parent who has tentatively agreed to certain arrangements, but wants to check whether these are fair. Or a parent might come to us after their partner agreed to a set of terms, but subsequently changed their mind. Or a parent might come to us because they feel unable to communicate with their partner at all. And so on.

    Whatever your concerns, rest assured that we have the knowledge, experience and understanding to support you throughout the entire process. We can advise on any proposed arrangements relating to the care of your children, refer you to local mediators if we feel mediation could be helpful in your particular circumstances, and – if you have no other choice – represent you in formal court proceedings.

    Generally speaking, court proceedings are a last resort and even once proceedings begin, you will be expected to continue to try to reach a compromise without the court’s intervention. However, judges will sometimes give an early indication of the orders that they think would be appropriate, which can help any private negotiations to progress.

    When a court does intervene, it has the power to make a broad range of orders, including:

    • Parental Responsibility Order: a parent who is not married to (or in a civil partnership with) the other parent can apply for an order entitling them to be registered (or re-registered) on the birth certificate. This can be essential if the other parent refuses to include their name on the birth certificate or sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement.
    • Child Arrangements Order: this specifies the parent with whom a child should live and the terms of any ongoing contact with the other parent.
    • Prohibited Steps Order: this can legally prohibit a parent from taking certain actions, such as removing the child from school, changing a child’s name or surname, or taking the child out of the country
    • Specific Issue Order: this can formalise specific details of how a child will continue to be brought up, if (for example) the parents are unable to agree on a particular aspect of their child’s upbringing, such as what type of school they go to, or whether they should have a religious education
    • Adoption Order (including step-parent adoption): this gives you parental rights and responsibilities for a child who is not your own, taking away parental responsibility from the child’s birth parents or anyone else who has parental responsibility for the child
    • Recovery Order: this directs someone in possession of the children to produce them when requested to do so by someone authorised by the Court. An authorised person could be anyone who the Court deems suitable, including a parent.
    Obtaining child support

    Child support is an on-going financial obligation and is not linked to marital status, parental responsibility arrangements, or the level of intended contact any children will have with each parent. Following a divorce or separation, one parent may be legally obliged to pay child support to the other, to ensure that their child or children are provided for by both parents.

    Child support payments are widely known as ‘CSA payments’, as these payments used to be governed by the Child Support Agency. Over the past decade or so, the rules – and agencies involved – have changed on multiple occasions, resulting in a range of provisions that can be difficult to understand and complicated to apply in practice.

    The body currently responsible for governing child support payments is the Child Maintenance Service. Its website includes a calculator that enables you to access an estimate of the value of potential child maintenance payments in your specific circumstances.

    Exploring these calculations can help parents to agree their own child support terms, which can then be documented in what is known as a family-based agreement.  However, these agreements are not legally enforceable, meaning some parents opt for a more robust solution by entering into a legally-binding and enforceable deed.

    If you and your partner have been unable to agree the terms of any child maintenance arrangements, or if you did agree a set of terms but the other parent has then ceased making payments, you can apply to the Child Maintenance Service to make and enforce suitable arrangements.

    How can we help?

    We will ensure that the Consent or Financial Order concluding financial arrangements following divorce or dissolution includes the terms of any child support payable by one parent to the other, which offers more legally robust protection if a parent then fails to meet their obligations.

    Or, where parents have agreed their own child support terms, we can formalise these into a legally binding and enforceable deed, which is a much more robust solution than a family-based agreement.

    Whatever your circumstances, give us a call and let’s talk through your options to secure your financial position and give you peace of mind.

    Domestic Abuse

    The term ‘domestic abuse’ doesn’t just mean physical abuse. Abuse can be, and often is physical, but it can also involve psychological, sexual, emotional or financial abuse, coercion, or controlling behaviour, or simply the threat of abuse. Under no circumstances is it ok or justifiable.

    Despite this, many victims of domestic abuse take years to muster the courage to seek help and access the support needed to remove themselves from their incredibly unhealthy – and often dangerous – environment. If you are a victim of domestic abuse, you should seek help as soon as possible.

    If you have children, it is vital to take active steps to protect them. It’s an obligation, not a recommendation. Since 2004, it has been a criminal offence to ‘allow’ the death of a child or vulnerable adult, meaning that if you fail to protect a child or vulnerable adult from violence, you could be found guilty, even if the abuse or death was directly caused by an abusive partner.

    This means that even though you may be a victim yourself, you may also be guilty of a criminal offence if you fail to prevent your dependents from becoming victims.

    How we can help?

    Depending on the severity of your circumstances, we can make an application to the court without giving your abuser prior notice. In these circumstances, we can apply for two types of injunction on behalf of you and any dependents, and represent you in court if needed. The potential injunctions are:

    • Occupation Orders: these regulate the occupation of a family home and can exclude the other party, even if they are the sole owner.
    • Non-Molestation Orders: these prevent the other party from harassing, intimidating, pestering or threatening you or your dependents, or encouraging anyone else to do the same.

    Occupation Orders and Non-Molestation Orders require the parties to have some familial link. If there is no familial link, it may be possible to issue proceedings under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, which offers protection against any action, including speech, which causes alarm or distress. Again, we can give you advice and represent you.

    If you find yourself in difficult or dangerous domestic circumstances, please don’t hesitate to contact us so we can help you find a way out. We’re here to listen and support you.

    Legal Costs

    It is difficult to accurately determine at the outset whether a divorce, dissolution or separation will escalate beyond expectations. There are many factors involved that are outside our (and your) control, including the other party’s willingness to reach a compromise. No two cases are the same, assets and complexity vary significantly, and issues that seem trivial to one couple might be intensely negotiated by another. 

    However, we fully appreciate that nobody wants to commit to legal advice without having at least some idea of costs. To that end, we try to give our clients as much cost certainty as possible, and offer full transparency and fee visibility throughout so that our clients know where they stand. No hidden extras and no nasty surprises.

    So, give us a call and let us guide you through options and costs.

    Get in touch

    For further information about our services or to make an appointment please contact:

    Michael Brady

    mbrady@daveylaw.co.uk

    Cirencester
    01285 654875

    Julie Long

    jlong@daveylaw.co.uk

    Gloucester
    01452 508800

    Your locally trusted Solicitors serving the people of Gloucestershire