For many people the New Year forces some difficult decisions about their relationship. Jane Tatlock, Family Law Solicitor at Hegarty Solicitors explains the options available
Marriage or partnership breakdown can be traumatic. It can be difficult to know where to begin and there may be many unanswered questions emotionally and practically. Many people considering a divorce are concerned how it will affect their children, finances and home. If you’re unsure, here are the routes you can take.
After one year of marriage either spouse may start divorce proceedings. There is only one legal ground for divorce: ‘the marriage has broken down irretrievably’. The facts they can rely upon are ‘adultery’ or allegations of ‘unreasonable behaviour’ against a spouse. The alternative is waiting between two or five years before being able to issue for a divorce based upon separation for the same length of time. People often ask how long a divorce will take but this is a very difficult question to answer as so much depends on the circumstances of the individuals involved, such as whether agreements can be reached regarding finances and children. The overall timescale for a divorce can be anything from four to 12 months or more.
No Fault Divorce
At present it is not possible to obtain a ‘no fault divorce’. However, following a government consultation which ended in December, proposals are under way to make the divorce process less confrontational. There are, however, a number of ways to make the divorce process less costly and to help resolve issues amicably out of court by using Resolution accredited or Collaboratively trained lawyers.
Finding a Resolution
Resolution is a family law association which promotes a non-confrontational approach to resolving family problems. Members sign up to codes of conduct which require they conduct matters in a constructive and nonconfrontational manner to reach a resolution. Solicitors who have acquired specialist accreditation with Resolution will have shown they have experience, knowledge and demonstrative skills in family law.
The Collaborative Approach
The Collaborative process is an alternative to the traditional process and eliminates the need to go to court, which can be a lengthy and emotive experience. Using the Collaborative approach, each -party appoints a Collaboratively trained lawyer and through a number of face-to-face meetings the lawyers and parties discuss matters arising out of their separation and how those matters may be resolved. Parties are encouraged to sign a ‘Participation Agreement’ to agree in writing to try and reach a reasonable settlement without going to court. The advantage of the collaborative approach is that it gives couples the opportunity to reach agreement through discussion rather than conflict and means they retain control over their future. Even if the parties decide that the Collaborative process is not for them, adopting a less adversarial approach is usually preferable and can help the parties go forward in a positive way and save on a potentially expensive legal process.
The Ministry of Justice have launched a divorce service that allows couples to file for a divorce online without the need for a solicitor. However, it does not have to be an ‘either or’ scenario. Having taken legal advice at an early stage, you may well decide that you are able to proceed with the divorce yourself. Be aware that the online divorce service will only bring about an end to your Marriage/Civil Partnership. It will not deal with issues relating to your assets or finances, nor will it deal with the arrangements for any children. If you need to come to an agreement on issues such as who your children will live with and who will have ownership of the shared property or assets, a solicitor can inform you about your rights, and present all of the options that are available in relation to finances and children.
Jane Tatlock is a member of Resolution and a Collaboratively trained family solicitor with over 20 years’ experience in family law. To speak to Jane about your situation or to arrange a fixed fee initial meeting for just £100+VAT call 01733 295619 or email . Or visit www.hegarty.co.uk/family for more information.