How long does a divorce take?
On average, a divorce takes between four and six months from the date the petition is lodged with the Court until the Final Decree is granted. Negotiations regarding finances and children may take longer.
Will I have to go to Court in order to obtain my divorce?
You will not have to go to Court if you and your spouse have agreed to divorce, agreed how the costs will be shared, and agreed that there are no issues regarding finances or children to be resolved.
What are the Court fees?
The Issue Fee when the Petition is sent to the Court is currently £550. If you are on a low income or are in receipt of income support, you may be eligible for Court fee exemptions.
Does my spouse have to pay towards my costs?
The costs of divorce can be shared and, in some circumstances, it may be appropriate for one party to pay the full costs. It is always best to agree this beforehand. If this can’t be agreed, the Court will make a decision for you.
What Financial Orders can the Court make?
Some couples are able to reach an agreement about their finances with some assistance from solicitors. The Solicitor will be needed to advise on the implications of any agreement and convert it into an Order recognised and enforced by the Court. If you are unable to reach an agreement you will need to make an Application to the Court.
The Court has wide powers to make Financial Orders as it sees fit. The settling of financial matters on divorces is called Financial Relief and is governed by the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. The Court’s primary aim is to ensure that any children are properly looked after and thereafter that both parties are provided for.
In the early stages following your break-up one spouse may need some financial support from the other on an interim basis until the wider financial issues have been resolved.
Blacks’ Family Law team can help you to pursue your claims for maintenance pending suit/interim maintenance in a proactive manner to protect your financial situation while your longer-term financial claims are being progressed.
If you find yourself on the other side of an Application for Maintenance, pending suit/interim maintenance, we can also provide expert advice and assistance on how to deal with this and how to tackle unreasonable and inflated claims.
When a couple with children get divorced, child maintenance is usually assessed by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) if it cannot be agreed between the parents. However, there are certain types of circumstances that the CMS can’t deal with. These include:
- Maintenance for step children
- Top-up maintenance where the paying parent earns above a certain limit (currently over £156,000 gross per annum)
- Expenses arising from a child’s disability
- Expenses in relation to a child’s education/training for work
- Where the child, or the parent with care of the child, or the absent parent, lives abroad
We can advise you about whether any of these claims are appropriate to your case and can help you to pursue your claim, whether through negotiation with the other side or through the Court.
Where such a claim is being pursued against you, we can provide expert advice and assistance to ensure that an appropriate outcome is reached.
Lump Sum Payments
A Lump Sum Order requires one party to the marriage to pay a fixed sum to the other party. Such a lump sum can be payable in one amount or in instalments. They are made as part of a Final Order rather than an Interim Order.
Property Adjustment Order
The Court has the discretion to order that one party to the marriage transfers all, or part, of their interest in the property to the other party. This will change the legal ownership of the property; however the name on the mortgage can only be changed if the mortgage company is willing to accept the change.
Order for Sale of Property
The Court can also order the sale of the home and establish each party’s share of the financial proceeds. The Court can delay the sale of the home until a future date, for example until the spouse remaining in the home remarries or enters into another partnership, or the youngest child reaches a certain age. In this instance the Court will specify who will receive what proportion of the financial proceeds when the house is sold.
The Court can order the person with a higher income to pay maintenance to the other person to help with their costs of living. This is known as “spousal maintenance” or “periodical payments”. A Maintenance Order can be for a certain period of time a “term order”, or for a until one person dies (known as a Joint Lives Order).
Pensions are often an important factor in a divorce and careful consideration must be given to how these are dealt with.
When a couple get divorced, one person often has far greater pension provision than the other. The Court has the power to redress this imbalance by making a Pension Attachment Order or a Pension Sharing Order. Pension Sharing Orders are the most popular, and they effectively mean that a portion of one person’s pension fund (the pension credit) is given to the other person.
Sometimes this means that the receiving ex-spouse becomes a member of the original pension fund in their own right. Alternatively, the pension credit has to be invested in another pension.
Another popular method of addressing an imbalance in pensions is for the court to off-set the value of the pension that the ex-spouse is keeping against other assets (e.g. by giving the other person more equity in the house).
If you suspect that your spouse, or ex-spouse, has disposed of assets (or is about to do so) with the aim of defeating, reducing, or frustrating your financial claims against them in your divorce, you need to act quickly and seek legal advice about applying to the Court to prevent this from happening, or to set aside any transactions which have been made.
These Applications can be made on an emergency basis if necessary and can help to ensure that you receive the financial settlement to which you are entitled.
Legal Payment Services Payment Orders
Where one person is unable to afford their legal costs, the Court has the power to order their spouse to make a payment to them in order that they can afford legal representation. The Court has to be satisfied that without an order for the respective amount the person applying would not be able to obtain the appropriate legal services.
If your ex-spouse is not complying with the Financial Order you have obtained, whether this be for maintenance, payment of a lump sum, or transfer of a property, you will need to be proactive and take steps to enforce the Court Order.
There are many different methods of enforcement depending upon the nature of the Order and the financial circumstances of your ex-spouse.
We can advise you about the method/s most suitable to your case and will assist you in taking enforcement action promptly to help you get what you are legally entitled to.
For more information about any of the above, please email or call Blacks’ Family Law team today on 0113 227 9285.