Beverley Jones, Associate in the Family team, answers the most frequently asked questions in relation to divorce.
Q. What are grounds for divorce in England and Wales?
A. There is only one ground for divorce and that is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. There are five facts to prove this, namely adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, 2 years separation with consent and five years separation.
Q. What is the most common type of divorce petition?
A. Clients generally rely on unreasonable behaviour to demonstrate to the Court that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The reason for this is that ex-spouse does not have to admit to the behaviour, nor do you have to have been physically separated for a period of time. An adultery petition can only proceed if the ex-spouse admits to the same.
Q. What do I do if my spouse refuses to get divorced?
A. In the event a divorce is defended – which is extremely rare – the court will list the matter for a ‘contested hearing’. Ultimately, courts will not force parties to remain married when the relationship has irretrievably broken down.
Q. Can I apply for a divorce if we still live together?
A. Yes, although a more detailed statement may need to be provided depending upon the circumstances, including the fact relied upon.
Q. How long does divorce take?
A. The timescale for an undefended divorce is between 3 – 6 months; however it may be that you are advised to delay applying for Decree Absolute until all financial matters are resolved.
Q. Is there a set formula to consider when resolving financial matters?
A. No. The starting point in each case is to achieve equality; this does not necessarily mean a 50/50 split. The Court and professionals should consider each case individually and consider the following factors:
- Income, earning capacity, assets and financial resources
- Financial needs, obligations and responsibilities
- Standard of living
- Age of each party and length of marriage
- Loss of certain rights
Q. What is the court’s priority when determining what is a fair and just settlement?
A. The Court’s priority is always the welfare of any children of the family and particularly their housing needs.
Q. What if my spouse tries to hide assets or money?
A. Both parties have a duty to provide full and frank financial disclosure to each other and the Court. The Court can order experts be appointed to value certain assets such as businesses and properties if the parties cannot agree on valuations.
Ultimately, if a Court finds one party has been dishonest it is likely he/she will face monetary consequences in the overall settlement and even be sent to prison for contempt of court.
If you have any queries relating to the above or another aspect of family law, please contact Beverley JonesThis information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.