As expert divorce lawyers we routinely hear the same questions and myths surrounding separation and divorce. So here are our top 10 myths debunked!
1. “You can get a ‘quickie’ divorce”
There really is no such thing! In other countries this may be possible but, in England and Wales, you must have been married for at least 1 year before you can commence the divorce procedure. All divorces take about the same amount of time, whatever the reason pleaded. On average, the divorce process now takes 8-10 months, but this can be longer if there are ongoing financial negotiations.
2. “I cannot get a divorce because my spouse will not agree”
Not true! Consent is required for separation for 2 years and adultery has to be admitted or if not proved, but no consent is required for unreasonable behaviour or separation for 5 years. It is extremely rare for a divorce to be successfully defended.
3. “There is no need to exchange financial disclosure – I know everything that my spouse owns”
The parties to a divorce have a duty to provide what is called ‘full and frank disclosure’. Even if you don’t feel that there are many, or even any, assets to take into consideration, it is essential to see evidence of this to prevent a potentially unfair settlement.
4. “Everything is split 50/50”
A 50/50 split is usually the starting point but not always the end point. Lots of factors are taken into account as part of the divorce process e.g. the needs of the children, the parties earning capacities and any relevant contributions, to name a few. The end result will be based on what is fair and reasonable having regard to all of the circumstances.
5. “Unreasonable behaviour or adultery affects financial settlement”
The reason given for the divorce is rarely taken into account when it comes to dividing up assets. As badly as a partner may have behaved, the financial aspects are generally treated separately.
6. “Once I am divorced my spouse cannot make any financial claims against me”
Decree Absolute is the legal document that ends a marriage – but it does not automatically end financial ties. A legal document is required to set all financial arrangements in stone, if this is by agreement then a Consent Order can be obtained.
7. “A common law wife has the same rights as a married wife”
A ‘common law wife’ does not exist regardless of how long a couple have lived together. In fact, cohabiting couples have very little legal protection if the relationship ends. There are however some ways to protect yourself and if any of these issues affect you we would recommend obtaining early legal advice.
8. If your ex-partner does not pay maintenance you can stop them from seeing your children.
No, you can’t. The court sees child maintenance and child custody as two separate issues. You cannot use one to influence the other. It is important to note this works both ways, in that if you have been denied visitation you cannot stop maintenance payments.
9. “My ex cannot claim against assets that I bought before we married”
Yes they can. If there is a surplus of assets over and above your needs as a separated family, then such “non-matrimonial” assets will be excluded. However, most couples who divorce do not have assets in excess of their needs.
10. “Getting a divorce costs a fortune”
This is not necessarily the case. When media talk about the cost of a divorce, they are frequently reporting on the overall size of the settlement. The actual costs involved for court fees, solicitors, etc. are typically less than people expect.
Of course you always have the choice to represent yourself and not appoint a solicitor. However, in doing so, you must remember that divorce is still a legal procedure. The divorce Petition forms the basis for the divorce proceedings and if completed incorrectly, it can have serious legal and financial ramifications.
If you do not understand the financial claims you are entitled to or the orders the Court has the power to make both in your favour and against, you are at potentially at risk of losing out on a fair and reasonable financial settlement. If the wording of a financial agreement is not drafted correctly, you will lose out. In the same way that you wouldn’t take a short cut to get married and ensure that your marriage is legally valid, why do the same on divorce when the potential repercussions are even more significant?!
Whilst there are inevitably some costs involved in instructing a Solicitor, our only role is to protect your interests and ensure you get the best outcome that you possibly can. We are experts in our field and we know what has to be filed and when. We will manage and guide you throughout the whole process, leaving you to focus on building your new life in what can already be a very difficult and emotional time.
We understand that you may have lots of other questions. What will happen to the house? What about the children? How do pensions come into it? Whatever your question, the chances are you are not alone and it is simply too important not to ask.