Follow us on Twitter

Divorce, judicial separation & civil partnership

We deliver sensible practical advice and help you to deal with matters in the least stressful way possible.

Deciding whether to end a marriage or civil partnership

The breakdown of a relationship is a highly emotional time for most couples. Parties have invested a great deal of emotional and financial capital into a relationship. A relationship breakdown can be distressing to all concerned because it creates a great deal of uncertainty and fear of the future.

In relationships where there are children the breakdown of a relationship is especially difficult because in almost all circumstances the children will experience a significant change in their home life and routine.

At Chivers solicitors our first priority is to provide you with information that ensures you have peace of mind and information to enable you to move forward with certainty. We also endeavour advise you all possible outcomes relating to your case in order that you may make plans for the future.

All solicitors at Chivers are member of “Resolution”. As members we are obliged to exhaust all non-confrontational avenues of reaching a settlement before considering court proceedings.

We hope the following information assists in deciding how you might wish to move forward.

What to consider

There are financial and personal issues you should think through carefully before you make a decision about whether you want to end a marriage or civil partnership and which option you choose.

Think and make plans about issues like:

  • your personal safety and well being
  • where you'll live - who has the right to stay in a house you rent or own?
  • how you'll support yourself financially as a single person
  • any shared debts you have, like mortgages, cars and credit cards
  • how splitting up will affect your benefits
  • who will look after any children and how contact will be arranged
  • financial support (maintenance) you will have to pay for children
  • financial support you may have to pay your partner until you're divorced or the partnership is dissolved
  • any ongoing communication you might need to have with your partner
  • how you'll pay for a divorce or the option you choose
  • how splitting up would affect your immigration status.

Informal Separation.

If you and your partner agree, you can make arrangements about children, money, housing and other property without going to court. This is called separating informally. However, any informal arrangement made when you separate may affect future decisions if you do go to court. If there are children the Child Maintenance Service may get involved.

If you do decide later to apply for dissolution of your civil partnership and the court is involved it can change an arrangement made informally by a couple. This is only likely to happen if it considers the arrangement to be unreasonable or, in the case of a child, it thinks the arrangement is not in the child's best interests.

Separating by Written Agreement

A separation agreement is a written agreement between a couple who intend to stop living together. It sets out how they wish to sort out financial arrangements, property and arrangements for the children. When your agreement includes financial matters it should be made with the help of a solicitor. Examples of what you might want to include in an agreement are:

  • to live separately. This stops both partners from having to live together
  • not to molest, annoy or disturb the other partner
  • to provide financial support (maintenance) for the other partner. A separation agreement would normally say that maintenance will stop if the partner starts living together with a different partner. Any agreement not to apply to court in the future for financial support does not count legally
  • to provide financial support (maintenance) for any children of the relationship. Any agreement not to apply to a court or to the Child Maintenance Service in the future is not valid legally
  • who the children should live and have contact with.

The advantage of a written agreement is that it is easier to make sure you both understand what has been agreed. It also means that either partner can go to court to change the agreement in the future. The court may only change what it considers to be unfair or unreasonable. It is advisable to consult a solicitor when drawing up a separation agreement, but you should work out in advance the general areas you want to cover.

You can reduce the time it takes to draw up the agreement with the solicitor and or a mediator and it could keep legal costs down.

Judicial Separation

A judicial separation is a court order which stops the obligation of the partners of a civil partnership or marriage having to live together. It is quite rare to get a judicial separation, but it can be used by couples who have a moral or religious objection to dissolution of a civil partnership. The order does not end the civil partnership or marriage so neither partner is free to enter into a civil partnership again or marry. The order does not change each partner's rights to stay in the family home. If you want your partner to leave, after a judicial separation, and s/he is not willing to, you have to go to court for an occupation order.

You may make any application to the court for a financial remedy in the same way as you would if you were seeking a divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership.

Marriage

If you and your partner agree, you can make arrangements about children, money, housing and other property without going to court. However, any informal arrangement made when you separate may affect future decisions if you do go to court. If there are children the Child Maintenance Service may get involved

If you do decide later to divorce and the court is involved it can change an arrangement made informally by a couple that it considers to be unreasonable or, in the case of a child, if it thinks the arrangement is not in the child's best interests.

Separating with a separation agreement.

(See separation agreement above)

Divorce and Dissolution of a Civil Partnership

If you have decided that a divorce is the only way forward you may wish to ensure you have the original marriage certificate or a certified copy available in order that matters can proceed without delay. Divorce is an application to court asking for a formal dissolution of the marriage.

Financial Arrangements

If you have agreed how property and debts are to be divided the terms of the agreement can be incorporated into a document filed with the court called a “consent order”. The order is binding on all parties.

If you are unable to agree how to deal with all your property and debts mediation might be an option. We will refer you to a local qualified mediator to help you both reach an agreement. The mediator is independent from any solicitor representing the parties. The mediator is not there to give either party legal advice but to facilitate discussion with a view to reaching an agreement.

If after exhausting all other options an agreement cannot be reached the only way forward is a court application.

If you feel that it is likely that assets are likely to be moved abroad or significantly reduced without your permission you should obtain legal advice immediately and your solicitor will discuss under what circumstances you might secure securing a freezing order.

Housing rights at the end of a marriage

At the end of your marriage, the court can give you or your partner rights to the home or can take rights to occupy the home away from either of you. As long as you're both still living in the home, whether it is owned or rented, you both have rights to live in.

If one partner has been violent there are special orders the court can make to change the violent partner's rights to the home and exclude her/him.

If one of you is a sole owner or a sole tenant and the other partner leaves the home, they may have to go to court to enforce their rights to get back in.

If you and your partner are owner-occupiers the value of the family home is likely to be an issue within the divorce settlement. You should see an experienced solicitor about decisions that can be made about the family home.

Personal Protection

If at any time you feel the physical or psychological safety of you and your children s at risk contact the police immediately then contact your legal advisor. If you delay it may affect you ability to secure a protective order. In the civil or criminal courts.

Children

The most distressing aspect of marital breakdown is an acknowledgement that family life will never be the same for the children. It should be the aim of all parties and legal advisers to minimise the impact on the children as much as possible, one way is by reaching an agreement that is fair and practical for the children. Arrangements about the children can be incorporated into a separation agreement.

If parties cannot reach an agreement there are a number of available remedies available to the court to ensure that the welfare of the children is protected while considering the time they will spend with the non-resident parent. (See children section).

Who to inform you are separating.

If you and your partner are separating, you may need to inform your:

  • landlord or housing office
  • housing benefit office
  • council tax office
  • mortgage lender
  • gas, electricity and telephone suppliers
  • benefits office or Job centre
  • tax office, particularly if you're getting tax credits
  • current school and future school if you have children and they are moving
  • bank, building society or credit union if you have a joint account or credit card. You might want to freeze the account to prevent your partner withdrawing some or all of the money
  • hire purchase or credit companies
  • insurance companies, particularly if you have joint policies
  • post office, if you want mail redirected
  • doctor, dentist and child health clinic.

If you plan to start using your birth surname or another name, you should tell them about this too.

This summary does not include all aspects of the law relating to a breakdown in a relationship but to provide an overview of the services we provide. If you would like to discuss matters further please do not hesitate to contact Maria Goodyear at our office by telephone 01274 561666 or by email at: maria.goodyear@chiverssolicitors.co.uk.

For more information email zoe.burgess@chiverssolicitors.co.uk.

Costs

We do our best to ensure that you are fully aware of the cost of your case.

On matters that are agreed it is usual for us to agree a fixed amount so you are certain of the costs at the beginning of the case.

On matters that are not agreed we provide a cost based on the information we have at the beginning of the case this is then reviewed periodically. You may also agree to set a limit to the costs should you wish to do so. Work will stop as soon as the limit has been reached and you may set a new limit based on how your case is progressing.