This post is inspired by a conversation I had with my mum recently. She told me of a woman who wants to divorce her violent husband without a solicitor. In her infinite wisdom, Mum informed the woman that she would need two years of separation before filing for a divorce. I am an absolute stickler for the facts and Mother always thinks she knows best. So, following a brief but fiery debate on the validity of her information, I decided to research the matter for myself. Here’s the do’s and don’ts from what I’ve found out…
1. Do know your facts.
UK divorce law is contained within the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 available at http://www.legislation.gov.uk
Solicitor’s websites contain a wealth of useful information on the aspects of the law that they practice, for example:
A divorce cannot be applied for until a couple has been married for at least one year…There is only one legal ground for divorce, which is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The one who starts proceedings must prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down by establishing one of the five following facts: Adultery, Unreasonable Behaviour, Desertion, 2 years separation with consent, 5 years separation with no consent – www.linnitts.co.uk
Mum is certainly not always right but solicitors often are. A Google search of family law solicitors will uncover a trove of well-written and informative sites. Read four or five of them and you’ll soon start to feel confident about handling your own divorce.
2. Don’t cite adultery.
If you cite adultery then you’ll have to prove it, including that intercourse took place. Suddenly, ending the marriage morphs into a world of private detectives and covert filming. Life is hard enough without all of that. Thankfully, there are more simple and less antagonistic ways of getting a divorce. In her book, Family Courts Without a Solicitor (2011), Barrister Lucy Reed explains this point to perfection. Though I cannot use her exact words due to copyright, she basically says, AVOID! AVOID! AVOID! For a litigant in heels with no solicitor, there is no advantage to citing adultery – just a long and exposing road.
3. Do follow in the footsteps of the strong women who have gone before you.
Unreasonable behaviour has consistently been the most common ground for wives petitioning for divorce since the late 1970’s. – Office for National Statistics http://www.ons.gov.uk
Unreasonable behaviour could be anything from physical violence, verbal and mental abuse, drug-taking, alcohol abuse to refusing to pay for house-keeping and cheating. Basically, unreasonable behaviour is anything that makes remaining married impossible.
4. Don’t shoot to kill.
A divorce doesn’t have to get messy. Providing a list of every, single, horrible thing your husband has done to you is not going to help. All you need is enough information to ensure that the grounds for divorce are met. Examples are necessary but avoid anything that’s likely to provoke a reaction from the other side. Divorce rivalry and point scoring only leads to the speed of the case slowing down. If he doesn’t agree to your reasons then he’ll have to respond in writing and at a hearing— tensions can quickly escalate. Financial matters are unaffected by your reasons for divorce so, there really is nothing to be gained by shooting to kill. Your revenge, should you need it, is getting the divorce quickly so you can get on with the rest of your life.
5. Do agree on contact arrangements for children.
Childcare and contact arrangements are part of the application for divorce. If your ex agrees to the arrangements outlined in your application then it is a mere formality for the courts. Any disagreement will inevitably slow the divorce process down. The court will need to arrange a hearing in order to question your disagreements and encourage a resolution. Divorce is often tough on the kids of separating parents. An agreement on new routines will make transitioning from old life to new life easier for everyone.
Do you have any advice on divorce or an experience to share?
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