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Divorce and Dissolution


For most people, the process of divorce or dissolution is a wholly alien concept and unfamiliar territory. The rules that regulate the processes are often considered to be out of date and unnecessarily cumbersome. This is why many people find it useful to instruct a family lawyer to help them take the right steps at the right time. When a relationship breaks down you do not need any additional stress, and we understand this.

When a couple decide that their relationship is over and they want to formally end their marriage or civil partnership, then divorce and dissolution respectively are usually the only options.

For some, the idea of such finality is something they wish to avoid, and it may be that the very idea of divorce or dissolution does not fit well with their individual beliefs (often religious beliefs). For these couples, the option of judicial separation is available and again this is something that we can assist with, should it be a route you wish to explore. As this is less common than divorce and dissolution, I will not explore this option further here, other than to say it is a process that cuts financial ties without the actual divorce.

Divorce is the term used to formally end a marriage, whilst dissolution is the equivalent term for ending a civil partnership. For both options, the processes are broadly the same and we are experienced in both.

Currently, there is no way to obtain a “quickie divorce” – the procedure has a fixed timescale and at it’s quickest will still take around 6 months. Often the procedure takes significantly longer due to a conscious decision to delay the final decree of divorce until financial matters have been resolved.

Another issue for many people choosing to divorce or dissolve a civil partnership is that it is not possible to divorce immediately without attributing blame to the other party. We are in fact advocates for a change in the law so that it is possible to divorce immediately, without attributing blame to one party.

As it stands there is only one ground for divorce and this is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. However, this petition has to be supported by one of five facts and only two of these do not involve a period of delay.

You can divorce immediately by issuing a fault based petition – either one based on your spouse’s adultery (it is not possible to issue for divorce relying on your own adultery) or one based on your spouse’s unreasonable behaviour. Adultery for the purposes of divorce involves sexual relations between one party to the marriage and an individual of the opposite sex.

After two years, you can assert that you have been deserted and rely on this fact, or you can issue a petition based on the 2 years of separation, if your spouse agrees to such a petition.

After 5 years, you can issue a petition based on the period of separation itself, and your spouse’s consent is not necessary.

Furthermore, these facts are the same in respect of dissolution of a civil partnership, save that adultery cannot be cited.

The fact to be relied in the petition can often be a point of contention, although we are equipped to smooth over this process and ensure that the petition is kept neutral wherever possible. Rarely does the content of a divorce petition, impact on the eventual division of the matrimonial assets, so often it is disproportionate to become heavily involved in a dispute about the divorce petition.

After the petition is filed at court, and sent to the responding party (or personally served if necessary), the responding party must then complete an acknowledgement to say they have received the paperwork and to confirm whether or not they agree to the petition or wish to defend it. In response a petition based on unreasonable behaviour, the standard response from the responding party is to say that they do not admit the behaviour cited against them, but will not defend the proceedings. This is a good enough response for the courts to allow the proceedings to continue.

A logical person might imagine that at this stage the divorce / dissolution procedure should just continue without further input from either of the parties. However, this is not the case. Even though each party has completed paperwork setting out their position, there is still a requirement for the Petitioner to apply for the Decree Nisi which is the first certificate of divorce, and subsequently make an application for the final decree of divorce, the Decree Absolute. The necessity to make these applications slows down the whole process and some would say is an unnecessary addition.

6 weeks from the date of Decree Nisi the application for Decree Absolute can be made.

It is important to note that the divorce or dissolution process should be kept wholly distinct from any financial discussions or matters involving children, although unfortunately for some clients it can be difficult to achieve this separation. This again is where the guidance from a family lawyer can assist, to make the process easier.

You can contact Justine Osmotherley from our Family team on 0113 336 3323 or by email at justine.osmotherley@clarionsolicitors.com

Disclaimer: Anything posted on this blog is for general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice on any general or specific matter. Please refer to our terms and conditions for further information. Please contact the author of the blog if you would like to discuss the issues raised.