The first day legal offices open in the New Year is traditionally called “D-Day” – Divorce Day.
By then, some couples have spent a concentrated and often stressful time together over the Christmas break. Typically, leading up to Christmas the financial pressures on families has resulted in over spending, those anxieties generally being put to one side during the festivities only to lurk like a dark shadow waiting for reality to kick in come the New Year.
Coupled with the ongoing juggling of work/family commitments, it is no surprise cracks in a relationship become more apparent, or even develop during this time.
The New Year therefore often beckons circumspection and assessment regarding life issues generally, and particularly the future of relationships. Now is a time that many will contemplate a split as a result.
However, if you are one of those people, it is important to fully understand the possible consequences and significance of divorce.
Whilst it may be hard for couples to contemplate struggling with the tensions of an unhappy relationship, nevertheless, if there does appear to be a chance of reconciliation, counselling or mediation may be a sensible option rather than simply jumping into a divorce situation. Both parties would have to agree to attend and be up front and honest, confronting problems in the hope resolution can be achieved to get the relationship back on track. If that is not an option, or third party help does not succeed, then divorce may be inevitable.
In summary, as the law stands, you must have been married for a year before a Divorce Petition may be issued. Unless you are prepared to wait for at least two years, you would have to issue on the basis of your spouse’s adultery, or behaviour, to issue immediately.
Since it would be unusual for both parties to have behaved impeccably towards the other throughout the marriage, behaviour petitions are relatively popular. However simply being ‘fed up’ or ‘bored’ with the other party wouldn’t be enough, unless there was a genuine and deliberate failure on the other party to try and engage in the relationship.
Defended petitions are a rarity, extremely expensive and time consuming, not to mention very damaging for the immediate and extended family, and notably any final hearing would be held in a Court open to the public – not a pleasant prospect.
Undefended petitions, the norm, are confidential between the parties, their Solicitors, and the Court. Divorce on this basis would be achieved in about four months, and follows a prescribed procedure which your Solicitor would be able to guide you through. There is a six week period before Decree Absolute may be applied for, which would enable both parties to remarry.
However, the application for Decree Absolute is usually postponed until financial matters between the parties have been resolved. It is important to remember that no matter how small you feel your asset pool is worth, or high your income, the legal issues are still complex. You may well prejudice you and your children’s futures if you do not take proper sound legal advice. There may also be children’s issues to be resolved concerning residence and contact.
Although the availability of Legal Aid has been limited in family cases, the cost of Legal Representation does not have to be out of your reach. Remember, if matters go badly wrong because you failed to take Legal Advice, it is likely to cost a lot more to put things right.
It would also prolong matters, create unnecessary bad feeling and acrimony – long term damage to all concerned which may be difficult to mend.
Your Solicitor would provide you with an estimate of costs at your first appointment, and here at Ringrose Law we offer a Fixed Fee Service for all range of family matters from Mediation, Divorce, Financial Matters, Pre and Post-Nuptial Agreements.
Naturally, if a negotiated settlement can be achieved, that is the best way forward and to be encouraged. It is important however to obtain a Final Order from the Court in the Divorce ratifying any agreement which is reached to prevent future arguments.
Remember, it is important for both parties to mutually exchange full details of their assets and income as otherwise any subsequent agreement/Order made could be set aside in the future. Honesty and openness must always be the best policy, but within the framework of proper sound Legal Advice.
Anita is a specialist senior solicitor and accredited member of the Law Society Family Law Accreditation Scheme, and has specialised in family and divorce law since 1995. Anita also specialises in children’s matters, pre and post nuptial agreements, co-habitation agreements, separation agreements, property disputes between unmarried couples, and civil partnership matters.