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Divorce – 10 most frequently asked questions

Below is a list of 10 most frequently asked questions about divorce with answers.  Please treat the answers as general in nature because they are designed to help you understand the divorce law and process.

Question 1 When can you apply for divorce in England and Wales?

Answer You can only apply for divorce in England and Wales after one year of marriage. Even in cases of “irretrievable breakdown” of the relationship within the first year of marriage, no spouse can apply for divorce before the first wedding anniversary. You must back your claim that the relationship has broken down irretrievably with evidence of one or more of the following.

  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable behaviour
  3. Desertion
  4. Two years separation with consent; or
  5. Five years separation without consent.

Question 2 What is the quickest ground for divorce?

Answer There is no right answer to this question. It all depends on the case. Like most people, you will like a quickie divorce. But unfortunately, your wish is only but one factor. If you have evidence of adultery, you can rely on it and file your divorce on your spouse cheating over you. If you don’t, your next best option is to file your divorce petition on the grounds of ‘unreasonable behaviour’ (which I explain below).

Question 3 What can be unreasonable behaviour and how good is this ground for divorce?

Answer In divorce law, unreasonable behaviour is a subjective thing. It can be any habit, action or state of affairs which YOU think is unreasonable. It can well be that the same is reasonable for your spouse or the world at large.  Because ‘unreasonable behaviour’ is such a subjective accusation, courts don’t actually bother testing the merit of most claims, which means you don’t need to dig to the bottom of the barrel.

Question 4 Should I contest divorce proceedings?

Answer There is hardly ever any point in contesting divorce proceedings. The fact that your spouse has presented a petition is a clear indication that the marriage has broken down permanently. However, if you disagree with the grounds mentioned in the petition, you could file a counter petition with your grounds. The end result is the same but it will just take longer to get.

Question 5 How long does it take to get divorced?

Answer No divorce happens in the blink of an eye. Even high profile divorce cases involving celebrities actually take about 4 or 5 months to complete. And that is the case with undefended, straight-forward divorces. If it is contested, or there are other issues (e.g. children, finances), the process can take longer. I have come across some websites promising divorces in 6 to 8 weeks. This is untrue and impractical.

Question 6 Would it make it easier to divide the assets or agree on child contact arrangements if I choose a particular ground for divorce?

Answer The grounds you choose on the divorce form do not normally have any affect on how the assets are divided by the court between you and your spouse or the child contact arrangements ordered by the court.

Question 7 My friend told me that I have to sort out child maintenance and financial support with my spouse before I could apply for divorce. Is this true?

Answer Not at all. You can deal with these matters at a later date. You can apply for divorce and get decree absolute without even touching these matters. But you need to make sure that you tick the right boxes on the divorce form to keep these options open.

Question 8 Do I need a lawyer to apply for divorce?

Answer Many people apply for divorce without ever seeing a lawyer. You should be able to obtain divorce without much legal help if you and your spouse mutually agree that it will be uncontested. You should also make sure that you both agree about costs, arrangements for children, and finances and division of assets. There is no need to go to court in such cases.  You can arrange everything and possibly use an application checking service which some lawyers offer. If you decide to engage a lawyer, use their time wisely. Most lawyers charge an hourly rate and they will count the time you spend in crying. Make notes before you see your lawyer and try to put specific questions to save time (and money).

Question 9 Can I agree with my spouse about maintenance and child arrangements?

Answer The straightforward answer is yes. The law likes it when you both agree on arrangements on maintenance and financial support without going to the courts. This saves time and money for everyone. But be warned. The voluntary maintenance agreements are not legally binding. They cannot be enforced in law. So if a parent stops paying the promised maintenance, you cannot force him or her to pay. You are only left with the option of seeking help from the child support agency. Good luck with that. The better option is to make the voluntary agreement binding, by applying for a consent order.

Question 10 Can I get help with costs or legal aid?

Answer The government has heavily cut down legal aid for family law cases. If you are on a low income and have less than £8,000 in savings, shares, investments or property, you may be eligible to receive legal aid to help cover the cost of mediation. For divorce proceedings, legal aid is only limited to victims of domestic violence.

About the author

Zahid Akbar

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