FAMILY LAW

You can get divorced in England or Wales if you’ve been married for over a year and your relationship has permanently broken down. Your marriage should be legally recognised in the UK (including same-sex marriage) and the UK your permanent home, or the permanent home of your husband or wife. If you do not want a divorce, you can get a legal separation so you can live apart without ending the marriage. You might also be able to annul the marriage. You can apply for separation or annulment during your first year of marriage.

ALTERNATIVES TO DIVORCE OR DISSOLUTION

Judicial Separation – A legal separation allows you to live apart, without divorcing or ending a civil partnership. The process for legal separation is almost identical to divorce. You can ask for a legal separation for the same reasons you could file for a divorce or end a civil partnership. However, you do not need to show that the marriage or civil partnership has permanently broken down. You may want a legal separation if: you have religious reasons against divorce you’ve been married or in a civil partnership for less than a year you want time and space to work out if you want to end the marriage or civil partnership.

Our Family Law Department provides advise in the following areas:

  • Separation and Divorce
  • Annulment of marriage
  • Annulment of Civil partnership
  • Prenuptial Agreements
  • Financial issues and settlements
  • Child arrangements order
  • Special Guardianship Order
  • Non Molestation & Occupation Order
  • Domestic Violence and Harassment
  • Family Mediation
  • Injunction and care proceedings
FINANCIAL REMEDY

We shall take full instructions on the history of the parties and the relationship, the children, the financial positions and contributions of both parties, the nature and extent of the matrimonial assets and proposals for division of property, considering and advising upon the relevant common law and legislative provisions in relation to contributions and other relevant factors.

The court process will be explained and particularly the requirement for endeavours to be made to negotiate an agreement before commencing proceedings.

We will communicate with the other party to attempt to negotiate an agreement – and, if successful, we shall draft a consent order and file it in court. If, however parties are unable to agree on how to divide their finances, we shall prepare, sign, file and serve an application and ask the court to make a financial order (also known as the ‘contested’ route). The court decides how assets will be split and this usually takes longer, and it is more expensive than in cases where both parties agree on how the matrimonial assets should be divided.

The scope of work covered by our retainer is confined to the financial settlement and not unusual additional work, for instance, disputes or advice on tax issues. If the work on the matter exceeds the normal reasonable bounds there will be additional charges.

Please note that in circumstances where the financial settlement is not proceeding, we will render an account for work completed.

Timescale This is dependent on the number of financial dispute resolution appointments arranged or if there is a final hearing, which could be several months.

PETITIONING FOR DIVORCE OR DISSOLUTION

Once a decision has been made to commence legal proceedings, the other party is notified of your intention before the application is prepared.

An application for divorce is prepared. Along with the application form you will have to provide all necessary documents.

Prior to filing the application, the draft application may be sent to the respondent for them to consider whether they will contest the petition.

The application is filed with the court and the application fee paid.

The court will issue the petition and a copy is sent to both parties. The respondent must return an Acknowledgment of Service to the court within 7 days.

The petitioner then files an Application for a Decree Nisi or Conditional Order.

Once the court is satisfied that the petitioner is entitled to a divorce, they will send the petitioner a Certificate of Entitlement to Decree Nisi.

After the waiting period of 6 weeks an application for the Decree Absolute or Final Order is filed at the court.

If the application is opposed, the matter will be listed for determination by a judge.

FIXED FEES FOR DIVORCE AND FAMILY LAW MATTERS

Our fixed fees are an alternative to our standard hourly rate and covers all work from preparation and application for divorce until we receive an order or decision from the court. Our costs are generally based on the time spent dealing with a matter. Time spent on your affairs will include meetings with you; considering, preparing and working on papers, including preparation of bills and statements of account; correspondence and making and receiving telephone calls.

Annulment of marriage

Annulment (sometimes known as ‘nullity’) is a declaration by the courts that the marriage was not legally valid or had become legally invalid. To annul a marriage, you must apply to the court by way of a ‘Nullity Petition’ and the two grounds for annulling a marriage in the UK are that the marriage was not legally valid (‘void’) or that the marriage is valid but defective (‘voidable).You can annul a void marriage if it was not legally valid in the first place, for example:

  • you’re closely related to the person you married
  • one or both of you were under 16
  • one of you was already married or in a civil partnership

If a marriage was never legally valid, the law says that it never existed. You’ll need to show that the marriage:

  • was never legally valid (‘void’)
  • was legally valid, but meets one of the reasons that makes it ‘voidable’

However, you may need legal paperwork (a ‘decree of nullity’) to prove this – for example if you want to get married again. You can annul a voidable marriage for a number of reasons, such as:

  • That the marriage was not consummated – you have not had sexual intercourse with the person you married since the wedding (does not apply for same sex couples)
  • Either party did not properly consent to the marriage – for example you were coerced or forced into it, whether by mistake or duress.
  • That the other party had a sexually transmitted disease (STD) when you got married
  • Your spouse was pregnant by someone else when you got married
  • That your spouse is in the process of transitioning to a different gender

As with divorce, your marriage legally exists until you annul it using one of these reasons. You can apply to have your marriage annulled as soon as you get married. Unlike divorce, you do not have to wait for a year. To annul your marriage, we shall assist you fill in a nullity petition and send 2 copies of the form to your nearest divorce court, and a copy of the petition to be kept by the petitioner. Filing a nullity petition form costs £550. Cost of preparing application and progressing the case – From £800 to £1,200 (uncontested nullity)Contested annulment of marriage – Our hourly fees apply – hourly fee ranging from £130 to £250.

  • Cost of preparing application and progressing the case –
    From £800 to £1,200
  • Contested Divorce – Our hourly fees apply – hourly fee ranging
    From £130 to £250

You’ll need to show that the civil partnership:

  • was never legally valid (‘void’)
  • was legally valid, but meets one of the reasons that makes it ‘voidable’

You can annul a voidable civil partnership for a number of reasons, such as:

  • That the civil partnership was not consummated – you have not had sexual intercourse with the person you married since the wedding (does not apply for same sex couples)
  • Either party did not properly consent to the civil partnership – for example you were coerced or forced into it, whether by mistake or duress.
  • That the other party had a sexually transmitted disease (STD) when you registered the civil partnership
  • Your partner was pregnant by someone else when you registered your civil partnership
  • That your civil partner is in the process of transitioning to a different gender. As with divorce, your civil partnership legally exists until you annul it using one of these reasons.

Unlike divorce or dissolution of civil partnership, you can apply for annulment in the first year of your marriage/civil partnership or any time after. If you however apply several years later, you may be asked by the courts to give reasons why you did not apply earlier. To annul your civil partnership, you or your civil partner must have either:

  • lived in England or Wales for at least a year
  • had a permanent home in England or Wales for at least 6 months

We shall assist you fill in a nullity petition and send 2 copies of the form to your nearest divorce court, and a copy of the petition to be kept by the petitioner. Filing a nullity petition form costs £550. Cost of preparing application and progressing the case – From £800 to £1,200 (uncontested nullity) Contested annulment of civil partnership – Our hourly fees apply – hourly fee ranging from £130 to £250

Financial issues and settlements. Children and parenting issues

Child arrangements order:

A child arrangements order is an order which states which parent the child lives with and the time that the child will spend with each parent and when other types of contact take place (e.g. phone calls etc)

You can apply to be a child’s special guardian when they cannot live with their birth parents and adoption is not right for them. Special Guardianship is an order made by the Family Court that places a child or young person to live with someone other than their parent(s) on a long-term basis. The person(s) with whom a child is placed will become the child’s Special Guardian. The person will be responsible for looking after the child until they’re 18 (unless the court takes their responsibility away earlier).The special guardian will make all day to day decisions about the child, for example schooling and medical treatment. They do not have to discuss these decisions with the biological parents. They would however need consent from everyone with parental responsibility for the child before making important decisions, for example changing the child’s name, putting the child up for adoption, taking the child abroad on holiday for more than 3 months and medical treatment for reasons other than improving the health of the child, for example sterilisation, circumcision or cosmetic surgery.

  • Non Molestation & Occupation Order
  • Domestic Violence and Harassment
  • Family Mediation
  • Injunction and care proceedings