Divorce & Separation

There were 80,057 divorces in England and Wales in 2022; you are not alone. Blanchards Law offers specialist divorce solicitors in Henley On Thames, London and Marlow.

Helen Habershon talks about Divorce & Separation

There were over 108,000 divorces in England and Wales in 2019; you are not alone. Blanchards Law offers specialist divorce solicitors in Henley On Thames, London and Marlow.

No Fault Divorce

In the past few years, the existing divorce laws under Matrimonial Act 1973 have been under scrutiny due to their fault based nature, and because they promote a blame culture between the divorcing couple. The new laws came into force in April 2022, and removes the need to apportion blame, thus reducing a major source of conflict between the couple and their children.

An overview of the divorce process (from April 2022):

1. Filing a divorce application

You must complete an online divorce application; this can be carried out by just one person to the marriage (“Single Applicant”) or as a joint application by both individuals (Joint Applicants”).

If an application is made by just one part of the couple, that person will take lead on making the applications at the later stages for Conditional Order and Final Order, mentioned below.

If the application is made jointly, both people to the marriage will need to each make the applications. This is something that should be considered before deciding on which route is best, as on a joint application both of you will need to play your part during the process to keep it moving.

With your application, you must provide a very good photographic copy of your marriage certificate and a fee of (currently) £593.00 will need to be paid.

  • You must meet the eligibility criteria to be able to apply for a divorce in England or Wales:
  • You have been married for over a year
  • The marriage is legally recognised in the UK
  • The UK is at least one of the couple’s home, if not both (there are rules as to how long you need to have lived here)
  • One of you was born here, but there are strict rules if you are both living in another country with which the marriage has better connections
  • Their marriage has permanently broken down

The eligibility criteria can be quite complicated, so unless one or both of you are living here, you should check whether you can bring an application here. The only ground for a divorce is the permanent break down of marriage, there is no requirement to prove fault.

2. Response to divorce

After receiving the application, the court will notify the other party (“the Respondent”) and they must file an acknowledgement. They must submit that acknowledgment online within 7 days of receiving the application. The court will provide the respondent with a login code.

If the application has been made jointly, there is no need for either party to respond.
On both types of application (single or joint) there is a 20 week cooling off period between the date the application is issued by the court, to the date you can apply for the Conditional Order. This is so that both parties can be sure they want to proceed with the divorce.

3. Apply for Conditional Order

After 20 weeks had passed an application for the Conditional Order can be made by the person who made the application for divorce OR if a joint application by both parties. This is again submitted online through your login.

You must then wait a further 6 weeks until the application for the Final Order can be made.

4. Apply for Final Order

After 6 weeks from the date of the Conditional Order, you may complete the final step in the divorce process. The Single Applicant applies for the Final Order OR if a joint application both parties to the marriage will need to log in and make the application. The Final Order is the legal document which officially ends the marriage.

Once the Final Order has been granted, the couple are officially relieved of their matrimonial obligations.

At Blanchards Law we always advise that the Final Order is not applied for until the matrimonial finances have been agreed and a sealed order made the court. This can be carried out alongside the divorce process, but can only be submitted to the court once the Conditional Order has been made.

Please see our page in respect of financial claims here: Do You Need a Financial Consent Order? | Free Consultation

You Ask, Blanchards Answers: Some FAQs

Many married couples opt for separation instead of divorce for various reasons. Some hope for future reconciliation and see separation as less final than divorce. Others may not meet the one-year marriage requirement for divorce, or they might wish to avoid the administrative process. Religious beliefs or a desire to maintain a sense of family unity, despite ending the romantic aspect of the relationship, can also influence this decision.

A separation agreement acts as a contract outlining the rights and responsibilities of each party during their separation. Although not inherently legally binding, it gains legal enforceability when incorporated into a consent order and sanctioned by a court. Even without court approval, the agreement can still be contested or upheld in legal proceedings, serving as a valuable tool for unmarried couples with children or joint financial interests to formalise their separation terms.

Many couples fear the emotional and financial toll of court proceedings, but there are several alternative paths to a separation agreement. These include:

Correspondence with solicitors: Suitable when both parties agree and prefer a quick resolution without mediation.

Mediation: A neutral mediator assists in resolving disputes, particularly over children, finances, or property, aiming for an amicable agreement.

Hybrid mediation: For complex cases, where solicitors support each party and a mediator facilitates the agreement without both parties being in the same room.

Arbitration: Couples can opt for a binding decision from an arbitrator on specific issues they cannot resolve themselves.

Collaborative law: Involves a cooperative approach with family lawyers to negotiate a settlement.

Private Hearings: Engaging a private judge to make decisions.

In separation cases, the child’s best interest is the primary concern. Living arrangements are tailored to benefit the child, considering factors such as their age, understanding of the separation, proximity to school, and parental locations. The goal is to minimize disruption and maintain stability in the child’s life, with flexible arrangements that can adapt to the child’s evolving needs and wishes as they grow older.

When parents are unable to form a mutual parenting plan, they may seek legal intervention as a final option. The court can assist in creating a consent order or, if necessary, impose an order prioritizing the child’s welfare, guided by the Children Act 1989 and Child Welfare Principles. However, we suggest you view court involvement as a last resort, with most families finding resolution through negotiation and agreement outside of court.

If you were not married or in a civil partnership, your financial claims are generally limited to assets where you can demonstrate ownership or co-ownership. This includes properties with your name on the mortgage and any joint investments or bank accounts. Essentially, your financial rights remain the same as if there was no romantic or cohabiting relationship with your partner. However, if you share a child with the other party, you have obligations towards their welfare which may entail certain financial rights (such as child maintenance).

In a divorce or civil partnership dissolution, the law starts with the presumption of an equal division of marital assets. However, this can be adjusted based on various factors, including each party’s needs, financial responsibilities, and the welfare of any children involved. Assets acquired before the marriage or after separation, known as pre- and post-matrimonial assets, are typically excluded unless they have become intertwined with marital life or if the relationship was particularly long, in which case they may be considered for division.

Resolution, a charity founded by family law experts, offers guidance for a constructive approach to family disputes. For court-related advice, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) provides expert recommendations to ensure children’s welfare in family court decisions. Additionally, some innovative family law apps can serve as integrated platforms for managing co-parenting arrangements, such as 2houses.

What our clients say:

“I just want to thank you wholeheartedly for your guidance and patience while helping me through my tough time. Your help has made my life as painless as possible. I particularly appreciated how speedily you dealt with everything and your succinct emails and letters, free from unnecessary legal verbiage. An absolute godsend, supporting me through each painstaking step of my case.”

Discover more about divorce and separation

If you’re seeking a divorce in London or anywhere in England & Wales pick up the phone on 0333 344 6302 or contact us through our enquiry form. All initial enquiries are free and without obligation.

For your convenience, we will always aim to offer telephone calls and meetings at a time to suit you.

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Stories & case studies to help you

Please read our blogs on our divorce work and practice. Like you, many client have come to us because the blogs are informative and designed to help you understand what you can do to resolve your situation.

Contact us on 0333 344 6302 for a no-obligation call