Let’s be honest, divorce is something that none of us really wants to think about. It is something that happens to other people, not to you and your spouse. But what if the unthinkable does happen? How do you cope with everything, while dealing with the legal aspects of a divorce when you know relatively little about the process or how long it will take?
The Government has been asking this very question and has come up with a number of changes to matrimonial law to make divorce as amicable as possible for both parties.
In June 2020, the Government announced that, after a long period of consultation, there would be new laws put in place to ease the process for couples seeking to divorce. It was widely believed that the legal system surrounding divorce and separation was out of date. If sympathetically revised, then the risk of acrimonious separations and protracted legal battles between partners could be minimised.
In implementing a no-fault divorce framework, greater emphasis would be placed upon resolving a couple’s future arrangements. This should lead to improved settlements with regard to access to children, and the financial elements of the process. Wording in the legislation would be simplified and would use ‘Plain English’ to describe the stages of the divorce, eliminating much of the historical confusion.
The existing legislation required a specified reason for a marriage to be dissolved. These included adultery, desertion or unreasonable behaviour. However, with the newly revised legislation, the notion of assigning fault is to be removed, as is the clause regarding a five year wait. With the procedure simplified, solicitors and the couples they advise will be able to focus on the practical aspects of the divorce and family separation, removing the often onerous task of proving or agreeing which of the parties was at fault.
It has now been announced that this new legislation shall come into force in April 2022, as it required a lead-in period during which solicitors, parties to the process and the courts are given time to adjust to the new legislation.
If you are considering divorce and have exhausted all other options with your spouse such as counselling and reconciliation, then your next step may be to consult a solicitor who specialises in family law. They will be able to give you a better idea as to how to initiate the process, factors you need to consider and how long the process may take.
Many solicitors offer an initial consultation before you take this first step so that they can understand your situation more clearly, and advise you accordingly. This is clearly a big decision for anyone and requires considerable thought and the advice of an experienced professional.
This long-overdue revision of the divorce legislation has been welcomed by many legal firms and by the Law Society. It is hoped that by encouraging an atmosphere of cooperation between couples and removing the need to find fault in the breakdown of a marriage, an inherently stressful process will become less acrimonious.
This should enable couples to undertake the process in an atmosphere of resolution and with a sense of moving forward – particularly where the family has the future care and welfare of children to consider. Updated and compassionate divorce and separation laws will help families to create a new reality for themselves and their children and, as such, have been widely welcomed.
You may have read in the Times this week that recent research has found that in the past five years, ‘DIY Divorces’ has risen from 35% to 57% and such a rise is understandable due to The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 removing financial support for the majority of family law cases.
To clarify, a ‘DIY Divorce’ is a way for individuals to represent themselves within divorce proceedings, making it, on the surface, a cheaper and easier way to settle a divorce. However, divorce disputes require big decisions to be made regarding the most critical matters in life, including finances and children’s future care. This makes appointing a solicitor’s help in the proceedings recommendable, as it undoubtedly lessens the risk and stress of unforeseen complications regarding finance and custody.
Coming up with a financial agreement is a complex task with many variables that need to be considered. There is nothing more worthwhile than the security of having the knowledge of all the implications of your agreement made clear to you. Moreover, we understand from first-hand experience that navigating the process alone can be daunting, and not all decisions between partners can be made amicably, making it beneficial to receive expert legal advice for a smooth, less time-consuming divorce process.
Here at McHale and Co, our solicitor’s can provide the clarity and assistance you deserve through your difficult time. Allowing you the confidence to look forward positively to the next chapter of your lives without the fear of difficulties arising in the future.
Do-It-Yourself online divorces are becoming more accessible and increasingly popular amongst the general public and appear to be a great way of saving a few quid by not instructing a solicitor. However, we would advise caution and not to take everything at face value. Here, we explore why it is so important to seek professional advice as early in the process as possible. It could save you in the long run!
A solicitor is there for you
The breakdown of a marriage and the divorce process can be one of the most emotionally difficult and stressful times you may ever experience in your life. As emotions run high, your ability to think clearly and make rational decisions could be severely impaired. At McHale & Co, we are completely independent and are on hand to support you through a difficult time. Being more distant from the emotion of the situation, we can provide open and honest advice to ensure you are making the best decisions for you, long term.
Use their expertise
So, you and your partner are fully agreed on and happy with all matters. Perhaps you have no children, have only been married for a short period and have always kept your finances separate. In this case a DIY, online divorce may be perfectly adequate for your needs. However, we’re all aware separations are often far more complex than this and need careful and considered unpicking.
Our specialist family law solicitors at McHale & Co are fully trained and rigorously tested in their knowledge of the law, so we are in the very best place to advise you, having the expertise to identify things you may not have even considered. There isn’t much we haven’t seen, so will have direct knowledge of similar scenarios. Also, there is no getting away from the fact there can be a great deal of admin work involved in a divorce e.g. drafting statements, dealing with the court, collating financial information etc. Do you really need the hassle at this difficult time?
By seeking advice early on in proceedings, we are on hand to guide you through the process. We will use our expertise to advise you of your rights, what you are entitled to and use the law and our direct approach to ensure matters reach a swift and amicable conclusion.
The benefits of using a professional are clear to see and easy to understand, but for most it will come down to perceived costs and not being able to afford a solicitor to act for them.
At McHale & Co, we can offer flexible solutions to make our services as accessible as possible, such as a free initial meeting, fixed fee divorces and flexible payment options to suit everyone.
If you are considering progressing a divorce yourself, please do give Victoria Richardson or Lindsey Britland a call on 0161 928 3848 before doing so. This will ensure you are fully aware of all of the facts, potential impact and be armed with the advice needed at this crucial time. It could be the best call you ever make!
There won’t be many of us who have not noticed the recent announcements in the media from the Justice Secretary, David Gauke in respect of major divorce reform.
What’s all the hype about?
The reports state that this is the biggest shake up in divorce law for 50 years – and that’s probably correct as the current laws are 50 years old.
Basically, the new reforms will end the current process which relies on one party blaming the other for the breakdown of the divorce if they have not been separated for a period of two years or more.
The current law means that if the parties have not been separated for at least two years the only option is to divorce on either the ground of unreasonable behaviour or adultery. If a third party is not involved that leaves the parties having to exaggerate or, indeed fabricate, examples for the divorce petition that constitute ‘unreasonable behaviour’. I’m sure I’m not the only divorce practitioner that has advised a party who is on reasonably amicable terms with their ex to go off and have a coffee with them and ‘agree’ what the reasons for the divorce are going to be!
If the parties aren’t that amicable then developing examples of unreasonable behaviour can led to more arguments that are necessary, just to get the divorce off the ground –and if there are then financial matters to resolve an acrimonious start does not help matters.
It is not conducive to positive negotiations regarding a financial settlement to be resolved if the party receiving the divorce papers feels that they are totally exaggerated and constitute “a pack of lies”.
Furthermore I find it extremely difficult explaining to a client who has separated amicably from their partner that they “just can’t get divorced!” And that if they don’t want to wait two years they will have to, ultimately, “exaggerate the truth”.
What is planned?
Well the divorce reforms will mean that instead of one party having to blame the other or show a certain period of separation they will only have to submit a statement to the court of “irretrievable breakdown” to say that the marriage has broken down. However, there will have to be a six month period from the filing of the divorce to the decree absolute to allow for reflection and counselling, if necessary. (And given the current delays at the family court this won’t be too difficult to fulfil!) Joint applications will also be able to be made.
The reforms will now be introduced into legislation as soon as there is enough parliamentary time which, will, hopefully, coincide with on-line divorces becoming more accessible for all.
Will this mean that solicitors will no longer need to be involved if I want to get divorced?
There is no doubt that the new reforms will make the obtaining of a divorce more straightforward and ‘user friendly’ for people who wish to do it themselves.
However, as Baroness Shackleton pointed out on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour it will be more effective for those couples who live in a cramped flat together and just want to ‘get out’.
For those couples who need to resolve financial matters the reforms will not help with this but will merely allow for the logistics to be dealt with more quickly and for the lawyers to concentrate on the settlement of financial issues.
Warning – legal advice is and still will be required where there are financial issues to address.
These reforms are, however, great news for everyone involved in family law that wish to see divorces obtained more amicably.
The news in the past couple of days has contained full details of the divorce of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos and how it has left his wife the world’s third richest woman.
However, it was not the headline that impressed me but, rather, the small print that revealed how the couple worked together to remain amicable and will continue to do so. In today’s world of the media enjoying reporting on the most acrimonious of divorces it is refreshing!
So, what does this tell us? That even the highest net worth divorces can be resolved amicably!
I know that numerous potential clients are reluctant to consult lawyers regarding their separation because we come with the idea, unfortunately, that that’s when things start to go wrong and become acrimonious. Indeed, very often the main thing that a client says to me is that they don’t want to be arguing about it – they want it to be straightforward.
So, what are the options available to couples who are separating on amicable terms and wish to resolve financial matters as amicably as possible?
There are a number of ways of reaching a financial settlement without acrimony. These are as follows but before I expand on them it is important to note that they all rely on both parties being honest about their financial positions and providing full and frank disclosure of this to the other party.
So, what are the main options?
Using Solicitors (hopefully members of Resolution!)
Both parties instruct their own solicitors to liaise and resolve financial matters for them. The advantage of this scenario is that the lawyers know what they’re doing (hopefully!) and can, therefore, manage their client’s expectations.
The solicitors know what, in reality, is a fair and reasonable settlement for both parties and can advise accordingly.
Both parties receive individual legal advice and support.
As long as both parties are honest and up front there is no reason why this should be a drawn out process and so costs should be limited. Costs increase in cases where matters become acrimonious and one party does not disclose what they should which results in a lack of trust.
With this option the parties can be referred to mediation, or make their own referral. An advantage of this option is that legal aid is still available for those people on lower incomes and who would struggle to meet legal fees. The mediator’s role is to help the parties negotiate a financial settlement between themselves which they are both happy with. Both parties are able to obtain their own independent legal advice throughout the process and once an agreement is reached this can be drawn into a consent order by solicitors, which is legally binding.
Ideally, this option should be cheaper than using solicitors from day one but I have been concerned recently about some extremely high charges being made in this area. So shop around!
Using a collaborative lawyer
A collaborative lawyer is one who is a skilled mediator and who works with another collaborative lawyer to help the parties reach an agreement. It is a mixture of options one and two above and involves the parties signing up to a collaborative process which involves a number of round the table meetings to reach a settlement. Should the negotiations break down the solicitors have to step down and the parties have to find alternative representation. The idea behind this is that there is, therefore, an incentive for an agreement to be reached.
Personally, I’m not sure if this is as popular as it was intended to be when introduced as I find that a lot of clients, even those on amicable terms, are sceptical about trying to sort a deal round a table and feel under pressure to do so. However, it does work for some.
Reaching an agreement between themselves
All clients are advised that any agreement reached with each other is better than one that is ‘forced’ upon them. However, it is important to note that in the eyes of the court the agreement has to be a ‘reasonable’ one otherwise it won’t receive the court’s approval and therefore won’t be legally binding.
Furthermore, it’s extremely important for the agreement to be drafted into a consent order by solicitors and approved by the court in order to achieve a clean break – otherwise the other party may come back in the future looking for more – and that’s when things do become acrimonious!
I hope that the above has been useful for you. Should you require any further information then please don’t hesitate to contact me.