Going through a divorce is undeniably one of the most stressful things you’ll have to deal with. If you’ve never been through it before, it can feel overwhelming, but you’re not alone – in 2014, there were 111,169 divorces in England and Wales. There’s all sorts of information flying around out there about divorce, and many misconceptions. At Devonalds we like to keep things straightforward, so in this week’s blog we run through five things you might not have heard.
1. You don’t always have to go to court
This is a common misconception about divorce. In fact, the majority of cases don’t go through court at all. Often, divorce is a matter of paperwork, but if things are more complex or there are disagreements, couples can resolve issues and come to an agreement through several methods that don’t involve going through court. Mediation is the most common form of alternative dispute resolution and involves an impartial mediator helping the separating couple to come to an agreement on the terms of the settlement. If you and your partner absolutely can’t agree, your case will have to go through court and a judge will make the final decision on the settlement.
2. There is no such thing as a no-fault divorce
Many people consider this rule to be old fashioned, but in the UK there is only one legal ground for divorce, which is an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. This must be supported by one of five reasons:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Two years separation (with consent)
- Five years separation (without consent)
Some people argue that the current laws regarding divorce in the UK are outdated, as sometimes couples drift apart without holding any animosity but the law means they are forced to make allegations of unreasonable behaviour against one another. Sir James Munby, President of the High Court Family Division has been campaigning for the introduction of ‘no-fault’ divorce, similar to what is already available in countries such as Australia and the USA.
3. Divorce is on the decrease
We’ve all heard the phrase “half of all marriages end in divorce”. But the actual figure is lower than this – according to the ONS the figure is 42%. In fact, the divorce rate is currently the lowest it has been for four decades. This is understood to be due to changes in societal attitudes towards marriage: there is no longer a stigma around cohabitation and consequently many couples choose to cohabit instead.
4. You must be married for at least a whole year before you can get a divorce
This is the law, and there are no exceptions to this rule. In order to apply for a divorce in England and Wales, you must have been married for at least 12 months and at least one of you must have been resident here for 12 months prior to the application. The only ways a marriage can be ended prior to the 12-month minimum is through annulment or judicial separation, but these are relatively uncommon.
5. Pre-nuptial agreements are not legally binding
The purpose of a pre-nup is to regulate what happens if the marriage breaks down, but it is not necessarily legally binding. If you have one, the judge will certainly take this into account provided that a number of safeguards have been met. Pre-nups are generally very persuasive in court and the judge will most likely uphold the terms. However, in certain circumstances such as the terms being deemed unfair, a judge has the discretion to waive any pre- or post-nuptial agreement.
If you’re going through a relationship breakdown and are considering divorce, it’s important to have a good solicitor at your side. At Devonalds Solicitors, our experienced family law team are experts in the unique set of issues that come with this stressful time. We’ll always keep your best interests at heart and help you reach the best solution for your family. We’re also transparent on our fees from the start. Unsure where you stand or need to talk through your options? Get in touch today to find out how we can help.