The sensitivity and expertise to help you
The legal basis for divorce or civil partnership is that your relationship has broken down irretrievably which is demonstrated to the court by reference to “facts” such as behaviour, adultery or separation for two or five years.
We will discuss the options available to you to help you find the best way forward and, where possible, to agree that with your spouse or civil partner. The process itself usually takes 4-6 months and involves drafting, submitting and responding to papers received from the court. It’s not usually necessary to attend court to bring your marriage or civil partnership to an end.
If you and your partner do not wish to divorce or dissolve your civil partnership, you can consider other options including an informal separation where we record any agreement you reach regarding finances, arrangements for the children and/or future divorce proceedings in a document called a Deed of Separation.
Judicial separation proceedings are another option and, although such proceedings are not common, they can be used in the first year of marriage/civil partnership where divorce or dissolution is not available. They are also preferred sometimes by people whose religious beliefs mean divorce or dissolution is undesirable.
Can we negotiate for you?
We could negotiate for you by letter, email, on the telephone or at round table meetings. We will advise you through each step and help you decide what to do. We will then contact the other person (or their solicitor) to try and agree the best way to resolve matters for you.
What is mediation?
You could go to mediation and we could help and advise you along the way. Mediation helps you work things out by attending meetings together with a trained mediator to talk through issues that you need to resolve such as money, your children or any other consequences of your separation. The aim is to reach an agreement that works for your family.
The number of mediation sessions you will need will depend on your requirements and the issues to be resolved. Most people going through mediation find it helpful to take advice and support from a family solicitor during the process. Where you are able to reach agreement we can make sure that it is fair and right for you. We can also help you to formalise the agreement in writing, for example by applying to the court for a financial order by consent or drawing up a parenting contract for you both to sign.
What is collaboration?
Most of the time the very best solutions are those which you work out together for yourselves. Collaborative law is a process where you and your former partner work out the issues arising on your separation in face to face meetings with each other and your own solicitors. Rather than dealing with it through your solicitors, you work together with them to reach the best solutions for you or your family. The number of meetings will depend upon the extent of the issues. Sometimes other experts are involved in the process, for example counsellors or financial advisers. Using collaborative law is a way of solving problems without having to go to court and you, your former partner and your solicitors sign an agreement that commits each party to trying to resolve the issues collaboratively. Your collaborative solicitor will not be able to represent you in court if negotiations break down.
We have two specially trained collaborative solicitors who would be happy to talk to you about this in more detail.
What is family arbitration?
Family arbitration is a way of resolving issues about your finances or your property if your relationship has come to an end and you have not been able to reach agreement. Arbitration is essentially a private court process. You both decide who the ‘judge’ will be (normally an independent barrister or solicitor) and what issues they are going to decide. Whether that be small issues along the way or the whole case, it is entirely up to you. At the start of the process you and your former partner agree not to back out without the other’s consent and to be bound by the award of the arbitrator.
Will going to court help with divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership?
Sometimes going to court is the only way to resolve matters – for example you may need a judge to deal with an urgent issue, to stop another person doing something, to make decisions where you have been unable to reach agreement or you may need legal rights that can only be given to you through a court order.
If trying to agree outside of court is not getting anywhere, a court application can focus everyone on trying to find a solution. A judge may also be able to give helpful indications about what they would do if you ask them to make the final decision, and if you need a decision urgently the court can often act quickly to help.
Even once you go to court you can still try to reach an agreement. The family court process is designed to try to give you more opportunities to find a solution together and most cases end in an agreement being reached outside of the court room doors. The court then reflects this agreement in an order which is binding on both of you.