The process of getting a divorce in the UK can contain some unexpected surprises and not just the costs that are involved.
There are some obvious areas of contention for divorcing couples, who gets custody of the kids? who gets the car? how do we split the money in the savings account etc.? – On this page, we talk about 10 other things that divorcees should know about in the UK.
1. The reason a marriage is ending does not impact greatly on the size of the settlement
Just because your partner has committed adultery dos not mean that you will get a bigger settlement. When it comes to division of assets, the court is rarely interested in why the marriage is ending, they are more concerned with dividing resources / assets fairly.
2. Maintenance payments for life are coming to an end
Many people believe that if you have been married for a long time and the wife has stayed at home to look after the children, the courts will agree to maintenance payments for life. This is no longer true. Many courts in England are placing time limits on post divorce maintenance assuming that the spouse who is financially weaker will find work.
3. Adultery is only grounds for divorce where it is committed with a member of the opposite sex
According to English law, the court can only grant a divorce in the UK on the grounds of adultery if it is committed by your spouse with a member of the opposite sex.
4. There is no formula for working out the division of assets
Couples often mistakenly think that there is a formula which is applied to the division of assets, this is not true. In English law, this is discretionary and is based on what each party needs to live on and the principle of sharing assets.
5. A ‘quickie’ divorce does not exist
The reality is that a divorce in the UK takes at least four to six months to conclude and it can be longer if the parties need to reach a financial settlement.
6. Full disclosure means full disclosure
The court takes the duty of disclosure very seriously. Where there is evidence to suggest that a party has deliberately withheld information, at the very least the court may draw adverse inferences against them. In a more extreme case, that party could find themselves with a previous order being set aside or even criminal proceedings being brought against them.
English courts can dissolve foreign marriages so long as there is an appropriate connection, for example if one or both of you live in England or Wales or you are both from England or Wales. It may be that you and your spouse have connections with more than one country and that you have the option to get divorced in the UK or abroad. Choosing the right country to get divorced in is important as it can have a big impact on how the marital finances are shared. If you think your spouse intends to start divorce proceedings in another country, you should seek family law advice urgently as you may wish to start divorce proceedings in England or Wales before they do. This is known as a petition race.
8. International divorce
If you are going through an international divorce – that is, a divorce with international elements – speed is very important to ensure that the courts of a particular country are able to deal with the case. You need to check the position with an international divorce lawyer before discussing family mediation, collaborative law or counselling. You may find that if you talk to your partner about the position he or she might rush off and start proceedings in another country, which could have serious implications.
International divorce and family law issues are very different from purely English family law cases, so it is essential that you seek specialist legal advice.