Category: Divorce

Category: Divorce

UK Divorce laws overhaul will ‘end blame game’ for couples

Existing UK divorce laws mean spouses have to provide evidence for a divorce if one partner does not agree to it.

For the first time in 50 years, UK divorce laws are being overhauled in an attempt to end the “blame game” for couples trying to end their marriage.

Current laws in England and Wales dictate that unless someone can prove there was adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion, the only way to get divorced without a spouse’s agreement is to live apart (be separated) for five years.

The new laws state that one side will now only have to submit a “statement of irretrievable breakdown” to say the marriage has broken down; instead of having to provide evidence about length of separation or their spouse’s behaviour. In addition to this,the ability of one partner to contest a divorce will also be scrapped.

The existing two-stage process of a decree nisi, a document which says the court cannot see any reason why you cannot divorce, followed by a decree absolute, the legal document which ends a marriage, will remain the same; however, a six month minimum period will be introduced between the lodging of a petition to the divorce being made absolute.

Couples will also be able to make joint divorce applications, alongside the current option for one partner to start the process.

Similar changes will also be made to the law governing the dissolution of civil partnerships.

The overhaul follows a government consultation last year, when details of the proposals were first unveiled.

The Ministry of Justice said the new legislation is expected to be introduced as soon as parliamentary time allows.

The cost of divorce

The cost of divorce in the UK has soared by 17 per cent in the past three years, with divorcing and separating couples now typically spending £14,561 on legal and lifestyle costs, a new report by Aviva reveals.

On top of this, couples who move house as a result of the separation spend tens of thousands of pounds on moving house. Those who rent – which applies to more than half of divorcees – spend around £35,000, while those who go onto buy a new property (16%) spend £144,600 on average.

The report reveals soaring legal fees and the cost of redecorating homes, as well as moving house, are central to this rise.

Legal fees have more than doubled since 2014, up by 109% from £1,280 to £2,679, with any additional costs in child custody battles having also increased by 62%, from £3,500 to £5,671.

The cost of redecorating a previously shared home has also risen by around 73%.

Concern about the cost of divorce

Due to these soaring costs, for a significant proportion of separated couples – 16% – affordability remains such a concern that they remain living together in the same house because they can’t afford to move.

Aviva’s findings indicate the majority (68 per cent) of couples who divorce or separate have financial issues to resolve, with the process taking on average 14 and a half months – three months longer than in 2014.

The report comes as new data revealed the number of divorces in England and Wales increased by 6% between 2015 and 2016 to 106,959 – in what marked the first rise since 2009.

In light of the findings, Paul Brencher, Aviva’s health and protection director, said: “The breakdown of a marriage or long-term relationship is likely to be one of the most emotionally demanding life events for people who experience it. While it may seem completely unnecessary to plan for such an unfortunate life event, it is important that both partners in a relationship take an active interest in their financial affairs, even if one tends to take the lead.”

Help

If you need expert advice on any aspect of family law, Kancelaria Prawna Bernard Łukomski is the place to turn to. Our lawyers are highly trained, experienced and knowledgeable in everything from marriage and divorce to issues involving children. If you are going through a difficult time and need expert advice you can trust, we can help.

A prerequisite for adjudicating divorce. Warsaw, May 19, 2020

A prerequisite for adjudicating divorce (a so-called positive premise) is the “irretrievable and complete breakdown of marital life”. It is a mandatory condition.

A “breakdown of the marriage” means a cessation of common marital life in its emotional, physical and economic aspect (Polish “wspólne pożycie”) that the spouses are obliged to conduct. Hence, there is a strict conceptual and substantive connection between the obligation of the spouses concerning the “common marital life” and the prerequisite for divorce formulated as “irretrievable and complete breakdown of marital life”.

According to the Supreme Court “Marital life is characterized by a unique kind of spiritual, physical and economic bond”.

According to the Supreme Court for a marital breakdown to be declared irretrievable it is not necessary to establish that it is absolutely impossible for the spouses to restore their marital life. It is sufficient to conclude, based on practical life experience, that in the circumstances of the case the spouses will not restore their marital life.

Hence, a marital breakdown manifests itself in the cessation of a marital emotional, physical and economic bond.

In the light of decisions of the Supreme Court, the fundamental bond of marital life is the spiritual bond. The absence of the spiritual bond is always a manifestation of a marital breakdown.

For the purposes of adjudicating divorce, unlike in the case of a separation, the marital breakdown must be not only complete but also irretrievable. The breakdown may be declared irretrievable only if it is already complete. The marital breakdown is irretrievable if there are no prospects (anticipation) for restoring marital life by the spouses.

According to the Supreme Court the spiritual (emotional, physical bond) “community consists in mutual positive emotional attitudes of the spouses, respect, confidence, sincerity, loyalty, understanding, acceptance of personal qualities of the spouses, taking into account their personal needs and readiness to make concessions”.

The Supreme Court also explains that “in order to assert the absence of spiritual community between the spouses it is not necessary to conclude that they have hostile or at least reluctant attitudes to each other. Maintaining civil relations, contacts in the interest of their children, etc. does not necessarily mean that a spiritual bond between the spouses exists and therefore no marital breakdown occurred. The spiritual bond being sought here is not that between any two humans, but that characteristic of a spiritual marital community”. The Supreme Court points out that such “spiritual community” can be manifested even in correspondence alone”.

In the light of Supreme Court’s judicial practice, “common marital life” generally includes sexual intercourse between the spouses referred to as the “physical” (intimate, sexual or bodily) bond. A disappearance of this bond may be a manifestation of complete breakdown of the marital life.

In judicial practice, the economic bond is considered tantamount to running a common household. The legal commentaries take this view further and indicate that the economic life is usually manifested by living together, having common property, running one household, preparing and having meals together.

A complete and irretrievable breakdown of the marital life is also attested to by the spouses’ mutual consent to divorce. The spouses’ consent in this respect does not release the court from the obligation to examine all material circumstances of the case. If one of the parties consents to divorce, the court should examine if she/he is not being pressed by the other spouse to agree to the divorce, and whether such consent is indeed a result of her/his reflection upon the future of the communion, rather than an effect of some other circumstances” (sentence of the Appellate Court in Rzeszów).

For further information about adjudicating divorce, please contact us.

Bernard Łukomski
Legal counsel
Warsaw, May 19, 2020

Divorce – Dissolution of marriage

Dissolution of marriage (Divorce) is the process of terminating a marriage.

Divorce usually entails the cancelling or reorganising of the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage, thus dissolving the bonds of matrimony between a married couple under the rule of law of the particular country or state. Divorce laws vary considerably around the world, but in most countries divorce requires the sanction of a court or other authority in a legal process, which may involve issues of distribution of property, child custody, alimony (spousal support), child visitation / access, parenting time, child support, and division of debt. In most countries, monogamy is required by law, so divorce allows each former partner to marry another person.

Divorce is different from annulment, which declares the marriage null and void, with legal separation or de jure separation (a legal process by which a married couple may formalize a de facto separation while remaining legally married) or with de facto separation (a process where the spouses informally stop cohabiting). Reasons for divorce vary, from sexual incompatibility or lack of independence for one or both spouses to a personality clash.

The only countries that do not allow divorce are the Philippines, the Vatican City and the British Crown Dependency of Sark. In the Philippines, divorce for non-Muslim Filipinos is not legal unless the husband or wife is an alien and satisfies certain conditions. The Vatican City is an ecclesiastical state, which has no procedure for divorce.

Overview

Grounds for the dissolution of marriage vary widely from country to country. Marriage may be seen as a contract, a status, or a combination of these. Where it is seen as a contract, the refusal or inability of one spouse to perform the obligations stipulated in the contract may constitute a ground for divorce for the other spouse. In contrast, in some countries divorce is purely no fault. Many jurisdictions offer both the option of a no fault divorce as well as an at fault divorce. This is the case, for example, in many US states.

Though divorce laws vary between jurisdictions, there are two basic approaches to divorce: fault based and no-fault based. However, even in some jurisdictions that do not require a party to claim fault of their partner, a court may still take into account the behavior of the parties when dividing property, debts, evaluating custody, shared care arrangements and support. In some jurisdictions one spouse may be forced to pay the attorney’s fees of another spouse.

Laws vary as to the waiting period before a dissolution of marriage is effective. Also, residency requirements vary. However, issues of division of property are typically determined by the law of the jurisdiction in which the property is located.

In Europe, divorce laws differ from country to country, reflecting differing legal and cultural traditions. In some countries, particularly (but not only) in some former communist countries, divorce can be obtained only on one single general ground of “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage” (or a similar formulation). Yet, what constitutes such a “breakdown” of the marriage is interpreted very differently from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, ranging from very liberal interpretations (e.g. Netherlands) to quite restrictive ones (e.g., in Poland, there must be an “irretrievable and complete disintegration of matrimonial life,” but there are many restrictions to granting a divorce). Separation constitutes a ground of divorce in some European countries (in Germany, e.g., a divorce is granted on the basis of a 1-year separation if both spouses consent, or 3-year separation if only one spouse consents). Note that “separation” does not necessarily mean separate residences – in some jurisdictions, living in the same household but leading a separate life (e.g., eating, sleeping, socialising, etc. separately) is sufficient to constitute de facto separation; this is explicitly stated, e.g., in the family laws of Latvia.

Divorce laws are not static; they often change reflecting evolving social norms of societies. In the 21st century, many European countries have made changes to their divorce laws, in particular by reducing the length of the necessary periods of separation.

Divorce in Poland

1. Where do we get a divorce in Poland and how?

Individuals can divorce in Poland by lodging a petition for divorce (dissolution of the marriage) by one of the spouses. Divorce proceedings cannot be initiated either by the public prosecutor or any other person. Spouses can only divorce in the court. Actions shall be brought in a Regional Court. Actions pertaining to marital relations shall be brought exclusively in a court in whose district the spouses had their last place of residence, insofar as one of them still resides or stays there. Otherwise, exclusive jurisdiction shall be vested in the court for the respondent’s place of residence or where there is no such place, with the court for the petitioner’s place of residence.

2. What are the most common reasons that spouses may invoke?

If there has been an irretrievalbe and complete breakdown of matrimonial life between the spouses, divorce may be requested by either of the spouses to the court to order the marriage dissolved by divorce. Both conditions must be met. This complete disintegration will consist of a lack of any spiritual, physical and economic bonds between the spouses. The main reasons causing breakdown of marriage are alcoholism, aggression, violence & marital infidelity.

3. How long does it take to divorce in Poland?

The greater the discrepancies between the parties the longer the process. In the first place the contentious issue may be the fault as to the breakdown of the marriage. If the spouses do not agree to a divorce without adjudging on the guilt, it already heralds a rather lengthy trial, because the court will have to carry out all the evidentiary proceedings in the matter of guilt. Most often this involves the interrogation of a few or a dozen or so witnesses, as well as bringing a number of documents. The second factor that affects the length of the process is the issue of the spouses children. Divorce can end very quickly – even after the first hearing and in the event of an advanced conflict of the spouses – may take up to several years. Thus, you can wait for a long time for a final court decision, but it all depends on the individual circumstances of the particular case.

4. What types of evidence can be used when divorcing?

Evidence proceedings in a divorce case are primarily aimed at determining the circumstances surrounding the breakdown of marriage. The court can allow evidence from witnesses, official documents, private documents, experts opinions, environmental interviews, e-mails, bills and SMS printouts. These are not all acceptable evidence – their catalog is not closed. The possibility of using other proofs is regulated by the Polish Code of Civil Procedure.

5. What other family life aspects are settled once with the divorce?

In the ruling on the divorce, the court rules on joint parental authority over a minor child of both spouses and on parental contact with the child, and decides how much each spouse is obliged to bear on the costs of living and educating a child. The court may also delegate the exercise of parental authority to one of the parents, limiting the parental authority of the second parent to specific rights and duties in relation to the child. The court takes into account the agreement of the spouses on how to exercise parental authority, and maintaining contact with the child after the divorce, if it is compatible with the welfare of the child. Siblings should be brought up together, unless the welfare of the child requires a different outcome. Upon a mutual request of the parties, the court does not adjudicate on keeping contacts with the child.

If the spouses occupy shared accommodation, in the ruling on divorce the court will also rule on the use of the residence for as long as the divorced spouses are sharing accommodation. There is also the possibility that at the motion of one of the spouses, the court may, in the ruling on divorce, divide the joint property, as long as carrying out the division does not cause undue delay to the proceedings.

When the divorce verdict becomes final, a divorced spouse who changed a previous surname as a result of the marriage may submit a statement before the head of the registry office on reverting back to the surname from before the marriage.

6. Is my presence necessary when divorcing?

During the trial, either party could be represented by an attorney at law, however each time in divorce cases the court orders obligatory hearing of the parties, then the presence in court is obligatory.

7. What kind of temporary measures concerning children can be ordered during divorce proceedings?

During a divorce case, the court may grant for injunction by regulating custody of minors and contacts with a child and the secure maintenance claims.

8. How can a parent living abroad keep in touch with his child?

A parent living in another state can keep in touch with his child by visiting him at his place of residence, by having the children over and using electronic means of communication. The issue is not regulated by the law and is left to be regulated by parents.

9. In case a parent lives in another EU State, is that an obstacle for joint custody?

The place of residence of parent is not an obstacle when applying for joint custody.

10. How can a divorce resolution issued in Poland be acknowledged in another EU State?

When divorce is finalised, parties may request the issuance of a European form that can be used in any EU State and is recognized in the other Member States without any special procedure being required.

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.

Things you should know about divorce in the UK

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.

7. Jurisdiction

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.