Divorce and Separation

Whenever a relationship breaks down there is always going to be some sadness, maybe even anger, but it is important that both parties deal with the separation in a responsible way – especially if there are children involved. There are several ways of dealing with the end of a marriage or civil partnership, and you may wish to seek legal advice. If this is the case, the Free Legal Advice Centre can provide you with more information to find the right solicitor for you.

Annulment

Unlike a divorce, an annulment can occur at any time after the marriage. However, in order to qualify for an annulment, you must prove that the marriage was either invalid in the first place, or ‘defective’.

A marriage would be classed invalid if:

• the parties are closely related
• one or both parties were under the age of sixteen at the time of the marriage
• one or both parties were already married or in a civil partnership at the time of the marriage.
A marriage can be declared ‘defective’ if:
• it has not been consummated (this does not apply to same-sex marriages)
• one or both parties entered into the marriage without giving proper consent; for example if they were coerced or forced
• one or both parties was suffering from an undeclared sexually transmitted disease at the time of the marriage
• the woman was pregnant by another man at the time of the marriage.

Separation by agreement

If a couple wish to separate, but do not want to get a divorce, they can arrange a separation by agreement. This is a legally binding contract of rights and obligations by which both parties agree to abide.

There are different ways to go about arranging a separation agreement; it may be completely amicable, and easy to arrange quickly, or you may wish to go through mediation. Mediation usually takes around six or seven sessions, and it is often recommended that you each seek independent legal advice before signing the agreement.

You can also arrange a separation agreement through collaborative practice. If you choose this method, you must ensure that each of the lawyers is trained in collaborative practice, and you must also all sign an agreement which disqualifies your lawyers from ever representing you in any contested court proceedings.

The separation agreement will usually cover the financial and childcare arrangements for both parties.

Divorce

Getting a divorce can be an expensive and gruelling process, so it is important that you are as informed as possible before it begins.

In order to apply for a UK divorce you must comply with the following:

• you must be in a marriage that is legally recognised in the UK
• you must have a permanent residence in England or Wales
• you must have been married for at last a year.

The first thing you must do is file a divorce petition, the proceedings that follow depend upon a number of factors, including whether your partner agrees with the divorce. Whilst you can arrange a divorce without involving solicitors, sometimes it is best to seek legal advice.