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divorce proceedings

How long does a divorce take?

No divorce proceedings can be commenced until the marriage has been in existence for one year. A divorce will normally take between 3 to 5 months from the time the petition is issued to pronouncement of decree absolute. However, this will depend on both parties wanting the divorce and agreeing to participate actively in completing the necessary forms at the relevant times to ensure that the divorce proceeds in a swift and amicable way. Where one party does not co-operate, delay can arise. Also note there may be reasons to delay the application for the decree absolute. This will be discussed with you as your case progresses.

Is there a way of dealing with matters without going to court?

A settlement reached by agreement usually reduces acrimony and saves on legal costs. Settlements imposed on the parties by a judge after a long drawn out and expensive legal process are often less acceptable to the parties than when they have been able to reach agreement without the intervention of the court. Agreement can be achieved by various ways. If you cannot negotiate directly with your ex, your solicitor can enter into negotiations on your behalf usually with your ex's solicitor. If agreement is reached it should be recorded in a legally binding document, or court order if appropriate. This ensures that it is binding on both parties and that each understands their obligations to the other, and any relevant children, now and in the future.

What is mediation?

Mediation is means of resolving disputes outside the courtroom. Both parties will meet together with an independent trained mediator, who will assist both towards reaching an amicable agreement. Each party can then seek advice and guidance on the proposals from their own solicitor before committing to any agreement. This process is suitable for dealing with both financial matters and future arrangements for children. Since April 2014 it has been compulsory for the parties to consider mediation as a means of resolving their dispute before court proceedings can be commenced. Information is provided at a Mediation Information and Assessment meeting initially and the mediator will decide whether the case is suitable for mediation. It is only possible to commence court proceedings if the mediator certifies that the case is not suitable for mediation, for example if the other party refuses to attend mediation. There are limited exceptions to this rule which can be explored if appropriate.

What are my rights regarding the children?

Whatever has happened between you both, the most important consideration is the welfare of any children involved. It is important to recognise that children should have an ongoing relationship with both parents. Practical arrangements such as who the children should live with, and how much time they will spend with the other parent, should be resolved by agreement where possible. However, if agreement cannot be reached or if one or other parent has child welfare concerns, your solicitor can advise you of your rights and will try to negotiate an agreement on your behalf with the other parent. Mediation may be a suitable means of trying to resolve any disagreements between you and an application to the court should be considered as an option of last resort if all attempts to reach agreement fail. It is important that both parents put aside their own personal feelings and concentrate on what is best for the children.

What about financial matters?

On divorce there are many factors that are considered when dealing with the division of the family's finances. These include the length of the marriage, the age of the parties, their needs and the needs of any dependent children, each party's earning capacity and the capital resources available now or in the future (eg pensions). The individual financial and other circumstances of the parties will be taken into account when deciding what financial settlement is best. If agreement cannot be reached either by negotiation between the parties and their solicitors, or by mediation, the court process can be engaged.

We are not married and my partner wants me out of his house -
where will our children and I live?

Just because the house is owned in the sole name of your partner does not necessarily mean that you have no legal entitlement. For example, have you made any contribution financially, or have you given up your own home based on promises/assurances made by your partner about the home? Your partner will have a duty to ensure that your children are adequately housed.

We celebrated a civil partnership but we now want to go our separate ways -
what do we need to do?

The parties need to bring the civil partnership to an end - following a formal procedure similar to divorce. As with divorce, no proceedings can be commenced within a year of the civil partnership ceremony. Financial matters and issues regarding any children living within the civil partnership family unit are also dealt with either by agreement or via the court process if agreement cannot be reached.