Frequently Asked Questions
What does getting divorced actually mean?It ends your marriage and means that you are free to remarry. It has implications for children, housing, finances and for your entitlement to state pensions and other benefits, as well your rights to a share in your spouse’s pensions.
What if something is wrong, but I don't want to get divorced?
Even if you are not sure what to do, we can still help. Our team of counsellors will work through relationship problems with you to find out if divorce is really the best answer; they also have expertise in order to help children. We’re also happy to meet you to discuss what getting a divorce would involve, and how much it is likely to cost. We offer a fixed fee for divorce proceedings of £500 (plus VAT) plus court costs (currently £410 if you are the petitioner). This fixed fee applies once the parties have agreed the basis on which the divorce will be obtained. It covers all of the procedural aspects of the divorce, which will be conducted by one of our assistants, but it excludes the cost of any advice on the financial aspects of the divorce and advice on issues relating to children.
Do I have to go to court to obtain a divorce? Will it get nasty?You will have to apply to a court, but unless there is a major disagreement it is unlikely that you will have to attend. Divorce can be a difficult process, but like most reputable specialist family law solicitors, we follow the code of the family law group Resolution. The code is designed to minimise emotional distress, especially when children are involved, and with our team of independent counsellors, we can provide you with an extra level of support.
Can you help protect me, my children and my assets?Yes. Family Law in Partnership has years of experience acting to protect clients and their children, and to safeguard their assets. Courts will always act quickly to protect people who are vulnerable.
What will the court do about our children?Nothing, unless there are child protection concerns or a special application is made to the court. This might involve deciding where children should live, how much time they spend with non-resident parents or to determine other arrangements about the child’s future.
How long will it take?If there is broad agreement, the divorce can be processed relatively quickly and should not usually take more than 6 months. When there is an argument about the divorce itself or related financial matters it can take much longer. As this can be an expensive and upsetting process, it is normally in both parties interests to reach an agreement as soon as possible.
I am leaving the partner I have been living with. What do I need to do?Get legal advice as soon as possible. It will help protect you and put you in a stronger negotiating position. A lawyer will also be able to advise you on the best way to secure an appropriate share of resources and help you identify things that might help your case later on. The outcome may depend on how credible your version of events is, so make sure that you’re clear about the facts.
Will I have to go to court? Could it get nasty?Hopefully not. The best way of arriving at a settlement is the one that minimises how much you have to rely on the law. It can be a difficult and intrusive process, but like all specialist family law solicitors who follow the code of the family law group Resolution, we will always try to work in a way that minimises emotional distress.
Do I not have rights as a common law spouse?The concept of common law husband and wife is a myth. Courts cannot order one person to support another by paying maintenance unless they are or have been married. There may however be other circumstances giving rise to a claim against property. Also, if one partner has died, the court can order the executors of their estate to provide some form of support under certain circumstances.
What happens to our children?It’s unlikely that a court will get involved unless the children are in danger, or somebody makes an application to the court on their behalf. This might happen if there is a disagreement over where the children should live, how much time they spend with the non-resident parent or to prohibit certain actions, such as taking them abroad.
How long will it take to settle the financial side?An agreement to settle financial claims can be struck in a day and court approval can be obtained quickly if it’s necessary. If there is a disagreement that can only be settled in court this process may take many months.
How much will this cost? What if I cannot afford it?It depends on what is involved in reaching a settlement. The basic cost of securing an order by agreement should not be significant and whilst cases which involve a dispute will be more expensive, extremely expensive cases tend to be the exception. We have good connections with various independent financial advisors and other institutions who can offer advice on how to cover your costs.
If I have connections abroad why do I not just leave with my children?DO NOT do this. Removing children abroad in breach of custody arrangements may be a criminal offence. It could damage your case, and will certainly damage your children. If you suspect that your children have been abducted, take action immediately. If you cannot contact us, contact the Child Abduction Unit on 020 7911 7047.
We already agree – so why do we need a lawyer?You do not necessarily need a lawyer because you are the best judges of what is right for your children but a good lawyer will be able to give you impartial advice about where a child should live, visiting arrangements and communication between parents. Family Law in Partnership can provide an additional level of support through our mediators and independent counsellors who offer help about how and what to tell your children.
Will we end up in court?Not necessarily. Courts work on a principle of non-intervention, and normally only get directly involved where there are clear child-protection issues or if the parents are unable to agree on any important aspect of their children's upbringing.
What are my rights in relation to my child?Parents only have rights insofar as they coincide with the rights of the child. The child's mother generally has ‘parental responsibility,’ while the child’s father only has parental responsibility if he has been married to the mother, or has been granted parental responsibility by the court, or if his child was born on or after 1st December 2003 and he is named as the child's father on the birth certificate. It is also possible for parents to enter into a formal agreement for parental responsibility.
What powers does the court have?Courts always act in the child’s interests. They can decide who a child lives with and how and when others are allowed to have contact the child. They can also forbid certain steps from being taken such as prohibiting people from taking a child away from the address at which he or she is living or out of the country. They can also make a ‘specific issue order’ to resolve a particular problem, for example where a child is educated.
Why do I need a relationship agreement?It can help you protect your interests if the relationship comes to an end. The process can also be a way of identifying problems that might occur in the future and without it there may be no clarity as to who owns what and how to separate financial resources. If you have connections with other countries, it is worth remembering that relationship agreements often carry more weight in foreign courts.
Are these agreements legally binding?That depends on the agreement. If it relates to children, the court will probably see it as no more than an expression of opinion. Cohabitation agreements are likely to be enforceable provided that they deal with financial arrangments only and meet the usual contractual requirements. Marriage contracts are not enforceable in England & Wales but are taken into account and are becoming increasingly influential in court decisions.
Will my partner worry if I say that we should see a lawyer about a relationship agreement?Relationship agreements don’t have to be part of a ruthless exchange between lawyers – they’re about protecting your future. Making sensible financial arrangements is part of the overall preparation for getting married or cohabiting, and can prevent your relationship being derailed by the problems that affect many couples at some point.
What is involved in a relationship agreement?Our experience is that the process is best managed using the collaborative law process. We help couples to identify strengths and weaknesses of the relationship as well as areas of concern. You will probably want to discuss your respective financial circumstances as well, before arriving at a set of solutions. We are able to draw up the agreement on your behalf, and put you in touch with professionals who can provide you with a range of expert financial help.
What will it cost?That depends on what kind of agreement you want to enter into and what kind of provision it makes. There’s no standard arrangement and no standard fee. We will be happy to advise you about cost when you contact us.
How will our assets be divided?The courts take a large range of factors into account including for example the length of your marriage and your respective contributions. We will advise you on how the factors apply to your situation. The most important aspect is for you and your spouse to give full and frank disclosure of all your assets, capital, income and pensions. Please refer to the checklist on the first meeting page which will tell you what information you will need to give us at that first meeting so that we can advise you effectively.
Do we have to divorce? Can we not just separate?Yes. There may be very good reasons why you should not divorce. We can advise you once we know your particular circumstances. Even if you just separate you can still sort out the financial and other implications straight away.
How does the Child Support Agency work?The Child Support Agency works at a fixed sum to be paid by the 'non resident parent' to the 'parent with care' for the child.
Who does the Child Support Agency look after?The Child Support Agency has legal jurisdiction over any ‘qualifying child,’ defined as a natural child under 16 or in full-time secondary education and under 19, living in the UK with a non-resident parent who is not part of the child’s household and who is also habitually resident in the UK.
Do parents living overseas have to pay child maintenance through the Child Support Agency?It depends largely on who they work for. The Child Support Agency may be able to collect child maintenance from non-resident parents who are employed by a UK registered company or are working for an agency of the UK government.
What level of payment will be arranged?A percentage of your earnings up to a total of £104,000 net per year. The basic rate is 15% for one child, 20 % for two children and 25% for three children or more. Low earners pay a reduced rate and a nil rate applies to special cases such as students, children, prisoners and so on. The number of times the child stays overnight with a non-resident parent (looked at in bands) can also affect the final total. The formula has six stages to it and each situation may involve complex rules at one or more of the stages.
Can the Child Support Agency be asked to reduce the amount being paid?Low earners pay a reduced rate and a nil rate applies to special cases such as students, children, prisoners and so on. The number of times the child stays overnight with a non-resident parent (looked at in bands) can also affect the final total. The formula has six stages to it and each situation may involve complex rules at one or more of the stages.
Can the Child Support Agency be asked to increase the amount being paid?Yes. The Child Support Agency will also depart from its formula if the non-resident parent has income which has not been taken into account, has diverted their income or has assets of over £65,000 other than those tied up in their home or business.
Do the courts ever get involved with child support?Yes. The courts may be involved where:
- married parents have a step child
- the parents agree the level of support (although either may apply to the Child Support Agency after 1 year)
- there are school fees or other educational costs
- once a child is 17
- the child or one of the parents live abroad
How much does a divorce cost, and what if I cannot afford it?
It depends on how long it takes to reach a settlement, but the basic cost of securing the divorce and the financial order by agreement should not be significant. If there is a court battle however, costs will be much more. If you have no income, but your spouse does, we can negotiate on your behalf to secure enough income to help you to meet your needs until a settlement is reached. We also have good connections with several institutions, including independent financial advisers, who may be able to help.
We understand that many of our clients want certainty about the cost of their legal fees. We offer a fixed fee for divorce proceedings of £500 (plus VAT) plus court costs (currently £410 if you are the petitioner). This fixed fee applies once the parties have agreed the basis on which the divorce will be obtained. It covers all of the procedural aspects of the divorce, which will be conducted by one of our assistants, but it excludes the cost of any advice on the financial aspects of the divorce and advice on issues relating to children.
What is mediation?
Mediation is an alternative method of resolving all the practical difficulties that arise when a relationship ends. It is a voluntary process involving the couple meeting together with a neutral mediator or mediators to discuss the options available to them for sorting out their finances, ending their relationship formally and disagreements about their children.