Considering Divorce? Six Things You Need to Know

considering divorce

Considering divorce? Here are some quick pointers to set you off in the right direction.

1. Everyone will have an opinion

Yes, that’s your family and friends, your neighbours and your colleagues at work. Even your Facebook friends. This can be distracting if you’re trying to figure out what to do. Struggling to see the wood for the trees? Time to get advice from an experienced family lawyer.

2. Try not to make a drama out of the divorce petition

A divorce petition can simply be a means to an end. You want to get divorced? – filling out the paperwork is how to go about it. Only you, your ex and the Court are ever likely to see the divorce petition, so try if you can not to fall out about it. If possible, agree which one of you is going to issue it and agree what it’s going to say. See my blog, Grounds for Divorce, 5 Things you Need to Know.

There are so many other more important things to focus on right now.

However if there’s been domestic abuse, or you believe the children are at risk, please seek immediate advice from an experienced family lawyer.

3. Address the finances

You can’t just leave things hanging, not indefinitely, because you will both be moving on. Important decisions need to be made about the assets – who gets what – and about child maintenance. See my blogs How do you Split Assets in a Divorce and What are your Child Maintenance Options? 

The divorce and the finances can run in parallel, see my blog What Comes First, Divorce or SettlementIf you can agree it all between you, that’s great. But please get legal advice on your rights – a one off appointment won’t cost much. After all, this is the rest of your life.

You both need closure and certainty when it comes to the finances. This means a Court order. But this doesn’t mean you have to attend at the Court, or that it will cost you a fortune – it can be a simple process. See my blog How to get a Consent Order? A Simple Guide.

4. The lawyers don’t have to win

Try to talk to your ex even if it’s really hard. If you fall out you may have to put everything into the lawyers’ hands. Worst case scenario, it all ends up in Court. This could cost you a great deal. Try these alternative approaches:

5. Pension or family home?

If you’re thinking you want to stay in the family home, come what may, take a moment to think. A share of your ex’s pension might be more valuable to you, long term. In many years time when you retire, you might discover that your ex is sitting pretty with a huge pension. Whereas you’re scrabbling around with a tiny pension and a big house that needs lots of maintenance.

This might be an opportunity to plan for the future. Perhaps you can downsize, release some capital for your ex, and get a share of their pension in return? This may take a little extra effort but might be worth it in the long term. Speak to an experienced family lawyer.

6. Ring fencing assets, your inheritance, pension, business …

Can you ring fence your assets? It depends. See my blogs Ring Fence and Protect Assets on Divorce and How to Protect Inheritance on DivorceDo you have to throw your business into the melting pot? See my blog, How to Protect Business on Divorce.

Considering Divorce? Six Things You Need to Know

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial consultation on Considering Divorce? Six Things You Need to Know. In this 20 minute session she will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family lawyers. We offer Pay as you go costs. We offer Collaborative law solutions tailored to your family’s needs.

The topics covered in this blog post Considering Divorce? Six Things You Need to Know are complex. They are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog apply to you, seek expert legal advice.

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Ten Top Tips for Divorce: What Should You Do First?

Ten Top Tips for Divorce

The holidays can sound the death knell for a relationship. But what should you do first? Here are Ten Top Tips for Divorce.

1. Consult

Arrange an initial consultation with an experienced family law solicitor. This can be low cost or even no cost, and can set you off in the right direction.

2. Talk

Try to talk to each other about arrangements for the children and finances. Talking, however painful it might be, could help you reach a less stressful, quicker, less expensive solution.

3. Avoid Court

Try to avoid Court proceedings about the children and finances. See my blog How to avoid Court – Family Mediation, Collaborative Law and Arbitration.

4. Ground rules

If you’re still under the same roof and able to communicate, try to agree some ground rules:

  • sleeping and eating arrangements
  • payment of bills, the mortgage
  • care of children
  • how soon can one of you move out? This will lessen the strain for each of you and for the children

5. Can’t talk?

Under the same roof but you can’t communicate? Probably a good time to consult a family solicitor.

6. Domestic abuse

Has there been violence or any other form of domestic abuse? Take legal advice ASAP.

7. What comes first, divorce or finances

I’ve written a blog answering this question: What Comes First, Divorce or Settlement.

8. Start divorce proceedings

This makes a mark in the sand for those who are finding it difficult to accept the relationship is over. It can also kick off discussions about finances. But in order to keep matters as amicable as possible try to agree who is going to start the divorce. Even better, agree what the reasons for divorce are. See my blog Grounds for Divorce – 5 things you need to know. 

9. Financial disclosure

Disclose your financial information, there’s really no way around this. See my blog, Financial Disclosure on Divorce – 10 Things you need to know.

10. Alternatives

Can’t agree about the children or the finances? Sometimes Court Proceedings are the only answer. But please make sure you’ve tried one of these alternative approaches first:

Ten Top Tips for Divorce

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial consultation on Ten Top Tips for Divorce. In this 20 minute session she will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family lawyers. We offer Pay as you go costs. We offer Collaborative law solutions tailored to your family’s needs.

The topics covered in this blog post Ten Top Tips for Divorce are complex. They are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog apply to you, seek expert legal advice.

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How to Avoid Court – Family Mediation, Collaborative Law & Arbitration

Family Mediation Collaborative Law Arbitration
Family courts are full to bursting. Top family law judge, Sir Andrew McFarlane, says families need to find other ways to settle disputes. But is this realistic? “Yes,” says Joanne Houston of Just Family Law. “Out of court settlements provide solutions specially tailored to your family’s needs. You’ll save time and money, and you’ll be able to move forward amicably with your ex.”

DIY

The simplest approach is to negotiate directly with your ex although of course this isn’t always possible. If you’re able to discuss matters between you please make sure you take advice from an expert family lawyer . You need to know what you’re entitled to and how to protect:

  • yourself
  • your property and money
  • the children.

See my recent blog Financial settlement on divorce – How to get the best one for you

But if DIY is not for you, what are the options? Your solicitor can advise you of the most suitable route for you.

Leave it to the lawyers

Perhaps you’ll decide to negotiate with your ex through your solicitor. Because this in many ways remains the norm in relationship breakdown. Your solicitor will represent you and support you and will help you achieve your goals. You’ll be able to rely on their professional experience to communicate on your behalf with your ex’s solicitors. And you can attend roundtable meetings and your solicitor will represent you.

Mediation

Mediation is a fast, low cost solution where you are both directly in charge of the outcome. What does a mediator do? He or she will help you identify the issues between you and help you reach an agreement. If you can’t sit in the same room as your ex there can be ‘shuttle’ mediation. But please take legal advice alongside the mediation process. This is vital because the mediator can’t advise you of your rights. Which mediator to chose? Your solicitor will be able to recommend the most suitable mediator for your case.

Hybrid mediation

You both attend mediation and you take your solicitors along – helpful if there’s conflict between you, because the presence of solicitors will keep things objective. Your solicitor will even be able to speak on your behalf. Hybrid is also helpful where a legal issue is getting in the way of settling your dispute.

Collaborative law

A specially trained collaborative lawyer can help you reach an agreement tailored to your, and your family’s, individual needs. But how does this work? You and your solicitor, and your ex and their solicitor, all sign a Participation Agreement. This states you commit to reaching an out of court settlement. And if you don’t reach an agreement, your solicitor won’t be able to represent you in court – an incentive to finding a solution! What is the collaborative process? Your solicitor will be at your side to advise, support and speak for you at a series of roundtable meetings. And other experts can help if necessary. These include:

  • independent financial advisor
  • family consultant
  • child specialist
  • accountant

See my recent blog What is Collaborative Family Law

Collaborative law is a constructive process and you and your ex remain in control of it.

Arbitration

Arbitration is a relatively new option in family law but provides several strong advantages. But what’s an arbitrator? An arbitrator is a family lawyer – perhaps even a judge – with special training. You and your ex both agree to be bound by their determination. The arbitrator can look at all the issues – money and property and children. Or they can narrow it down to just one question such as where the children are to live. They’re also trained to listen to children. Arbitration is more flexible than court as you decide the venue and the timing. And it’s less formal – you can even ask for it to be conducted in writing.

Consent order

An arbitration provides you with a binding determination. But if you reach agreement through another avenue you’ll need the protection of a consent order sealed by the court. Your solicitor can help you with this. It’s a paper procedure and unlikely to involve a court hearing. But it’s vital because:

  • your ex will have to keep to what’s been agreed
  • you’ll be protected from future claims if eg you come into money.

See my recent blog How do I get a Consent Order

How to Avoid Court – Family Mediation, Collaborative Law & Arbitration

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial free of charge consultation on the question How to Avoid Court – Family Mediation, Collaborative Law & Arbitration. In this 20 minute session she will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family lawyers. We offer Pay as you go costs. We offer Collaborative law solutions tailored to your family’s needs.

The topics covered in this blog post How to Avoid Court – Family Mediation, Collaborative Law & Arbitration are complex. They are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog apply to you, seek expert legal advice.

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Do I need permission to take my children on holiday?

Do I need permission to take my children on holiday?

Can you take the children on holiday without permission from the other parent or the Court? It depends. In this blog I will set out what you need to consider. But as getting it wrong can have very serious consequences please get advice from a family law expert if you have any doubts.

The important factors you will need to consider are –

  • Is the holiday in England or Wales.
  • Or is it elsewhere – Scotland, Ireland or abroad.
  • Is it for less than 28 days.
  • Has the Court made a child arrangements order saying with whom the children will live.
  • Do you both have parental responsibility.

The holiday is in England or Wales

If the children live with you, you can take them on holiday without permission. If they don’t live with you, you can take them on holiday during a contact visit. But it’s best if parents discuss holiday plans well in advance in order to keep things amicable and to avoid misunderstandings.

The holiday is elsewhere – Scotland, Ireland or abroad

You can take the children on holiday without the other parent’s permission or the permission of the Court if –

  • there is a child arrangements order saying the children live with you, even if it’s not all of the time (as long as the time is defined), and
  • the holiday is less than a month (usually defined as 28 days)

For the lawyers and law students among you, this is set out in s.13 Children Actthe geographical extent of which is England and Wales. For everyone else, please read your child arrangements order carefully and all the way through.

But if the other parent doesn’t have parental responsibility (see below) you don’t have to consult them at all. However taking a child abroad where there is no child arrangements order and without the consent of the other parent when they do have parental responsibility is child abduction – a criminal offence. So if you have the slightest doubt, please get advice from a family law expert.

Here again, don’t forget to discuss your plans with the other parent in order to keep things amicable and avoid misunderstandings.

Who has parental responsibility?

  • all mothers
  • fathers who
    • were married to the mother at the time of the birth or subsequently
    • are named on the birth certificate (from 1 December 2003)
    • have entered into a parental responsibility agreement
    • have a parental responsibility order

Discuss your plans with the other parent 

This applies whether the children live with you or the other parent. Start discussing your plans as early as possible. Share your holiday itinerary. Take turns with significant holidays such as Passover, Easter or Ramadan.

If the children don’t live with you, you might be surprised how keen the other parent is for them to go on holiday with you. This doesn’t mean they aren’t a good parent, it’s just that they need a break. And if the children live with you, remember to respect their right to enjoy quality time with their other parent.

If you can’t agree,

may be the answer. In mediation or collaborative law, a family consultant can be involved to help with communication or non-legal issues.

Discuss your plans with the children 

Bracing walks on the coast might sound great to you but the children might prefer to laze around on a sunny beach. And don’t forget the children have their own commitments. Is there something coming up they really don’t want to miss? Or are exams on the horizon, should they be at home revising?

Make sure they stay in touch with the other parent 

When they’re away on holiday, even if they’re having a great time with you, they are likely to miss their other parent so work out in advance how and when they will stay in contact.

Seeing other family members

Don’t forget holidays are a valuable opportunity for children to see their wider family.

Grandparents

It can be difficult for grandparents to see their grandchildren, let alone come to an agreement to take them on holiday. See my blog Do grandparents have rights?

Do I need permission to take my children on holiday?

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial free of charge consultation on the question Do I need permission to take my children on holiday? In this 20 minute session she will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family lawyers. We offer Pay as you go costs. We offer Collaborative law solutions tailored to your family’s needs.

The topics covered in this blog post Do I need permission to take my children on holiday? are complex. They are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog apply to you, seek expert legal advice.

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Can I Get a Divorce Online?


Can I Get a Divorce Online

Can I Get a Divorce Online?

Yes, of course. The options are:

But did you know that a solicitor can do your divorce for you, often for less than you think?

I want a quick and cheap online divorce

Things to watch out for:

  • Are they properly qualified?  Don’t rely on untrained and unqualified people
  • Don’t go so quickly that you forget to protect your share of the matrimonial finances. There’s the family home, and you don’t want to miss out on pensions or the family business either. See my blog Quick divorce or safe divorce?
  • Have you agreed the arrangements for the children?
  • Neither arrangements for the children nor matrimonial finances are addressed in divorce proceedings. Check out your rights with a properly qualified family lawyer. Fixed fees or pay as you go costs are available.

How do I know the online service providers are properly qualified?

Good question. Expert legal help is important but the terminology is confusing: lawyer, solicitor, barrister, paralegal, chartered legal executive, collaborative lawyer, mediator. What does it all mean?

“Lawyer” can mean solicitor, barrister, or indeed any of the above.

A solicitor is highly qualified and experienced and can advise you and represent you in Court. You can find a good one online at Resolutionan organisation of family lawyers who believe in a constructive, non-confrontational approach.

A barrister can advise you and represent you, but usually your solicitor instructs them, rather than you.

A collaborative lawyer works with you, your partner and their lawyer in face to face negotiations to resolve your family disputes. Collaborative family law can help you shape your own future after divorce, and avoid the heartbreak of Court proceedings.

A mediator can help you and your partner work things out together. They can help you identify the issues between you and help you resolve them. Find a good one at Resolution

A chartered legal executive is similar to a solicitor but tends to have trained in only one area of the law, and must be supervised. Find a chartered legal executive on the CILEx website. Incidentally, the title “legal executive” can be misleading. Check whether they are actually chartered or not.

A paralegal has some legal training but is not a solicitor or chartered legal executive. Find a paralegal on the Professional Paralegal Register

You say go to a solicitor, but they cost too much

Not always! Family solicitors usually offer initially free advice, fixed fees, payment plans or pay as you go. See the How we charge page on our website. Compare these to the charges for online divorce – you might be pleasantly surprised. You will have the assistance of a properly qualified and experienced solicitor with personal knowledge of your case. And if your solicitor is local, you can actually meet her.

Why should I consult a solicitor?

  • A divorce doesn’t sort out the finances or the children. These are separate.
  • Things can get complicated – hidden assets, the risk of child abduction
  • A family solicitor will drop everything to protect you and your children
  • Decisions about property, pensions etc will affect the rest of your life

Can I talk to a proper solicitor please?

Yes, of course.  Joanne Houston at Just Family Law would be delighted to help you. And talking to a solicitor doesn’t mean you can’t have a DIY divorce.

I want a life beyond divorce

Then think about collaborative family law or mediation.

Family consultants who practise as counsellors or life coaches can help manage the separation and can be directly involved in the collaborative law process too.

Everyone is entitled to expert, professional advice

So certainly look online, but don’t forget to protect your future and the future of your children by organising a free or fixed cost interview with a family law solicitor.

It’s like when you’re organising a holiday. However independent you want to be in your travel plans, you don’t want to fly the plane yourself. There’s an experienced pilot for that.

Can I Get a Divorce Online?

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial free of charge consultation on the question Can I Get a Divorce Online? In this 20 minute session she will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family lawyers. We offer Pay as you go costs. We offer Collaborative law solutions tailored to your family’s needs. 

The topics covered in this blog post Can I Get a Divorce Online? are complex. They are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog apply to you, seek expert legal advice.

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How to File for Divorce in the UK

How to File for Divorce in the UK

How to File for Divorce in the UK …

The bad news is your marriage or civil partnership is over. But the good news is it’s now a lot simpler to get divorced thanks to the online system. I’m going to explain what you need to look out for and what it all means.

There’s rarely any need to attend Court and the whole process takes only four to six months but this doesn’t include the finances and and it’s often wise to delay finalising the divorce until they’re sorted out.

But if you would rather a lawyer do the divorce for you make sure you chose one who is committed to a non confrontational approach to family problems, such as Just Family Law’s Joanne Houston.

How a divorce starts …

One of you fills in a divorce petition (the petitioner) and the Court serves it on the other (the respondent).

What a divorce does …

It ends a marriage or a civil partnership but it doesn’t sort out the finances or the arrangements for the children.

Take the bull by the horns …

Did you know that divorce, finances and the arrangements for the children can all be addressed at the same time? See my blog What comes first, divorce or settlement?

If you can’t agree between yourselves you have the following options:

  • Help from a lawyer
  • Start Court proceedings yourself
  • Mediation
  • Collaborative law

Collaborative law is an opportunity to build a positive future for you and your family. See my recent blog What is collaborative law?

What’s needed to start a divorce …

  • Marriage certificate
  • Court fee of £550 unless you’re eligible to exemption from fees
  • The respondent’s address

Here’s a link to an application form to help with Court fees

How to fill in the divorce petition …

The online divorce service is on the GOV.UK site, here’s a link

It’s straightforward to fill in but there are some tricky questions. For example if you weren’t born in either England or Wales or if you live in another country. Or if you don’t know the respondent’s address. There are notes to help you but don’t forget to get expert help if you’re not sure. Lawyers often provide fixed cost advice for this kind of service.

The grounds for divorce …

The most popular is unreasonable behaviour. The least contentious is two year’s separation with consent. See my blog, Grounds for divorce – 5 things you need to know

Financial claims …

The form asks, “Do you want to apply for a financial order?” To be on the safe side tick Yes as the Court will take no action but it will leave it open for the future. Don’t risk missing out on pensions or the business or being left with debts that aren’t yours. And a Consent Order recording your financial settlement is essential to protect you.

Don’t forget to get expert help if you’re not sure. Lawyers often provide fixed cost advice for this kind of service.

Costs …

How to answer, “Costs – if you wish to claim costs from the respondent.” There are a number of things to bear in mind:

  • the expense of the Court fee to start a divorce which is currently £550
  • the availability of exemption from fees (see above “What’s needed to start a divorce”)
  • whether the respondent can afford to pay a costs order
  • the likelihood of the Court making a costs order

If you aren’t eligible to exemption from fees, and the respondent can afford to pay a costs order, see if the respondent will agree to pay or at least contribute.

Risks …

The respondent defends the petition. See my blog No fault divorce, your questions answered about the Owens case and the risk of the respondent defending an unreasonable behaviour petition.

What happens next …

The Court serves your divorce petition on the respondent and they acknowledge service of it, which means they fill in a form saying they’ve received the petition. Once you receive the acknowledgment of service from the Court you can fill in a statement in support.

Next the Court will set a date for the pronouncement of the decree nisi. You don’t have to attend Court for this.

The decree nisi …

Your marriage isn’t over yet but it’s an important stage if you are sorting out financial matters as a Consent Order recording your settlement can now be sealed by the Court.

Six weeks and one day after the pronouncement of the decree nisi the petitioner can apply for the decree absolute. But there are pros and cons. Should you wait until you have obtained a Court order confirming the financial arrangements between you? See my blog Quick divorce or safe divorce? How to protect your financial settlement

The decree absolute …

  • You are no longer married
  • You can remarry or enter a civil partnership
  • Your consent order about the finances comes into force

How to File for Divorce in the UK

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial free of charge consultation on the question How to File for Divorce in the UK. In this 20 minute session she will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family lawyers. We offer Pay as you go costs. We offer Collaborative law solutions tailored to your family’s needs. 

The topics covered in this blog post How to File for Divorce in the UK are complex. They are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog apply to you, seek expert legal advice.

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