The Justice Secretary has recently confirmed that divorce laws in England and Wales are to be reformed during the next session of parliament, removing the need to allocate blame for the collapse of a relationship. Until the law changes however, there is only one ground for divorce – irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
The applicant spouse is called the petitioner and the other spouse, the respondent. The petitioner must prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down by establishing one of the following facts:
Adultery – even if you have already separated
Unreasonable behaviour such that you cannot be expected to continue living with the other spouse
Two years’ separation (with consent)
Five years’ separation
There are two stages to the process: decree nisi and then decree absolute.
To finalise the finances there has to be an application for divorce. Ideally you want to agree the finances, convert the agreement into a consent order and, after the decree nisi has been granted, you can post the order into the court. If you cannot agree then the court will have to make the decisions for you. However this is costly and takes time. If you do not want to divorce right now then you can have a separation agreement drawn up.
My client was a woman who had applied for a divorce, following her husband’s adultery. He was a company director with a six-figure salary plus substantial annual bonus. My client was an ex-secretary who had not worked since their teenage children were born.
The mediation sessions broke down as the husband was not prepared to pay maintenance for her and their children. This meant the case had to go to court.
The court decided in my client’s favour and the husband was told to pay child support, school fees and four years’ maintenance for my client, while she trained and established herself as a physiotherapist. Part of my role was to give my client moral support and encouragement, because she was under a great deal of pressure from her husband. When I first met her, she lacked assertiveness and felt trapped in a position of no power. At the end she had turned into a completely different woman – confident, self-reliant and empowered.
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