If you are considering a divorce, it usually means that you have already spent months, or even years, in emotional turmoil – only Hollywood actors and pop stars divorce after mere days. This is especially true in the UK, where you cannot even apply to be divorced until you have been married for a year (or two years in Northern Ireland), without exception.
Grounds for divorce
This makes divorce a serious business, rarely entered into unless marital relations have genuinely and irrevocably broken down. For this to be accepted by the court, either partner (or both) needs to demonstrate that the marriage does not exist any more in a meaningful sense, known legally as “ an irretrievable breakdown.” In order to demonstrate this, at least one of the following criteria needs to be proven: That adultery has taken place; that your partner has behaved unreasonably; that your partner left the marital home at least two years previously; that you have lived apart for at least two years (in the event of a mutually agreed divorce); that you have lived apart for at least five years (in the event of a contested divorce).
This is the legal term for a divorce to which both parties agree. In the UK, an undefended divorce is dealt with by county divorce courts (England, Wales and Scotland), the Principle Registry of the Family Division in London (England and Wales), the High Court (Northern Ireland). Any county divorce court can be applied to, and are all listed at the Ministry of Justice website (www.justice.gov.uk).
Although a solicitor is not technically required for an undefended divorce, adopting the services of specialist divorce lawyers will speed up the process and deal with all paperwork, as well as providing personal advice ahead of the divorce application itself. This will concern itself with the most appropriate grounds for divorce, what evidence and documentation will be required, and what to do in the event of disputes over the division, of property, assets and custody of children.
When one party contests a divorce application, this is known as a defended divorce. Although such cases normally begin in the High Court, they can often be transferred to county divorce courts. A defended divorce is necessarily more complicated and fraught than the alternative, and so divorce lawyers are essential for both parties – as is a barrister, since lengthy court hearings are very likely. Since high legal fees and a lot of stress are inevitable in defended divorces, it is strongly recommended that both partners do their utmost to come to an agreement before it comes to this.