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Getting a divorce

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    Getting advice about divorce

    Getting divorced or dissolving a civil partnership* can be an emotional, worrying and difficult time. At such a time you need someone on your side who will be there for you. A family law solicitor will support you through the divorce process, and will give you advice that you can trust about the things that matter most - your children, your home and your financial security.

    Your solicitor will listen to you and discuss your options with you. They will let you know where you stand, tell you what your rights are and help you to understand what your ex-partner's rights are as well. They will try to make the divorce as simple and as stress-free as possible.

    If you have been living together but were not married, a family solicitor can help you understand your rights on a break-up.

    *The process for dissolving a civil partnership is the same as for a divorce, with the exception that the legal definition of adultery relates to heterosexual sex only, so adultery cannot be a reason for dissolving a civil partnership. In a civil partnership, being unfaithful would instead be unreasonable behaviour which is a reason for a divorce.

    You should seek legal advice as soon as you can if:

    • you are at risk of having nowhere to live
    • you are at risk of domestic violence or abuse
    • your ex-partner is not giving you enough access to your children
    • you are in a vulnerable financial position compared with your ex-partner
    • you are unsure what a fair settlement between you would look like
    • you have a lot of assets
    • you got married abroad, or you, your ex-partner or your children have non-UK nationality
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    The Law Society awards individuals who meet the highest standards of expertise and client service in family law with its quality marks. Look out for them on Find a Solicitor search results.

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    How can a solicitor help you with getting divorced?

    Your solicitor will:

    • explain the divorce process and help you understand what you need to do at each stage
    • start the divorce action for you by filing the necessary forms
    • keep you updated and represent your best interests
    • help you reach an agreement with your ex-partner wherever practical, without having to go to court
    • if you do go to court, present your case
    • help you to understand what the judge can and cannot do, and explain what the judge's decision means for you

    If you are at risk from domestic abuse your solicitor will make it a priority to keep you or your children safe.

    While a solicitor can help you throughout the divorce process and can help you with related matters such as a property sale or purchase or with writing a new will, you do not have to use a solicitor for every stage of the process if you do not want or cannot afford to. If you take a solicitor's advice early, they can help you decide how much support you need, and at what stage in the process.

    Reasons for divorce

    You will be given a divorce only if you can show that your marriage or civil partnership has suffered an 'irretrievable breakdown'. To do this you must show that your relationship is beyond repair because:

    • your husband or wife has committed adultery*
    • their behaviour is such that you cannot be expected to live with them
    • they left you at least two years ago
    • you have been separated for two years and they agree to the divorce
    • you have been separated for five years or more

    *Not applicable in a civil partnership

    If a divorce is against your religion, your solicitor can give you advice about other forms of separation.

    Children and divorce

    Where children are involved the law puts the welfare of the children before anything else.

    Your solicitor will help you wherever possible to reach agreement with your ex-partner for your children's sake. This might be about where the children live, how much contact they have with you both,how they will be provided for, and how decisions will be taken in future about things such as holidays and schools.

    Whatever your circumstances, a family law solicitor has the knowledge and experience to make sure that the decisions you make are in the best interests of your children now and in the future.

    Alternatives to going to court

    Although you need a court order to get a divorce, you do not need to go to court to reach a settlement with your ex-partner about your children, home or money. One way of reaching agreement is to go to mediation. In fact, a judge will want to know that you and your ex-partner have at least found out about and preferably tried mediation before coming to them for a decision.

    A mediator is trained in helping separating couples reach agreement even on difficult issues. They will not take sides but will listen to you both.

    Your solicitor will be able to advise you on mediation, and help you to arrange a meeting with a mediator. Legal aid is available for family mediation, although it is no longer available for most divorce cases, except for domestic abuse or violence.

    How do I find a solicitor to help me with my divorce?

    To find a solicitor who can help you with getting a divorce, visit the Law Society's Find a Solicitor website and use the quick search option "Family" to find your nearest solicitor.

    Look for someone who is a member of the Law Society's Family Law, Family Law Advanced or Children Law accreditation schemes. Accreditation is a quality mark meaning that your solicitor will meet the high standards for family-related legal services set by the Law Society.

    An information leaflet on family law is available in the following formats:


    Alternative formats

    We can make this information available in other formats and selected languages on request. Please email accessibility@lawsociety.org.uk for more information.

    Disclaimer

    While we have made every effort to provide accurate information, the law is always changing and affects each person differently. This information is no substitute for specific advice about you personally and we will not be liable to you if you rely on this information.