What should I bring to my first meeting about a divorce?
You may want to speak to your solicitor in advance about the information they would like you to bring in, it may be that they have a form they require to you complete. Generally speaking, it is a good idea to have evidence of your identity upon you so your solicitor can verify who you are. You may also want to prepare a short summary, often just one page of A4 is sufficient, giving everyone’s full name, date of births, addresses, contact details and a general paragraph on the background to the situation.
You also need to have made enquiries with a solicitor in advance about how they expect to be paid for their services and to make sure that you have the methods of payment with you.
I want my partner to see our children, what can I do?
Generally speaking, it is in the child(ren)’s best interest to have a positive and ongoing relationship with both of their parents in the event of a separation. However, sometimes one parent chooses to walk away from the child(ren) and there is nothing in the law which can make a parent be involved in a child’s life if they do not want to be. There can be many reasons for this including drug and alcohol misuse and domestic abuse. The impact on the remaining parent and the children can be very difficult to deal with. Children in particular can struggle as they may believe they are responsible for one parent’s absence and children who lose a parent in this way can go through a grieving process. In those circumstances, it will be important to offer the children as much reassurance and support as possible and be prepared to deal with regressive behaviour.
I don’t want my partner to see our children, what can I do?
Generally speaking, it is the right of the child(ren) to have a relationship with both of their parents if the parents’ relationship breaks down. However sometimes it is not in the best interest for of the child(ren) to have contact with one of their parents. This can be for reasons such as domestic abuse, criminal offences, drug and alcohol issues. Stopping a parent from seeing their child is very much a last resort and there are a variety of measures that can be put into place such as the use of a local contact centre, or supervision by social services.
My partner is withholding money from me, what can I do?
A lot will depend on whether the relationship between you and your partner has broken down and if there is going to be a divorce or a separation. If you do not want a divorce/separation, then you should perhaps talk to your partner, or consider using the services of marriage guidance or mediation to try and resolve the matter and come to an amicable solution. If, however the problems are such that you believe a divorce/separation is inevitable, then consideration can be given to obtaining maintenance for you. If you have children together and the children live with you, this may mean that you can get child maintenance for the children from the Child Maintenance Service, or it may be that your partner has an obligation to pay you maintenance known as spousal maintenance. Spousal maintenance however would not be an option if the two of you were not married.
A separation may mean that you are entitled to other benefits in your own right such as child benefit, tax credits etc. You would be best to take fairly urgent legal advice to get guidance on your individual circumstances and the options open to you.
How long will a divorce take?
Provided you have been married for a year you can file for divorce, an uncontested divorce normally takes between four and six months. There may be reasons to delay taking the final stage i.e. the decree absolute for example, until such time as finances have been resolved. The amount of time can vary according to the speed the parties process the paperwork, paperwork delays at the local divorce unit and whether forms have been completed accurately.
What is mediation?
Mediation is best defined as a process whereby you and your former partner sit down with a mediator who is an independent person, often a solicitor/expert in family law, and you and your partner try and reach your own agreement, whether it be with regard to children issues, financial issues or otherwise, with the assistance of the independent mediator rather than have an agreement imposed upon you by the court. The mediator is there to be impartial and does not give advice to either party but just explores the options and provides legal information.
Do I need a solicitor to get a divorce?
Currently, to get a divorce in England and Wales you have to have been married to your partner for at least one year and you have to satisfy the court that your relationship has permanently broken down. You have to have a marriage that is legally recognised in the UK; this can include same sex marriages and marriages that have taken place abroad in accordance with that particular country’s own legal requirements.
You do not need to have a solicitor to obtain a divorce, it is largely a paperwork exercise taking place at the local divorce unit to you. However, solicitors can take a lot of the stress, anxiety and uncertainty out of the situation.
To get a divorce you need to send paperwork to the local divorce unit. Alongside the divorce, you and your partner should try and resolve any arrangements for looking after your children and work out how to divide your money and property. Normally there is no need for either party to attend court in person when dealing with the divorce itself.
I have been forced to marry someone I don’t love, what can I do?
Forced marriage is against the law and if you are under 18 it is classed as child abuse. You should always have a choice about if you want to get married and who you want to get married to and you do have a right to say no. If you are worried that you are going to be forced into a marriage you do not want, the main thing is that you tell someone, this could be a teacher, or another adult that you trust. You could report it to the police. You can also contact the Forced Marriage Unit (+44(0)2070080151). If you are at the airport, you can speak to the security officers or the police who will be able to help you. If you have already been forced into a marriage, then your solicitors can apply for a forced marriage protection order, (this can also be applied for if you fear that you are being threatened with a forced marriage), such an order is designed to protect you and is normally dealt with as an emergency application without notice to other parties so that protection is in place straight away. If you are worried about attending court, to obtain a forced marriage protection order, then various arrangements can be put into place to protect you.
My partner has had an affair, what can I do?
Marriages/relationships can be saved even where there is infidelity. Marriage guidance counselling services such as Relate may be able to assist. However, you may want to have legal advice about whether or not you should divorce/separate. Adultery (having an affair) is a ground for divorce, however if you carry on living together for a period of more than six months after you have discovered about the affair, then you would lose the ability to divorce on that particular ground.
If you decided that the marriage/relationship has broken down as a result of the affair, then you should get legal advice as to all the implications of your relationship breaking down i.e. financial implications and children issues. Please note that having an affair would not normally prevent a party from having ongoing contact with their children, but there may of course be issues about whether any new partner should meet with the children and the timing of the same.
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I have suffered domestic violence, what should I do?
Domestic violence can manifest itself in many ways. Many people just think of physical violence but domestic violence is much more than that, it can include controlling behaviour, psychological or emotional abuse, sexual or financial abuse.
Solicitors at Smith Partnership can help to protect victims of domestic violence and their children. We can seek injunctive orders, the main types of orders are non-molestation orders which prevent someone from using, or threatening, physical violence, it also prohibits intimidation, pestering etc. If this order is breached, it constitutes a criminal offence. Occupation orders can also be obtained, this order relates to who lives in the family home. Smith Partnership work closely with the police, refuges and Local Authorities to help victims of domestic abuse become safe and obtain the protection they need.