When to get help
The divorce part of the process – the bit that actually ends the marriage or civil partnership – runs parallel with the proceedings that deal with money and property or with arrangements for the children. At some stages, the timing of the divorce part of the process influences the other bits. You might want or need help with any or all of these areas.
These can be started at any time before or during the divorce
Divorce is filed
These can only be started once the application for divorce is filed
The Decree Nisi could be delayed if there are still arguments about where the children are to live or over contact
The court can’t make a final financial order before the Decree Nisi is issued
The court may refuse to grant the Decree Absolute if arrangements for the children are not satisfactory
The order can only take effect after you have been given the Decree Absolute
At what point would I need help from a solicitor or a mediator?
If you are thinking about any legal proceedings you may need to get some legal advice from a solicitor about where you stand before you start. You can get advice without having to commit yourself to having a solicitor act for you in the case.
- You can start discussions about the children between yourselves. Or, you might want to use a mediator or solicitors to help you get to an agreement.
- If you reach an agreement you generally won’t need a court order – you just keep to the agreement. Mediators or solicitors will record what you have agreed in a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ or a letter.
- If you can’t agree then you can apply to the court for an order. You don’t have to have a solicitor to make an application though it’s a good idea to have had some legal advice. Most couples agree at the first court hearing. If you don’t, you probably do need a solicitor to deal with the later stages.
- If you are the one asking for the divorce – the Petitioner – you may need a solicitor to help you with the forms. It is important to fill them in correctly. You can get the forms from the County Court or the Courts Service website, together with helpful leaflets.
- If you are the person being divorced – the Respondent – you may not need a solicitor, though you might want to check your legal position.
- Mediators or solicitors can help you negotiate who is going to ask for the divorce and what you say about the marriage.
- If you do the whole of your divorce without solicitors make sure at the end that you have sorted out any property claims and dismissed any future claims. You might need a solicitor to check this for you.
- You can start discussions about finances between yourselves. Or, you might want to use a mediator or solicitors to help you get to an agreement.
- If you reach agreement you will probably need it turning into a binding court order, if only to make sure that neither of you can make another claim in the future. A solicitor can make sure that the agreement is legally watertight.
- If you can’t agree you will need to make a financial application to the court. You will generally need a solicitor for this. This doesn’t mean that you will inevitably end up fighting the case all the way to court. Most cases get agreed.