Thinking about divorcing? A beginners' guide

Unfortunately, most of us misunderstand how separating and divorce works, which causes extra stress and difficulty. If you are just beginning to think about divorce there are a few things about the process that I think it’s really useful to understand at the outset:
Mother and two children smiling

You may have heard about changes to divorce law, including the new 'no-fault divorce'. The new divorce law comes into force on 6th April 2022. This will mean that neither person will need to blame the other for the divorce. 

  • It takes ages. It’s best to accept that you will have quite a few months of not really knowing what the future will look like. This is very stressful, particularly if you have kids. But there’s often no alternative, and banging your head against a brick wall increases the stress, rather reduces it.
  • Chances are it will take two or three stages - agreeing to separate, moving out and coming up with a temporary plan, and then divorce. Each will need their own time to get used to before you can move on.
  • It’s not one process, but three. People think of divorce as ending the marriage, dealing with issues like how to divide the money or property, and sorting arrangements for the children all in one go. But these are really three different processes, dealt with separately, but often going on at the same time. 
  • If you have children, the first thing you will want to get clear in your head is how you will arrange things for them, in the short and the long-term. Our Survival guide to sorting out child arrangements will help guide you through.
  • Life is not like American TV.  Few people can afford, financially or emotionally, to fight a legal battle. Some people think they need to get solicitors involved right away or go to court in order to ‘protect themselves’ and ‘get what they are entitled to’, but this is a costly and stressful misunderstanding of the system. It’s best to agree as much as you can, either on your own, using family mediation, or (if you can afford them) having solicitors negotiate for you. Going to court is very much a last resort. In fact most people can’t go to court about a family matter without showing that they have explored the idea of using family mediation first.

  • Family mediation aims to help you agree how you will live apart. You can use it to help you agree how you will divorce, divide money or property, and/or how you will both continue to care for your children. This year there is an extra reason to try to come to agreements rather than go to court over it - the court has a huge backlog of cases caused by COVID so going to court will likely take longer than ever. For more details see our Survival guide to using family mediation.
  • You’re very unlikely to have to go to a court hearing. If you can come to agreements about children, money and property, it all happens on paper (or online), which is good because going to court is more expensive and not a fun day out. 
  • 'No fault’ divorce comes into law on 6th April. You no longer need to find a reason to blame each other to get divorced. You can apply online or user a paper application form. 
  • There are no rewards for good behaviour or punishments for bad. What happens to the money isn’t affected by who had an affair, or who did what hurtful thing.  'Past behaviour' is listed as one of the criteria for deciding how money is divided, but generally speaking, it doesn't work like that. It only counts if it has been really, really bad or if someone is trying to hide money and assets.
  • There are no set formulas for working out who gets what. You need to try to agree between you (on your own or with the help of a mediator or solicitor) what happens to the money or the home. But it's not about who put what in, but about what you both need for the future. If you do take it to a court hearing, that is what the court will look at.

This is just one of our resources to help you manage your separation and divorce and save you money.

For more advice, see our Help to deal with family problems  page where you can find our Survival guides to divorce, and sorting out arrangements for the children, and sorting out your finances when you get divorced which aim to help you get everything sorted without having to go to court. We also have a series of step-by-step guides and films for those who do have to go to court. And you have the opportunity to access reduced price legal advice from our panel of solicitors at the most crucial points in the process. 

April 2022

2 Reviews

This was mainly news to me

Glad i followed the link from Facebook as this was useful

on the 14 / 01 / 2020

Good advice. The in-depth

Good advice. The in-depth guides linked to above are great. I tell my clients to read them all the time.

on the 04 / 12 / 2019

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