Legal Q&A: Your most commonly-asked family law questions answered
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Whether you’re getting divorced, setting out the terms of your current relationship, or formalising childcare arrangements, a family law solicitor can help to guide you through the process to make it as stress-free as possible.
Here, Laura Bond, a family solicitor at Clarke Willmott, answers some of the most common questions she gets asked:
Q: What are the grounds for divorce?
This is quite a common question at the moment because the rules around divorce are set to change in autumn 2021 when a no-fault divorce will be introduced by law. But until then, you’ll need to prove that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. There are currently five grounds for divorce in the UK:
- Adultery with someone of the opposite sex – which has to be admitted by the person who has committed adultery or proved
- Unreasonable behaviour – your partner must have behaved in such a way that it is intolerable to live with them
- You’ve been separated for at least two years and both of you give consent to the divorce
- You’ve been separated for five years, even if your partner disagrees to it
- Desertion – your partner has abandoned you for at least two years
Q: How long does it take to get a divorce and do I have to go to court?
A divorce usually takes around four to six months to complete – although that doesn’t include any financial claims related to the separation. If there is a dispute over financial matters you may need to go to court if you cannot resolve the issues between yourselves or via another method of dispute resolution. The court process can take a year, or sometimes longer, to resolve.
Q: What happens if we sell a house and want to divide the assets?
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We advise our clients to apply for a consent order to record the agreement you have reached when dividing up assets. We advise this even if you are jointly selling a property and do not intend to make any other claims. Without one, your ex-partner could theoretically come back years after the divorce and make a claim, for example, if one party inherits a large sum of money.
Q: What happens if we are cohabiting and separate?
There is a misconception that common-law partners have the same rights on separation as those who are legally married, but that’s not the case. For example, you can’t claim maintenance or a share in a pension. However, if you’ve got a child together, you can claim child maintenance and make claims on behalf of the child.
If you are planning on moving someone into your house but you are not married, we recommend taking out a cohabitation agreement, which sets out the intentions for the property in case the relationship breaks down.
Q: What is a prenup and do I need one?
A prenuptial agreement (prenup) helps you to protect your assets should you get divorced. Although it is not guaranteed to be binding, if it meets certain criteria and provides for a fair outcome, a prenup can be highly persuasive and may well be upheld in court at least in part, if not in full. You can also get a postnuptial agreement after you are married.
These types of agreements are fairly common for people who have been married before and want to protect their assets in the event of a further divorce, those with large inheritance prospects or with a family business, such as a farm.
Q: What is family mediation?
Mediation is another method for resolving conflict, whether in relation to children or the financial consequences of divorce. It helps both parties reach an agreement through a series of meetings with an independent, professional mediator, who acts as the broker of the agreement but cannot offer legal advice. The benefits of mediation are that it can be a lot cheaper than contested court proceedings, and both parties remain in control of the outcome.
Q: Why do I need a family law solicitor?
At Clarke Willmott, our divorce and family law solicitors can help you to understand your rights, formalise arrangements and resolve conflicts, no matter how complicated. We’re all members of Resolution, which means our solicitors are trained to minimise conflict in family disputes and adhere to a strict code of conduct. We always endeavour to resolve issues out of court and help protect what matters to you and your loved ones.