1. Protecting your position
Before the divorce process can get underway our priority will be to protect your position by making sure your spouse does not dispose of or hide assets and avoiding setting any precedents that could reduce the amount of the settlement you ultimately receive. You should also think carefully before leaving the family home as this could make it more difficult to say that it should be sold or transferred to you in the longer term. If your spouse has moved out and you are left with the house and the children we will make sure you have enough money to pay your bills.
2. Decide on the grounds for divorce
For a divorce to be granted you need to be able to demonstrate that your marriage has irretrievably broken down by giving one of five reasons. Three of these only apply if you have been separated for more than two years. Otherwise, the options are adultery (which can be difficult to prove) and unreasonable behaviour. I find that the vast majority of people opt for unreasonable behaviour. The behaviour does not have to be extreme. Moves are being made to introduce “no fault” divorce where one person does not have to blame the other for the breakdown of the marriage but until that point couples have the best chance of remaining amicable if they don’t lay too much blame on the other party.
3. Be alert to the pitfalls
The sooner you can see a divorce solicitor, the better because each decision you make could have an impact on your future. Our legal knowledge and experience means we recognise the unique features in your case, spot potential problems and complications and take early action to iron out difficulties. Lawyers without our depth of experience may identify problems too late or miss them completely, costing you time, money and unnecessary stress.We will make sure that that you get a fair financial settlement. This will involve ensuring that your spouse has disclosed all of their assets and income. Importantly, we will also ensure that the financial settlement is based on correct information in terms or making sure that the assets and income have been valued fairly; there are various different ways to value assets, so we will make sure that they have been properly valued and not understated. We will also alert you to other pitfalls and factors that might have financial implications such as tax and will use our skill and experience to negotiate a fair financial settlement.
4. Find a solicitor you feel comfortable with
Your solicitor will be supporting you through one of the most challenging times of your life and it’s important you find someone you have confidence in. Our aim is to put you at ease from the moment you walk into our offices. We understand that you are facing situations you never wanted or expected to face and it is our job to help you make the right decisions for you and your family. We will be on your side and are here to reduce the burden and worry of the coming months.
5. Acknowledgment of service
If your spouse has applied for a divorce you will receive a copy of the divorce petition in the post with an acknowledgment of service form. If you haven’t already sought legal advice you will need to do so quickly, before confirming receipt and within the time limit specified on the papers. Try not to focus on the details given to prove unreasonable behaviour. Look on this as a necessary measure to get the divorce process underway in the absence of a no fault divorce system.
Andrew Meehan is individually recommended for family law by both Chambers UK and the Legal 500. He is also a Resolution accredited specialist solicitor for divorce cases involving complex financial and property matters.
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