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With divorce being such a tricky topic to navigate, and still culturally being a bit taboo to openly discuss, it can be hard to know what is true and where to turn to for help and advice. But just like many of life’s biggest questions, we look to Google for answers!

So we decided to monitor the UK’s most-searched questions around divorce, so that our team of expert lawyers can answer all of these in one place…

1. How much does a divorce cost?

We regularly see big celebrity divorces and horror stories in the papers about  thousands of pounds being spent on divorce proceedings. However, much of this will relate to untangling their finances.  A divorce alone is rarely expensive.  How much it will cost to resolve financial issues usually depends on how complex the finances are and how much disagreement there is.

There are two main costs associated with the divorce process (these are separate from costs relating to matrimonial finances or children issues); solicitors costs, and then disbursements.

Solicitors’ costs will vary depending on the level of experience of the family lawyer, although often you can find a family solicitor who will offer a fixed fee for this work.  The petitioner in the divorce proceedings should budget in the region of £500 – £750 plus VAT for the divorce process itself. If you are the respondent in the proceedings, the fees you incur are likely to be much lower, around £200 – £400 plus VAT.

Disbursements are expenses incurred by a solicitor whilst completing work on behalf of a client. In relation to divorce proceedings, for most parties, this will only be the divorce application fee charged by the court of £550 (NB: as of 30 September 2021, the court fee for a divorce application will be £593). Other disbursements that may apply might include obtaining a replacement marriage certificate or organising a translation of the marriage certificate if the ceremony took place abroad.

2. How long does a divorce take?

The length of time that a divorce takes to reach the final Decree Absolute can vary. If uncontested and there are no financial issues to resolve, or the parties are agreed as to their financial separation, then this can all be finalised in a matter of a few months.

However, this timeframe is largely dictated by the time frames built into the process and how quickly the courts are dealing with divorce applications. If they are receiving a large volume of applications, it may take significantly longer. A straightforward divorce usually takes around six months from start to finish.

However, if it takes you and your spouse longer to agree on financial matters, then it can take much longer. Certainly, if pensions are involved it may be sensible to delay finalising the divorce until the pension arrangements have been finalised.  Historically you could manage to get a divorce through in around 3.5 – 4 months, but these days that is not the case.  Having said that, we all hope that the advent of issuing divorces online will speed things up.  Our longest divorce case we have dealt with has been probably in the region of 2-3 years – but this is where there are lots of financial issues to sort out.

3. How many marriages actually end in divorce?

The Office of National Statistics reports that in 2019 the incidence of divorce was 8.9 per 1000 married men and women. It’s important to remember that, sadly, you are not the first or the last to get divorced.

4. How long do you have to be separated before divorce is automatic?

The current divorce laws do not provide for any automatic divorce.  However, there are going to be changes to the ‘facts’ relied on in order to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down – currently these are adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, separation for 2 years with consent (from both parties) or separation for 5 years.

5. How do I change my surname back to my maiden name after a divorce?

It is easy to change your name after a divorce if you wish, and I would suggest you look at for some more information on how to do this.

We are increasingly seeing a growing number of women who wish to keep their marital surname, for work or professional reasons. This is perfectly legal and possible – not all divorces end in big arguments!

6. Who gets custody of children in a divorce?

When a couple divorces, the preference for most parents is to have a shared care arrangement – this terminology has replaced the old fashioned phrase ‘custody’. A shared care arrangement means that your child(ren) spend a fairly balanced amount of time with each parent, with both parents being involved in the their day to day care. Sometimes, practically, this cannot work, and one parent may have a ‘live with’ order which specifies where the child lives. If parents can agree their child arrangements it is always beneficial, not only for the children but also for the parents as they will inevitably have the confidence that they are equally involved in their child’s upbringing.

If you want to seek a ‘live with’ order for your child, you will need to make an application to the court, unless it is agreed between you both.

7. How can I get a quick divorce?

There is no such thing as a quick divorce in England and Wales – there is a process that has to be followed which has built in time frames that everyone has to follow. Whilst you might be looking to Google for this answer as you want the situation resolved quickly, it’s important to remember the scale of the process you are about to undergo.

8. How to tell your husband/wife that you want a divorce

If you feel that your marriage has broken down, for whatever reason, then think about whether you feel safe to express these feelings to your partner directly and discuss the next steps.  We appreciate this is not always possible, but generally if you can agree at least some of your financial and child arrangements, then they are more likely to be successful.

It is also important to be mindful of the other person’s feelings, as what might have been a long and considered decision to you, may come as a complete shock to the other, which may result in frustration, anger, or upset.

Inevitably it is a difficult conversation to have with anyone, but sadly relationship breakdown is a part of life.  The key piece of advice I would offer is if you are in this position, take some initial advice from a divorce or family law solicitor and find out what the position is for you.

9. What happens in a divorce if you commit adultery?

In order to be able to rely on adultery as the reason why a marriage has irretrievably broken down, you will either need proof or an admission or confession statement. Understandably obtaining proof is not easy and therefore you might want to rely on unreasonable behaviour rather than adultery.

People also often have a misconception that the fact relied on will impact their ultimate financial settlement.  Whilst in some very extreme cases this may be so – if conduct can be proved – more often than not the fact relied on plays no further part in the divorce or financial matters.

10. How to survive the divorce process after 30 years of marriage

Coming out of a long-term relationship can be difficult, especially when your partner has been a big part of your life for many years. Separating finances, living separately and not seeing that person on a daily basis will feel strange at first, but over time you will find a new ‘normality’. A marriage ending does not equate to failure, so remembering who you are and rediscovering your favourite version of yourself is key to getting through the healing process. Many people who go through divorce also find that talking to someone can really help, whether that is a friend or family member or a professional counsellor.

During and after the divorce process, it is important to take care of yourself mentally and physically. Taking up a hobby or spending time doing what you enjoy can significantly improve or maintain good mental health. It is also a good idea to surround yourself with friends and family to help prevent any loneliness or loss you may be feeling. The most important thing to remember is that it’s okay to feel a mix of emotions during this new, turbulent and unknown time.

If you are struggling in a relationship and considering a divorce, or have further questions for Hawkins Family Law, please get in touch with our solicitors and team.

Jo Hawkins

Jo qualified as a solicitor in 1992 having completed her training at leading Cambridge firms Taylor Vinters and Thompson and Co. After qualification, Jo moved to J Garrard and Allen in Olney where she established the family department. In 1994 Jo was made a Partner at J Garrard and Allen and continued to build and develop the practice. Jo trained as a mediator with Resolution in 1996.

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