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The Most-Searched Divorce Questions And Expert Answers

With divorce being such a potentially difficult topic to navigate and talk about, it can be hard to know what is true and where to turn to for help and advice. So, of course, many people first look to Google for the answers.

As a specialist family law firm, we decided to monitor the UK’s most searched for questions around divorce, so that our team of expert lawyers could provide reliable and up to date answers all in one place.

If you are thinking about getting divorced, you can talk to us in confidence. Our expert team of family law specialists can advise and guide you from the moment we start working with you.

1. How much does a divorce cost?

Divorce alone is rarely expensive. The majority of costs are accrued resolving matrimonial finances. How much it will cost to resolve financial issues usually depends on how complex the finances are and how much disagreement there is. Divorce costs in England and Wales can start from £200 to around £700 plus VAT and the court application fee. Costs will vary between the applicant (the person applying for divorce) and the respondent. 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.

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 applicant 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 £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 stage 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 you are not the first or 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. There is no requirement to be separated for any length of time before somebody is able to initiate divorce proceeding. The only time restriction of relevance is that the parties must have been married for over a year before divorce proceedings can begin.

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 we 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, and this is perfectly legal.

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 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 undertake.

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 we 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.

11. What’s the first step of a divorce?

The first step following separation should be to obtain independent legal advice in relation to the divorce process, arrangements for children and a wider discussion regarding the matrimonial finances. In addition to discussing the practical implications of separation, it is also important to understand the divorce process, particularly in light of changes to the law earlier this year which afford the parties to benefit from new no-fault divorce arrangements and to consider the various ways in which disputes relating to children or finances can be settled with your spouse.

12. How is a house divided in a divorce?

Following disclosure exchanged between the parties of their respective financial positions, all assets are treated in the same way. There is an assumption that the assets should be divided equally between the parties and that presumption should then be considered against the criteria set out in section 25 Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 in order to ensure that the terms of any financial settlement are fair and reasonable. Once the s.25 criteria are considered, it is not uncommon for there to be a departure from equality, often so as to ensure that the needs of the parties and their children are met, or in circumstances where the marriage was particularly short.

13. How can I reduce the cost of a divorce?

The cost of divorce proceedings can broadly be split into two elements – legal fees and court costs. The court costs are a fixed sum of £593.00 and are payable in every case. Legal costs are likely to range in the region of £250 – £350 plus VAT. There is little flexibility in the costs of a divorce, unless a party attempts to undertake the divorce process themselves.

The costs that might be incurred in relation to disputes over the child arrangements or matrimonial finances are likely to have greater flexibility, particularly if the parties are open to considering alternative forms of dispute resolution. It is imperative that independent legal advice is obtained in order to discuss the suitability of a case for dispute resolution.

14. Do you have to sell the house in a divorce?

There is no automatic presumption that the family home should be sold as part of a divorce settlement, although given its value as an asset, it is common to see the property sold or re-mortgaged in order to access the equity contained within it to meet the parties’ financial needs following separation. It is important to reflect on all the assets of the parties in the round, rather than focusing on one individual asset in isolation, so as to ensure that a fair and reasonable settlement is achieved.

15. Which divorce papers do I need?

Other than an original marriage certificate, no other paperwork is required to submit an online divorce application. However, it is important that you have contact details for your spouse to ensure that they are appropriately notified of the divorce process.

16. What happens with child maintenance in a divorce?

The appropriate rate of child maintenance is governed by the CMS and they have a helpful online calculator to assist separating parents to determine the minimum level of child maintenance payable

As with all financial matters upon divorce, it is also important to consider the wider concepts of needs in the case and the extent to which spousal maintenance may also be required to ensure that income needs are met, or to assess how other available assets might meet the needs of the children and parties.

17. Can I get sole custody in a divorce?

The parties are free to coordinate any arrangements that they consider appropriate for the children upon divorce, providing a child’s welfare is not compromised, and this should be a priority where applicable.

In addition to considering where the children shall live, it is also equally important to reflect upon what contact the children will have with the non-resident parent. There is a statutory presumption (s.1[2A] Children Act 1989) that spending time with each parent is of benefit to a child, although that time does not need to be shared equally.

18. What’s the most common reason for a divorce?

Each marriage, and therefore each divorce, is unique and there is no ‘one size fits all’ situation that leads to a divorce. Changes to the law earlier this year no longer require a party to set out their reasoning as to why their marriage has irretrievably broken down. The new no-fault divorce regime simply requires a party to confirm that they wish to pursue divorce proceedings. This new process is designed to reduce animosity and conflict at the outset of any proceedings and is seen widely as a positive change by family law practitioners and the judiciary alike.

19. How long do you have to be separated before divorce?

There is no requirement to be separated for any length of time before somebody is able to initiate divorce proceeding. The only time restriction of relevance is that the parties must have been married for over a year before divorce proceedings can begin.

Talk to Hawkins Family Law about your divorce

At Hawkins Family Law, our expert divorce solicitors can offer expert assistance and support to help you through the divorce process with minimal stress.

Contact us today to speak to one of our accredited solicitors or head to our divorce page to find out more about how Hawkins Family Law can help.

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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