Getting divorced? Here is what to expect
The divorce process can be daunting, from coping with heartbreak to considering the options for reaching an agreement.
Michaela Heathcote, a divorce expert at Sheffield solicitors Taylor&Emmet LLP, talks us through what to expect if you do decide to separate.
At your first meeting, your solicitor will take some basic details from you “then what they should do is listen”, she explains.
“They need to understand why you are there and whether you simply want to gather information and advice at this stage or you are ready for them to take action on your behalf.”
If you do decide divorce is your best option, it is quite straightforward to ask a solicitor to start proceedings.
The first decision is who is divorcing whom – and why. Unless you’ve been separated for two years, any divorce has to be based on behaviour or adultery, though this year may see a change in the law.
It’s unwise to use this opportunity to vent your fury, says Michaela. “It is important to try and keep these allegations to the minimum necessary, as it doesn’t help with negotiations about arrangements for children if you fling as much mud as possible.”
Once the divorce papers are sent to court, your ex will receive a copy and an acknowledgement of service form then, if they have no objections, you can apply for a Decree Nisi.
After six weeks and one day, a Decree Absolute can be applied for, though in some cases, particularly if there are significant pension funds involved, you may be advised to wait to reach a financial settlement.
Delays in the court system mean the whole process takes between seven and nine months so it’s a good time to discuss arrangements for your children or a financial settlement.
There are different ways you can reach a final agreement: traditional negotiation via your respective solicitors, or mediation which is becoming increasingly popular. A mediator can’t offer advice, however, so it is important to seek legal assistance: Taylor&Emmet provides legal aid-funded mediation from its offices in Sheffield, Rotherham, Dronfield and Bakewell.
Collaborative law is another option, which involves a series of meetings between you, your partner and your collaborative lawyers. “The idea is that you will work as a team in a constructive and creative way to reach an agreement,” explains Michaela, one of the longest-standing practitioners in Sheffield.
The last resort, in Michaela’s view, is to refer the matter to court. “Sometimes it is necessary, but it should be avoided if possible,” she says, adding that it can be destructive as well as expensive.
For more information about divorce and separation, contact Taylor&Emmet’s family law team on (0114) 218 4000 or visit www.tayloremmet.co.uk