The Legal Process

The legal process is separate from the emotional impact of divorce and separation. Each case is different and the length and cost of your divorce will depend upon many factors. However, having an idea of what to expect and how the legal process works may help you to deal with any issues more effectively and avoid the pitfalls that many couples fall into.

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Most people require the services of a solicitor to deal with their divorce. A solicitor can take care of the legal process for you and ensure that you are fairly represented in any negotiations regarding your divorce settlement.

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Legal Aid

Legal Aid used to be widely available for low income families, however, from April 2013 legal aid is only available for those falling into the following categories:

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During a divorce or separation hostility and anger are common between couples and talking to an ex partner face to face can be difficult. Equally few people want the trauma and expense of a long drawn out court battle. Mediation offers a middle way to help both of you reach an agreement regarding your divorce or separation.

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Legal Separation

Many couples decide to separate to give themselves time and space to think about their relationship. For some this will lead to reconciliation while others will eventually decide to divorce.

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Cohabitation Rights

When a couple live together, or cohabit, they have no legal status as a couple. This means that a separated spouse cannot claim maintenance and has no right to a division of any assets in the other person's name even if they have contributed to the mortgage over a number of years, unless they can establish that there was a common intention that they would be entitled to a share in the property. Some couples do decide to enter into a Cohabitation Agreement before living together although this will not necessarily stand up when tested in court.

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Civil Partnerships

Civil partnerships were introduced for gay couples as an interim measure before gay marriage was legalised. Effectively they have the same legal status as marriage although civil partners cannot call themselves 'married' in legal terms. There are also differences in the registration of both parents of both parties on the certificate (in marriage only the father is listed) and adultery is not grounds to dissolve the partnership.

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Finance and Assets

The part of your divorce that deals with a financial settlement is called Ancillary Relief and includes the division of assets, pensions and maintenance. When dealing with this part of your divorce consider the following points:

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Cautionary Advice

People usually get divorced when one or other of the parties decides to end the relationship, it is rarely a joint decision. For this reason many couples experience feelings of anger and hostility towards each other and this can complicate the divorce process.

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Divorce Links

Community Legal Service
Government Agency offering advice on a range of legal issues including family law

UK Court Service
Information and leaflets about the UK court system

Resolution (formerly Solicitor's Family Law Association)
Find a solicitor who is a member of resolution, encouraging amicable settlements for children

Offering counselling to anyone going through the process of divorce or separation

CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service)
The service that supports and prepares reports for the court in cases involving children, including contact and residency

Families Need Fathers (FNF)
Campaigning organisation recognising that children need two parents and calling for a change in the law to end the heartache of British fathers

Citizen's Advice Bureau
The CAB offers free information and advice on all aspects of financial matters, including pensions and state benefits. Find your local office and check that you are receiving all of your entitlements

Independent Case Examiner
Investigates complaints of maladministration against the Child Support Agency and the Northern Ireland Social Security Agency

Women's Aid
National Organisation aiming to protect women and children from domestic violence

 See our links page for further links and support