How Can You Get a Divorce in the UK?
In the UK, a divorce is the official end to a marriage. It can be a difficult and gruelling time in a couple’s life, with emotions running high a lot of the time.
In order for you to file for divorce, you will have to prove that your marriage has broken down. You’ll have to cite one of the following as the reason for this:
- Unreasonable behaviour, such as spending no time together, physical violence, running up debts, or excessive drunkenness
- Desertion, which means your spouse left you for a continuous period of at least two years without good reason
- Mutually agreed separation, for two years or longer
Your divorce will formally begin when you file a divorce petition form. If you and your spouse both agree with the petition and its details, then your divorce can go ahead. If your spouse doesn’t agree with the petition, then the case might go to court.
This can be stressful and emotional, but your divorce solicitor will be there to support all your needs throughout the process.
Finances in a Divorce
Money can be a sore subject for a lot of people, even during the marriage. Although it’s a sensitive topic, it’s important that your finances are put it order as quickly and cleanly as possible to avoid disputes.
When you divorce, you and your partner will need to divide your assets fairly. Any pre-nuptial agreements will be taken into account, as will assets have gathered during the marriage. You should also agree on how mortgage or rent payments, school fees and other outgoings will be paid after the divorce is final to avoid arguments further down the road.
It’s possible to employ a solicitor to draw up a financial settlement agreement which will act as a legally binding document. These agreements can help prevent unpleasant surprises popping up in the future and make future rights and responsibilities very clear to both you and your spouse.
What About Property?
Working out who will get the family home can be really tricky, especially if both of you still want to live there. Who gets to stay can prove to be a real sticking point in a lot of divorces.
If you had a prenuptial agreement drawn up before your marriage, it might protect any property you individually own in the event of a divorce. However, if both of your names are on the title deeds then it might be a bit trickier to establish ownership for one person.
If you have children with your spouse, the court may grant ownership of any shared property to the primary caregiver. This isn’t always the case, and they tend to make decisions in the best interests of the children over whether you want to keep your property.
What happens to property after a divorce really depends on your circumstances. If you and your spouse simply cannot agree and you have exhausted all attempts of mediation and negotiation, the courts may have to make a decision. In this case, your solicitor will represent you and put forward your case to the judge. They will take into account the following matters:
- Yours and your partners earnings
- How long you’ve been married
- Who any children will be living with?
- Your role in the marriage
- Your usual standard of living
Are There Alternatives to a Divorce?
Divorce has the potential to be a long, exhausting process. You may want to legally separate from your partner but don’t want to go through a divorce.
Of course, if you are in the position to separate from your partner without invoking legal proceedings then that is fine. This can become difficult when it comes to finances and assets and may actually make your separation more complicated further down the line.
Such thing as a legal separation agreement exists, which primarily served the purpose of dealing with a couple’s finances and living situation. A separation agreement still has to be put together by a qualified divorce solicitor.
Be aware – it won’t be legally binding until approved by a judge. The difference between this option and a divorce is that the latter is final – you can’t go back on a divorce.
A legal separation agreement might be the best option for you if you and your partner think there might be a possibility of reconciling in the future but wish to separate for now. It also is a good first step to take on the way to a divorce where you will be citing two years separation as your reason for divorce.
Divorcing When Domestic Violence Has Occurred
When domestic violence has occurred in a marriage, divorce proceedings can become complicated. Not only do you have to submit a petition to divorce, but you also may have to seek protection orders for yourself and any children you have. This is especially difficult, but specialist domestic violence solicitors will be able to help you through the process.
If you wish to divorce your spouse on the grounds of domestic violence, then you will need to cite unreasonable behaviour in your divorce petition. If you think you or your family are in danger, you might want to take out one of the following to protect you:
- A non-molestation order – this prevents your partner from using violent or threatening behaviour towards you
- An occupation order – this prevents your partner from entering your home
- A restraining order – this can prevent your partner from contacting you at all, but can only be issued after you have reported them to the police and the case has been heard in a criminal court
The first two orders are called injunctions and can offer you an immediate solution. A restraining order might be considered more protective than these injunctions but going through a court case means having to testify, which can be traumatic.
If you’ve been subject to domestic violence at the hands of your spouse, it might make you feel better to take out one of the above orders at the same time you file for divorce, or whilst divorce proceedings are underway.
Spouse Visas: Divorcing
If you gained entry via a UK spouse visa, your divorce will affect your immigration status – you essentially are no longer eligible to remain in the UK. However, there are other ways you can remain in the UK.
Your divorce will proceed in the same way that a British citizenwould, however you must either leave the UK or seek to apply for a different visa in order to stay. There are different routes you could go down, each depending on your situation and having its own specific requirements.
For example, if you have children who are British citizens or have settled status in the UK, you can apply to remain in the UK via a family of a settled person visa.
Or, if your marriage lasted over five years, in which you lived in the UK you can apply for indefinite leave to remain. You’ll have to take the English language and Life in the UK tests before this is granted.