The “Do’s and Don’t’s” of the Initial Family Law Consultation

Deciding to pick up the phone and make that dreaded first call when you feel the time is right to contact an attorney is a petrifying moment.  It’s one of those times in your life where you just have to take the plunge, dial the phone and make the call.

Once you’ve decided on the attorney you want to meet with, a sense of relief may come over you… until the day of the appointment. Panic, fear, confusion, hurt and uncertainty are all natural expectations that an experienced attorney will recognize and deal with when you arrive.  But don’t let your apprehension overcome you. You made the call. You scheduled the appointment.  It’s time. You know meeting with the attorney is the right thing to do.

More often than not, the attorney is going to meet you when you are at your worst, especially in a new divorce consultation. That’s expected.  You wouldn’t be at the law office if things were rosy and life was grand.  An experienced family law attorney knows that you are vulnerable, emotionally drained, and sadly, sometimes physically abused.  The attorney will help guide you through the initial process, help you cope with your emotional well being, and offer suggestions to help you make yourself “a better you” as the process proceeds, and most important, be the partner your attorney will need to effectively advocate for you throughout the divorce or post-decree proceedings.

In order to make the most out of the initial meeting with your attorney, there are a few simple rules that will help you, the client, and your attorney make the most out of the initial consultation.  Remember, just as you are interviewing the attorney, the attorney is interviewing you as well.  You are both evaluating each other to determine if the two of you are a “proper fit” for each other.  Just as you are gauging the attorney’s knowledge, demeanor, compassion and strategy, the attorney is also evaluating you to determine what type of witness you may be, your candor and truthfulness, and your ability to be an effective partner throughout the proceedings.  If you’re not comfortable with what you’re seeing or hearing, don’t hire this attorney. But by the same token, if the attorney is not comfortable with you, the attorney is under no obligation to accept your case or you as a client.  It’s the proverbial “two way street;” you both have to want to work together, feel comfortable with each other and be on the same page in order to be successful in your case and to have a successful attorney/client relationship.

When preparing for the initial consultation, there are a few “Do’s and Don’t’s” that will make the initial consultation less stressful for you, and more beneficial to both you and the attorney. Of course, some law offices may have different procedures and practices, so it’s a good idea to ask when you make the initial appointment to see if there are any procedures you should know before you have your first meeting, especially if there will be a charge for the initial consultation. Some of the suggested “Do’s and Don’t’s” that our law office adheres to are:

For the Initial Consultation, DON’T:

 Don’t be offended if there is a charge for the initial consultation.  The lawyer’s time is how he or she makes their living and you are receiving a professional service. The time the lawyer spends with you could have been spent on another case for which he or she could be getting paid, so it is not out of the ordinary to expect to pay for the initial consultation.  Our firm, like many others, has a discounted rate for the first hour consultation. The information you receive will be well worth the fee, not to mention that it may be a significant stress reliever as you move forward. Don’t forget:  “You get what you pay for…”

• Don’t bring a friend or family member with you for moral support.  That person cannot participate in the initial conference due to confidentiality requirements and ethical concerns of the attorney.  A friend or family member has nothing to contribute to the initial conference.  If they have something relevant to provide to your case, the attorney will, undoubtedly, interview them later to make that determination.  The attorney wants to talk to you, only, at the initial consultation because you have the pertinent information, not your friend or family member.

• Perhaps even more important than not bringing friends or family members with you to the initial appointment is don’t bring children with you.  Because of the sensitive discussions that may occur during your initial consultation, children should not be present.  Also, there is no place for children to stay while you are meeting with the attorney other than the waiting room/reception area.  Law office staff have jobs to do and providing child care for you is not in their job description, nor should it be their responsibility to entertain your child/children during this very important meeting.  This meeting is a job interview, for both you and the attorney.  Would you take your children to a job interview?  You shouldn’t bring your children to the initial consultation either.

• Don’t be late, or just not show up.  Just as you will expect to receive courtesy from the attorney and the law office staff, the same courtesy should be extended to them from you.  If you see that you are going to be late, call the law office and let them know.  If you need to cancel the appointment for whatever reason, have the courtesy to call the office and cancel.  Perhaps someone else can use that appointment time if you can’t make it, or just aren’t ready to take that step.

• Don’t withhold any information or facts, even if it may be embarrassing.  An experienced attorney will be able to advise you as to what is relevant or not, and leaving out even the simplest fact or occurrence may have a devastating impact on your case.

• Conversely, don’t embellish or exaggerate facts or occurrences to help bolster your case.  By not being completely honest with your attorney, it may affect how you are represented, the strategies taken, or even worse, bring your credibility into question. Truthfulness is always the most important aspect of your case, even if it hurts.

• Although everyone wants to make a good first impression, there is no need to “dress up” for the initial consultation. Wear what you feel comfortable in because you may be having an uncomfortable, emotional and stressful discussion for the next one to two hours. Also, don’t over indulge in fragrances; perfumes or colognes.  Many people have allergies to certain fragrances, and although you may like to smell good, overpowering perfumes and colognes can distract from a meaningful and productive initial conference.  Don’t forget that you will be meeting in a closed room; either the attorney’s office or a conference room that can quickly become overwhelmed with an overpowering fragrance.

• Last, but certainly not least, don’t rely on what you read on the internet or what your friends tell you. The internet can be a very valuable tool, but can also be full of misinformation and vague, often confusing, interpretations of the law. Just as you wouldn’t rely on a medical website to diagnose a serious medical problem, don’t rely on the internet to tell you what the law is, or how it would be applied in your particular case.  Additionally, friends can be well meaning, however, their case is not yours.  Remember that just as every individual is different, every case is different.  Your particular circumstances, your spouse, and even the personality of opposing counsel will sometimes dictate how your case should be handled strategically.  Do not be overly concerned about what “my friend so and so got” or “my friend said.” Your friend, and the internet, cannot take the place of the attorney you are about to meet with, as the attorney will tailor the advice you receive based on your individual facts and circumstances.

Now that you know what not to do before the initial consultation occurs and after it begins, here are a few helpful items to assist you in being a well prepared client as the initial consultation approaches:

For the Initial Consultation, DO:

• Do come prepared with specific detailed information.  Social security numbers, birth dates, date of marriage, health insurance costs for both you (individually) and your children, child care costs, expenses for special medical needs for either you and/or your children, college costs for either you and/or your children, two years of tax returns, four pay stubs showing year to date earnings, a list of personal property owned by you and your spouse (or with someone else, if applicable), a complete copy of your pre-nuptial agreement (if applicable), appraisals for real estate or personal property, police reports and/or protective orders (if applicable), vehicle information, and, most important, any court pleadings or prior court orders that may have been entered in your case.

• Do tell the attorney if you are active with text messaging and/or on social media.  There is a good chance that the attorney will advise you to seriously curtail your activity with text messaging and on social media, if not cease it completely.  If there is anything that you have texted or posted about your spouse, friends, relatives, in-laws, etc., it may be wise to print your texts and posts and provide a copy to the attorney and refrain from texting and posting anything else until your case is concluded.  Social media posts, and especially text messages, are now considered admissible evidence in some courts, so let your attorney know, up front, if there are texts and/or posts that may be detrimental to your case.

• If you are comfortable with the attorney, and the attorney accepts your case, and you as a client, do read the Employment Agreement carefully and in its entirety. What is the retainer? What are the court costs? What is the hourly rate? What happens when my retainer is depleted? Will my spouse be responsible to reimburse me for my fees?  How much is charged for a phone call? How much is charged for a letter or email? Is there a different hourly rate for appearing in court opposed to office work? Am I charged for photocopies? Am I charged for postage? Is there a different hourly rate for the attorney, paralegal, or other staff members?  When am I billed? When is my bill due?  These are all legitimate questions that should be answered at the inception of the attorney/client relationship. Knowing the answers to these questions will help avoid an uncomfortable situation for both you and your attorney as your case and relationship progresses.

• The most important thing you can do in preparation for the initial consultation is bring a list of questions.  We’ve all heard the old adage “there’s no such thing as a stupid question.”  This is definitely true at the initial consultation.  Your attorney knows that you’re not an attorney with his or her legal knowledge and experience and that your head is probably spinning with nervousness, worry and concern; both legal and personal.  Ask the question… you deserve an answer, you need the answer. Being able to communicate well with your attorney always begins at the initial consultation.  Attorneys appreciate clients would want to be well informed.  Be that client!

Making the call to schedule your initial consultation is never an easy task.  You may have thought about doing it for a long time, or, unfortunately, a sudden need to hire counsel has arisen.  Regardless of how long it took you to make the call, you’ve made it, the appointment is scheduled and the hard first step is over.  To make the next step less stressful, and more meaningful and productive when you meet with the attorney, follow these simple guidelines and you’ll be well on your way to a successful initial consultation and an even more successful attorney/client relationship.

Good luck!

A Collaborative Divorce Interview: Clients and their Attorneys

In November 2013, Tyler Nelson and Pamela Nelson of Tampa, Florida, sat down for an interview with The World of Collaborative Practice Magazine.  The Nelsons had decided to Divorce using the Collaborative Process, as they did not want to fight in Court and they wanted to focus on the best interests of their daughter.  Tyler was joined by his collaborative attorney, Adam B. Cordover, and Pamela was joined by her attorney, Joryn Jenkins.  The interview was conducted by carl Michael rossi.

You can find the full interview at The World of Collaborative Magazine, and you can find excerpts below.

Tyler: A child needs her mother and father, even if they’re not together…Pamela was the one who found out about the collaborative process and told me about it. You know, you’re always going to have some kind of fear. Is this going to work out like it should? What is everyone going to have to do to make this work out? But as soon as I spoke with Adam about everything, all of my fears were gone. He explained everything and the way it was going to work, how it was going to work. I’m pretty sure Pam felt the same way, as soon as she spoke to her lawyer, she probably went through everything. That’s the one good thing about our lawyers, that they explained everything that was going to happen before it happened.

Pamela: Not everybody knows about collaborative divorce, yet. We really didn’t know until it was explained to us. It was a better process for us, rather than go to court and fight.

Tyler: Everything that needed to be addressed, has been addressed…Everything that we wanted to agree on, we did, and everything that we wanted put down on paper, it was.

Pamela: We also have different visitation rights with our daughter. More than, likely, other people have. We already had that situated, and we just needed to put it on paper. It was kind of different than normal people, where they only see their kids every weekend. We do our schedule every week, and we split the holidays. We had to work that out, and put that on paper.

Pamela: The judge actually said that she agreed that we were doing it the best way and that we were dealing with the divorce in a good way. Instead of people fighting and it being a bad thing, it was actually a good situation.

Adam: It was interesting that, at the end of that final hearing, Tyler and Pamela had their pictures taken with the judge. It was described afterwards as being not so much like a divorce setting, but strangely enough kind of like a wedding setting. They had their picture taken with the officiating person. Judge Lee was fantastic and was praising Tyler and Pamela for dissolving their marriage in a way where they keep their focus on their children and not on fighting. To divorce in a way that
was in the best interest of their daughter.

Joryn: I can’t remember doing another divorce where the judge congratulated the parties afterwards, and I’ve been doing this for thirty years.

Tyler: (regarding an interdisciplinary team) They told me about the financial manager [Monicas Ospina, CPA], and she was great. So was the psychologist [Jennifer Mockler, Ph.D.], she was great. They were all great.

Pamela: [The financial professional and mental health professional] were very helpful. They helped us with our tax returns, to see who should file for dependency exemptions to get the most out of it. And the mental health professional helped us stay on the same page with our daughter to make sure that we were doing the right thing. The psychologist made sure we were on the same page in how we were raising our daughter and determine what’s best for her.

Pamela:  (regarding the collaborative process) There’s no arguing, you know, there’s not really fighting or going back and forth or going to court or having the records be there out in public. There’s more privacy. I would definitely recommend it to anybody considering divorce.

Tyler: I have to agree with her…If you go and do the collaborative divorce, you have a lawyer there…They are not trying to make us fight. They are just there to write down what we want, and that’s the best thing about collaborative.

Tyler: We all sat down and talked. There was no arguing.

Pamela: The professionals worked around our schedules instead of us being court ordered to go to court on certain times and dates.

Pamela: (regarding going to the state-mandated parenting class) Everyone else was crying and hated their ex and wanted to kill them and I was like “well,
we’re friends, and everything is good.”

Tyler: “If anybody is thinking about doing a divorce, they should look into a collaborative divorce instead of jumping into it and going to court and fighting.”

Adam: “What I found excellent about this process and this couple, as opposed to the court-based divorces that I generally go through, is that when we were sitting around the table together with the mental health professional and financial professional, and we were talking, we weren’t just talking “civilly.”  We were talking in earnest.  We were actually just joking around at a few times and able to communicate in ways that you just couldn’t imagine doing in other divorce processes, even at a mediation table when there is the threat of litigation.

Joryn: “It is a much more protected environment, I think. It freed me up, and I’d like to think Adam, as well, to feel like we were teammates. We didn’t have to be adversaries, even though we were both representing different interests.”

Adam B. Cordover, Joryn Jenkins, Monica Ospina, and Jennifer Mockler are all members of Next Generation Divorce, formerly known as the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay.  Next Generation Divorce is made up of professionals dedicated to respectfully resolving family disputes.

A Tampa Collaborative Divorce Can Save You Money

When most people think of divorce, they envision scenes from War of the Roses or Kramer vs. Kramer. Yet more people in Tampa Bay are learning that there is another way, collaborative divorce, which is just a sensible method to resolve private family disputes. However, just as mediation was characterized in the 1980’s and 1990’s as a rich person’s option, many people think that the collaborative process is only for the very wealthy. Not only attorneys, but also a collaborative facilitator and financial professional are retained, so only the very rich can afford the collaborative model, right?

Wrong.

A four year study conducted by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals found that 87% of female participants and 47% of male participants of collaborative family law cases had an annual income of less than $100,000.

Though the collaborative process may not be the cheapest in all cases, it has a substantial opportunity to save you money as compared to the courtroom battles we have all come to associate with divorce.

First, child issues, such as custody schedules and decision-making authority, are some of the most emotional and costliest issues in family law matters. Lawyers in courtroom cases tend to prepare interrogatories (questions) to be answered under penalty of perjury, set depositions, conduct opposition research to put the other spouse in the worst possible light, and prepare for trial. Attorneys’ invoices pile up along each stage of this process. Alternatively, these fees and costs can be greatly reduced in the collaborative process where facilitators, who usually are licensed mental health professionals, can cut through the clutter of emotionally-charged issues and bring the clients (and lawyers) to focus on the future and best interests of the children.

Similarly, a financial professional (who is usually either an accountant or financial planner) adds cost-saving value to the process. In litigated cases, lawyers prepare “requests for production of documents and things” that demand reams of financial documents which could conceivably be relevant. Searching for those documents cost clients tremendous time and money while, when received, the requesting attorney will spend countless billable hours meticulously combing through the documents. In the collaborative process, on the other hand, the financial professional will only request documents that are necessary to make an informed settlement option. His or her expertise in finances enables the financial professional to review and assess the documents and develop settlement options more quickly (and often times at a lower rate) than attorneys.

Finally, the dirty little secret in family law is that the vast majority of litigation cases eventually settle. However, because having a judge decide on the parties’ personal matters always remains a threat, in traditional courtroom divorce the attorneys will always work on two tracks: (i) attempt to settle the case while (ii) conducting opposition research and preparing for the courtroom battle in case the parties cannot come to an agreement. In the collaborative process, attorneys are retained solely for the purpose of settlement and are contractually barred from taking disputes to be decided in court, and so they are not racking up those billable hours planning to fight it out in court.

Now, back to the question, is collaborative divorce only for the wealthy? Absolutely not, and I would be happy to speak with you and talk more about how the process can help your family.

If you have questions regarding how a Tampa Bay collaborative divorce process can help you, schedule a consultation with attorney Adam B. Cordover at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our contact form.

Adam B. Cordover is Vice President of the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay and is a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. Adam spearheaded the taskforce that drafted the Hillsborough County collaborative family practice administrative order signed by Chief Judge Manuel Menendez.

The Cost of Divorce in the UK

Below is a guest divorce law blog post regarding the cost of divorce in the UK, written by Ian Nuttall, a financial writer who covers a number of personal finance topics on his blog. He recently launched a free debt consolidation calculator that you might be interested in. For more information, or to connect with Ian, you can add him to your G+ Circles.

The Cost of Divorce in the UK

The number of divorces in the UK has risen by almost 5% in the last two years with 120,000+ divorces every year. Combining expensive lawyers fees and court fees, the cost of a divorce can be very expensive – even if the divorce is mutual and uncontested.

There are usually two types of divorce, and each will dictate which process you take and how much it will cost.

A mutual and uncontested divorce

If you and your partner have both agreed that the marriage has ended and can be amicable with splitting of assets, parenting duties and all that comes with a separation, then the costs of a divorce in the UK can be significantly lower.

If you use a lawyer to facilitate the divorce, it could cost you £1,000+ in lawyers fees plus £347 for court fees, a document swearing fee and a decree absolute.

An alternative to this in the UK would be to choose an online divorce company. Many of these companies now charge you only a very small fee of £20-100 for their service. You may still have to pay the court fees but it is 90% cheaper than using a solicitor.

One of the main negatives to these “quickie” divorces is that you have to declare a set reason for the divorce. This means one party may have to admit fault in the relationship, even if there was no fault or blame.

A contested divorce

Contested divorces are where one party pushes for the divorce against the others wishes. These can be very tricky and often it is difficult to divide assets or parenting duties without negotiations and a mediator.

The lawyer fees for this type of divorce can range from £3,000-£20,000+ depending on the complexity of the disputes. Essentially, lawyers charge £150-200 an hour so it depends entirely on how long it takes to resolve the issues of the divorce.

With a contested divorce, it may be beneficial to use a intermediary or family friend to try and resolve as many decisions as possible before the lawyers are used.

You could also contact a lawyer who offers a free initial consultation to get an idea for how long it might take and what the potential costs would be.

Additional costs of a divorce

There are other costs beyond the actual divorce process itself that need to be considered as well and these can often be even more expensive than the actual divorce. Here are few areas you’d need to consider:

  • Maintenance payments
  • Setting up a new home
  • Child care costs
  • Buying a second car

There might even be more expenses depending on your personal situation. Whatever stage of the divorce process you are in, the cost could be anywhere from £20-£20,000+ and ultimately, the process you take is down to your relationship with your partner and how amicable you can both be.

How to File for divorce yourself

Below is a guest family law blog post from a US blogger.

You tried every thing to save your marriage but nothing can be done now. The only way is to get a divorce and move out of the nuptial bond. But getting a divorce is not an easy thing to do. Divorce involves loads of legalities and if you are filling a contested divorce then litigations. In order to get divorce  yourself, you need to do basic research on divorce. You need to educate yourself on the legalities involved in the process of divorce, the laws and the desired paper work for divorce. There are many free resources where you can get all these information like Internet, law books, bar council journals. If you are ready to pay some money then you can consult a divorce attorney that will explain you all the do and don’t of divorce. Other than this you can join any divorce support group. Here, you will find people who have gone through the pain of divorce and are willing to help others who either are going through divorce or have recently gone through it.

Given below are few steps that you can take in order to file the divorce  yourself:

  • Educate yourself about divorce:  Knowledge can work wonders for you given you use it in the most productive manner. Before filling for divorce make sure that you  get your hands on any and all kind of information related to divorce. This will help you broaden your knowledge about divorce and  will also clear any doubts if you have about divorce
  • Go online: Internet is the most powerful source of information available today.  Here you can information about the process of divorce. In order to file the divorce paper, you need complete the papers first. Divorce papers are not easy to complete and require  minute  details about you and your spouse and family. If you are facing difficulty completing the paper then you can search over Internet about the information on how to complete it.  If you are  still not able to do so then you can search for online attorneys. They will complete the paper work for you and will get it delivered on your doorstep at a  nominal price.
  • In order to file the divorce papers you will need various financial documents like bank and credit card statements, investment and mortgage papers, vesicle’s pink slip and all movable and non-movable  marital assets.  Start collecting these documents once you start making your move toward divorce.
  • Consult an attorney:  Before filling the divorce paper make sure to consult an attorney on this matter. Explain all the points to him and the circumstances in which you are taking divorce.  That person will provide you all the required details about divorce and the laws involved. Consulting a divorce attorney will clear up all your doubts and it will give new directions and areas to work on and get a desired outcome of the case. It may cost you some money but the information that you will get will be very useful in your case
  • Join a divorce support group: you can learn a lot from the books but the theoretical knowledge is useless unless you mix some practical experience with it. Joining a  divorce support will help in meeting new people who have gone through divorce and are willing to help others who are either going through it or about to go through. Here you will find practical information on divorce  and  post divorce life. How to settle down in life post divorce and how to manage things , you can learn all from here.

Author Bio:

I am Lisa Levis, I am working as content writer since 2010. I am working for www.divorcestatistcs.org.  Here I am managing it’s article and blog section which tell about statistics of divorce in America.

Guest article: Protecting your future – considerations for prenuptial agreements

Below is a guest article regarding divorce and protecting your future.

Protecting Your Future

There are not many things that will deflate the elation of wedding planning than asking your future spouse to sign a prenuptial agreement. There is so much taboo associated with this legal protection that often times it is dismissed in order to protect the feelings of the one you intend to spend the rest of your life with. Unfortunately, statistics show that it is in your best interest to trek down this road.

Divorce is not a Preplanned Event

In just about every marriage, there was not one bride or groom that said, “I think I’ll be ending this marriage in a divorce in the future”. When getting married, it is the intention of both parties to remain married until death do them part. Although this is the intention, it is not always how it works. Sadly, the current divorce rate is approximately 50% for a first marriage and steadily increases for every marriage thereafter. You wouldn’t hand your hard earned money over to someone with a 50% chance that you will get it all back, would you?

Stopping the Clock

All that a prenuptial agreement will do is stop the clock and give you a new starting point with your new life partner. What it is saying is that, in the event of a divorce, what was obtained prior to a legal union remains with the original owner and that everything obtained after is joint property. This will give you the opportunity to build your marriage on a fair playing ground where you work together to build your financial wealth.

How to Ask Without Sounding Untrusting

There are so many reasons why a prenuptial agreement should be signed prior to marriage, that it is difficult to give specifics. Because of this, regardless of your situation, you must go with sincerity and honesty. Although your significant other may get upset at first, if you are truly sincere and honest in your request and the love is strong, most likely they will come around.

Listen to Others

When making a decision like this, you are probably not thinking with rationality, but instead with your heart. You do not want to hurt your future spouse’s feelings, so you would rather protect them by not asking at all. In this case, you should seek counsel of those you trust. Ask your parents, lawyer, accountant, friends, siblings, and even your significant other’s family and friends. Doing this may just provide you with all the answers you need for making this decision.

Do not leave to chance what you can protect. Although following through with this protection can be difficult, it could prove to be well worth it in the future. We know not what the future holds, however we can do everything in our power to make the outcome benefit all involved.

Stephen Minton is a freelance blogger for prenuptialagreements.org, a site that can help uncomplicate getting a Name change after marriage for men.

How to Divorce: The Divorce Process Explained

Below is a guest blawg post on how to divorce, explaining the divorce process. Please note that the terms are relevant to the laws of England and Wales. If you’d like to submit a guest family law blog post, please get in touch through the contact form.

Deciding to pursue a divorce can be a daunting challenge, fraught with a range of perils. There are a lot of things to consider, such how the divorce process works, what you’re entitled to and who gets the rights to any children you may have.

In order to get a divorce, you will have to undertake a range of steps in order to come to an agreement with your partner. These include your reasons for divorce, which of you will take care of the children and how you’ll split up your money, property and possessions.

One of the first ports when considering a divorce is hiring legal help. You may consider hiring divorce solicitors in Kent, or wherever you are based, who will act on your behalf in divorce proceedings.

The good news is that if you and your spouse agree on these points then the divorce process can be completed in as quickly as 4 months. If not, then divorce proceedings can drag on for much longer.

There are four formal stages to divorce in the UK:

  1. Establishing the grounds for divorce
  2. Filing a divorce petition
  3. Applying for ‘decree nisi’
  4. Getting a decree absolute

You can only divorce under UK law if your marriage has ‘irretrievably’ broken down and you have been married for a least a year. You will be required to prove this to the court by relaying the ‘facts’ of why your marriage has ended. These facts can include reasons such as adultery, unreasonable behaviour and desertion.

To start divorce proceedings you will need to fill out three copies of a D8 form, also known as a ‘divorce petition’. You will also have to pay a fee of £340, but you could be entitled to a discount if you have a low income or are on benefits. Once the forms are completed, you will need to send them to the court.

A notice of divorce will then eventually be served to your husband/wife. Your partner can then choose to either accept or argue against the divorce. If your spouse chooses to fight against the divorce then proceedings can be delayed significantly. If no agreement can be made then this is where divorce solicitors will step in to negotiate with your partner to try to reach an agreement.

Once you both agree on the divorce you can then apply for a ‘decree nisi’ – a document from the court which says that it can’t see any reason why you can’t divorce. A judge will consider whether there is enough evidence to allow the divorce to proceed and review all your paperwork, such as any arrangements you’re proposing for your children.

If the judge gives permission for the divorce to continue then you are able to apply for a ‘decree absolute’ 6 weeks after you have been issued with your decree nisi. Once you have the decree absolute, you are officially divorced.

The Divorce Process: Family Law Information

The Divorce Process

Divorce is the legal process through which two people end their marriage and the legal status that it provides. It is usually an extremely emotional time for the parties involved and also for their children, if they have any. The best way to make your divorce process as smooth as possible is to find a solicitor who you can trust and work comfortably with.

It is important that both parties understand their legal position on divorce and know exactly to what they are entitled. A divorce solicitor can make sure finances and property are properly distributed and arrangements are made for children, leaving no room for disagreements.

Petitioning for divorce

In order to begin the process of divorce one party to the marriage must present a petition for divorce on the grounds that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. It is important to note that the parties must have been married for at least a year before they are able to make such a petition.

Whether the marriage is broken down irretrievably is not simply a matter of opinion, and there is legislation stating that at least one of five factors must be present before any court will make a ruling that the marriage has in fact broken down irretrievably. These five grounds for divorce are as follows: unreasonable behaviour, adultery, living apart for two years and both parties consent to the divorce, living apart for five years, and desertion.

Acknowledgment of service

A copy of the petition must be sent to the other party along with a statement of arrangements for the children (if applicable) and an acknowledgment of service. The respondent must inform the petitioner in the acknowledgment of service whether they will be contesting the divorce. The acknowledgment of service is therefore an extremely important document as it shows the court that the other party is aware of the petition. If the other party refuses to return the acknowledgment of service you may have to arrange for a process server or bailiff to serve the document and make an affidavit stating that they have done so.

Decree nisi

If the court is satisfied that there are valid grounds for divorce it may well grant what is known as a decree nisi. A decree nisi will generally be granted when a divorce is not being contested and there are valid grounds for divorce. The party who made the petition must then apply to have the decree made absolute which they cannot do until at least six weeks and one day from the date of the decree nisi.

Decree absolute

The decree absolute is what actually ends the marriage, as opposed to the decree nisi which merely declares there are satisfactory grounds. Once the decree absolute has been pronounced the marriage has officially ended and usually the parties will begin ancillary relief proceedings: the name given for deciding how the matrimonial assets should be split.

Ancillary relief proceedings

The ancillary relief proceedings are often fiercely contested as a judge will rule on who should have what from the matrimonial assets. The ancillary relief process can be quite long and usually involves three trips to court.

  • A first appointment in which a judge outlines his position and ensures appropriate disclosure has taken place.
  • A financial dispute resolution hearing in which a judge (a different judge from who will be in attendance at the final hearing) will give an indication of what he would order in the hope the parties then settle on similar terms and avoid a final hearing.
  • A final hearing in which an order will be made.

With the potential for several court visits, it is in both parties’ interests to try to facilitate an early settlement to avoid significant legal costs.