The process of a divorce is to end your marriage. You can only get a divorce if you have been married for over one year.

If you have been married for less than a year, you can request a legal separation, however it’s usually better to wait until you can get a divorce. In the meantime, you can get a separation agreement. This lets you agree the details of your separation before you get divorced.

In the first instance, you need to show your marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down’. This means there is no way you can work through your problems.

The process of divorce starts when the ‘petitioner’ or applicant (either you or your spouse) files a divorce petition with the court. The applicant’s solicitor will usually complete the required documentation for this.

On 6 April 2022, Divorce Law is changing. It will be on a ‘no fault’ basis, to encourage more amicable proceedings. The hope is the divorce process will become much simpler and easier for everyone involved.

The cost of a divorce in the UK can vary depending on the method you choose and the complexity of your case. You must pay a £593 court fee to apply for a divorce and process your application.

In a straightforward, uncontested divorce with a solicitor acting on your behalf, the cost of preparing paperwork and progressing proceedings is likely to be in the region of £500 + VAT in addition to court fees.

In cases where divorce is contested, or there are financial and childcare arrangements to resolve, fees can range drastically – anywhere between £2,500 to £25,000.

Everyone’s situation is different, and there is no one size fits all approach to a divorce. Please contact us for a no obligation initial consultation to discuss your specific circumstances

No. It is a common misconception that matrimonial assets are split 50/50 when a couple gets divorced. It is however a general starting point for proceedings.

The court aim to divide assets in a way that is fair and equal, but this does not necessarily mean an even split. Several factors are considered by the courts including the relative needs of each party, child custody and future earnings.

Assets will be split equally to the best of the court’s ability, however what is considered equal will be based on your individual circumstances.

Whilst it generally does not matter who files for divorce first, the divorce ‘Petitioner’ or applicant, the one who begins the divorce process gives you some control over the pace at which a divorce moves forward.

If you agree to a divorce, and the reasons why, getting a divorce finalised will take around 6 months.

Proceedings will take longer if you need to sort out matters regarding finances, property, and children, as this needs to be done separately.

A legal separation or ‘judicial separation’ is a way of separating without getting a divorce. It lets you and your estranged partner make formal agreements about matters such as living arrangements and finances – but you remain married.

You may request a legal separation if you don’t want a divorce for religious or cultural reasons, or you are unable to get a divorce because you have been married for less than a year.

Mediation is the process used to sort the differences between yourself and your ex-partner with the help of a third, objective, person, who won’t take sides. This person is known as a mediator. They will help you reach agreements about issues relating to your separation such as money, property, and children.

You don’t have to try mediation, but if you do end up having to go to court, you do normally need to prove you have been to a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM), which is an introductory meeting to explain to you what mediation is and how it might help you.

Where possible, it’s better to try and reach an agreement through mediation. You can save money in legal fees, and it can be easier and less painful to solve your differences this way.

A child in need is defined under the Children Act 1989 as a child who is unlikely to achieve or maintain a reasonable level of health or development, or whose health and development is likely to be significantly or further impaired, without the provision of services; or a child who is disabled.

A Child Protection Plan is made when a child is deemed to be at risk of significant harm, significant harm being a level of harm that affects the health, welfare and development of a child. The Plan will say what the specific risks are to the child and the actions that will be needed to keep the child safe.

Pre-proceedings are issued to give parents clear information about the Local Authority’s concerns regarding your children, outline the changes they suggest you can make, and how they can assist you with creating and implementing a plan.

In most cases, the Local Authority will send you a letter (‘Letter before Proceedings’), but if there are immediate concerns, court proceedings may be issued in the first instance. It is important to remember that the aim of pre-proceedings is to agree on a plan of action and avoid court proceedings.

The ’Letter before Proceedings’ will:

  • Invite parents to a pre-proceedings meeting with a social worker; you should be given plenty of notice
  • Include details of when and where the pre-proceedings meeting will take place
  • Include a summary of the Local Authority’s concerns
  • Outline the changes you need to make and how the Local Authority can support you
  • Guide you on how to seek legal advice
  • Set out what you and any relevant loved ones need to know

It is important that you engage with this process to demonstrate your dedication to improving your child’s welfare. This is the final opportunity to resolve the Local Authority’s concerns before care proceedings may be issued.

I’ve received a pre-proceedings letter: what do I do?
If you receive a pre-proceedings letter, you must seek specialist legal advice straight away. Any matter involving social services and the court can be complex. Our expert child care solicitors can guide you through the pre-proceedings and court proceedings process, offer non-judgemental support, and answer any questions you might have about what this means for you and your children.

We will meet with you before your pre-proceedings meetings to discuss your situation and work through the changes you need to make to your children’s care. We will also represent you in defending your case to the Local Authority if court proceedings are issued.

What happens at a pre-proceedings meeting?

At a pre-proceedings meeting, you will meet with a social worker to discuss the contents of your ‘Letter before Proceedings’ with the assistance of your solicitor. If you have not been provided with the pre-proceedings agreement beforehand, it will be provided in the meeting and we will request a break to go through it together.
Clear timescales and expectations will be laid out for your childcare plan, which will usually be revised within six to eight weeks to determine progress and review whether the court needs to be involved.

If you have concerns about how someone is caring for a child, or you have social workers trying to contact you, please don’t hesitate to give us a call.

Our child protection lawyers specialise in representing parents, children, and extended family members in relation to social services involvement with children.

We understand how distressing it can be to have social services involved in your lives, so we aim to help you resolve family matters in a positive way, wherever possible, and ensure families have all the support they need to care for their children.

We also provide advice to parents and family members seeking contact with children in care. We frequently advise on Special Guardianship Orders, which can place children in long-term care with family members or other adult carers, instead of being adopted. If you are subject to a special guardianship order or being considered for an order please contact us for further help and advice.

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