"…happily ever after?"

Article

12 February, 2007

Divorce happens to at least one in three of all married couples. In 1961 there were 27,000 divorces. Twenty years later that figure had grown by over 600%. Sadly therefore, no matter how convinced we all are when we enter a marriage that ours will be the one to last, statistics show this is probably not going to happen. So how would you cope? Can a Solicitor help?

Are you married?

If not, there is no such thing as a "common law wife/husband". You are either married or not. Although cohabitation is more popular now, the law in relation to the division of assets at the end of the relationship is not as clear as for married couples. This area of law is changing as we speak and there may be a nasty shock when you take advice about your entitlement.

"How can I divorce?"

If you have not been separated for two years or longer, and if you wish to divorce immediately, the law, as it stands, allows you to do so provided one of you blames the other. Happily, the blame is very rarely relevant to how the assets are divided. The divorce itself is not usually contested, and for this reason it is relatively inexpensive.

"What happens to the children?"

Unfortunately, the children can be overlooked when parents' emotions are raw, the children can even be used as pawns in the domestic "battle". You will be encouraged by your Solicitor, the Court and other individuals who may become involved with your family, to put the welfare of the children top of your list. Arrangements for them should be reached by agreement wherever possible. The Court will intervene where agreement cannot be reached. There is opportunity for both parents to receive guidance from mediation/conciliation services.

"Will it cost me an arm and a leg?"

If you cannot reach agreement about money, the children and so on, of course the cost will be greater. Specialist Family Lawyers will encourage you to try and reach agreement wherever possible. Solicitors are obliged to give you information at regular intervals about how much the costs are. Public Funding (Legal Aid) may be available, but usually you have to pay back your costs to the Legal Services Commission.

"Do I have to have a Solicitor?"

No, but it can help. You might think that you should receive a vast proportion of the assets, for example, when in reality you are going to be entitled to much less. A solicitor will give you realistic expectations and will encourage you to try and reach agreement. This could prevent you from having to pay your opponent's costs.

Remember, if you divorce, this will inevitably involve decision-making about ALL aspects of your life; your children; your home. Forbes offers a free initial interview to guide you. 30 minutes of your life well spent.

Dawn Baker is a Partner in the Family Law Department at Forbes Solicitors. She can be contacted on 01772 220022, or email Dawn Baker

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