Your lawyers since 1722

Article
24 May 2021

Divorce – Where to Start

If your relationship has come to an end (no matter whether it was a gradual decline or an unexpected halt), entering into the divorce process can be daunting. Here are a number of tips and tricks to get you started.

  1. Take advice early – even if you want to handle matters directly with your ex, or using a mediator, taking advice from a solicitor can provide some welcome reassurance and a helpful perspective of the legal framework which should form the basis of any settlement discussions.
  • You can even hire a solicitor to help you ‘in the background’ while you engage in the initial discussions directly with your ex. Keeping your solicitor in the loop when you are having these early conversations will give them a good insight into your circumstances in the event that you choose to instruct them to act on your behalf further down the line (whether to negotiate with your spouse, or their solicitors, on your behalf, or to represent you in Court proceedings).
  1. Assemble your team – you need to find a professional who you trust to guide you through the process.
  • If you do not know where to start, the Law Society is the professional association of all solicitors in England & Wales and their website has a useful “find a solicitor” search function where you can filter by practice area and geographical location.
  • Check the ‘legal guides’; Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners produce annual rankings and guides which will introduce you to firms and individual solicitors that will be able to help you.
  • Most solicitors will offer an initial 30 minutes to 1 hour initial consultation. Use this time to get to know them (as much as giving them information about your situation). You should leave feeling that you have a clear plan and that you are comfortable with the solicitor you have spoken to.
  • Once you have found ‘the one’, sign up as a client – there will be conflict checks and client due diligence that the firm is required to undertake before they can carry out any work on your behalf.
  1. Consider using the online divorce portal – HMCTS has now rolled out a new online platform which can be used for the divorce aspect of your separation.
  • The online portal has significantly shorter lead times than the traditional paper-based system which can speed up the process by a number of weeks and even months.
  • The Courts gain the power to make a financial order (whether approving an agreed consent order, or determining the terms of your settlement) once the first decree of the divorce, the Decree Nisi, has been pronounced. You may wish to delay your application for the second and final decree of the divorce, the Decree Absolute which dissolves your marriage, until the financial arrangements have been finalised.
  1. Be clear about your priorities – whether you have your heart set on keeping a particular asset or simply want to get the whole process over with as quickly as possible (meaning you might be more willing to ‘compromise’ on those red lines), it is imperative that you give careful consideration to your overall aims and priorities.
  • You should communicate these to your solicitor so that they can work with you to achieve the best possible outcome for you in line with those priorities.
  • Keep these in mind as matters progress – it is easy to get sucked in to the minutiae when it can be more important to look at the bigger picture.
  1. Conserve your energy. Going through a divorce can be a long and exhausting process – where you can, give yourself some distance from the detail and try to keep the end goal in mind.
  • Allow your solicitor to shield you and give you their impartial advice.
  • Do not take every word of the correspondence from the other side (whether your ex or their representative) to heart.
  • If you let any (in all likelihood unfair and unnecessary) criticisms throw you off course, you will not be able to focus on the most important aspect – the outcome for you (in line with your priorities) and getting yourself there in one piece.
  1. Lastly, do not put it off! Once you have made the decision that your relationship is at an end, do get the ball rolling with the formalities.
  • The Court process can take a number of months or years to complete and so any delay getting started will necessarily prolong the process.
  • Until your partner’s financial claims against you are dismissed by the Court (either approving a consent order or imposed on you by way of a Court-order), their claims can remain live – which means that if you get that promotion or win the lottery, some of these funds could be at risk.