Divorce

Divorce can be fairly straightforward if both parties agree that the relationship has come to an end. Nevertheless, difficulties can arise in resolving how and when to separate, where to live, and the arrangements for children and finances.

At SMR Solicitors, we offer a constructive and professional approach to divorce, and can help progress matters as quickly and amicably as possible. We will be happy to discuss anything that is unclear or answer any questions you may have. 

Our family law expertise includes:

  • Initiating and responding to divorce proceedings
  • Financial settlements following divorce
  • Child arrangements on divorce
  • Pre- and post-nuptial settlement agreements

Our divorce solicitors believe in providing a modern, accessible and highly personal service. We will be happy to discuss your situation over the phone, via email or through videoconferencing where suitable, as well as face-to-face.

We have a broad client base in West Sussex advising on all aspects of divorce and separation, with particular expertise in advising mature, high earning individuals with complex financial circumstances.

We offer a 1-hour fixed fee consultation followed up with a detailed attendance note covering the issues discussed and our bespoke advice on your options.

We offer flexible funding arrangements to suit our clients’ needs, including fixed fee divorce where appropriate.

Have a question about divorce? Check our 'divorce explained' section for the answers or ask us a question.

You can also take a look at our guide to common terms used in divorce and family law.

Speak to our divorce solicitors in West Sussex

To discuss your requirements and find out how we can help, please get in touch to speak to one of our expert divorce lawyers.

BOGNOR REGIS                CHICHESTER          EAST WITTERING         SELSEY

Our divorce advice services

Initiating and responding to divorce proceedings

The thought of starting divorce proceedings or responding to divorce proceedings started by your spouse can be very daunting and emotional. Being supported with expert legal advice can ensure that the process is easier while ensuring that you are protecting you position and avoiding unnecessary stress and potential for conflict.

Our divorce solicitors can assist with matters including:

  • Preparing and submitting a divorce petition
  • Responding to a divorce petition
  • Defended divorces
  • Advice on the applicability of the new ‘no fault’ divorce rules when they come into force

Financial settlements following divorce

Agreeing how to divide your finances can quickly become very stressful and complicated, especially if you have high value and/or complex assets to deal with. Working with our experienced divorce finance experts can help to ensure you achieve a fair division of assets that meets your needs as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Our team can assist with the financial matters arising from divorce including:

  • Negotiating divorce settlements voluntarily
  • Applying to a family court for a Financial Order
  • Dealing with complex and high value assets
  • Advice on family businesses and other business assets, including any particular contributions that have been made
  • Pensions, including pension offsetting and Pension Sharing Orders

Child arrangements on divorce

Deciding who children should live with and when they should spend time with each parent following a divorce or separation is often the most emotionally fraught part of a separation when you have children together. The right legal advice can help to ensure you get the best outcome for your children while protecting your rights as a parent.

Our divorce lawyers in West Sussex can assist with child law issues including:

  • Agreeing child arrangements voluntarily
  • Applying to a family court for a Child Arrangements Order
  • Applying for Prohibitive Steps Order
  • Varying child arrangements
  • Changing children’s names
  • Relocation of children
  • Urgent orders where there are concerns about a child’s safety

Learn more about how we can help with child law.

Our divorce solicitors’ fees

We want our divorce pricing to be fair and transparent, so will give a realistic estimate of costs at the outset, including both our fees and all third-party costs, such as court fees.

We offer fixed fee divorce arrangements for some matters, such as completing and submitting a divorce petition. This means we agree a price in advance that will not change unless your requirements change.

For more complex matters, we will agree an hourly rate based on the level of expertise required.

We will be happy to discuss our fees with you, so please get in touch to learn more.

Divorce explained

Who can start divorce proceedings?

Anyone who has been married for over a year, providing one of the couple has their permanent home in England or Wales or has been resident here for at least a year prior to when the divorce petition starts. It doesn't matter if you have been married in England and Wales or abroad.

What are the grounds for divorce?

Currently, the only ground for divorce is that your marriage has “irretrievably broken down” and that, in addition, one of five “facts” applies. The divorce petition will only be accepted by the court if you can prove one of these facts.

  1. Your spouse has committed adultery and you find it impossible to continue to live with them.
  2. Your spouse’s behaviour has been so unreasonable that you can no longer bear to live with them.
  3. You and your spouse have been living apart for over two years and your spouse consents to a divorce.
  4. You and your spouse have been living apart for over five years (in which case, their consent is not required).
  5. Your spouse has deserted you for a continuous period of two years or more, against your wishes.

However, this will all change when the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 comes into force (currently set for Autumn 2021, although no specific date has yet been given). This Act removes the need to assign blame in divorce, so someone who wishes to end their marriage will simply be able to apply to do so without providing evidence of their reasons.

At SMR Solicitors, we are very pleased that they are bringing in this law as it will assist with our focus of making separation, and the financial and children issues that arise, as amicable as possible. Having to blame one party for the breakdown in the relationship can start the process off with the wrong impression.

If one of the five facts applies, what happens next?

It is often sensible to try to obtain your spouse's consent to the divorce and to reach agreement over the contents of the petition.

Every petition follows the same format. It contains basic information about you and your spouse, your addresses, the ages of any children, and a statement that the marriage has “irretrievably broken down” and the “fact” that applies.

The petition will include a section known as a “prayer”, which will include a request for the divorce to be granted. It may also include a request for financial provision and a claim regarding the legal costs of the divorce.

Your original marriage certificate is sent to the court with the petition and will not be returned.

Can you get a ‘no fault’ divorce in the UK?

Under current UK law, no fault divorce is not an option. However, once the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 comes into force in Autumn 2021, this will be allowed and should significant simplify divorce proceedings.

What can be agreed for your children in divorce proceedings?

There is no need for the Court to become involved with your arrangements for the children if you can agree it between yourselves. This is why, at SMR Solicitors, we endeavour to work with you as much as possible to agree arrangements with your spouse/partner and avoid the stress of potential Court proceedings.

How long does a divorce take?

A divorce takes approximately four to six months, although the Decree Absolute is often not obtained until the finances are resolved and may take up to 12 months to finalise.

How will assets be divided in divorce?

The most difficult and often the most emotive aspect of a relationship breakdown is the task of dividing up the assets. We can support you in negotiating an appropriate financial settlement and advise you how the courts will assess what each party should have.

It is a common misconception that assets are always divided equally. There is a statutory checklist of matters that have to be considered, which is set out in s25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. The court will always give top priority to the welfare of any children under the age of 18 years.

The other factors are:

  • The income and earning capacity of each party, the property they own and other financial resources they each have
  • Each party's financial needs, obligations and liabilities
  • The standard of living enjoyed during the marriage
  • The length of the marriage and the ages of the parties
  • Any physical or mental disability either party suffers from
  • Contributions made by each of the parties to the marriage both financially and otherwise
  • Any behaviour by either of the parties that is so serious that it cannot be ignored by the judge
  • The value of any benefit that either of the parties will lose the opportunity of acquiring as a result of divorce, such as pension and insurance benefits

The court has a wide discretion as to how to apply these factors to a particular case. The aim is to achieve a fair division of the assets and income. To that end, the court will require both parties to make full and frank disclosure to each other of their financial circumstances.

As well as considering the matrimonial home, investments, savings and pensions, we can advise you about inherited assets, assets that were acquired before the relationship and after the separation, family businesses, and the effect of pre-nuptial agreements.

Can you stop your spouse disposing of assets before divorce?

In some cases, it is necessary to take urgent steps to prevent the disposal of assets during divorce proceedings. An application can be made to the court to either freeze assets or direct how they may be used pending any final court decision.

What happens to a family business during divorce?

We frequently act in cases where a key asset to be taken into account is a significant shareholding or other form of investment (such as a share option) in a company or other business entity, such as a larger company that has acquired the original business for a non-cash consideration.

Are there any adverse implications of splitting up but not actually getting a divorce?

Potentially yes. Until you have received the Decree Absolute from the court you are technically still married and this can result in unexpected financial consequences.

For example, if several years after separating you receive a large inheritance, then your spouse may be entitled to claim some of your windfall if you are still legally married and/or have not resolved financial matters by way of a Consent Order.

In addition, if you die, then your spouse may be able to make a claim against your estate, or if you jointly own a property, this may pass to the co-owner, regardless of what your Will may dictate.

Common terms used in divorce and family law

Affidavit – a sworn document.

Decree Nisi – the court’s certificate that you are entitled to a divorce.

Decree Absolute – the document that shows that you are divorced and able to remarry.

Petitioner – the person bringing the proceedings.

Respondent – the person responding.

Ancillary relief/financial remedies – the term for sorting out the financial matters.

Form E – the detailed financial statement that has to be completed and exchanged by the couple in order to fully disclose their respective financial positions to each other.

Speak to our divorce solicitors in West Sussex

To discuss your requirements and find out how we can help, please get in touch to speak to one of our expert divorce lawyers in Chichester, East Wittering, Selsey or Bognor Regis.