Frequently Asked Questions
Here you will find the answers to many frequently asked questions relating to family law matters.
What are the grounds for divorce?
You will need to demonstrate that your marriage has irretrievably broken down, by being able to prove one of the following five facts:
- Your spouse has committed adultery
- Your spouse has demonstrated unreasonable behaviour
- Your partner has left / deserted you for a continuous period of 2 years
- You have been separated for at least 2 years and you both agree to the divorce
- You have been separated for at least 5 years - it doesn’t matter if your partner doesn’t agree to the divorce
- If you have been married for less than 2 years, you can only use unreasonable behaviour, adultery or desertion as your reason for getting divorced.
How long does a divorce take?
A divorce can take between 6-8 months if not disputed, from issuing the petition to the Decree Absolute. If the divorce or finances are disputed, then this timescale can be longer depending on when such issues are resolved.
Do I have to go to court?
If you have agreed your divorce and financial arrangements, then you do not need to attend court. Your divorce will be processed through the court as a paperwork exercise instead. If you have not or are unable to agree your financial arrangements, you will need to attend court.
We are cohabiting, what happens if we separate?
If you have not put in place a ‘living together agreement’, any of the following could apply.
- If you do not own the property in which you live or you do not own a share of the house in which you live you have no automatic right to stay there.
- Other than child maintenance, you have no right to receive maintenance for yourself from your ex-partner.
- If you live in a rented property together and the tenancy is in your ex partner’s sole name you have no right to stay if you are asked to leave.
- If the possessions within the property are owned by or were purchased by your ex-partner, you have no automatic right to a share of those possessions.
Care and Social Services
What type of court orders can be made regarding children?
A Supervision Order is where a child is placed under the supervision of the Local Authority, but this does not give it parental responsibility. The child is not taken into care and remains with the parents, with the local authority being legally obliged to offer support and assistance to the child and his/her family.
An Interim Care Order is a temporary care order which gives social services parental responsibility for a child, which they then share with the parents. It means that social services can decide where a child will live while the court proceedings are continuing.
What happens if we cannot agree with whom the children should live?
The focus should always be on what is in the best interests for the children. If this cannot be agreed, the court can decide for you, but will encourage you to attend mediation first.
What are my rights to see the children?
Contact rights are generally the right of the children and not the parent. Provided that there is not a risk of harm to the children, contact will be ordered by the Court. It is best to negotiate contact arrangements by direct discussions or by attending mediation to agree on the way forward. If you cannot agree, an application can be made to the Court, providing that you have attended a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting).
Do I have to attend mediation?
You do not have to attend mediation if you have agreed all family and divorce matters. If you wish to apply to Court relating to children or finances on a divorce matter, you will need to normally have attended a MIAM before making the application.
What am I entitled to?
What you are entitled to depends upon your circumstances and whether you are married or living together. It is best to obtain legal advice on this from a family law solicitor.
What happens if my partner will not disclose all of their financial assets?
This usually happens on a voluntary basis, but where one party will not cooperate it can be directed through the Court. Within divorce proceedings, you can make a financial application to court. The court will then direct the information as a requirement of the proceedings by way of a Financial Information disclosure form, called Form E.
What is domestic violence?
Abusive Violence between couples living together
Abuse between partners who do not live together
Harassment by former partners
Abusive relationships between parents and children
Abuse against elderly family members
Abuse between tenants or flat mates
Female genital mutilation (FGM) or forced marriage
What counts as evidence of domestic abuse and can I get Legal Aid?
You will usually need to show that you or your children were at risk of harm from an ex-partner.
You can ask for evidence from:
- The courts
- The police
- Social services
- A health professional
- A refuge manager
- A domestic violence support service
- Your bank in the form of bank statements
- Your employer, education or training provider
- The provider of any benefits that you receive
How can the law protect me from domestic violence?
The law can provide the following types of order to protect you from domestic violence.
A Non-molestation Order prevents someone from being violent or threatening violence against you or your child. It also includes intimidation, harassment, or pestering.
An Occupation Order relates to who can live in the family home and can also restrict access to the surrounding area as well.
What is mediation?
Mediation helps couples going through separation or divorce to work out and agree arrangements for themselves and their children. If these issues can be agreed between you through mediation, it saves the cost of going through a Court to make the decisions for you.
Can Mediators provide legal advice?
Mediators cannot provide legal advice but can provide information about the legal process of divorce and the procedures that the Court follows.
What happens in a mediation meeting?
An appointment can be made with a Mediator either individually or jointly. The Mediator will explore whether mediation will be appropriate to you and acceptable.
Mediation will help you to reach your own agreements, instead of a judge deciding for you. The mediation meetings will help you to come up with your own ideas and solutions to the problems you face arising from separation or divorce.