There are a lot of misconceptions around divorce. It can be an incredibly stressful time, and the amount of information flying around can feel overwhelming. We like to keep things straightforward, so for this week’s blog post we run through a few things you might not know about divorce.
1. There is no such thing as a no-fault divorce in the UK
Family law in England and Wales has been the subject of criticism in recent years for its failure to allow such thing as a ‘no-fault divorce’. This means there must always be some element of blame brought into divorce proceedings, as the current law states that one of five reasons must be cited when requesting a divorce. These five reasons are:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Two years separation (with consent from your partner)
- Five years separation (without need for consent)
Some of our neighbours across the seas have been ahead of the UK for years in terms of divorce law. Couples divorcing in the USA, Canada, Australia and in many other countries can separate without having to show fault from either party.
2. You must have been married for one year to obtain a divorce
If you’ve only been married a short time before you realise things have gone wrong, unfortunately it’s not possible to get a divorce straight away. The law states that you must have been married for one whole year before it’s possible to apply for a divorce, and there are no exceptions to this rule. The only ways a marriage can be ended prior to the 12-month minimum is by annulment (where the marriage is not valid) or judicial separation (where a couple can be formally separated but are technically still married).
3. A pre-nup is not legally binding
A common misconception about the law is that a pre-nuptial agreement is a legally binding document - this is not the case. A pre-nup essentially acts as a guide to what happens in the event of a marriage breakdown. That’s not to say that the judge in court won’t seriously consider the document, but it is possible to override it in some cases, if the judge sees a good reason not to uphold it. For a pre-nup to be valid, the judge must be satisfied that certain safeguards have been met, such as the agreement not being made under duress.
4. The divorce rate is decreasing
“Half of all marriages end in divorce.” You’ll undoubtedly have heard the expression countless times before. However, the actual figure is somewhat lower – the ONS estimates 42%. Societal attitudes have changed over the past few decades and many couples now choose to cohabit without marrying, and consequently the divorce rate is at its lowest in four decades.
5. Most cases don’t go to Court
Going through a marriage breakdown is stressful as it is, and many people are upset by the idea of having to fight things out in a Court setting. But in fact, most divorces do not end up going to Court at all. Often, divorce is a matter of paperwork. If things are more complex and you and your partner initially can’t agree on the terms, it’s still not necessary to go through court – there are other forms of dispute resolution that are an advisable first option. The most common form of alternative dispute resolution is mediation, where an impartial mediator helps both parties to come to an agreement. If you are unable to reach an agreement, the case will then have to go to Court for a judge to decide.
If you’re currently going through a marriage breakdown and are thinking about getting a divorce, help is at hand. Questions about divorce or need to discuss your options? Get in touch with our team of expert family lawyers today or send us an enquiry via our website.