should i get a divorce?
No one goes into their marriage thinking that one day it might come to an end.
While you can prepare for the future as much as possible, knowing whether or not you’re ready to get a divorce can be a difficult question to answer.
The most recent statistics in the UK revealed that 42% of marriages end in divorce (2017). With such a large number of partners deciding to end their marriage, it’s important that you understand exactly what the process involves. The difficulty is knowing where to start, whether divorce is right for you and what alternatives you may have.
What’s involved in the divorce process?
To qualify for a divorce, you need to be able to prove that your relationship has broken down irretrievably and to continue staying together is not a viable option.
Applying for divorce begins with one person serving a divorce petition on the other. The person serving the petition will need to give a reason why they are petitioning for divorce, known as “grounds for divorce.“
If the partner who is receiving the petition agrees to the divorce, then standard divorce proceedings will follow. However, if they disagree with the divorce, then the process will be slightly different.
During divorce proceedings, you’ll be able to finalise aspects such as property, finances and child arrangements, to ensure the divorce process runs as smoothly as possible. At the end of the process, you will be granted a “decree absolute” which will formally end your marriage.
Although the formalities of divorce are important, it’s equally important to look at the emotional and personal side of the process too. The emotional impact will differ greatly per person. Deciding to legally end your marriage takes a great deal of consideration, and is not an easy decision to make.
Is it harder to get a divorce if I’m gay?
The divorce process itself has a set structure, that doesn’t differ depending on your sexual orientation or gender identity.
However, that doesn’t mean LGBT people won’t face different obstacles along the way. Firstly, LGBT couples may not need to get a divorce, as they may not be married in the first place. LGBT couples often choose to cohabit or to have a civil partnership together as opposed to being married. Each of these alternative options to marriage come with their own method for ending the relationship.
Beyond the divorce itself, LGBT couples may encounter specific issues with finances or child arrangements, especially if the couple have used fertility treatments or adoption/surrogacy to become same-sex parents.
What alternatives to divorce are there?
Before deciding to get a divorce, or separate via another method, you can look at resolution and counselling between you and your partner. By going to a counselor or a relationship advisor, you may discover new methods of resolution and might be able to resolve issues between you informally.
Sometimes spouses will consider staying married as a method of “convenience”, despite their relationship breaking down irretrievably. Whilst this can be beneficial for practicalities such as taxes, property and childcare, it can cause more issues in the future. You could also choose to have a mediation session with your partner, which will be guided by a licensed professional who will “mediate” between you both to come to an agreed outcome.
what is separation?
A common option for couples who are might want to get a divorce, but are unsure if they’re ready for it, is to start by separating. Separating can be a great choice for couples who still need time to discuss their options and decide if divorce is really what they want to do.
The separation will often start with physical separation, where spouses come to an agreement that one spouse will move out of the family home. At this point, there will be no change in things like finances or marital assets (property/ possessions.) These aspects will only be addressed when you get a divorce.
To legally separate in the UK, you first need to start by filling in a separation petition and sending it to the court. Once this is granted, you and your partner will be legally separated, but will still be legally married.
Separation can be based on the same reasons why you might get a divorce, such as unreasonable behaviour or adultery. However, unlike a divorce, you do not need to prove that your relationship has broken down irretrievably. If you decide to separate, you will need to be legally separated for 2 years before you can apply to get a divorce.
In the UK, a legal separation costs £365.
Sometimes, one or both spouses may not agree with the financial settlement or child arrangements. Disagreements can arise if one partner refuses to discuss finances or if the finances are particularly complicated.
If partners can’t agree, they will have to go to a judge and have them issue a financial court order.
If you can’t reach a financial agreement or don’t apply to the court to approve it, then you risk encountering issues down the line. This means potential claims against your money or claims against your pensions will be possible, even years after the divorce.
A separation agreement is a contract that documents what will happen when you separate. For example, this can include what happens to the property, what will happen with finances and any child arrangements. A separation agreement can also be used as the basis for a consent order by the court in the event of a full separation.
Although a separation agreement is not legally binding, if it is drafted correctly and is regularly reviewed, it will be referred to if you have to go to court. You should have your separation agreement drafted by a lawyer, to avoid mistakes and make sure all of your requirements are documented.
For some spouses, an annulment is a more appropriate method of ending a marriage. Annulment (or “nullity”) is the formal word for voiding a marriage, essentially wiping it from the record and saying it never happened. Unlike when you get a divorce, you can get an annulment in the first 12 months of marriage.
However, not everyone can get an annulment. There is a fairly strict set of criteria which spouses must fall under for annulment to be an option. These can include:
- The marriage was incestuous
- If one partner, or both, was already married or in a civil partnership at the time of the wedding
- One partner, or both, was under the age of 16 at the time of marriage
- If the marriage was not consummated (this does not apply to same-sex couples)
- One partner did not consent to the marriage
- If one partner, or both, had an STD or STI at the time of marriage
- The female spouse was pregnant by a different man at the time of the wedding.
Annulment can also be an option if one spouse has decided to reassign their gender shortly after getting married.
In the UK, annulments are generally quite uncommon, due to the specific criteria the couple must meet. To apply for an annulment, you need to fill in a nullity petition and send two copies to your nearest divorce court. In the UK, a nullity petition costs £550.
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