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Family and Matrimonial Law

Divorce and Relationship Breakdown

Our highly successful team of divorce and separation lawyers are adept at providing comprehensive advice in relation to both divorce and separation for married and unmarried couples. We will provide you with detailed yet clear information and guidance to help you through what is often a very difficult time.

The breakdown of a relationship is understandably challenging for those involved. Divorce and separation are particularly personal matters and we can help you decide on the best course of action for you and your family by providing clear, insightful legal advice tailored to each individual situation.

Our divorce lawyers are technically excellent but effectively combine this practical legal knowledge with a detailed understanding of the personal impact that a relationship breakdown can have.

Depending on individual circumstances, a divorce may be the only realistic option, however, we will explore all of the possibilities with you, including informal and formal separations, so that you can make an informed choice. Once decisions have been made about the route that you would like to take in respect of your separation, we can also advise you about the separation of the matrimonial finances.

As a general rule, obtaining the divorce itself is a relatively quick procedural process with the resulting financial matters usually taking more time to finalise. That is not to say that the process is always simple however and there are many traps that individuals could fall into as a divorce progresses. We aim to provide easy to understand, clear advice about all of the options and any potential pitfalls so that what is a difficult and often emotional process is as smooth as possible.

We also regularly act for unmarried individuals who are experiencing the breakdown of a relationship. In terms of the law, the situation can be quite different to that of a married couple but you can be sure that whatever your specific situation, we have the skills and knowledge to help you understand the options available to you.

Same-sex relationship issues

Whether you choose to cohabit, enter into a civil partnership or marry, our expert team is able to provide detailed and tailored advice in respect of the legal and practical outcomes for you, both at the start of the relationship and also if it unfortunately breaks down.

The introduction of civil partnership in 2005 and same-sex marriage in 2014 were major legal and social landmarks. They bring huge advantages to same-sex couples, providing a secure legal framework for both the formation and dissolution of formal partnerships. Our lawyers have worked with many clients who are in same-sex relationships and we are able to draw on our wide range of experience and knowledge to provide you with high-quality advice in relation to the formation of a civil partnership or marriage and indeed in relation to relationship breakdown.

Cohabitation and unmarried families

When unmarried couples separate the legal position is very different to that of married couples who are divorcing. Our team has the expertise to advise in relation to this complex area and has a proven track record of achieving positive results for unmarried partners and their families.

The laws that govern the separation of property and related issues for unmarried cohabitants are not nearly as far-reaching as the law relating to married couples. Unmarried partners cannot for example claim maintenance from the other, unless in relation to a child. Similarly, capital assets such as the family home are not necessarily split between the parties, equally or otherwise, as they may be on divorce. If the home that the family has lived in is owned in one partner’s sole name, the starting position is that it is their property and not an asset to be shared.  

It is however possible for one party to argue that they are entitled to a share in property owned solely by the other party by virtue of, for example, their investment in that property or promises made by the owning party as to ownership and shares. Similar types of arguments can also be used in relation to the level of each party’s share in property that is jointly owned.

Each case is different and dependent on its own specific facts. Matters can often be very complex but we pride ourselves on our ability to provide detailed and focused advice in respect of the best options and next steps for all of our clients. We also aim to give all of our clients’ practical interim tips to assist their long-term goals.

International marriages and divorce

Relationships are increasingly international and the Bindmans family team has a wealth of knowledge to assist individuals who require advice in relation to cross-border marriage and divorce.

If there is any sort of international element in your relationship, for example if either you or your spouse is a foreign national or you have lived abroad, it is imperative that you seek urgent advice if a separation or divorce is on the horizon. There are particularly complex rules regarding where a couple may divorce and which court has jurisdiction. The financial outcome of a divorce can differ depending on whether a couple divorce in England or in another country so it is important that prompt advice is sought, before one spouse involves a foreign court and the decision is in effect taken out of the other spouse’s hands.

Our team has the relevant expertise and international contacts to provide advice in relation to this complex area of law where speed is often of the essence and good technical knowledge is required.

Frequently asked questions
When can I apply for a divorce?

You can only apply for divorce if you have been married for at least one year. To apply for divorce, your marriage needs to have irretrievably broken down

At this very moment, the marriage is only recognised by the court to have irretrievably broken down if one of five circumstances apply:

  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable behaviour
  3. Desertion
  4. Two years of separation with consent
  5. Five years of separation (no consent needed)

For points one to five to apply, it needs to be proven that it is intolerable for you to continue living with your spouse. 

However, as of April 2022, you will be able to apply for divorce, without the need to prove a-e, and instead by simply confirming the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This new law has been tagged as ‘no-fault divorce’. Find out more information about no-fault divorce in our recent blog here.

How do I apply for a divorce?

You apply for divorce online via a form called a divorce petition. This is sent to the divorce centre local to you for processing.  

Once the divorce centre has received your divorce petition, the court will issue the petition. Your spouse will have to complete a document called the acknowledgement of service within seven days of having received the issued petition. It is then open to you to apply for decree nisi, the conditional order of divorce. If the judge, on reading your petition and considering your application for decree nisi, considers that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, they will pronounce ‘decree nisi’. This is a document that states you are entitled to a divorce, but are not yet divorced.

After decree nisi is pronounced, you will then apply for ‘decree absolute’. This is the document that grants the divorce. You may apply for decree absolute six weeks and one day following the pronouncement of decree nisi. Your spouse must wait longer.

We have children, does that impact our divorce?

Children do not impact the divorce itself.

That being said, if on the marital breakdown, you and your spouse cannot agree arrangements for the children, then you may need to seek legal advice about your next steps. Arrangements for children are separate to the divorce, and if court proceedings are required, they are dealt with under a completely separate case number. Read our blog on child arrangements during relationship breakdown here.

Children will be relevant and influence any financial settlement the court may grant on divorce.

Does the divorce process resolve our finances?

Obtaining a divorce does not resolve your and your spouse’s finances. If you do not resolve financial matters on divorce, then, in certain circumstances, you and your spouse can claim for provision indefinitely, including if one of you dies. 

To resolve finances on divorce, you can negotiate the separation of the marital pot, and ask the court to approve any agreement you reach. The court takes various factors into account when deciding whether or not to approve this.

If you are unable to negotiate and come to an agreement, then usually you would apply to the court for financial relief.

Should you choose to instruct a solicitor, then this would be something they will be able to advise you on in detail.

The full list of FAQs surrounding the divorce process can be found here.

To get in touch with our solicitors please complete the enquiry form here or call our team on +44 (0)20 7833 4433.

Meet the team

Melissa Arnold
Partner

Family and Matrimonial

Alison Leivesley
Partner

Head of Family and Matrimonial

Maud Davis
Associate

Family and Matrimonial

Hannah Marshall
Associate

Family and Matrimonial

Marianna Michaelides
Associate

Family and Matrimonial

Maeve Lucey
Solicitor

Family and Matrimonial

Safina Mitha
Solicitor

Family and Matrimonial

Megan Rothman
Solicitor

Family and Matrimonial

Shanaz Ali
Trainee solicitor

Family and Matrimonial

How can we help you?

We are here to help. If you have any questions for us, please get in touch below.