Time and again, statistics have shown that the period immediately after Christmas shows a spike in the number of people enquiring about how to apply for divorce. Anecdotal evidence from law firms has been backed up by research which has shown that the number of enquiries in January rises by as much as 27%, and this is a phenomenon which the team at Higgins Miller has witnessed.
The reasons for this rise have often been assumed to be the pressures of Christmas, whether that’s financial pressure or the strain of spending so much time together, but the truth is probably more complex. In many cases, as we’ve seen at Higgins Miller, couples who apply for divorce in January have made the decision earlier but delayed taking the actual step itself until Christmas was out of the way.
We specialise in matters of family law such as adoption, wills and probate and domestic violence. As such we’re used to dealing in a sympathetic manner with the emotional fall-out of legal decisions. This is particularly true when it comes to divorce, which is a process which can often lead to conflict and recrimination if not controlled properly.
The first and most important piece of advice which we give to anyone who comes to us with questions about divorce is to try to make as many arrangements as possible via informal and responsible negotiations. The alternative to this, of course, is to fight the case out in court, something which will add hugely to the time, cost and stress involved. In all cases, we advise that issues such as the care of any children, the division of assets, any maintenance payments to be made and the reason for choosing to apply for divorce should be settled between the parties, using the services of a mediator if necessary.
When you apply for a divorce you need to be able to give one of the following five reasons:
- Adultery – can’t be given as a reason if you lived together for a couple for 6 months after discovering it had happened
- Unreasonable behaviour – this could cover things such as physical violence, verbal abuse, refusing to pay for housekeeping and drunkenness or drug taking
- Desertion – if your husband or wife has left you without your agreement, without a good reason and for more than 2 years out of the last 2.5 years
- If you have lived apart for more than 2 years – this applies if both parties agree to the divorce
- If you have lived apart for more than 5 years – this applies even if your partner disagrees.
The process of filing for divorce involves simply filling in a divorce petition form and sending it to your nearest divorce centre. If you’re not sure where our nearest divorce centre is then you can check on the gov.uk website or with your advisor at Higgins Miller. The form will include your full name and address, your partner’s full name and address and your marriage certificate, or a copy of it. You should also provide your partner’s current address if possible, as a copy of the form will have to be sent to them.
As well as the form, you will have to send a standard fee of £550, although there may be some help available regarding this fee if you are on a low income or receiving certain benefits. Once the form has been received and a divorce petition has been sent to your partner they will either agree with the divorce, in which case it will go ahead, or disagree with the divorce, which will usually lead to a court hearing in which both sides state their case, something which will also happen if your partner decides to start their own divorce proceedings.
The way in which the divorce process unfolds following an application, as well as how long it takes and any additional costs, will depend upon the responses of both parties to the application and the complexities of the case (i.e. disagreements over assets and childcare). It is for this reason that we always advise contacting Higgins Miller at the earliest possible stage of proceedings, therefore maximising your chance of keeping things simple and avoiding court appearances if possible.
If you’d like to know more about how to apply for divorce then please call us on 0161 429 7251 or email us at [email protected]. An initial 20-minute appraisal is provided free of charge and we operate a fixed fee first appointment system, meaning you can find out your legal position without risking further and unpredictable expense. For details of our wider charging structure, please see here.