Myth #1 – You need to use a Solicitor to get divorced
A common misconception is that you need to instruct a solicitor to obtain a divorce.
In reality 40% of divorce applications* in England and Wales are concluded without using a solicitor.
Myth #2 – You have to wait 2 years or 5 years before you can get divorced
There are two criteria that a couple have to meet to make a divorce application.
- That the marriage/civil partnership has irretrievably broken down
- That you have been married/civil partners for at least one year prior to your application
The ‘facts’ used to prove the above are:
- Unreasonable behaviour (the most common fact cited)
- 2 years separation with consent of both parties(often referred to as a no fault divorce)
- 2 years separation, Desertion
- 5 years separation, Desertion
You can get a divorce after one year if your spouse/civil partner has behaved in a way that you consider to be unreasonable or has committed adultery.
The 2 and 5 year criteria refer to no fault divorce applications where there are no allegations about your spouses behaviour. You can divorce by mutual agreement after 2 years or because your spouse has ‘deserted’ you for a period of 2 or 5 years respectively.
Myth #3 – Quickie Divorces
When the press refer to a quickie divorce they are in fact referring to a uncontested divorce where both parties agree to the divorce. No firm or company can influence the speed at which your divorce is granted. This is determined by two things:
- The court/Divorce Centres schedule or workload.
- The co-operation of both spouses who agree to the divorce
These are the two factors that will influence the speed at which your divorce is granted.
Myth #4 – You have to attend court to get a divorce
Very few divorce applications are defended, where one party doesn’t agree to the divorce application, and an even smaller number of those require a hearing.
The majority of divorces are dealt with without either party having to attend court.
Myth #5 – Finances are settled on a 50/50 basis
When people refer to financial divorce settlements they are generally referring to a settlement by court order. It is worth noting that you do not have to apply for an order or go to court to resolve financial or childcare issues (see #8 below).
If you did decide to make an application to the court for a financial order there is no automatic division of assets on a 50/50 basis or in any other proportion. What the judge will look at is the circumstances of the divorcing couple and the needs of both parties.
Remember the pendulum can swing both ways. Either party can be potentially ordered to pay maintenance to the other party and the court does not automatically give a ‘stay at home parent’ a bigger slice of the cake.
Myth #6 – I need a consent order
A consent order is:
“a financial contract, jointly agreed by a divorcing couple, that finalises the financial obligations arising from the marriage/civil partnership”.
Firstly if your spouse doesn’t want to sign a consent order, you can not get one, as a contract requires the consent of both parties.
Secondly if you have children it may not be in your best interests to ‘consent’ to a contract that allows for no future changes in financial arrangements (that may or may not have been agreed in a separate agreement), because your children’s circumstances may change for a variety of reasons in the years ahead.
Consent orders are not a one size fits all instrument. It will depend entirely on your circumstances and the co-operation of both parties.
You can obtain a consent order in addition to completing a DIY divorce or online application if both parties are in agreement.
Myth #7 – Legal Aid is not available for divorce applications/Court Fees
This myth is mostly true but there are schemes in place to assist those couples going through divorce. Legal Aid is no longer available for most family law matters but there is an exception for matters involving domestic abuse.
However, fee remission of the court fee for a divorce application is available for those individuals that meet the income criteria. Meaning that those on lower incomes or benefits are entitled to a full or partial remission of the court fee for a divorce application.
Financial and childcare arrangements: Legal Aid is available for mediation if you meet the income criteria. Mediation helps you sort out arrangements about finances and children following divorce or separation.
Myth #8 – You can not get an online divorce if you need to make a financial agreement or arrangements in respect of children
A divorce application is separate to any financial agreements or arrangements in respect of children. They are often dealt with at the same time and run alongside each other but each matter is dealt with in it’s own right.
You can get divorced using an online application and deal with financial matters and childcare arrangements separately without referring the matter to court if you wish to do so.
Family Mediation: Mediation is where an independent and impartial third party discusses issues with you and your ex-spouse/civil partner to try and reach an agreement. Mediation can be conducted separately if the circumstances require it.
Mediation is not about getting back together. It is an opportunity for a divorcing couple to make arrangements about a number of issues, including but not limited to financial affairs, housing, child care arrangements and how to deal with any property.
Legal Aid is available for mediation if you qualify.
Myth #9 – Online divorce is for people with no assets
This is another popular divorce myth. However, it was recently reported that Gary Lineker got divorced online and as such is likely to have dealt with any financials matters separately.
Myth #10 – Divorce is expensive
This myth is often supported by press coverage on big money divorces. But divorce applications do not have to be expensive or complicated. There are schemes available for those individuals on lower incomes and you can reduce the cost further by completing your application online.
Costs of divorce:
Court Fee £410 – this can be reduced to £0 if you qualify for remission
Family Mediation – Legal Aid is available for mediation
Online divorce – DivorceBox packages from £39.00
Carmen Hudson (LLB) is a director and head of legal of operations at DivorceBox.com a online legal service provider specialising in online divorce (e-divorce).
After 15 years in dispute resolution she founded DivorceBox to offer a less intimidating alternative to traditional legal services.