While it may be tempting to think that no-fault divorce makes lawyers unnecessary to the process, this is far from the case. Taking advice from a solicitor, even if it’s only a single appointment early in the process, can ensure any application starts off correctly and stays on the right track so that it is ultimately concluded in a way that is as efficient and stress free as possible.
Following the introduction of ‘no-fault‘ divorce in April 2022, one or both spouses now simply need to confirm the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The language used has been simplified and the forms are now accessed through an online portal, which has made the application process for divorce (or dissolution where there is a civil partnership) a lot more straightforward.
Nevertheless, for most separating couples the divorce application is only one part of the separation process, and sorting out finances and child arrangements can prove much more contentious and challenging.
Financial matters, particularly the daunting prospect of safeguarding one’s long-term financial future after separation, can be a hugely emotive topic. Many people find that having a solicitor as a ‘buffer’ between themselves and their former partner can help them manage the separation and financial negotiation process a lot more easily.
Furthermore, a solicitor can be very helpful in dealing with the many complex rules and guidelines that determine what a court would consider a fair financial settlement in that family’s particular circumstances.
As the online divorce process does not formalise the financial settlement, a separate court order (known as a consent order) will still be required, which needs to be properly drafted by a solicitor and approved by the court, even in cases where there is agreement between both parties. A solicitor will also ensure that all aspects of the settlement have been considered, including tax implications and pensions.
One of the primary concerns our clients have is making suitable, fair arrangements for the care of their children, both in terms of how they will deal with the relationship breakdown and what living arrangements will be put in place thereafter.
A solicitor can negotiate on their client’s behalf in relation to child arrangements and support them through the court process if this becomes necessary, although for most family’s mediation led by an independent, specially trained third party will be the most suitable route for resolving matters concerning children.
The best outcomes are achieved through cooperation as, for the most part, separating couples want the same thing: a fair division of their finances to be completed swiftly so they can move forward with their lives. Instructing solicitors who are committed to resolving disputes in a swift, constructive and, if possible, amicable way can make a huge difference to outcomes, costs and stress levels.
Megan Bennie is an Associate in the family law team Furley Page.
Megan joined the team in 2021, having gained valuable previous experience at specialist family law firms featured in the Legal 500 directory.
Megan advises on all aspects of relationship breakdown, whether divorce or separation, including in relation to civil partnerships, dealing with issues such as the appropriate division of finances.
Megan also assists couples seeking to formalise arrangements through pre and post nuptial agreements and cohabitation (or living together) agreements. She can also assist with legal issues arising when cohabitation comes to an end whether there is a cohabitation agreement in place or not.
Megan can provide legal advice on a wide range of areas relating to children including arrangements for contact and who a child lives with, where a child lives (including relocation to another jurisdiction) and in relation to special guardianship and adoption.
Megan is primarily based at the Chatham office but is also available for meetings at either the Canterbury or Whitstable office.