Divorce: Everything You Need to Know

When you arrive at the point of wanting to divorce your spouse, it can be a very difficult, distressing time. When a couple initially marries, it is usually with the intention of that union lasting a lifetime, so the prospect of that commitment coming to an end is something that takes a great toll. It can also be a very daunting situation. Building a marriage together, and possibly a family, often means that every aspect of life is intricately enmeshed. This makes the prospect of trying to unpick that knot and move on in different directions incredibly overwhelming.

Take things step by step

When we are faced with an upsetting, complicated situation, it can be difficult to know where to start. Though we may well be clear-headed and decisive in normal circumstances, the dissolution of a shared life understandably heightens emotions. It is vital, therefore, to break the task ahead into small, simple steps. This way, you are better able to stay the course, even when new complications arise.

Communication

Once you have decided that you want a divorce, you must begin to communicate.

  • With your spouse – If you are able to have a conversation with your spouse to make your wish for a divorce clear, then you should do so. Choose an appropriate time and place, and be prepared for any type of reaction. If your spouse is absent following a period of separation or desertion of the marriage, you will need to track them down and make contact. In this situation, if they are unwilling to consent to divorce, you may need to serve them with legal papers, using a professional such as a bailiff.
  • With a solicitor – Even if you are unable to discuss your decision with your spouse, due to fear of abuse or because their whereabouts are unknown, you should begin communicating with a solicitor. The right legal professional can advise you on the best way to proceed according to your circumstances and can also help to arrange for mediation where necessary.
  • Through a mediator – Some divorcing couples benefit from a process of mediation. This allows for an independent professional to create a safe, neutral space for open communication. It can be particularly beneficial in conflict resolution, making a potentially contentious divorce a much smoother process.

Grounds

In order to file the necessary paperwork to begin your divorce proceedings, you first need to decide on the grounds for the dissolution of the marriage. This can be difficult to do – especially in those cases where the divorce is the culmination of a number of issues. There are five legal grounds for divorce in the U.K:

  • Two year separation – This is a potentially simple, no-fault divorce that allows both parties to provide written consent attesting to the fact that they have been separated from each other for two years, and both consent to the divorce. For this to apply, you must be able to prove that you lead entirely separate lives, even if you both still reside at the same address.
  • Five year separation – If you have been separated and leading different lives for five years, and if both parties provide written consent to the divorce, then this process can be both straightforward and cost-effective. However, it can be complicated if you have lost touch with your spouse, or if your spouse refuses to consent.
  • Adultery – While it may sound self-explanatory, ‘adultery’ actually only applies under very specific circumstances. In U.K law, ‘adultery’ is not the same as infidelity and can only be cited if the following conditions are met:
  • You can prove that your spouse had sexual intercourse with another person of the opposite sex, either through their admission, or some other evidence.
  • The adultery is solely the fault of your spouse and is not the result of your own actions.
  • You are filing for divorce within six months of discovering the adultery.

It is important to note that U.K law still defines ‘adultery’ as being sexual intercourse between a spouse and a person of the opposite sex, which means that it cannot be used to end legal unions between same-sex spouses. Also, if more than six months has passed since you discovered the adultery, U.K legislation takes the view that you have permitted the adultery, and it can therefore no longer be used as grounds for divorce.

  • Desertion – In the context of divorce, U.K law defines desertion as one spouse deserting the marriage for a continuous period of a minimum of two years, without agreement or acceptable reason. This ground for divorce can only be used in England and Wales.
  • Unreasonable behaviour – This accounts for around 45% of all divorce grounds, partly because it is a real ‘catch all’ choice – especially when infidelity has occurred in such a way as to fall outside the specific criteria for ‘adultery.’ Examples of ‘unreasonable behaviour’ can include financial misconduct, neglect, relationship issues caused by addiction, inappropriate relationships with other people, and verbal, emotional, or physical abuse. To use unreasonable behaviour as grounds for divorce, you usually need to provide five examples of the behaviours.

Children

If you and your spouse have children, it is essential to prioritise their wellbeing throughout the divorce process. Once you have determined the grounds for divorce, you should aim to work with your spouse to make arrangements for your children going forward. This includes determining the primary residence, visitation schedules, and child maintenance agreements. If it is not possible to work productively towards these goals with your spouse, due to hostility or animosity, then mediation may be advisable.

Property

As a married couple, you are equally entitled to live in a marital home of which you are the homeowners – regardless of the level of financial contribution each spouse makes, and regardless of the name on the deed. If you are sharing rented accommodation and the tenancy agreement only bears the name of one spouse, then the other can be asked to leave. In the case of homeowners, the simplest resolutions can be to either sell the property and split the proceeds, or for one spouse to buy the other out and retain ownership of the residence. In the case of rented accommodation on a joint tenancy, it is advisable to negotiate the next steps between you, with one either taking over agreement as sole tenant, or both finding alternative accommodation.

Finances

Most divorce proceedings will result in a Financial Consent Order, the main function of which is to prevent claims against future wealth. It is advisable because the dissolution of a marriage does not automatically dissolve the financial commitments you share. Part of the Financial Consent Order process is the Financial Disclosure, which requires both parties to provide a full and honest overview of their financial situation. From this, a fair financial settlement is agreed and a Financial Consent Order can then be made.

The role of private investigation

While private investigators are often associated in the public consciousness with the tracking of cheating spouses, there are actually a number of other ways in which they can be of service during divorce proceedings.

  • Surveillance – Marital or divorce surveillance can go beyond proving or disproving adultery – although this is also a legitimate and important strategy. In cases of divorce where financial wranglings make it necessary to prove co-habitation with another person, surveillance can be deployed to generate the required evidence. If a spouse claims to have no income or claims to be living a financially modest lifestyle through necessity, surveillance can help to verify those claims. Surveillance can also play an important role when it comes to co-parenting as a divorcing couple. It can become necessary to either prove or disprove that your spouse is spending time with a person who is unsuitable to be around your children, for example, in which case surveillance can provide peace of mind while child custody negotiations are underway.
  • Background and financial checks – Private investigators can uncover a great depth of detail through background and financial checks, using entirely legal and ethical methods, accessing publicly available records. These checks can verify financial information provided as part of the Financial Disclosure process or can uncover financial information where your spouse is refusing to provide information in the first place. It can also uncover any other issues that the spouse has attempted to keep hidden, including issues with employment, or legal problems that have arisen during the marriage or divorce period.

With accreditations from professional bodies, including the Association of British Investigators, the UK Professional Investigators Network, the Institute of Professional Investigators, and the Information Commissioner’s Office, OpSec Solutions is a private investigation firm that is proven to prioritise confidentiality and personal privacy. Using operatives across the U.K who are drawn from military, police and corporate backgrounds, OpSec Solutions provides a service that is comprehensive, discreet, and compassionate. Having a full understanding of the difficult situations a divorce can create, the OpSec team is able to deliver the court admissible evidence you need to reach a swift and positive outcome for your case. Call OpSec Solutions today to discuss your divorce case needs and arrange a free consultation.

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