In our latest twitter hour associate solicitor Lisa Dawson answered your questions on separation and divorce. Lisa has kindly written more indepth answers than she could fit on twitter. Have a read of these here:

  • Can I get a ‘quickie divorce’?

When the media refer to a quickie divorce what they actually mean is divorcing now rather than waiting and divorcing by 2 years separation by consent. A marriage has to have irretrievably broken down and then has to be supported by one of five factors in order to obtain a divorce. The two factors that allow you to divorce immediately are unreasonable behaviour and adultery. The adultery does not have to have taken place whilst the couple were together, it could have happened after they were separated but because they are still married it is still classed as adultery.

  • Do the grounds of the divorce have any impact on the finances or the arrangements for the children?

In most cases the answer is no, but you should seek the legal advice of a specialist family solicitor in order to be fully advised. It is often the case that the divorce can progress even if you don’t agree with the allegations made.

  • How much time should the children spend with each parent?

There is no set routine as to how much time a child should spend with either parent. We are seeing more and more parents agreeing equal arrangements in respect of the care of their children. Other times one parent will work shifts so the pattern has to keep changing. Other times alternate weekends with an overnight in the intervening period with that parent is agreed. However each case is unique and individual and so further advice should be sought if arrangements cannot be agreed.

  • I put more money in when I purchased a house with my partner. Can I get a greater proportion of the proceeds now that we have separated and the house is being sold?

There is no such thing as the ‘common law spouse’. It is crucial when you are cohabiting that you seek legal advice in regards to the legalities of your financial relationship. For example if you buy a house together and one party puts in more money than the other but you agree to own the property as joint tenants then in all likelihood your greater contribution will make no difference as to how the proceeds are divided. If you are putting money into a property that you do not own legally then again you should seek legal advice to protect that contribution. Equally if you are the owner of the property and your partner does some work to the property or puts money into it, you should agree what this means in terms of ownership and enter into an agreement as to what would happen if you separated.

  • I have children with my partner but we are not married. What financial claims can I make?

In the case of unmarried couples there are limited financial claims that can be made. In regards to maintenance there can be no ‘spousal maintenance’ claim. Child maintenance is dealt with through the Child Maintenance Service. For a fee of 20.00 the CMS can carry out an assessment of your partner or alternatively you can work together and use the online calculator to work out what that parent should be paying. You may also have claims for lump sums or transfer of property under the Children Act 1989 schedule 1. You may need the advice of a specialist family solicitor to find out if this is the case.

  • Do I have to go to mediation?

Mediation is not relationship counselling. Mediation is a service which assists separated couples in coming to agreements in respect of finances, children and any other issues they may wish to discuss. Mediation can be used at any point prior to going to a solicitor, after seeing a solicitor, before or during court proceedings. The only time you are required to attend is if you wish to make an application to court. In that instance you should at least attend a MIAM (mediation information and assessment meeting) where you will discuss with the mediator whether or not mediation is suitable for your particular case.

  • I paid my ex-wife a lump sum and now we are divorced so she can’t make any claims against me, can she?

Even if you are divorced unless there is a consent order which sets out your agreement then either ex-spouse may be able to claim against the other decades after they separated and/or divorced. It is crucial to seek a consent order or separation agreement prior to implementing any agreement, although it can still be sought after implementation.

Bonus question and answer

Lisa didn’t have time to answer this question on twitter but we wanted to include it here. Finance is often a big concern when you are separating or going through divorce.

  • Instructing a divorce lawyer is expensive, can’t I just do it myself or use an online company?

We offer an initial consultation of one hour for 120.00 including vat. This meeting covers all areas including divorce, children and finances. Once we have taken your instructions we are in a much better position to advise you in relation to your situation. For divorce proceedings we offer a fixed fee of 1,200.00 including vat and court fees if you are the Petitioner and 500.00 including vat if you are the Respondent. You can undertake this task yourself by downloading the forms on the court service website, however we often find that people are grateful to hand the process over to someone else to deal with. Further with online companies they often just fill out the forms for you. They won’t offer you advice or help if it goes wrong somehow.

If you need advice after the initial meeting in regards to your children or the finances following your separation then again we can help. We offer competitive hourly rates and would be able to give you a better idea of costs following the initial consultation. We offer advice covering all areas of family law and how to resolve them including the use of mediation and court proceedings. It is even more important to make sure you get it right in relation to any agreements in respect of your children or your finances to ensure that those agreements are protected otherwise you could, indeed, end up in expensive and drawn out legal proceedings.