Divorce Legal Guide – Part 1
Making the Decision
The decision to consider divorce is not one which is taken lightly, and usually comes when a marriage has moved from being in difficulty to having completely broken down.
If you have reached a stage where you are considering divorce proceedings you will no doubt have many questions about the road ahead..
From the outset it is important to be in the right frame of mind for what you can expect from the divorce process, as how you actually set about divorcing is very important for the future relationship you will have with your ex-partner and any children you have together.
Divorce is ultimately about trying to make the cleanest break possible so that all parties can get started with the next stage of their lives. The goal in divorce proceedings is to reach a mutual agreement that provides an amicable solution for yourself, for your partner, and for your children.
So, what can you expect from divorce proceedings?
How divorce works
Contrary to popular belief, in Northern Ireland there is only one ground for divorce: that the marriage has “broken down irretrievably”.
Those factors often cited as grounds for divorce, such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour, are in reality used to illustrate the abovementioned breakdown rather than existing in grounds for divorce in their own right.
The evidence of irretrievable breakdown of a marriage
- Two years separation with the consent of the other spouse to divorce
- Five years separation
- Unreasonable behaviour
Five things to remember when considering divorce
- Avoid negative language about divorce ‘battles’ or ‘beating’ your partner, as this can make proceedings unnecessarily antagonistic.
- Avoid making quick decisions at the outset – particularly with regard to things like selling the family home.
- Your children are not getting a divorce – avoid negative language about your partner in front of the children.
- Don’t believe all you hear from divorced friends – all divorces are different, as they are designed to take into consideration the nuanced requirements of you, your partner, and your children. Any arrangements made are specific to your situation, so avoid comparing your situation to someone else’s.
- It is entirely possible to avoid court – if you and your partner wish to keep things out of the court room, then consider alternatives such as a collaborative law divorce, often referred to as a ‘friendly divorce’.
Collaborative law divorce
The collaborative law divorce process is a method aimed at trying to avoid the sort of animosity that can arise during court based divorce proceedings. Divorce often involves two people who simply want to get on with their new lives after agreeing that a separation is necessary. However, adversarial Court processes aimed at reaching decisions on the best arrangements for child custody, maintenance and access, as well as the division of assets and financial arrangements, can result in even more strained relationships.
People who choose to divorce using the collaborative law process commit themselves to enter into a series of round-table conversations that involve both partners and their respective solicitors working through a pre-agreed list of issues such as property arrangements, child custody, financial support, and division of assets.
The process can involve other professionals where necessary, including financial advisors, accountants and child psychologists.
A successful result of the process is a divorce agreement, agreed on by both parties, reached in such a manner that both parties have a better opportunity to maintain future contact on as amicable a basis as possible.
In the second part of our Divorce Legal Guide we shall look at the actual divorce process, what it entails, where to start, and how we can help.