What is Divorce Day?
Divorce lawyers have long been accustomed to seeing a spike in divorce enquiries right after the Christmas holiday period. The media has dubbed it as ‘the Divorce day’. Normally, the divorce day falls on the first working day after the winter festive period is over. This year Divorce Day 2021 fell on 04 January 2021. It has long been argued that the prolonged period of time spent together during the holidays, without the distraction of work and other commitments, as well as the Holiday pressure, serves as the last push for couples that are already in trouble to take the step to separate. With New Year traditionally seen as a good time for new beginnings, many couples who have issues in their married lives, take the step to separate right after the Holidays are over.
This year, there was also the added pressure of the prolonged lockdown that has pushed many couples into considering divorce or at least some sort of separation.
Divorce Rates in the UK
Divorce rates in the UK continue to stay high. Recent statistics from the Office for National Statistics (2019) have shown:
- From 2018-2019, the divorce rate amongst opposite-sex couples increased by 18.4%
- In 2019, the average duration of marriage at the time of divorce was 12.3 years, a slight decrease from 12.5 years in 2018
- For couples in 2019, unreasonable behaviour was the most cited reason for divorces
- Although the divorce rate increased in 2019, there has been a generally downward trend in divorce numbers since 2003, but with divorce rates remaining significant.
Overall, slightly over 40% of marriages ends in divorce in the UK. Number of psychologists and sociologists have suggested that the rate of divorces is going to be higher for the year of 2020 and 2021, due to the pandemic and the lockdown, where struggling couples had to spend more time together, thereby exacerbating already existing issues. Other specialists, have given a more optimistic forecasting, stating that the lockdown has, in fact, allowed many couples to re-evaluate their relationship and talk things through. It is difficult to predict which is more likely to prevail, but there clearly will be winners and losers like in all aspects. For some, the lockdown will mean further push to a divorce, while for others it can be a healing experience.
Our family solicitors have seen an increased number of enquiries throughout the last year, however there has not been a significant raise in divorces we have filed, compared to the previous years. This can be explained by the economic uncertainty and that post lockdown, with economic recovery, we perhaps will see the same explosion in divorces like China has experienced.
On the other hand, the children matter related matters have seen significant increase. This is because the pandemic and the lockdown unfortunately have pushed up the conflicts between parents, leading to the need for the solicitors and courts intervention.
Grounds for divorce
Currently, there is only one ground for divorce, which is the marriage has irretrievably broken down meaning there is no chance of repairing the marriage. To prove this to the Court, you will need to prove one of these five facts:
- Adultery: your spouse has committed adultery with another individual
- Unreasonable behaviour: your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot be reasonably expected to live with them
- 2 years’ separation with consent: you and your spouse have been separated for 2 years and you both agree to the divorce
- 5 years’ separation: you and your spouse have been separated for a period of 5 years
- Desertion: your spouse has left you for at least 2 years before the divorce is applied for
No fault divorce will come into force later this year, which will eliminate the need to demonstrate any of the above facts, thereby making the process for a divorce easier.
To begin the divorce process, the Petitioner (who initiates the divorce) the divorce petition is completed and sent to the Court. Once issued and sent to the Respondent (the spouse receiving the petition), they are required to sign and return the Acknowledgement of Service to Court to show they’re aware of the proceedings; received the papers and if they wish to defend the divorce.
If your spouse does not agree to the divorce or their whereabouts are unknown, it is always advisable to seek legal advice and assistance to explore options to move forward.
Once the Court is clear the Respondent has received the papers or, in the absence of this, the Court has made a decision to progress the divorce, you will need to apply for the next stage of the divorce (Decree Nisi). The Court sets a date for this pronouncement and once six weeks and one day has passed, if there are no other matters to be addressed (such as finances and children), you can apply for the final part of the divorce (decree absolute). Once the decree absolute is pronounced, the marriage will have legally ended.
How Long Does a Divorce Take?
Prior to the pandemic, a divorce could take around 4-6 months to reach the final stage with both engaged in the process as appropriate. Since covid-19 however, the family courts have experienced backlogs in processing applications though this continues to be addressed as the courts employ remote practices.
However, in cases where a spouse might be uncooperative or there’s other matters to be addressed before finalising the divorce (such as finances or children) , the divorce could take significantly longer.
How much is a Divorce?
The divorce petition requires a £550 Court fee to be paid to HMCTS. However, in cases of low income, the Court has discretion to reduce or waive the Court fee if an Application for a fee Remission form is submitted (EX 160).
It is always advisable to seek legal advice before proceeding with the divorce to be clear on the process and impact this can have on other areas to be addressed, after the breakdown of a marriage, such as finances and children matters.
At RVS Solicitors, we have a team of family specialists ready to help provide innovative solutions and guidance on the best approach for your case, including the legal costs. Have a look at our success stories for more information.
Tips for those thinking about divorce
- Before proceeding with a divorce, it should be emphasised that agreeing a plan for post-separation to address the breakdown of the marriage is most likely to achieve the best outcome for both individuals.
- Ideally, the divorce petition should be mutually agreed with your spouse to minimise the chances of them taking issue at a later date which could delay the process. However, it is not necessary to have your spouse’s co-operation to initiate the process unless the petition relies on 2 years’ separation and consent. With this fact, your spouse will need to agree to the divorce.
- Research: having an understanding of the process can be helpful as this can save you time and money ensuring you seek relevant advice when needed. If it is clear your spouse does not agree with the divorce and indicates they might frustrate that process, it is best to speak with an experienced family solicitor to explore options.
- Mediation is a useful medium in resolving disputes as they give both parties an opportunity to be heard by a neutral party and can also be useful in terms of disclosure. This can be a good way to gain an understanding of positions and can often assist parties in reaching an agreement to deal with matters post-separation.
- Keep in mind arrangement for the future: sometimes the breakdown of the marriage can mean the added stress of dealing with finances and arrangements for any children of the marriage. It is useful to think about these issues and the plans for the future (post-separation), so you have an idea of the arrangement you’d be seeking to try and reach an amicable settlement.
- It is helpful to begin gathering written records (evidence) of payments, savings and joint assets.