Divorce Proceedings

Divorce settlement solicitors Newtownards
It can be a lot easier to get married than it is to get divorced. Boyd Rice Solicitors can provide you with the expert advice you need

Getting a formal divorce does not simply require signing a few forms. There is a proper Court process, which can become protracted, to follow. Before deciding to initiate divorce proceedings we can help advise whether there is another more appropriate remedy for you.  

Nullity of marriage is a declaration by a Court that your marriage is null and void. You must be able to show the marriage was not valid in the first place, or is defective. There are a number of grounds to base this application on.

A judicial separation allows you to live apart from your spouse, without divorcing or ending a civil partnership. It may be appropriate where you do not wish to get divorced for religious reasons, you have been married for less than a year and can’t get divorced, or you want time to decide whether to get divorced.

We will help determine whether you qualify for these options and more importantly, whether they are suitable for your circumstances.

Reasons for Divorce

To be eligible to get divorced you and your partner must have been married for at least one year. You cannot get divorced within this time. You must be able to show that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. If you want a divorce you must petition the Court proving this irretrievable break down and you can do this by evidencing at least one of the following;

  • Adultery;
  • Unreasonable Behaviour;
  • Desertion;
  • Living apart for two years and your partner consents to a divorce;
  • Living apart for five years.

To dissolve a civil partnership you must show evidence one of the above facts, however adultery is not a ground for dissolution of a civil partnership.

Once we have discussed your circumstances we will be able to determine which ground/s you should rely upon.

We will draft the petition on your behalf and prepare all other necessary documentation for submission to the Court. If there are children we will advise you how to notify the Court of your intended arrangements for them. These papers will be filed with the Court and served upon your partner. In the vast majority of cases the petition will be uncontested and the Court will grant a Decree Nisi if it is satisfied that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. We will then apply for a Decree Absolute to finalise the divorce after any financial matters have been resolved.

If your partner contests the divorce, which is rare, there will be a hearing in Court where you will have to give evidence and be cross-examined. Witnesses may be called. We will be there to advise you and guide you through this.

Division of Assets

We will try to amicably agree a financial settlement with your partner’s solicitor. If no agreement can be reached then ancillary relief proceedings will be required to bring matters to a resolution.

The process, outlined in very broad strokes above, can take time and will be stressful. You can have confidence in us that we will protect you throughout which will help ease the pressure that you are feeling.

When you contact us for a free initial enquiry you will be under no obligation to instruct us and we will be delighted to advise in any way that we can. Please do not let funding concerns deter you from getting in touch with us. We will provide you at the outset with estimates of all our fees and charges. There may be the possibility to agree a flat fee at the outset of your case. Alternatively you may be entitled to legal aid. We will be able to explore these options on your behalf.

For many years Boyd Rice Solicitors have been representing people who are going through this difficult time in their lives.  We devote care and attention to our clients and you can contact your assigned solicitor by phone or email.

We know that divorce proceedings can put stress and strain on everyday life. So we want to make sure you achieve a resolution as quickly as possible so you can move on with your life.

Please call us now on 02891 817715, email family@boydricesolicitors.com or complete our Online Enquiry for a FREE, no-obligation discussion and let us explain how we can help you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Within Northern Ireland, you need to have been married for at least two years before you can petition for a divorce. Your marriage must have broken down irretrievably, and your petition must be made on one of the following five grounds.

  1. This ground can be used when your spouse has committed adultery during the time of your marriage. You must be able to prove that your spouse has committed adultery. If you continue to live with your spouse for more than six months after they have committed adultery, then you cannot use this as a ground for divorce.
  2. Unreasonable behaviour. You must be able to show that your spouse has behaved in such a way that you can no longer be reasonably expected to live with them. For example, if they have been verbally or physically abusive towards you or if they have alcohol or drug addictions which have made them difficult to live with.
  3. If your spouse has left you for at least two years without your consent and without cause and it is clear your spouse has no intention of returning, you may petition for divorce on the ground of desertion.
  4. Two years separation with consent. You can be granted a divorce if you and your spouse have lived separately for two years, provided that your spouse consents to the divorce. You can still live in the same property as your spouse for up to six months, but you must live completely separate lives for example, cooking separately and not spending any time together.
  5. Five years separation. If you and your spouse have lived separately for five years or more, you can ask the Court for a divorce. You do not need your spouse’s consent for this ground.

– Proof of income (if applying for legal aid)

– Proof of ID and your address.

– Your Marriage Certificate

– Children’s Birth Certificates for all children under 18

– Deed poll if you have changed your surname.

There are normally two parties in a divorce.

  1. The Petitioner – this is the person issuing the divorce.
  2. The Respondent – this is the other party to the marriage.

There can be a third party to divorce proceedings called the Co- Respondent.

If a divorce is proceeding on the grounds of adultery you will need to name the person with whom your spouse is having an affair. They are called the Co -Respondent. They will also be served with the same divorce papers as the Respondent and they will need to sign and return these papers to the Court.

Usually, the non-fault based divorces are heard in the County Court – this includes the grounds of two years separation and consent and a divorce on the grounds of five years separation.

The more contentious and complicated divorces are heard in the High Court – for example divorces on the grounds of adultery and unreasonable behaviour.

The amount and value of assets in a marriage can also determine where the divorce will be heard.

The divorce process can be broken down into the following steps:

  1. Taking initial instructions.
  2. Drafting a Divorce Petition and accompanying forms.
  3. Divorce Papers are sent to the Court to be stamped.
  4. Divorce Papers are returned from the court and then sent to the Respondent.
  5. Divorce Papers are completed by the Respondent and returned to the Matrimonial office in the High Court
  6. A Certificate of Readiness is then lodged with the Court so that the matter can be set down for hearing.
  7. A Decree Nisi hearing takes place. The Respondent does not need to attend this hearing unless they are contesting the divorce.
  8. The Petitioner attends the Decree Nisi hearing with Counsel and/or their Solicitor. They take the Oath and confirm the details of the Petition. Then the Decree Nisi is granted.

A Decree Nisi is a provisional decree of divorce that the Court will grant when it is satisfied that a person has met the legal and procedural requirements needed to obtain a divorce. It is important to note that after a Decree Nisi has been granted a person is not yet ‘divorced’. The Petitioner must wait at least six weeks and one day to make their application for a Decree Absolute.

A Decree Absolute is the final decree which dissolves the marriage. The Petitioner’s solicitor applies to the court for this and there is no further requirement to attend Court. After the Decree Absolute has been granted the person is ‘divorced’.

Simply put, ancillary relief is the legal term for a financial settlement that is Court lead. Either party can apply for Ancillary Relief, but this must be after the Divorce Petition has been issued. The purpose of Ancillary Relief Proceedings is to divide the matrimonial assets according to the needs and requirements of the parties. Ancillary relief will involve the exchange of discovery (see below) and normally a Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing.

The Court can make different Orders during this process including

  1. Maintenance Orders, which orders one party of the marriage to make maintenance or periodical payments to the other.
  2. Lump Sum Orders, which orders one spouse to make a single lump sum of money to the other
  3. Pension Sharing Orders, in which the Court orders the sharing or transfer of pensions between the parties
  4. A Property Adjustment Order which could order the transfer of property, or the sale of a property.

Discovery refers to the process in which there is an exchange of information between the solicitors acting for both parties. Documents that are usually included in Discovery are bank statements, payslips, mortgage statements and pension statements. The aim of this is to make sure each side has the same information which will help you negotiate a fair agreement for your final settlement.

If there are children of the marriage under 18, a form called the “Statement of Arrangements for Children” will need to be completed and signed by both parties. This document outlines the level of contact each parent has and what arrangements have been made for the future.

Legal aid is available to both issue and defend Divorce Proceedings. It is also available for Ancillary Relief proceedings. This is dependent on your disposable income. It is important to note that depending on your financial circumstances you may be required to make a small contribution towards your legal fees as well as receiving legal aid. In addition, if you are awarded money or retain property such as the former matrimonial home at the end of divorce, you may have to pay the Legal Services Agency back – this is called the statutory charge.

The Court fees for a divorce depend on which level of Court you bring the case in. They are also subject to change by the Court. See link below for the current fees.

https://www.justice-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/justice/cfr-family-proceedings-fees-01-10-19.pdf

Once papers are served the Respondent has 35 days to sign and return the divorce papers. If they do not, then another letter will be sent to them asking them to return the papers. If papers are still not signed and returned to the Court, then the Petitioner’s solicitor can make an application to the Court to dispense with the Respondent’s signature. The Petitioner’s solicitor will make an application to the Court, will attend Court on their behalf and will ask the Court to make an Order Deeming Service Good. If this Order is made the divorce can proceed without the need for the Respondent’s signature.

At the Decree Nisi Hearing a costs application can be made to the Court requesting that the Respondent pay the full costs or half costs of the divorce. This is usually done in the case of adultery or unreasonable behaviour. It is the Court’s decision as to whether the Respondent has to pay costs.

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