Divorce Solicitors

divorce solicitorsGet in touch with our specialist divorce solicitors to be expertly guided through your divorce or separation.

If you are considering divorce proceedings, you will more likely than not have 1,000 questions running through your mind.  Is it the right decision? Has it really come to this? How will I protect the interests of my children?

At Elite Law Solicitors, we have helped thousands of clients overcome these and many other questions and will use our expertise in family law to help you do the same.

Whether you need help with protecting your finances or making arrangements for your children, our specialist divorce solicitors will work diligently to secure the best possible outcome for you.

Book A Consultation With Our Divorce Solicitors

Our enquiry lines are open 24/7 – contact us confidentially by calling 0800 086 2929, emailing info@elitelawsolicitors.co.uk or completing our Free Online Enquiry Form

In addition to office meetings, we offer remote meetings via telephone or video conferencing (Zoom or Skype) and can assist you wherever you are based.

The first step – get in touch with our divorce solicitors

We understand that taking the first step and seeing a divorce solicitor to discuss a divorce or separation can be extremely daunting. However, it is important that you seek specialist legal advice, tailored to your circumstances, at the earliest possible opportunity. Obtaining advice at an early stage will give you a clear understanding of what to expect and will help you to plan for the divorce or separation process.

You do not necessarily need to act on the advice straight away and we will advise you if you need to take any urgent steps. A recent study by Resolution found that 63% of all divorcees surveyed felt that their personal experience would have improved had they had early access to professional advice, where legal rights and options are made clear from the outset.

Our divorce solicitors are members of Resolution and hold Law Society Family Law Panel Accreditation which demonstrates their knowledge, skill and expertise in family law.

Contact us confidentially and book your initial consultation with one of our experienced divorce solicitors by calling 0800 086 2929, emailing info@elitelawsolicitors.co.uk or completing our Free Online Enquiry Form.

divorce solicitors

What to expect at your initial consultation with our divorce solicitors

The initial consultation with one of our divorce solicitors can take place in person at our Amersham office, by telephone or via video conferencing software – whichever you prefer.

Our aim is to make you feel as comfortable as possible in the knowledge that you are receiving the best possible advice in relation to your divorce or separation. The purpose of the meeting is to help you understand the practical and legal implications of your situation and to explore the options available to you which will help you to make an informed decision.

You should rest assured that our divorce solicitors are friendly and approachable and their aim in the meeting is to make you feel as comfortable as possible, whilst also giving you the best legal advice in a manner which is clear and easy to understand.

It is often the case that answers to questions that may appear obvious on the face of it are not straightforward, so you should never be worried about asking what seem to be “obvious” questions. We want you to leave the meeting feeling confident that we can help you and assured that we will have your best interests at the forefront.

Concerns about costs are often at the forefront of people’s minds when seeking legal advice.  The initial consultation with you allows us to discuss your situation in detail.  Once we understand your circumstances better, we can provide you with:

  1. A clear understanding of how we can help you and;
  2. An estimate of our fees and a choice of funding methods should you choose to instruct us.

Preparing for the initial consultation with our divorce solicitors

When you book your initial consultation, you will be given the name of the divorce solicitor that you will be seeing – this will be either Christopher Dolton or Tatiana Di Donato.  Visiting Christopher’s or Tatiana’s profile page on our website will help you put a face to a name and picture who you will be meeting to make you feel at ease before the initial consultation.

It will make it easier for us to advise you if you can provide as much detail as possible in relation to your circumstances. You will be asked about key information such as names, dates of birth and addresses.

The information requested is likely to include the date you and your ex-partner started living together, the date of the marriage, the date of separation, the date contact broke down and so on. It would be helpful if you write down these key dates and events and bring them to the initial consultation. Do not worry if you do not have the exact dates as approximate dates will suffice to begin with and we can determine more precise dates, should we need to, at a later date.

If you require assistance with your financial circumstances following the breakdown of your relationship or marriage, we will ask you for details of all income, assets and liabilities so it might help you to write a list of these and bring this with you.

If you are seeking help or advice in relation to arrangements for children, we may require a timeline of events so it would be useful to note down any key dates such as details of the existing arrangements, when they started and when things started to go wrong.

Most importantly, we suggest that you write down a list of questions that you have for the solicitor you will be meeting. It is perfectly normal for you to forget about questions you wanted to ask and not remember them until you get home. If you write them down, this will ensure that you have asked everything you want to before leaving the initial consultation.

The next steps after the initial consultation with our divorce solicitors

Following the initial consultation with one of our divorce solicitors, you will receive a detailed email summarising the issues discussed and the advice provided to you.

The meeting is strictly confidential, and we will not contact your ex-partner. If you decide to instruct us to represent you, we will usually write to your ex-partner to confirm we are instructed but would not do so without first receiving your consent.  You will be in control and will know when the letter has been sent.

We will not put any pressure on you to proceed during or after the meeting, however, we will advise you if any urgent action is required. It is completely your choice whether you wish to instruct us immediately or go home and have a think about what we have discussed and the options available to you. Our friendly and approachable divorce solicitors will be here for you if and when you are ready to proceed.

Expert divorce solicitors – our complete guide to divorce and separation

As a common and often complex legal process, divorce can involve more than you might expect. Whether you are going through a divorce yourself or need to understand how the process works in the UK, having all the information necessary is invaluable for any individual.

A good understanding of how divorce works, what it means, and the terms involved can ensure you have a stronger understanding of the practices and processes involved in a divorce.

Our experienced divorce solicitors have extensive experience of dealing with the divorce process. We have covered all the fundamentals and key questions you may have about the divorce process in our complete guide. Read on now or get in touch with our expert divorce solicitors by calling 0800 086 2929, emailing info@elitelawsolicitors.co.uk or completing our Free Online Enquiry Form to arrange an initial consultation to discuss your legal needs and requirements.

What are the grounds for divorce in the UK?

If you are considering applying for a divorce, UK law requires that you prove your marriage has broken down irretrievably. The court can only accept that your marriage had broken down if you can prove one of five specific grounds.

The five different grounds for divorce are often referred to as “facts” and are as follows:

Adultery

If your spouse has committed adultery, this is an acceptable ground for divorce. Adultery in this context refers to sexual intercourse with a party outside of the marriage. This specific grounds for divorce is only eligible if you do not live with your marriage partner for more than six months following the discovery of adultery.

Unreasonable behaviour

Unreasonable behaviour is one of the key grounds for divorce and refers to any behaviour that makes it unreasonable or impossible to live with a marriage partner. This could include domestic violence or verbal abuse, substance abuse or refusal to provide financial support for shared accommodation.

Desertion

Desertion is grounds for divorce if your marriage partner has left you for two years or longer. You may also be able to claim desertion if you have lived with that person for up to a total of six months throughout the two years.

Mutual separation over two years

A divorce can be applied for if you and your spouse have been living separately and apart for at least two years and both of you consent to the divorce. Even if you still live under the same roof as your marriage partner, if you have been living separately under the same roof you may still be able to use this ground.

Sole separation after five years

If your marriage partner refuses to consent to divorce after two years separation you can choose to apply for a divorce without his or her consent after five years separation.

What is the divorce process in the UK?

If you are considering through a divorce, it is highly recommended that you instruct an appropriately experienced divorce solicitor at the outset.

Experienced divorce solicitors can advise on and assist with all aspects of the divorce or separation process. From cases where children are involved to matters relating to the complicated division of assets, seeking advice from experienced divorce solicitors can help you reach the best possible outcome for you.

If you are the individual applying for the divorce, once you have instructed divorce solicitors, you will need to pay a £550 fee for the application. In certain circumstances the court fee may be waived if if you are claiming benefits or within a low-income household. You must have been married longer than one year to apply for divorce in both England and Wales.

Once you have covered the cost of the application, your divorce solicitors will then complete the D8 application to complete the application process. Once your application has been issued, you will be provided with a case number, and the other married partner will be sent a copy of the application to provide their response.

The process from this point depends on the specific circumstances of your divorce. If your spouse agrees to the divorce, your divorce solicitors can then apply for a decree nisi. If your marriage partner does not provide an “answer to divorce” at all within 28 days, your solicitors will be able to continue with your decree nisi application. We have provided further information on both decree nisi and decree absolute below.

Will I have to go to court for a divorce?

In many cases, divorce is a mutual agreement. If both parties confirm they would like to end the marriage, documentation is filed with the court. But, other than this legal process, there is no requirement to attend court yourself.

There are a range of reasons why attending court may be required for divorce. Although very rare these days, if the spouse being divorced objects, he or she may choose to defend the divorce. In such a circumstance, both individuals involved should seek to instruct experienced divorce solicitors to represent them at court.

Disputes relating to the costs of divorce may also necessitate attendance at court. Child arrangements and financial aspects of a divorce may also go through court, but this is a separate process from the divorce itself.

What is a decree nisi?

The decree nisi takes the form of a certificate sent from the court, confirming the court does not see any reason why divorce cannot continue. This certificate is the first legal confirmation towards the finalisation of your divorce, and your certificate will list a specific time and date at which the decree nisi is granted.

Following receipt of your decree nisi, you are still considered legally married. You will then need to wait six weeks and one day (a total of 43 days) following the date and time on your certificate to apply for your decree absolute, completing the divorce process.

What is a decree absolute?

Following the 43 days after the decree nisi is granted, you can formally apply for the decree absolute, which is a legal document that ends your marriage to the other party.

Typically, it only takes 24 hours from application to completion on a weekday if you apply online, with a longer lead time via the post. If you are working with specialist divorce solicitors, your decree absolute will be sent directly to them.

If you have plans to attend court to handle legal matters surrounding finances and property division, you should apply to the court for those specific arrangements before completing your decree absolute application.

Should you fail to apply for a decree absolute, your spouse can complete their application an additional three months following the 43 days.

How long does a divorce take?

The length of time a divorce takes can be affected by many factors. Instructing experienced divorce solicitors who are familiar with the procedure will certainly expedite the process.

On average, a divorce where both parties agree and are prompt with their applications and legal requirements can take anywhere from four to six months. A divorce where the two spouses do not agree can have a longer timeline, in part due to the need to attend court to reach the ideal conclusion.

For divorces in which finances and property need to be divided or where child arrangements need to be handled, the length of time may be longer. This extended time is due to potential additional court attendance to resolve issues.

It is also worth noting that, as with all legal documentation that goes through the court, times may vary based on how busy the system currently is, the time of year, or even extenuating circumstances like the recent lockdowns.

How much does a divorce cost?

Much like the timeline of a divorce, the cost of a divorce can vary based on certain factors.

At a minimum, you will need to pay £550 for the initial divorce application. If you are unable to cover this cost due to low income or living on benefits, you may be able to seek help through the government website.

Cost of an uncontested divorce

Beyond the cost of issuing an application for divorce, you will also need to cover the fees of your divorce solicitors.

Uncontested divorces tend to be faster and simpler to resolve, so divorce solicitors will usually charge a fixed fee, agreed upfront, when handling a case in which both parties agree on the split.

As stated above, fixed fees can vary depending on certain factors. Some firms offer different rates depending on the experience and seniority of the solicitor assigned to your case.

Cost of a contested divorce

Contested or defended divorces are more difficult to resolve, and therefore the overall costs can potentially be much higher. There are many ways to resolve a defended divorce, and different methodologies will incur different costs.

If a brief period of mediation is enough for all parties to reach an agreement, the cost of the divorce can still be kept relatively low. If the couple are unable to reach a resolution and the case goes to court, then the costs incurred will be much higher.

Cost of a divorce if the matter goes to court

If mediation and other attempts at resolution are not successful, you may need to make a court application to resolve financial matters. The length, complexity, and the approach of each party’s divorce solicitors can all affect the overall cost of a divorce.

The majority of cases that go to court are resolved early on in the proceedings. If this is the case, then you will usually be able to keep the costs between the £5,000 and £10,000 mark.

If the case does not settle, there will be a final contested hearing at which the court will deliver their ruling. At each stage of the process you can expect to incur further fees which can, again, vary depending on the complexity of your case.

The financial aspects of your case will be resolved in a series of stages, beginning with the issuing of a Form A, which states your intent to proceed with a financial order. From there, the process will involve a First Appointment, a Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing (FDR), and if a settlement has still not been reached, a Final Hearing.

At each of these stages the costs of the divorce will increase exponentially. The costs include not just the fees being charged by your divorce solicitors, but payments made to third parties such as barristers, or expert witnesses (e.g to value property or pensions).

The average costs until the First Appointment are approximately £5,000 to £10,000. From First Appointment to FDR, costs are likely to double again with an additional £10,000 to £15,000. If the case reaches Final Hearing, costs are likely to be an additional £10,000 – £20,000.

These estimates don’t take into account additional work that may need to be carried out in cases of particular complexity or high value.

Divorce solicitors must keep the client informed of the cost of a divorce as you proceed through the process. At the outset, your divorce solicitor will provide an estimate of costs to you in written form, and they will have to notify you before any court hearings if they expect to exceed the costs set out in their initial estimate, and the reasons why.

For a more detailed insight, you can read our complete guide on the cost of a divorce in the UK.

Do I need to instruct divorce solicitors?

Having read the above, you may be wondering whether you are able to skip the divorce solicitors’ fees altogether and process your divorce without the input of any third parties.

It is in fact quite possible to save on the cost of a divorce by doing what is commonly termed a “DIY divorce”, where you and your partner go through the divorce process with little-to-no help from divorce solicitors.

If your divorce is amicable and your finances are very simple, a DIY divorce can be an option to keep the cost of a divorce as low as possible.

If you and your partner agree to the divorce, don’t have any property or children, and are able to discuss together how you will divide the assets you do share, then you might find that the DIY divorce is an appropriate option for you to help you save on the legal costs associated with the divorce process.

Even if your divorce is amicable, however, we would usually advise having at least one safety check with a solicitor specialising in divorce and family law before opting for a DIY divorce. You may not be aware of all your options at the time of divorce, or of the repercussions the choices you make during the divorce may have in the future.

Similarly, if you share assets such as property or pensions, have dependent children, or have been married for a long time, we would strongly advise each party to seek legal counsel and to resolve the divorce with legally binding paperwork setting out in writing the agreements made during the divorce process.

Opting not to seek legal assistance from appropriately experienced divorce solicitors may help you save on the costs of your divorce, but it does come with its own risks.

How much do your divorce solicitors charge?

At Elite Law Solicitors, assuming it proceeds on an uncontested basis, our fees for dealing with the divorce range from £750-£1000 plus VAT plus the £550.00 Court fee.

If an agreement is reached in relation to financial matters, these should be embodied in a consent order to confirm the terms agreed.

A consent order, which makes legally binding any agreement between you and your partner on how to divide assets and arrange maintenance payments, should cost between £500 and £2,000 plus VAT depending on length and complexity.

A relatively simple consent order implementing the terms agreed by the parties between themselves or at mediation usually costs between £500 and £1,000 plus VAT.

However, if mediation breaks down and / or the negotiations undertaken on your behalf become protracted, then these costs are likely to be in the region of £1,000 to £2,000 plus VAT.

The variation of cost is more pronounced with divorces in which both parties do not agree. This can lead to additional solicitor’s fees for court appearances. Handling property disputes and child custody and support agreements will also require extra legal help and support, and this will be reflected in the overall fees charged by our divorce solicitors.

What is the difference between divorce and separation?

The critical difference between a divorce and a separation is that a divorce completed with a decree absolute means the marriage is legally over.

Many factors of divorce and separation are similar, particularly if you have completed a legal separation. The similarities include the ability of the court to divide financial assets, the removal of your spouse as default will beneficiary and the option to live entirely separate lives.

However, some other vital differences apply if you are unsure whether to enter into legal separation or apply for divorce. Following the completion of your divorce and the receipt of your decree absolute, you are free to remarry.

The court can also split pensions during a divorce, something they cannot do as part of a legal separation.

Legal separations are the best fit for married partners who wish to retain the benefits of marriage. This kind of separation is also suitable for individuals who would like to separate when they have been married for less than a year.

You will have to cite a reason for legal separation based on the five grounds stated for divorce. But, unlike a divorce, you will not have to prove the legitimacy of those grounds.

How are assets divided in divorce?

You may think that the goal of dividing assets is always to split everything equally. But with many other factors in play, it is not as simplistic as dividing 50/50 for every kind of divorce. As such, the court will consider a range of factors when dividing matrimonial assets.

The English and Welsh courts follow the guidelines set out by Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 to determine the outcome of financial claims and division of assets.

This section begins by addressing the most important factor to be considered in a divorce case: whether the case involves dependent children. If it does, the Act states that the Court must make the needs and welfare of the children the first point of consideration.

Following this rule, section 25 of the Act sets out a number of matters that the Court may have regard to when exercising its powers in relation to division of assets. These include:

  1. Current and future financial needs
  2. The family’s standard of life before the breakdown of the marriage
  3. The age of each party and the duration of the marriage
  4. Any party’s physical or mental disability
  5. Contributions any party has made to the welfare of the family
  6. Benefits any party is likely to lose access to following the divorce
  7. The conduct of each party, if exceptionally bad

What orders can the court make?

As part of dividing assets fairly during divorce, the court has the power to make certain, specific orders. These include:

Lump sum payments

The court may choose to order one party to pay the other a single lump sum or multiple payments over time. Lump sums are often a way to cover the cost of one party taking property ownership or to remove the need for ongoing spousal maintenance payments.

Transfer or sale of property

The court also has the power to order the transfer or sale of owned property, typically in the form of a family home. In the case of sales, the outcome of that sale can then be divided between the parties. Transferring property may mean changing the ownership from one individual to another or entirely removing ownership from one party.

Both spousal and child maintenance

The court may order spousal maintenance in specific cases, whether that support is ongoing, fixed or until re-marriage. Alongside spousal maintenance, courts have limited powers over the approval of child maintenance. For further disputes, an application directly to the Child Support Agency is required.

Pensions

As of 2000, the court is empowered to order pensions to be divided if necessary. An example of this would be if one partner had a pension, which can then be divided into two separate funds to support both individuals following divorce.

How is a pension split in divorce?

In longer marriages the question of what happens to each partner’s pension becomes a significant consideration. Pension arrangements are usually dealt with by the Court in one of three ways:

Pension sharing

One party is given a percentage share of their former spouse’s pension pot, which is transferred as a lump sum.

Pension offsetting

One party retains their pension, but in exchange gives up their claim on another asset, such as the family home.

Pension attachment

In this arrangement, a portion of the pension is paid regularly to the other party, similar to a maintenance payment.

These options only relate to private pensions: government guidelines state that the basic state pension cannot be shared if a marriage or civil partnership ends.

How is property divided following divorce?

There is no straightforward formula for determining what happens to a shared property after divorce.

The starting point in terms of entitlement is equality, but the judge will consider all of the factors outlined above, any one of which may result in the actual division being something other than equality.

The most important factor is usually each parties’ housing need and their ability to meet it. The economically weaker party may need a greater share of the assets to meet his or her needs, especially if he or she has additionally to house children.

It is important to note that like other aspects of the financial settlement, once the court is involved they can exercise their power to block or force the sale of a property or decide on the distribution of proceeds from a sale.

In cases where a property is held in only one party’s name, for example, the court can help to protect the other party from losing out if they feel it necessary, although in cases where someone doesn’t have their name on a property’s mortgage, it is always best for them to try to protect their position as soon as possible themselves by notifying the Land Registry of their interest.

How is a financial agreement recorded in divorce matters?

Any financial agreements you make as a part of your divorce should be recorded as a binding financial order. Whether these agreements go into court or are agreed amicably, experienced divorce solicitors will be able to correctly record and file all necessary documentation for you and ensure that the process is carried out in a smooth, efficient and stress-free manner.

Should I attend mediation for divorce?

Mediation has many benefits and can be a very useful tool to help keep the cost of a divorce down.  During mediation, you and your partner will meet with an independent, trained mediator who can help you constructively discuss and resolve disagreements such as financial issues and childcare arrangements.

Attendance at a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) is mandatory before you can progress your divorce to the court, but it should not be seen just as a hoop to jump through. The mediator will explain in the course of the MIAM how mediation works and will consider whether it is suitable in your particular case.

If both parties involved in the divorce can enter into mediation with a genuine desire to communicate and a commitment to the process, mediation can prove a much less financially and emotionally taxing method of resolving divorce disputes.

During mediation, the mediator will remain independent and impartial. Their role in the process is not to advise on what decisions either party should make, but simply to facilitate conversation between the two parties. At the end of the process, they will help you draft a Memorandum of Understanding, which can then be passed onto a solicitor to be turned into a legally binding Consent Order.

As well as being specialist divorce lawyers, our family law team at Elite Law Solicitors can also assist you with mediation. If you are considering mediation get in touch with us today by calling 0800 086 2929, emailing info@elitelawsolicitors.co.uk or by completing our Free Online Enquiry Form.

What is collaborative law?

Collaborative law offers an alternative approach to taking disputes to court. This approach involves each party appointing a trained collaborative lawyer to represent them.

The couple and their respective lawyers will then attend a series of four-way meetings, sometimes with a family consultant present as well, to discuss and attempt to settle any outstanding issues, from finances and logistics to arrangements for children. Provided a couple is willing to work together constructively, the benefits of collaborative law are numerous.

While the exact number of meetings a dispute will take to resolve varies, on average the process can be completed within a couple of months. With the quicker resolution comes a lower financial cost, too. Perhaps just as importantly, the collaborative approach hands more control to those involved.

Instead of a Judge making a final decision, in collaborative law the ultimate resolution to any dispute is arrived at through a process of constructive conversation, meaning that the end result is likely to be much more acceptable to all parties.

It is important to note that, while similar, collaborative law is not the same as mediation. In mediation, a disputing couple will attend meetings with a single, independent mediator. The couples’ individual divorce solicitors do not attend the mediation but can be referred to if a particular issue arises in the mediation process upon which either party needs legal advice.  Like mediation however, collaborative law can prove a much less financially and emotionally taxing method of resolving divorce disputes.

Can I change my name after divorce?

Many individuals choose to change their name after divorce. If you choose a new name entirely, you will need to apply for a Deed Change of Name. More commonly known as a Deed Poll, this legal document proves that you have changed your name.

If you return to a maiden name, it may be possible to revert your ID and information with copies of your birth certificate, marriage certificate and decree absolute. However, a Deed Poll is the best method to ensure your new name is accepted everywhere.

Do divorce solicitors offer Legal Aid funding?

If you cannot afford to cover the costs of divorce, you may be able to apply for Legal Aid directly through the government website.

Legal Aid can be used to cover the costs of mediation, or you may be eligible if you are at risk of homelessness or if you have experienced domestic abuse from your marriage partner in the past five years.

Our divorce solicitors at Elite Law Solicitors do not offer legal aid services.

Can I defend a divorce petition?

If your marriage partner has applied for divorce, you have the legal right to defend the petition. In essence, this means that you do not accept the grounds for divorce, or you do not believe the marriage is irretrievably broken.

Once you have returned your Acknowledgement of Service form confirming your intention to defend, a short hearing will then be placed before a Judge for a final decision to be made.

We married abroad – can I get a divorce in the UK?

If both yourself and your spouse reside in the UK as your main home, you will be able to get a divorce. Similarly, if you live in the UK and your marriage partner does not, you can get divorced in the UK as your country of residence. If you are currently a UK resident, but you chose to get married to your partner legally abroad, the same rules apply.

For a divorce to be recognised, the marriage itself must also be recognised as legal and official. An original marriage certificate will be required for your divorce application, including a translation if the certificate is in another language. Seeking legal advice on international marriages from experienced divorce solicitors is always a good idea to ensure the best possible outcome.

Is an Islamic Nikah a legal marriage in the UK?

For a marriage to be legally valid, it must be held in a registered building. Any Nikah in an unregistered building that does not include an additional civil ceremony is not recognised as a legal marriage.

If you are unsure of your legal position and you were married through a Nikah ceremony, our experienced divorce solicitors will be able to assist.

Get in touch with our expert divorce solicitors

If you are going through a divorce or separation call 0800 086 2929, email info@elitelawsolicitors.co.uk or complete our Free Online Enquiry Form to arrange an initial consultation and let one of our experienced divorce solicitors explain your legal rights and options.

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    Christopher Dolton

    Solicitor and Accredited Mediator
    Family Law and Divorce

    “I would like to say a thank you to you, and also your team, for guiding me through this process and alleviating me of the stress of the situation. It has been greatly appreciated and I will recommend you to any one in need of similar services.”

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