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Family Law - Dispelling The Myths

Marriage & Divorce

Hi, My name is Andrew and I’m a specialist Family Law Solicitor with Blacks in Leeds.

The nature of the work I deal with on a day-to- day basis means I am often working with people facing some of the most difficult times of their lives. The separation itself can be tough (whether married or not). However, matters can often be made even more stressful if there are other issues to address, these can include financial settlement or contact arrangements for children. 

My aim is to try and help explain some of the concerns often facing my clients and show that there are always other options and support available to you, no matter how difficult a situation you may be faced with.

Starting from the beginning – Marriage and Divorce  

First things first, are you married or not? Although this seems a straightforward question, the answer can at times be quite tricky. It often depends on where the marriage took place and whether there was a legitimate marriage ceremony. For a marriage to be considered legal, it must be a recognised marriage and registered in the country where it took place. For example, a ‘shot-gun’ wedding in Las Vegas will be considered legitimate in this country because it is recognised as being so in America. However, a religious blessing that took place in the UK may not be considered legitimate, even if it would have been in other countries and therefore a civil ceremony would also be required to ensure it was recognised by English law.

One common misunderstanding is that couples can have a ‘common law marriage’, usually referring to the fact they live and/ or have children together. This however is a myth and the law is very plain in that respect, you are either married or you’re not, there is no middle ground.  Whether you are married can have a huge impact on your position following separation, particularly from a financial perspective. Married couples have far greater rights than those unmarried and cases are even dealt with in sitting in different Courts (civil or family). I’ll leave these issues for a later post.

If you not married, legally there is no relationship ties that need to be undone to finish your relationship. If you are married, the situation is different, and a divorce is required.

In April this year, there was the biggest change to divorce laws in this country for almost 50 years. Whilst there remains only one ground for divorce, namely that you are required to make a declaration to the Court that your marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down’, you no longer have to justify why. This is a massive change from in the past where an explanation was required, such as adultery or behaviour.  Thankfully, this requirement no longer exists and the Court will now simply accept that as an adult, you have reached the decision your marriage has broken down.

There are other benefits to the new divorce laws too, including the removal of an application for costs and even the possibility to issue your divorce jointly. Although the divorce now takes longer (around 6 months subject to delays), these changes should help ensure you and your spouse can remain amicable and concentrate on the main issues facing your separation.

I hope you might find this useful to help understand the divorce process. I’ll be writing again soon to provide further information in respect of contact arrangements for children and financial settlement. If there are any other topics you would like me to address, please feel free to email me direct; afoulds@lawblacks.com