Separation & Divorce | Hodge Jones & Allen
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Family Law

Separation & Divorce

Jacqueline Major
Partner
Bharti Shah
Partner
Vanessa Friend
Partner
Sarah Harding
Partner

Making the decision to divorce or separate can be very difficult, especially when children, property and other assets are involved. It’s equally hard for the person who receives the divorce petition.

Our team of leading divorce lawyers are known for their compassionate and efficient nature when dealing with relationship breakdown and divorce. We’ll work closely with you to make sure the process is easy and clear, whilst putting you in the best possible position.

Getting advice at the earliest stage can be hugely beneficial. Having a conversation with our specialist divorce lawyers will help you understand your rights, where you stand and what you need to do.

How can our divorce lawyers help you

  • We specialise in assisting with complex financial arrangements.
  • Our Family Law solicitors are committed to constructive and conciliatory solutions where possible. But when court proceedings are necessary, we’re tenacious and robust in our approach.
  • We provide excellent value for money. We’ll advise you on the best and most effective strategy to take and will never approach a case from a litigation perspective.
  • We’re fully transparent about the cost of our work – we’ll always provide estimates of what your matter will cost. 
  • We’ll explain the process clearly and keep you informed about what is happening at each stage.
  • Our Family Law team will always put you at the forefront of every matter – we always endeavour to respond quickly and are here for you whenever you need us.

"Jacqueline Major held my hand throughout my very acrimonious divorce and emotional divorce. She was straight talking, calm, informative and pragmatic...She made me brave, I would definitely recommend her."

What’s the difference between divorce and separation?

Divorce

  • The process where on completion there’s a dissolution of a marriage
  • You need to have been married for more than 1 year to be eligible to divorce

Separation

  • Allows you to live apart, without officially divorcing
  • Doesn’t require you to show that a marriage has broken down irretrievably
  • Is an option for those who are against divorce on religious grounds, have been married less than a year, or haven’t decided to divorce just yet

Our specialist divorce solicitors will help you to draw up a Separation Agreement which covers how your family assets, debts and bills will be split, ongoing maintenance payments, childcare arrangements and where both parties will live.

Everyone’s circumstances are unique but if you are thinking about divorce or separation, it is best to ensure that you are fully informed of your options and the issues you’ll have to consider throughout the process. Early advice is always recommended as this can put you in a more favourable position. We’ll go through the process with you and explain what will happen and when. We provide advice which is clear, understandable and effective and we’ll always make sure that your requirements are met.

What are the grounds for divorce?

When applying for a divorce you must prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. To show this you must set out the details of one of the five grounds for divorce:

  1. Adultery – the legal definition of adultery is voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and another person who is not their married spouse
  2. Unreasonable behaviour – your partner’s behaviour has been so unreasonable that it has caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage
  3. Two years separation with consent (both parties must agree to divorce)
  4. Five years separation without consent
  5. Desertion – takes place when one partner leaves/abandons the other without consent for a continuous period of two years
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What should I do if I am thinking about divorce?

Legal advice

It’s important that you’re comfortable with your solicitor, that you feel they understand your legal needs and the emotional aspects of your situation equally. You need a solicitor who will be available to answer your questions and be with you throughout the journey. Your solicitor will then be able to advise you on the best strategy and approach to take.

The divorce petition

The divorce proceedings begin by delivering a divorce petition to court where it can be issued. To support your claim, in your petition, you must prove that your marriage has irretrievably broken down by stating details of one of the five reasons for divorce.

The petition must then be served on the respondent with an Acknowledgement of Service form. In order for the divorce to continue without delay the Acknowledgement of Service must be signed by the respondent confirming that he or she does not intend to defend the divorce. The form must then be returned to court within 7 days. A copy of the completed Acknowledgment of Service will then be sent to the petitioner’s solicitors by the court.

Judicial separation & annulment

If you’ve been married for less than a year (or in certain situations longer) it’s possible to commence judicial separation or annulment proceedings. You should bear in mind that judicial separation proceedings will not terminate the marriage and you wouldn’t be free to re-marry. It’s possible to enter a Deed of Separation instead of a divorce, to formally record that you are separated, and to also record any financial agreement.

Decree Nisi

The application for Decree Nisi is prepared by the petitioner’s solicitors. The application is delivered to the court with a statement in support signed by the petitioner to confirm that the contents of the petition are true. The documents are put before a District Judge who will decide whether the petition is proved.

If the District Judge is satisfied that the petition is proved he or she will sign a certificate stating the date on which the Decree Nisi will be pronounced. Once pronounced, the court will send a copy of the Decree Nisi to the petitioner’s solicitors and the respondent. As the Decree Nisi is the first stage of the divorce, you’ll remain married until the divorce has been finalised. More on Decree Nisi here.

Applying for Decree Absolute

Six weeks after the Decree Nisi is pronounced the petitioner can apply for Decree Absolute. This is the final stage of the divorce and once it is granted by the court your divorce is finalised. The respondent can apply for the Decree Absolute three months after the date on which the petitioner can apply for the Decree Absolute. If the application is made by the respondent it is not automatically granted by the court, so the petitioner can oppose it if necessary.

Talk to your partner

The first stage of a relationship breakdown is communication. If possible, you should talk it through with your partner. This is especially important when children are involved.

What are my funding options?

Usually our leading divorce solicitors work on an agreed hourly rate, which varies depending on their seniority. Once we’ve taken the time to get to know your individual circumstances, your solicitor will be able to provide you with an estimate of costs.  

Our family divorce lawyers offer first class service, but also provide excellent value for money. We offer an initial consultation with an experienced divorce lawyer at a fixed fee rate of £300 plus VAT. During this meeting, your lawyer will explain divorce proceedings to you and based on your individual circumstances advise you on the most appropriate course of action. During this meeting you’ll have the opportunity to ask all of your key questions.

In simple divorce cases where everything has been agreed between both parties in advance you may be able to opt for a fixed fee divorce service which is £999 plus VAT, disbursements and court fee of £550 for a petitioner (to start a divorce), and a respondent service fee of £540 plus VAT.

"I am and always will be very grateful to you for your diligent, caring way you dealt with this case and your kindness in doing so as quickly and cost effectively as possible."

Why choose Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors?

Our leading London divorce lawyers are well-renowned specialists who provide expert family advice in all areas of Family Law.

Whether you’re seeking a divorce or legal separation, our experienced team of divorce solicitors will be able to guide you through the process and advise you on the most appropriate way forward in order to achieve the desired outcome.

There are many matters to be resolved during a divorce including property, maintenance, pension provision, support for children, school fees etc. We offer a range of services to assist couples with reaching agreement including solicitor-led negotiation, mediation, collaborative law, and court proceedings if necessary. Our Family Law team are highly experienced in financial and property disputes involving both married and unmarried couples. We have experience acting in numerous complex and high-profile cases, enabling us to offer the highest quality of service.

"Exceptionally knowledgeable and thoroughly hard working’, ‘very committed to their clients’, and are known for their ‘very high level of client service.'" - The Legal 500 UK Directory

Frequently asked questions

What is the divorce process?

Your divorce process will start with a fixed fee meeting to give you all the information about what you need to do, how long the process takes, and what is the cost.

You must then file an application at the court, called a petition. The person filing the petition is the petitioner and the person who receives the petition is the respondent. The benefit of being the petitioner is that you have greater control over the divorce timetable. You may also be able to obtain a costs order against the respondent if you are seeking a divorce based on adultery or unreasonable behaviour.

The application for Decree Nisi is then prepared by the petitioner’s solicitors.

Six weeks after Decree Nisi is pronounced the petitioner can apply for Decree Absolute. This is the final stage of the divorce and once it is granted your divorce is finalised.

My partner and I are getting divorced but we have already agreed that the children should live with me, although they will see the other parent on a regular basis. Do we still need to get this formally approved by the court?

No you don’t need to. The courts will only get involved if you can’t agree on these issues, or if the child’s welfare is a matter of serious concern.

My ex-partner and I are arguing about the level of contact with our children. How can we sort this out?

We recommend that you seek advice from experienced family lawyers who can talk you through the options for resolving the dispute, which can be solicitor-led negotiation, mediation or if all else fails, an application to the court. Most cases don’t have to end up in court and can be resolved by agreement – sometimes it takes legal guidance for people to know their rights and options.

How will our family assets and income be divided if we separate?

There are several ways you can sort out what happens to capital and income during a divorce. Capital includes property, pensions, investments and savings and income may be divided to pay maintenance for you or your children

It’s always best to try to reach an agreement outside of the court and there are various ways this can be done, for example through solicitor negotiation, collaboration, mediation or round-table meetings. The simplest way of resolving a case is for you both to provide voluntary financial disclosure of all your assets, liabilities and income. You can then begin negotiations to reach a fair settlement with the support of your solicitors.  

If you come to an agreement, then this should be recorded in a consent order and filed at court.

In some cases, the court sets out a timetable that must be followed. Most cases settle within this timetable. If the case does not settle it will progress to a final hearing where the court will decide how the assets are to be divided.

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"My experience with HJA was very professional at all times. They were helpful and very honest."

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