Divorce & Separation

Going through separation or divorce can be incredibly painful and the consequences far-reaching – particularly when there are children involved.

At Silk Family Law we appreciate the difficult situations that can arise when a relationship breaks down, and our experienced team will work with you to identify early on what the main issues are likely to be in your particular case - and how they may be resolved.

Our team is compassionate, whilst understanding the financial realities of life, and will apply their extensive experience and knowledge to your personal situation to help you reach solutions that are right for you.

We talk you through the options available for divorce, including mediation, collaborative law, arbitration and the court. We do not automatically assume that a court-based approach is the best route if our discussions suggest that alternatives would help you reach more equitable and fair outcomes. However, sometimes there is no alternative to court, and we will be there to support and advise at every step.

It is important to have clear objectives at the outset. Our in-house barrister Ian Kennerley can provide an early appraisal with continuity of advice and representation, if required, throughout your case.

We work with clients across the UK. You can visit us at our offices in Newcastle, North Yorkshire or Leeds, or in our consulting rooms in York, Leeds and London. We offer consultations via Skype and Zoom too.

Divorce during COVID19

Despite the challenges of lockdown, many people still wish to look to the future and progress with a divorce. The Silk Family Law team has been working with clients throughout the pandemic. We will continue to do so, providing a bespoke service for each client with advice that takes into account the current and changing situation.

View our current Covid19 policy & latest updates

What are the grounds for divorce?

There is one ground for divorce in England and Wales: the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. This must be proved by establishing one of the following five facts:

  1. Adultery – Your spouse has committed adultery with a person of the opposite sex (provided that you have not lived together as a couple for more than six months after finding out about the adultery).
  2. Behaviour – Your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with them. It is good practice to seek to agree in advance any examples of behaviour that are referred to in the petition. This is the most relied-upon fact, as it allows a divorce petition to be issued at any point following separation allowing what is often called a “quickie divorce”.
  3. Two years’ separation – You and your spouse have been separated for at least two years and your spouse consents to the divorce.
  4. Five years’ separation – You and your spouse have been separated for at least five years (this fact does not require the consent of both parties).
  5. Desertion – Your spouse has left you without your consent for at least two years before you apply for divorce. This ground is rarely used.

 Note that it is only possible to get divorced if you have been married for over one year.

In the vast majority of cases, the fact relied upon in the divorce proceedings does not affect your entitlement to a fair share of the matrimonial assets or what child arrangements might be in the best interests of your children.

You may have seen media reporting of so-called “no fault” divorce reform to remove the fault-based system. This reform will introduce a new, notification-based system, with a six-month timeframe to allow for a period of reflection before any final decree of divorce is made. The draft legislation has been approved by Parliament and the Queen, and it is expected to formally come into force in Autumn 2021.

Like most family lawyers, Silk Family Law welcomes the new “no fault” divorce law changes.

How do I choose a solicitor?

It is possible to divorce without a solicitor. But do bear in mind that the decisions made during the divorce process (particularly in relation to financial issues) will impact you for the rest of your life. Proceeding without the advice of an expert is therefore risky.

We recommend instructing a specialist family solicitor who is a member of Resolution. Resolution is an organisation of family lawyers which promotes a constructive and amicable way of navigating the divorce process. All Resolution-accredited lawyers sign up to the Resolution Code of Practice, which ensures high standards of working practices. The code includes a commitment to acting with honest, integrity and objectivity as well as reducing conflict and putting the interests of children first.

Silk Family Law has compiled a list of ways in which you can make the most of your divorce lawyer, and ensure that you are using your family solicitor in the most cost-effective way.

Click here to read our guide on making the most of your divorce lawyer.

Here at Silk, all our practitioners are family law specialists and we are able to advise on all issues surrounding relationship breakdown.

What is involved in the divorce process?

The divorce process under the current fault-based regime is as follows:

  1. One party (called the Petitioner) issues a divorce petition based on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, evidenced by one of the five facts set out above. There is a court fee of £550 to issue a divorce petition.
  2. The court processes the divorce papers and the other party (called the Respondent) is served with them.
  3. The Respondent can either:
    • accept that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and acknowledge service of the divorce petition, indicating that the divorce can proceed undefended. Most petitions proceed in this way as, even if the Respondent does not agree with the specific points raised in the petition, they accept that the marriage has irretrievably broken down; or
    • take steps to defend the divorce, by stating that the Petitioner has not successfully made out the fact on which they seek to rely. For example, if the fact used in the petition was behaviour, the Respondent could say that the behaviour listed is not so serious that they cannot reasonably be expected to live with them.

Undefended route

  1. The court will process the Respondent’s Acknowledgment of Service.
  2. The Petitioner can then apply for Decree Nisi, the interim decree of divorce. (Note, it is only once the court has pronounced Decree Nisi that it can make any orders in respect of the financial matters between the parties).
  3. The court will process the application for Decree Nisi and determine whether the parties are entitled for a divorce. A date for the pronouncement of Decree Nisi will be listed.
  4. The court will pronounce Decree Nisi.
  5. Six weeks and one day following the pronouncement of Decree Nisi, the Petitioner can apply for the final decree of divorce, the Decree Absolute. The parties will not formally be divorced until the Decree Absolute is pronounced.

Defended route

  1. The court will list a hearing to determine whether the fact relied upon has been made out.
  2. Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute (same as the undefended route points 5-8 above).
  3. The process outlined above is largely paper-based and you should not need to attend a court hearing, unless the divorce is defended. Most divorces are undefended, as in most cases both parties have come to the conclusion that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
  4. It has recently become possible to issue divorce petitions online, using the government’s online portal. The process will still follow the steps outlined above, the only difference being that the forms can be filled out online, rather than on a paper-based application. The relevant application forms and a link to the online portal can be found on the UK government ‘Get a divorce’ pages here.
  5. The above process sets out the route to being formally divorced. However, it does not determine how the financial issues between spouses should be resolved, nor does it determine any issues relating to children. If you would like to learn more about the processes for resolving issues relating to finances or children, please visit these separate pages on our website:

How long does a divorce take?

A divorce usually takes between six and nine months in total, depending on how busy the court is. This covers the period from initiation through to pronouncement of the Decree Absolute, and does not include financial and children arrangements. 

How much does a divorce cost?

Full details on divorce costs can be found on our ‘Costs and funding’ pages:

Accessing expert family legal advice from the outset will help you make the right decisions about your divorce or family legal case. Silk Family Law offers a fixed fee initial appointment for anyone wishing to take that first step. 

Alternatives to divorce

You can choose to separate but not divorce, although it is not possible to reach a binding settlement in relation to your finances in the absence of divorce proceedings.

More information on options for alternative dispute resolution can be found on our Financial provision page.

Next steps

If you would like to discuss any issues arising from relationship breakdown including advice on getting a divorce, please don’t hesitate to contact us by calling your nearest office (Silk Family Law North East 0191 500 0777 or Silk Family Law Yorkshire 01748 900 888) or filling in the form on this page to request a call back.

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Ian Kennerley
Partner & Barrister-at-Law

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Margaret Simpson

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Kim Fellowes

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Wayne Lynn

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Teresa Davidson

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Harriet Reid

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Matthew Miles

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Nia Jameson

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Katie Machin

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Carly Hope

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Eleanor Lowes

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Emily Bell
Chartered Legal Executive

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Judith Pearson
Legal Assistant

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Julie Gallon
Legal Assistant

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Joanne Hackett
Office & Finance Manager

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Helen Robinson
Consultant Communications & Marketing Director

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Lucy Moore
Consultant HR Director

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