Some Common Myths Around Divorce (Part 1)

Spouses have been able to obtain a divorce for centuries. It is fair to say that the procedure 150 years ago was significantly different to how it is today, but even now our current divorce laws do stem from a piece of legislation that received royal assent in the early 1970s. When one considers in addition the fact that roughly 42% of all marriages end in divorce, it is not surprising that there are a number of myths that have somehow appeared relating to divorces. In two separate posts I want to mention a few, in no particular order:-

It is possible to obtain a “quickie divorce” that takes 2 minutes of Court time

We have all read the tabloid newspapers about some celebrity divorce that is said to go through in about 2 minutes in a Court usually somewhere in London at which neither party bothered to attend. However what many people do not realise is that this hearing is usually a hearing where a decree nisi of a divorce is pronounced. This is where a judge certifies that the marriage can legally end. It takes place in open court (just as the original marriage ceremony will have taken place in public) but this is really just one stage (albeit a very important one) of a much longer process.

What the newspapers fail to say is that the actual divorce will take many months to complete from start to finish, and generally 9 months is average for most divorces nowadays. Delays at the courts in processing the applications, protracted financial negotiations and settlements will all add to this time estimate.

New relationships after separation

Frequently when a married couple separate they will meet new partners. The emotional security of being in a relationship can be very important to some people and there is nothing illegal about starting out afresh. However what people often forget is that being in a new relationship can still be used as grounds in a divorce, including the ground of adultery. Adultery is where someone engages in sexual intercourse with a person of the opposite sex whilst they are still legally married to someone else. It is not the same as an affair since it can (and often is) relied upon even after a couple have actually separated.

The children automatically stay with their mother

As most people who have children will say, there is no “one size fits all” solution when it comes to bringing children up. All are unique and have their own individual needs. The family court when granting a divorce does not make a stand alone decision about what happens with the children (although it did used to require a statement of what the arrangements were to be).

Generally most parents are able to reach an agreement about what happens with their children including where they live, however if a separate application had to be made then the Court will make a decision about what best meets the children’s welfare. This might include the children living with their mother, or their father, or (as is becoming more common) both parents.

Divorce ends all financial obligations

A decree absolute of divorce ends the legal relationship between spouses, freeing them up to marry again if they wish. It also ends any entitlement to widow/widowers benefits under pensions, however it does not automatically extinguish someone’s right to apply to the Court for financial provision (ie dividing up the assets). Sometimes people apply for financial relief many years after a divorce, although there can be some notable exceptions to this and legal advice is crucial particularly if you are contemplating marrying again before resolving financial matters from your previous marriage.

The Supreme Court has held that there is no time limit to bringing a financial remedy application, but it is fair to say that circumstances and needs do change over time so what you may be entitled to immediately after separation could be drastically different several years later.