Worthingtons Solicitors

New Year’s checklist? Divorce

With no surprise, January can be the busiest month of the year for new divorce enquiries. Christmas can be a difficult time of year for some families with many just ‘trying to make things work’ with their spouse over the festive period. Others have maybe separated during the year but taken some time to consider and think the New Year is the right time for them to start the divorce process. Regardless of whichever scenario, it is always beneficial to make contact with a matrimonial solicitor to receive advice on the process and the different options available that would suit each individual’s specific needs.

Divorce is the process through Northern Ireland Courts that legally separates two spouses in law, dissolving a marriage and permitting either party to re-marry should they so wish. The Divorce process like most Court applications, is paper based and can be lodged with either the County Court or High Court in Northern Ireland, depending on the monetary value of any martial assets.

Contrary to the very stringent rules in the mainland, there are five grounds for divorce in Northern Ireland, three of which are fault based: unreasonable behaviour, adultery and desertion. These are grounds where a party is actively alleging that the other party’s behaviour and/or actions caused the breakdown of the marriage and can be exhibited with examples labelled as ‘Particulars’. The remaining two grounds can arguably be the most amicable way forward, being time based grounds with either party proceeding on the basis that the parties have lived apart and separate for a period of two years (with the other party providing consent) or five years.

As a comparison, the current law in England surrounding divorce is in fact very limited but has been set to change from April 2022 onwards to permit a new ‘no fault’ basis for divorce, making divorce a more amicable process by introducing such time based grounds more akin to procedure in Northern Ireland.

Moreover, many people only know the buzzword ‘Divorce’ and alleged horror stories that follow this but there is in fact, more priority placed on the negotiation and settlement of marital assets in the first instance after a couple separates.

The Divorce process does not sever your financial tie with your spouse and in such instances many solicitors would propose that the parties engage in a Matrimonial Agreement, where financial proofs are exchanged and negotiations engaged to divide any assets of the marriage or alternatively Ancillary Relief proceedings before the High Court Master in Northern Ireland who rules on how such assets should be separated in the absence of agreement, either of which will afford the couple security and closure in the separation of their financial ties.

After any such finances of the marriage are then resolved, the Decree Absolute may then be extracted from the Court in which the Divorce was lodged, which then marks the dissolution of the marriage, allows either party to legally re-marry and severs both your legal and financial tie to your spouse.

Given the global pandemic and the continued difficulties in the rise of covid-19 infection rates, Court offices remain as closed buildings to the public with the majority of legal proceedings taking place via Sightlink or remotely in solicitor’s offices.

However, should you have any concerns, queries or seek any advices on the Divorce procedure or the options available to you, please do not hesitate to contact our matrimonial team at [email protected] or via phone on 028 9181 1538.

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