The End of a Relationship

Divorce and Family Law

It is rare that both parties will come to the conclusion that their relationship has come to an end at the same time. The decision will usually have been taken by one partner some time ago and may well come as a shock to the other. By the time that the announcement is made it is usually too late to salvage the relationship although if it has been discussed before it is possible to consider counselling.

The commonly accepted pattern of emotional progress is grief, shock, denial, anger, hatred and then acceptance. There are counsellors available to help you through these stages. How long it takes to move from one stage to another is different for each person. There can be three elements which need to be dealt with: The termination of the relationship itself, children and finances.

Whilst the criteria upon which all matters are dealt with are the same there are various processes, some of which are less confrontational then others. These are:- Agreement, Mediation, Collaborative Law; Divorce with Dignity, Court proceedings.

When parties who are married wish to separate there are a number of levels of separation. There is no such thing as a ‘legal separation’ you either live together or take one of the following courses of action.


Where both parties agree on what they are going to do and separate without making any formal arrangements.This might suit some people where, for instance, there is no pressure to get divorced and where neither party have plans to remarry. Pensions and joint assets will devolve as if the parties were still living together unless alternative arrangements are made. The drawback is that circumstances can change. Both parties will have developed new lives with new assets and liabilities. A court will deal with it on the basis of the assets which exist at the time when it comes before the court. It is very difficult for a Judge to look at the position several years on. The outcome can be extremely variable and definitely uncertain.

Deed of Separation

Where the parties are agreed on all aspects of their arrangements including children and finances these can all be embodied in an agreement which is in the form of a Deed. Whilst the court always reserves to itself the power to look at an agreement on a divorce, provided the agreement is reached on the basis of full disclosure of assets and liabilities and where both parties have had the benefit of legal advice, a court will be reluctant to become involved. A Deed of Separation is particularly useful where, for instance, parties have agreed to separate but do not have immediate plans to divorce.

Judicial Separation

This is an application to the court in virtually the same form of a divorce. The grounds for applying are the same as for a divorce. You do remain married however. It was intended particularly for members of the Roman Catholic Church who needed to use the powers of the court to deal with either for instance domestic violence or financial matters but could not contemplate a divorce because of their religious beliefs.

The benefit is that it can be brought within 12 months of marriage.The drawback is that if you are subsequently going to become divorced you have to go through the whole process again.There are certain orders such as pension sharing which cannot be made upon Judicial Separation.


There is only one ground for divorce. That is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. It is necessary to prove that it has broken down irretrievably by showing one of the following grounds:

  • That the other party has committed adultery
  • That the other party has behaved unreasonably
  • That the other party has deserted you for a period of two years
  • That you have lived separate and apart for a period of two years and the other party consents
  • That you have lived separate and apart for five years. No consent is needed.

Once a Petition has been issued all financial matters remain at large and can only be brought to an end by an order lodged with the court either by agreement or after a hearing.


7 things you need to know about Divorce:

1. Divorce law is based upon the Divorce Reform Act 1969 which was implemented in 1971 and re-enacted in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.  This was a great step forward particularly for women.  Despite that, it is still essentially based on fault.  There is only one ground for divorce namely the marriage has irretrievably broken down.    

2. Getting divorced is easy – or it should be.  It is the financial and children issues that follow which are the problem.  If you DIY it or go on a cheap internet site you receive no advice as to where the divorce procedure fits in with the other issues.  You may inadvertently debar yourself from making any claims.  Most solicitors can advise you on the emotional impact of divorce.  It is more than just procedure.    

3. The number of over 60’s in England and Wales who are getting divorced is rising.  In 1991 there was 1.6 divorces per 1,000 married men over 60, by 2011, this grew to 2.3 per 1,000.  Overall divorce rates fell from 13.6 per 1,000 to 10.8 per 1,000 over the same period.       

4. There is no such thing as a common law wife.  In 1753 Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act required there to be a formal ceremony of marriage.  It came into force in 1754 and has been amended variously since, the last time being in 1949.  There have been various Royal Commissions and proposals put forward to change the situation but there is no immediate prospect of that being changed.   

5. There is no legal aid available for divorce itself.  The court fee of £410 is payable upon issuing of the petition.  You may be entitled to a reduction in whole or in part if you are on benefits or a low income.    

6. For certain of the facts relied upon for divorce, you may be able to make a claim for costs but usually the costs position is agreed either before or on issue of a petition.  Defended divorces are rare save in very exceptional circumstances.  The identity of the petitioner and respondent and the grounds for divorce are irrelevant.  It is simply a method of bringing the marriage to an end and commencing either children or financial proceedings.    

7. As already stated getting divorced is easy.  You need to consider the financial implications and you may wish to consider the position with regard to any children.     

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