BPE Solicitors look at how to avoid certain pitfalls when dealing with a divorce

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Rebecca Pike, a Partner in BPE’s Family team, discusses the impact the Divorce Law Reform has had on the whole divorce process, and the common pitfalls that must be considered when ending a marriage or a civil partnership.

 The divorce process in this country has undergone several changes recently. The most significant being the Divorce Law Referendum which has reduced the need for divorcing couples to apportion blame in order to move the process forward.

We are also now nearly two months in to the new ‘no fault’ process and the HM Courts and Tribunals Service has reported an increase of almost 50% in divorce applications. In fact, in the first week in April around 3,000 divorce requests were submitted.

While this jump is substantial, it is likely people will have been waiting for the no fault process to come into place before submitting their divorce request, and the rates will reduce through the rest of the year.

Over recent years, what was previously a paper heavy process has now moved online. It is now possible for parties themselves, or their legal representatives, to deal with the divorce process through the Government portal, meaning a more streamlined, accessible, and prompt process. Again, making the divorce process easier and less contentious for both parties involved.

However, a point which is often missed is that the divorce process itself (from application to the final stage which dissolves the marriage), is a small part of the process and is actually the less time-consuming element.

In the majority of cases, more time, energy, and cost is spent trying to resolve the arrangements for the children, or a division of the financial assets upon a couple separating. And it’s in these negotiations that relationships can become further strained and need to be dealt with, with more compassion and understanding.

There are however some pitfalls which can catch people out when dealing with the divorce, a few of which I set out below.

‘Assuming that concluding a divorce prevents the other party from pursuing a financial settlement’

A common misconception is that dissolving the marriage will also ensure that the other party cannot seek a financial settlement. A divorce process itself does not close the financial claims couples have against each other, and it is important to ensure that the financial claims are also appropriately dealt with. The safest way to do so is by having a Court order confirming the division of the assets so there is certainty for all involved and to remove the possibility of pursuing financial settlements further down the road.

‘The remarriage trap’

It is possible to remarry once the divorce process itself has been concluded without having entered into a financial settlement. However, in certain circumstances, remarriage can prevent someone from being able to pursue a financial settlement from their previous marriage. It is important therefore that this is thought about carefully, and specialist advice obtained as appropriate, before a party remarries.

‘Applying for the final stage of the divorce too early’

If the divorce is concluded before a financial settlement is reached and contained within a Court Order, this can cause difficulties in circumstances where one of the parties passes away. This is particularly relevant in relation to pensions and can potentially financially disadvantage the other party. It is again important therefore for advice to be sought regarding the appropriate time to apply for the final stage of the divorce.

The divorce process can be daunting so it’s important that you choose a lawyer who you trust to act in your best interest and to support you through an emotionally and mentally challenging time in your life.

If you are considering embarking on a divorce process, or believe that you may be at risk of falling at one of the pitfalls mentioned above, please do not hesitate to contact Rebecca Pike at rebecca.pike@bpe.co.uk or call 01242 248289 or contact another member of BPE’s Family team

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‘No fault divorce’ is now a reality advises BPE Solicitors

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