During the pandemic relationships have, understandably, been placed under considerable strain, with a significant number of people seeking advice on the possibility of divorce.
Lockdowns have forced many couples to spend vast amounts of time together, and as a result I’ve seen a rise in people who are looking for some breathing space within their relationships, seeking advice on alternative options to divorce.
Here, Diane Matthews, who is a family law specialist, explores what options are available to those considering divorce.
If you’re not fully set on divorce, exploring alternative routes is wise to ensure you’re fully committed to the termination of the marriage before making such a permanent decision.
Exploring all options will give you space and time to think about divorce. It’s vital not to rush these decisions as it can lead to regret, as seen in the case of Louise Redknapp, who publicly admitted she wishes she had not rushed into divorce proceedings with former husband Jamie. Only terminate the marriage once you are certain it is over.
Under English law there are several alternatives to divorce, including separation, separation agreements, post-nuptial agreements and judicial separation.
Turning, firstly, to separation and separation agreements. It is entirely possible to separate from your spouse without involving the courts at all. If you have simply decided that you want to live separate lives, you may make a separation agreement dealing with the division of the marital assets.
While, as part of the preparation of the agreement, the parties should enter into financial disclosure, they may not be quite as rigorously dealt with as it would be within formal financial remedy proceedings within divorce.
It may be easier for a spouse to hide their true financial wealth when separating as opposed to divorcing, and there may be issues in enforcing the separation agreement if your spouse does not comply with it willingly.
Another point to consider is that if you do separate without a divorce, you will not be able to re-marry. There are also important considerations involving issues such as inheritance.
Spouses are able to agree a division of their assets without getting divorced via a post-nuptial agreement. This may take effect immediately, with the financially weaker spouse receiving transfers from the wealthier, while at other times it will only take effect if the parties divorce.
A document such as a post-nuptial agreement will give both spouses clarity about their respective positions and what might happen were they to divorce. These are often used by people who are considering divorce but would prefer to work on their relationship while having an understanding of what their financial positions are.
It must be borne in mind that, for a post-nuptial agreement to be effective, it must be negotiated fairly and with a full understanding of the respective parties circumstances. To be sure that the agreement is fair, you must understand the extent of your spouse’s assets and the effect that the agreement will have.
Judicial separation is an alternative to divorce which involves the court. This option is extremely rare, and it is normally used when the parties have objections to getting divorced, for example, due to religious beliefs.
Under the concept of judicial separation, the court will remove the obligations between marriage partners, but they will remain married. While this means that neither party can re-marry, the court is able to make the full range of financial orders just as it can within divorce.
Diane Matthews is a legal executive based at WHN’s Blackburn office, specialising in in divorce and separation, including the associated financial consequences. To contact Diane, call her on 01254 272640 or email firstname.lastname@example.org