Sunrise Solicitors based in South Wimbledon, London are one of the leading divorce lawyers. Need legal advice and representations with getting a divorce in England & Wales? Contact our expert team of divorce lawyers in London for fast, friendly, reliable and fixed fee divorce advice and representations concerning your divorce or family law matter. Our specialist divorce lawyers can provide divorce advice and representations in a wide range of divorce matters including legal help and support with uncontested divorce, contested divorce, divorce financial settlement,  dissolution of civil partnership, civil partnership dissolution financial settlement,  annulment of marriage or civil partnership and annulment financial settlement.

Contents Table

Specialist Divorce Lawyers London
Divorce Advice Service London
Fixed Fees - Divorce and Family Law Services
Divorce & Financial Settlement
Dissolution Of Civil Partnership & Financial Settlement
Annulment Of Marriage Or Civil Partnership
Judicial Separation
Prenuptial Agreements
Separation Agreements
Child Arrangements Orders
Special Guardianship Order
Non-Molestation Orders & Occupation Order
Contesting Non-Molestation Orders/Applications
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Specialist Divorce Lawyers London

As one of the best divorce solicitors in London, our divorce lawyers have wealth of knowledge and extensive experience to provide divorce legal advice and representations concerning vast range of divorce and family law matters including uncontested divorce, contested divorce, divorce financial settlement,  dissolution of civil partnership,  financial settlement upon dissolution of civil partnership,  annulment of marriage or civil partnership,  child arrangements order,  special guardianship order,  non-molestation orders & occupation order,  challenging non-molestation orders and many other divorce and family law matters.

As one of the top divorce lawyers in London, our experienced and highly qualified divorce lawyers and family law solicitors have helped thousands of clients with their divorce and family law matters successfully. Ask a question to our specialist divorce lawyers for free divorce advice online. You may also find answer to your question in Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about divorce and family law matters.

Divorce Advice Service London

Our divorce lawyers in London provide best divorce advice services in all types of divorce and family law matters. Divorce advice service for divorce and family law matters is provided by our top divorce solicitors and advisers who have extensive knowledge of divorce laws and huge experience of dealing with all types of divorce and family law matters. As one of the best divorce lawyers in London, we provide following divorce advice services for divorce and family law matters:

Free Divorce Advice London

Need free divorce advice? Contact our free divorce solicitors in London for fast, friendly and reliable free divorce advice concerning your divorce and family law matter through our online enquiry form and Live Chat. Free divorce advice online is provided 24/7 including outside our office hours. Please be advised that free divorce advice is subject to availability and discretion of our free divorce advice solicitors. 

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Detailed Divorce Advice & Consultation For Just £80

As specialist divorce lawyers in London, our expert divorce lawyers provide high quality divorce advice & consultation service concerning divorce and family law matters. You can schedule an appointment for detailed divorce advice session concerning your divorce and family law matter for just £80 (VAT included) during our office hours. READ MORE

Out Of Hours Divorce Advice Service For Just £100

Our out of hours team of divorce solicitors in London can provide out of hours divorce advice and consultation over the phone/Skype outside our office hours for £100 (VAT included where applicable). Such out of hours divorce advice is subject to availability of our out of hours divorce solicitors and the required divorce advice & consultation can be provided by our divorce solicitors any time outside our office hours including late night, early morning or weekends.

To book an out of hours divorce consultation outside our office hours, call our out of hours advice contact numbers: 07940 356 532 / 07900 260 925. If your call is not answered, please send a text message so that out of hours divorce solicitor can call you as soon as possible.

Fixed Fees - Divorce and Family Law Services

Our expert team of fixed fee divorce and family lawyers in London offer professional divorce and family law services with very reasonable fixed fees for divorce and family law cases under flexible payment terms for all of our clients. Our fixed fee divorce and family lawyers can also provide divorce advice and representations remotely through phone/emails/skype and other modern means of communication whereby you do not have to attend our office premises. READ MORE

Divorce & Financial Settlement

As one of the best divorce lawyers in London, our specialist team of divorce solicitors can provide divorce advice and representations in all types of divorce matters including divorce advice and representations for uncontested divorce, contested divorce, divorce financial settlement and financial relief in England after an overseas divorce. Various divorce services provided by our expert team of divorce lawyers in London are categorised below:

How To Get A Divorce In England & Wales?

Our divorce lawyers in London can help you get a divorce on fixed fee basis. A Fixed Fee Arrangement is an alternative to the standard hourly rate used by divorce and family law solicitors with a fixed price for each stage of legal work.  Agreed fixed fee is not dictated by the time spent on the case.  The agreed fixed fee gives certainty of legal costs and thus enables you to budget for your lawyer’s fees for divorce and family law matters.

Our expert team of fixed fee divorce lawyers in London can provide fast, friendly, reliable and fixed fee divorce advice and representations for getting a divorce in England & Wales. Our fixed fee divorce lawyers can help with all types of divorce matters including uncontested divorce where both parties agree to divorce and contested divorce where the Respondent to divorce petition does not agree to divorce and would oppose the divorce petition. READ MORE

Divorce Financial Settlement

As one of the top divorce lawyers in London, our divorce financial settlement solicitors have specialist knowledge and vast experience of dealing with divorce financial settlement matters. A divorce financial settlement is an arrangement under which a couple’s assets and financial affairs are separated upon divorce. On a divorce, Dissolution Of Civil Partnership, nullity, judicial separation and dissolution of civil partnership, the court has  power to make an order for financial settlement. Divorce financial settlement process is normally initiated after the family court has awarded Decree Nisi. Our specialist divorce financial settlement solicitors in London can act for you on fixed fee basis and provide the required advice and representations for your divorce financial settlement matter. READ MORE

Financial Settlement In England After An Overseas Divorce

If you have already been divorced abroad and obtained no financial settlement or the financial settlement made in the other country was inadequate, you may be able to apply to the English Court for a financial settlement order against your former spouse. The English family courts have the ability to grant divorce financial provision even though a divorce may have been previously pronounced abroad and financial provision already made. The purpose of the legislation, known as Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 (“Part III”) is to alleviate the adverse consequences of no, or no adequate, financial provision made on divorce by a foreign court in a situation where the parties had substantial connections with England. 

As one of the top divorce settlement firm in London, our specialist divorce settlement lawyers can provide the required divorce and representations for your divorce financial settlement matter on fixed fee basis. READ MORE

Dissolution Of Civil Partnership & Financial Settlement

As one of the best dissolution lawyers in London, our specialist team of civil partnership dissolution solicitors can provide advice and legal representations in civil partnership dissolution matters including advice and representations for uncontested civil partnership dissolution, contested civil partnership dissolution, civil partnership dissolution financial settlement and financial relief in England after an overseas civil partnership dissolution. Various civil partnership dissolution services provided by our expert team of dissolution lawyers in London are categorised below:

How To End Civil Partnership?

Our expert team of dissolution lawyers in London can provide high quality legal advice and representations for dissolution of civil partnership in England & Wales. Our experienced dissolution lawyers in London can provide legal advice and representations for all types of dissolution matters including uncontested dissolution where both parties agree to end the civil partnership and contested dissolution where the Respondent to dissolution petition does not agree to dissolution of civil partnership and would contest the dissolution. READ MORE

Civil Partnership Dissolution Financial Settlement

As one of the top civil partnership dissolution lawyers in London, our civil partnership dissolution financial settlement solicitors have specialist knowledge and vast experience of dealing with civil partnership dissolution financial settlement matters. A civil partnership dissolution financial settlement is an arrangement under which a couple’s assets and financial affairs are separated upon civil partnership dissolution. On a dissolution of civil partnership the court has  power to make an order for financial settlement. Civil partnership dissolution financial settlement process is normally initiated after the family court has awarded decree Nisi. Our specialist civil partnership dissolution financial settlement solicitors in London can provide legal advice and representations for your civil partnership dissolution settlement matter on fixed fee basis. READ MORE

Financial Settlement In England After A Foreign Civil Partnership Dissolution

If your civil partnership has already been dissolved abroad and you obtained no financial settlement or the financial settlement made in the other country was inadequate, you may be able to apply to the English Court for a financial settlement order against your former civil partner. The English family courts have the ability to grant civil partnership dissolution financial provision even though a civil partnership dissolution may have been previously pronounced abroad and financial provision already made. The purpose of the legislation, known as Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 (“Part III”) is to alleviate the adverse consequences of no, or no adequate, financial provision made on civil partnership dissolution by a foreign court in a situation where the parties had substantial connections with England. 

As one of the top financial settlement solicitors in London, our specialist financial settlement lawyers can provide legal advice and representations for your civil partnership financial settlement matter on fixed fee basis. READ MORE

Annulment Of Marriage Or Civil Partnership

As specialist annulment lawyers in London, we provide expert legal advice and representations concerning annulment of marriage / civil partnership (sometimes known as ‘nullity’). Annulment is a different way of ending a marriage or civil partnership. You or your spouse or civil partner must have either:

  • lived in England or Wales for at least a year
  • had a permanent home in England or Wales for at least 6 months

Unlike divorce or dissolution of civil partnership, you can apply for annulment in the first year of your marriage/civil partnership or any time after. However, if you apply years after the marriage or civil partnership, you might be asked to explain the delay. You’ll need to show that the marriage or civil partnership:

  • was never legally valid (‘void’)
  • was legally valid, but meets one of the reasons that makes it ‘voidable’.

Our expert team of nullity lawyers in London can provide legal advice and representations for annulment of your marriage or civil partnership on fixed fee basis. READ MORE

Judicial Separation Instead Of Divorce Or Dissolution

Our judicial separation solicitors in London can provide expert legal help and assistance with your judicial separation matter. A legal/judicial separation allows you to live apart, without divorcing or ending a civil partnership. You can apply for a judicial separation for the same reasons/grounds you could file for a divorce or end a civil partnership. However, you do not need to show that the marriage or civil partnership has broken down irretrievably. Our experienced judicial separation lawyers in London can provide expert legal advice and representations for your judicial separation matter on fixed fee basis. READ MORE

Prenuptial Agreements

Our experienced prenuptial agreement solicitors in London can help you with your prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement (often known as prenup agreement) is a formal pre marital written agreement between two partners. The prenuptial agreement sets out ownership of all the belongings including money, assets and property and explains how these will be divided in the event of the breakdown of their marriage. READ MORE

Separation/Financial Settlement Agreement

A separation/financial settlement agreement is a written agreement between two partners whose relationship has broken down and who are not yet ready for divorce of marriage or dissolution of civil partnership. It’s a written agreement that – typically – sets out your financial arrangements while you are separated. 

If your marriage breaks down but both parties do not wish to file for a divorce or cannot do so immediately, it is advisable to have financial settlement agreement setting out the terms on which you will separate. All matters arising from a separation should be negotiated between parties. Full and complete disclosure of finances should be made by both parties. You can enter into separation/financial settlement agreement whether you are married or unmarried partners. READ MORE

Child Arrangements Orders

In England and Wales a Child Arrangements Order is a Court Order that sets out details of who is responsible for the care of a child. This type of Court Order is usually used in cases where the parents cannot agree between them how to split the care of their child/children. A ‘child arrangements order’ decides:

  • where your child lives;
  • when your child spends time with each parent;
  • when and what other types of contact take place (phone calls, for example).

‘Child arrangements orders’ replace ‘residence orders’ and ‘contact orders’. Parents with these orders do not need to re-apply. Our expert team of fixed fee family law solicitors in London can provide legal advice and representations for your child arrangements order on fixed fee basis. READ MORE

Special Guardianship Order

A special guardianship order is a court order made under the Children Act 1989 appointing one or more persons to be a child's 'special guardian'. Application for Special Guardianship Order may be made by an individual or jointly by two or more people to become special guardians. Joint applicants do not need to be married. Special guardians must be 18 or over. The parents of a child may not become that child's special guardian.

A special guardianship order is intended for those children who cannot live with their birth parents and who would benefit from a legally secure placement as per family court order. The Special Guardianship Order gives the special guardian parental responsibilities, and leaves the guardian free to make decisions about how to bring up your child or children. The special guardianship order does not change birth parent's legal relationship with the child, so they remain a member of birth parent's family even though they are living with their special guardian. READ MORE

Non-Molestation Orders & Occupation Orders

An injunction is a court order that a named person should or should not do something. Usually, in family law, people want injunctions against a husband, wife or partner. However, we may be able to apply for an order against anyone in your family, or with whom you have had a close relationship, who has used violence against you. You can also seek protection for your child. Our expert team of fixed fee family law solicitors in London can act for your non-molestation order application on fixed fee basis.

An emergency injunction is an informal description for a court order made without notice/ex parte – it means the person you are applying against will not be aware of the injunction until it is served on him/her.

There are two basic types of injunctions the court can make under the Family Law Act 1996:

  • A non-molestation order is a court order (injunction) that protects you or your child from being harmed or threatened by the person who has abused you. It is a civil order obtained by a victim of domestic abuse from a Judge (or Magistrates) through the Family Court.
  • An occupation order is an order that someone must leave the home where you live, or allow you to return there if you have already left, or is only allowed to occupy certain parts of the home. READ MORE

Contesting Non-Molestation Orders/Applications

Received a notice of non-molestation application or an ex parte non-molestation order from the family court? Our expert family law solicitors in London can provide legal advice and representations for challenging a non-molestation order or application. Our expert team of fixed fee family law solicitors in London can provide advice and representations for you on fixed fee basis. READ MORE

FAQs - Divorce Lawyers London

How much does a divorce lawyer in London cost for helping with a divorce matter?

Fee charged by divorce solicitors in London for providing legal help and assistance with divorce cases varies from case to case depending on the complexity of the divorce matter and the volume of work involved in the divorce case. Our expert team of divorce lawyers in London normally charge fixed fee for providing legal help and assistance with the divorce cases. Generally, uncontested divorce matters cost less than contested divorce matters.

Can divorce lawyers in London deal with my divorce case whilst I am abroad?

Yes, it is possible to engange a divorce solicitor in London for legal help and assistance with a divorce case whilst you are abroad and Respondent is resident in the UK. Our divorce solicitors in London can provide required legal help and assistance using the modern means of communications including via Phone, Emails, Skype and WhatsApp, etc.

Pursuant to Article 3 Brussels II, the English Court has jurisdiction to deal with a divorce on the basis that one of the following applies:

  • Both you and your spouse are habitually resident in England and Wales;
  • Both you and your spouse were last habitually resident in England and Wales, and one of you still resides here;
  • Your spouse is habitually resident in England and Wales;
  • You are habitually resident in England and Wales and have resided here for a year;
  • You are habitually resident in England and Wales and have resided here for 6 months and you are also domiciled in England and Wales;
  • Both you and your spouse are domiciled in England and Wales.

Can divorce lawyers in London help me with divorce financial settlement?

As one of the top divorce lawyers in London, our divorce financial settlement solicitors can provide legal help and assistance with divorce financial settlement. Our divorce settlement lawyers in London have specialist knowledge and vast experience of dealing with divorce financial settlement matters.

How can I find best divorce solicitors in London?

As there are many divorce lawyers in London, it is difficult to judge which one is good to deal with your divorce case. A divorce solicitor must be a qualified solicitor regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). The knowledge and experience of the divorce solicitor is relevant in judging how good the divorce solicitor in London is to handle your divorce case compentently and digligently.

Sunrise Solicitors are recognised as one of the top divorce law firms in London & the UK. We have a team of best divorce solicitors and lawyers with vast knowledge and experience of handling complex divorce matters. Ask a question to our expert team of divorce lawyers in London for free divorce advice.

How can divorce lawyers in London help with my divorce case?

As one of the best divorce lawyers in London, our expert team of divorce solicitors can fully assess your divorce matter and advise you on all aspects of the divorce matter including:

  • advising you on the relevant laws, procedures and costs involved in your divorce matter;
  • advising you on the weakness and strengths of your divorce matter;
  • discussing the possible grounds for divorce based on which an application for divorce petition can be made to the family court;
  • where relevant, discussing the relevant assets and finances of the parties which can be subject of divorce financial settlement and giving appropriate advice on divorce financial settlement;
  • identifying and discussing any other issues arising from divorce including need for spousal maintenance, registration of home rights for matrimonial home and child arrangements orders, etc.
  • advising you about the processing time for each stage of the divorce process. 

As your appointed divorce lawyers, our divorce lawyers will carry out all the work on your divorce matter including preparing and filing documents with the family court, liaising with the other side or any solicitors appointed by the other side. We will keep you fully informed on the progress of your divorce matter and take your instructions at each crucial stage of the divorce case. Our divorce lawyers in London will help you achieve the desired objective in your divorce matter by following an agreed plan of action.

Can divorce lawyers in London give free divorce advice?

Our free divorce advice solicitors in London can provide free divorce advice online through our online enquiry form. Ask a question to our expert divorce lawyers in London for free divorce advice.

How can I contact divorce solicitors in London?

Contact details of our divorce solicitors in London are as follows:

Address:

228 Merton High Street

London

SW19 1AU

Tel: 020 8543 0999

Emergency Contact Numbers:

07900 260 925

07940 356 532

Fax: 020 8543 0900

Email: enquiries@sunrisesolicitors.co.uk

Can divorce solicitors in London work on my divorce case remotely without the need to attend their offices in London?

Our specialist divorce lawyers in London can carry out all the casework on your divorce matter remotely without the need for you to attend our office in London to provide instructions or evidence related to the divorce case. You can email or post all your supporting documents to our divorce solicitors in London. We will discuss your divorce case using the moderns means of communications including Skype, WhatsApp, Phone, Emails etc.

FAQs - Free Divorce Advice

How can I get free divorce advice?

You can get free divorce advice by asking a question to our expert team of free divorce advice lawyers through our online enquiry form or live online chat with one of our divorce solicitors.

What will be covered by free divorce advice service?

Free divorce advice will cover the general divorce advice concerning your divorce and separation matter.

Can I get free divorce advice if my divorce matter is complicated or urgent?

Free divorce advice is not for those persons who have very complicated divorce case as full assessment of the divorce case needs to be carried out before giving divorce advice in complext divorce matters. You can schedule an appointment for detailed divorce advice session to discuss your divorce matter with one of our divorce solicitors if your divorce case is complex or extremely urgent. 

Can I get free divorce advice?

Yes, you can get free divorce advice online through our enquiry form if your matter is not complex or urgent.

How long free divorce advice solicitors will take to respond to my free divorce advice enquiry?

Our free divorce advice solicitors aim to respond to all free divorce advice enquiries within 24 hours of receiving such free advice enquiries.

FAQs - Getting A Divorce In England & Wales

What is a divorce?

Divorce in England & Wales is a legal process to end marriage between husband and wife after the relationship between them has broken down irretrievably. An application for divorce in England & Wales is made using application form D8.

How soon can I get divorced in England & Wales after my marriage?

You can get divorced in England & Wales only after you have been married for at least one year.

If you marriage was not consummated, you may be able to apply for annulment of your marriage even if you are married for less than a year.

What are the requirements to get divorced in England & Wales?

You can get divorced in England & Wales if all of the following are true:

  • you’ve been married for over a year
  • your relationship has permanently broken down
  • your marriage is legally recognised in England & Wales (including same-sex marriage)
  • Either you or your husband/wife is habitually resident in England & Wales

What is a 'clean break' divorce?

A clean break divorce is where no ongoing financial commitments remain between you and your spouse. The phrase ‘a clean break’ is particularly used as the opposite of an order where there is ongoing spousal maintenance payable, usually monthly, from one spouse to the other.

A clean break is only possible in relation to the financial claims between spouses. It is not possible to have a clean break in relation to financial obligations towards your children.

In case you and your ex-partner have no assets to divide, you should also apply for a financial settlement order. It’s important to do so, even if you don’t have any assets to divide at the time of the divorce. There’s no guarantee you won’t come into some money in the future and if you haven’t obtained a financial settlement, your ex is still within their legal rights to make a financial claim.

Once a 'clean break' agreement of this kind has been ratified by court order, neither of you will be able to go back to court in the future to ask for maintenance or further transfer of assets. This gives both partners a much greater degree of certainty and allows them to completely disentangle their individual financial affairs.

Can I get divorced in England & Wales if I got married abroad?

Yes, you can start divorce proceedings in England provided that you have a valid marriage certificate (and certified translation, if the marriage certificate is not written in English). The key issue is determining whether the marriage is valid and legal in the country within which the ceremony took place, with the local custom being observed. If the marriage has been carried out in accordance with the local laws and customs of the country in which it took place, it is usually a valid legal marriage.

You should also meet all of the following requirements for getting divorced in England & Wales:

  • you’ve been married for over a year
  • your relationship has permanently broken down
  • your marriage is legally recognised in England & Wales (including same-sex marriage)
  • Either you or your husband/wife is habitually resident in England & Wales

What other matters may also arise in divorce proceedings?

Depending on the personal circumstances of the petitioner and the Respondent, the following other matters may also arise in the divorce proceedings:

How long does the divorce process take?

This varies from court to court and from case to case, depending on the complexity of the case. An uncontested divorce with no financial settlement issues can take up to 6 months whereas a contested and complicated divorce can take much longer than 6 months and time would vary depending on the complexity of the matter.

How much does it cost to file a divorce in England?

The court fee for filing a divorce in England & Wales is £550 which needs to be paid at the time of submitting your divorce petition to the family court.

What is difference between uncontested and contested divorce in England?

Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce is a divorce process where the Respondent to the divorce does not defend or contest the divorce. It is possible for the Respondent to disagree with the grounds for divorce yet agree to divorce taking place on the grounds that the relationship has irretrievably broken down between the Petitioner and the Respondent.

Contested Divorce

A contested divorce is one where the Respondent to the divorce petition decides to contest or defend the divorce. In other words, Respondent objects to divorce taking place in a contested divorce. A contested divorce is a more complicated procedure and will involve the divorcing couple having to attend family court for hearings. In very rare cases, Respondent can succeed in contesting a divorce in England & Wales. In the event of Resondent failing to defend the divorce, the family court is likely to make a legal costs order against the Resondent.

What are grounds for getting divorced in England & Wales?

There are 5 grounds for getting divorced in England & Wales which are as follows:

  • Adultery - The Petitioner alleges that the Respondent committed adultery and the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
  • Unreasonable Behaviour - The Petitioner alleges that the Respondent has behaved unreasonably and the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
  • Desertion Of The Petitioner By The Respondent - The petitioner can apply for divorce on the grounds that the Respondent deserted the petitioner more than 2 years ago and the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
  • 2 Years Separation And Respondent Consenting To Divorce - Petitioner and Respondent have lived separately for 2 years; Respondent consents to divorce taking place and the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
  • 5 Years Separation - Petitioner and Respondent lived separately for 5 years and the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

What is a Decree Nisi?

A decree nisi is a document that says that the court does not see any reason why you cannot divorce. You can apply for a decree nisi if your husband or wife does not defend your divorce petition.

What is decree absolute?

The decree absolute is the legal document that ends your marriage. You need to wait at least 43 days (6 weeks and 1 day) after the date of the decree nisi before you can apply for a decree absolute.

What documentary evidence do I need to apply for divorce?

To apply for a divorce you’ll need:

  • your husband or wife’s full name and address
  • your original marriage certificate or a certified copy (and a certified translation if it’s not in English)
  • proof of your name change if you’ve changed it since you got married - for example your marriage certificate or a deed poll

You must try to find your husband or wife’s current address if you do not know it. The court will need it to send them a copy of the divorce petition.

What happens if the respondent refuses to acknowledge the divorce petition?

If you can prove that your spouse received the divorce petition, you can apply for the deemed or substituted service. You can prove service by using a court bailiff or process server. 

Will I have to go to court for divorce petition?

Unless your spouse contests the divorce petition you filed, you do not have to go to court for divorce to take place. Only in contested divorce cases, the parties will  have to attend court hearing for the divorce to be decided by the court.

Who pays the legal costs in a divorce case?

Who pays the divorce legal costs will normally depend on the grounds for divorce. If your petition is based on unreasonable behaviour or adultery then you may be able to apply to the court for your legal costs to be paid by your spouse.

You should reach an agreement on the issue of costs at the outset of the divorce so that needless conflict is avoided down the line. If you are hoping that your costs will be covered by the other side, then be sure to discuss the matter with your divorce solicitor during your first interview.

Do I need a divorce solicitor for my divorce case?

Whethe or not you need a divorce solicitor to handle your divorce case is dependent on the complexity of the divorce matter and your ability to handle legal matters on your own. You normally engage a divorce solicitor for your divorce case in the following circumstances:

  • if you know that your spouse is likely to contest the divorce and will be unwilling to divorce;
  • if there are children involved and your spouse may not be willing to reach a mutual agreement regarding child arrangements;
  • If you and your spouse own significant assets or are in business together;
  • if there are overseas connections;
  • if one of you has been declared bankrupt;
  • if you wish to be claim spousal maintenance and be financially dependent on your spouse;
  • if the whereabout of your spouse are unknown;
  • if your spouse is unlikely to respond to your divorce petition.

What is a divorce mediation?

Divorce mediation is a method by which separating couples can agree and resolve the typical issues involving finances and children that arise during the divorce process. The mediator is a trained individual who is impartial and will act much like an umpire, guiding you and your spouse through face to face discussions about important matters such as divorce financial settlement and child arrangements.

Once an agreement has been reached, the mediator will draft a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ to formally set out the proposals. Your divorce solicitor will then use the ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ to draw up your official agreement and further advise you.

Mediation is not suitable for all situations, but it is the right approach for many people and if there is a need for court proceedings to be issued then you will usually be expected to at least have attended a meeting concerning mediation (a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting – MIAM). If your divorce solicitor believes that a MIAM is not appropriate or necessary, perhaps because divorce proceedings need to commence urgently or because domestic violence is involved, then they will let you know.

Will child arrangements issues decided by the court during divorce proceedins?

Unless the parents have reached an agreement with regards to child arrangements, one of the parties to the divorce proceedings will have to file a ‘Statement of Arrangements for Children’. This form provides the court with basic details about the children including their dates of birth, where they go to school and who is responsible for their care when the parents are working, if relevant. The form only serves to provide information and will not form the basis of any decision of the court.

In most cases, the parents will make these decisions themselves where possible, sometimes using mediation to assist in keeping discussions on track and in the best interests of the children.

It is worth noting that the court does hold the power to order that a Decree Absolute is not granted until it is satisfied with the arrangements for the children, although it is rarely the case that there will be any objection by the court provided the arrangements are reasonable and there are no concerns surrounding child protection.

FAQs - Annulment Of Marriage/Civil Partnership UK

What is a void marriage or civil partnership?

Void marriage or civil partnership means it was never legally valid. You can annul a marriage or civil partnership if it was not legally valid in the first place, for example:

  • you’re closely related to the person you married or registered civil partnership with
  • one or both of you were under 16
  • one of you was already married or in a civil partnership

If a marriage or civil partnership was never legally valid, the law says that it never existed. However, you may need legal paperwork (a ‘decree of nullity’) to prove this - for example if you want to get married again or register your civil partnership again.

What is a voidable marriage or civil partnership?

A voidable marriage or civil partnership means a marriage or civil partnership which was legally valid, but meets one of the reasons that makes it ‘voidable’.

You can annul a voidable marriage or civil partnership for a number of reasons, such as:

  • it was not consummated - you have not had sexual intercourse with the person you married since the wedding (does not apply for same sex couples)
  • you did not properly consent to the marriage or civil partnership - for example you were forced into it
  • the other person had a sexually transmitted disease (STD) when you got married or registered civil partnership
  • the woman was pregnant by another man when you got married
  • one spouse or civil partner is in the process of transitioning to a different gender

How soon can I apply for annulment of my marriage or civil partnership?

You can apply for annulment of your marriage or civil partnership soon after your marriage or civil partnership. Unlike divorce or civil partneship dissolution, you do not have to wait for a year.

How can I apply for annulment of marriage or civil partnership?

You can apply for annulment of marriage or civil partnership by filling in a nullity petition. You should send 2 copies of the petition to your nearest family court and keep your own copy.

How much is the court fee for nullity petition?

Filing a nullity petition in family court in England & Wales costs £550.

Within how many days, the Respondent to the nullity petition is required to respond to the nullity petition?

The Respondent to the nullity petition must respond to your nullity petition within 8 days, saying whether they agree for the marriage or civil partnership to be be annulled.

When can I apply for decree nisi for annulment of my marriage or civil partnership?

Once the Respondent has responded to the nullity petition and has agreed to the marriage or civil partnership annulment, you can apply for a decree nisi. The decree nisi will confirm that the court does not see any reason why the marriage or civil partnership cannot be annulled.

What is a statement in support of nullity petition?

You must also fill in a statement confirming that what you said in your nullity petition is true.

Use one of the forms below, depending on whether your marriage is ‘void’ or ‘voidable’:

When can I apply for decree of nullity to annul my marriage or civil partnership?

You can apply for a decree of nullity (decree absolute) 6 weeks after you get the decree nisi.  A ‘decree of nullity’ is the final legal document which says that the marriage or civil partnership has been annulled.

To apply for a decree of nullity, you need to fill in the notice of application for decree nisi to be made absolute.

Do I need to go to court for annulment of my marriage or civil partnership?

In most cases, you do not need to go to family court for annulment of marriage or civil partnership and the court will deal with the matters on papers.

FAQs - Divorce Financial Settlement

What Assets Are Split In Divorce Financial Settlement?

The adjustment of assets/finances covered by the financial court order may include the following:

  • property
  • money
  • shares
  • savings
  • pensions
  • debts
  • children/spousal maintenance

Does Spousal Behaviour Affect The Divorce Financial Settlement?

Normally, the behaviour of your spouse including adultery or unreasonable behaviour does not affect the divorce financial settlement. The grounds for divorce you use to obtain a divorce have no bearing on your financial settlement. Extreme behaviour may be taken into account by the court, for example, if one partner's violence has had a lasting effect on the other. If one partner recklessly or deliberately sabotages the financial position, for example, by spending recklessly or destroying assets, this could also be taken into account.

What is a ‘clean break’ divorce financial settlement?

A clean break divorce financial settlement is where no ongoing financial commitments remain between you and your spouse. The phrase ‘a clean break’ is particularly used as the opposite of an order where there is ongoing spousal maintenance payable, usually monthly, from one spouse to the other.

A clean break is only possible in relation to the financial claims between spouses. It is not possible to have a clean break in relation to financial obligations towards your children.

What if I don’t have any assets to split?

In case you and your ex-partner have no assets to divide, you should also apply for a financial settlement. It’s important to do so, even if you don’t have any assets to divide at the time of the divorce. There’s no guarantee you won’t come into some money in the future and if you haven’t obtained a financial settlement, your ex is still within their legal rights to make a financial claim.

Once a 'clean break' agreement of this kind has been ratified by court order, neither of you will be able to go back to court in the future to ask for maintenance or further transfer of assets. This gives both partners a much greater degree of certainty and allows them to completely disentangle their individual financial affairs.

Will any payments I make to my spouse while we are separated affect the final divorce settlement?

Not usually. It may be unwise to make excessively large payments to your spouse, because it might be argued that this shows both their need for such payments (or an equivalent transfer of assets) and your ability to pay.

Even so, any financial settlement should take into account the longer-term history of the marriage and future financial prospects.

On the other hand, if your spouse needs maintenance while you are separated, it would normally be sensible to provide it. Failure to do so is likely to make your spouse more hostile towards you.

Your spouse might apply to the court for an interim financial order requiring you to pay an appropriate level of maintenance. Both of these are likely to increase the overall level of ill feeling - and costs - in reaching a final agreement.

What effect will it have if I move out of the family home before we are divorced?

You will still have the same rights to occupy the home as you had before and can move back in if you choose.

There may be practical problems if, for example, your spouse changes the locks. While you will be entitled to get back in, it makes sense to ensure that you take anything you may need - such as important documents - with you in the first place.

There may also be other considerations so it is advisable to take advice before moving out.

Are there any precautions I should take during a divorce, for example, to stop my spouse taking cash from our joint account?

If your spouse can make withdrawals from a joint account without your agreement, you run the risk that some or all of the money will be taken. You will also be jointly liable for any debts run up on the account.

If you need access to the money or if you suspect that your spouse may misuse it, you may want to close the account. The same applies to any other form of joint borrowing or spending facility, such as a joint credit card.

However, if you suddenly freeze accounts that your spouse needs for living expenses, this will create problems. Your spouse will want you to make appropriate maintenance payments and may apply to the court for an interim financial order.

If your spouse is the sole owner of the family home, you should apply to the Land Registry to register an interest in the property. This will prevent the house being sold without your consent.

Is our divorce settlement affected if one of us remarries or starts cohabiting with a new partner?

If you remarry without having reached a financial settlement with your former spouse, you may lose the right to make any financial claim against your former spouse. He or she will still have the same right to make a financial claim against you as before.

If you have previously reached a clean break settlement, the remarriage (or cohabitation) will normally have no effect - you have already made a once and for all agreement.

If you are paying your former spouse maintenance (this does not include child maintenance), maintenance ceases if the recipient remarries (but not if the recipient merely starts to cohabit).

In any case, if your former spouse's financial position improves, you can apply to the court to stop paying maintenance or to pay a reduced amount.

If you are receiving maintenance from your former spouse, you should normally continue to do so after he or she remarries.

How long will it take to sort out our divorce and financial settlement?

Obtaining a divorce typically takes about six months. The process can take longer if anyone fails to deal with the various pieces of paperwork promptly.

How long financial settlement takes depends very much on your relationship with your spouse and the complexity of your financial affairs. Often, the financial settlement can be negotiated over the same period as the divorce proceedings, and is then confirmed by a consent order.

Where there is an agreed financial outcome, it is possible to obtain a court order embodying the agreement (consent order) and your decree absolute within 6 months from start to finish.

Where an agreement is not reached, it could take between 12 – 18 months to conclude form the date an application for financial settlement is made to the court.

Who pays the legal fees for a divorce financial settlement?

In most cases, both parties will have their own solicitor and will be responsible for their own legal fees. Only in unusual circumstances will the court consider conduct in the proceedings or the process of disclosure as a justification for an order for costs being made against the other party.

While negotiating a financial settlement you each use - and are responsible for paying - your own lawyer. As part of the settlement, however, one of you might negotiate that the other should pay part or all of their legal fees.

You can keep your legal fees down by agreeing as much as possible among yourselves. Fees can mount up if hostile spouses insist on conducting all negotiations through lawyers while arguing over trivial details. 

What orders can the court make in divorce financial settlement?

The court has power to make orders for a spouse including:-

  • Periodical payments (maintenance or alimony)
  • Secured provision (maintenance that is charged against an asset)
  • Lump sum (a cash payment)
  • Transfer of property (where one legal ownership of an asset is taken away from one spouse and transferred to the other)
  • (except upon decree of judicial separation) a pension  attachment and a pension sharing order
  • Agreed child maintenance orders, school fees orders and/or top up orders where there is a maximum Child Maintenance Service assessment.

Can money one of us expects to inherit be taken into account when we divorce?

Usually not unless you are about to receive the inheritance.

Will a prenuptial agreement protect my assets if we divorce?

Pre Nuptial Agreements are not legally binding in the UK but are considered to be pursuasive for the judge to exercise discretion in deciding the financial settlement by giving weight to the pre nupital agreement. Pre-Nups, Post Nups and Pre-civil registration agreements cannot exclude the authority of the Court when dealing with financial issues when a marriage or civil partnership irretrievably breaks down. When divorce arises, the court has discretionary powers to distribute assets as the Judge sees is in the best interest of the parties/children/individual circumstances. The prenuptial agreement which has been entered into fairly and after taking appropriate legal advice may have persuasive authority for the judge to exercise discretion and give weight to the same in distribution of assets.

The caveat is that while UK courts will recognise prenuptial agreements, they also still have the ultimate discretion to ignore any agreement reached if the agreement is deemed to be unfair to any children of the marriage.

What can I do if I find out my spouse has assets or income not disclosed when we agreed the divorce settlement?

You can go to court to get the financial settlement altered.

What can I do if I cannot afford the maintenance payments to my former spouse?

You can go to court to ask them to change the maintenance order to reflect your circumstances. For example, you might do this if you lose your job and cannot find another one.

Is it possible to reopen a divorce financial settlement?

It is possible to reopen a divorce financial settlement, but extremely rare. In most circumstances, once a financial settlement has been officially recorded in the form of a consent order, the financial ties between the divorcing couple are broken and neither of them will be entitled to make financial claims in the future.

However, a precedent set during the case of Barder vs Barder (1987) means that a court may allow a financial settlement to be reopened if something later happens that alters the principle on which the original consent order was made.

Before the court will agree to reopen a settlement, four key factors need to be satisfied:

  • A new event(s) occurs that invalidates the basis, or fundamental assumption, on which the original consent order was made.
  • The new event(s) must have occurred within a relatively short time after the consent order was made.
  • The request to re-open the financial settlement is made soon after the new event occurs.
  • The appeal does not prejudice any rights to assets acquired by third parties (for example, if a house has been sold to an unconnected third party).

Successful applications to reopen financial settlements are rare but they do happen – for example, in the case of Critchell v Critchell (2015).

Am I entitled to spousal maintenance after a divorce?

This will depend on many factors including:

  • How long you were married
  • The standard of living you enjoyed before the divorce
  • Your respective financial needs and the financial needs of any dependent children
  • The current earnings of each party
  • The potential earning capacity of each party in the future
  • The contribution made to the marriage, either financial or by caring for children and looking after the family home

For example, if a young couple with no children have been married for only a short time and both are working, then it may be fair for them both to leave the marriage with no ongoing financial ties and taking with them what they brought into the marriage.

If a couple have been married for 25 years and by agreement the wife gave up a career to bring up the family at home, while the husband became the sole bread winner, then the wife's future earnings capability may be severely compromised.

In these circumstances the wife should not be penalised for her lack of earnings ability and may be entitled to ongoing spousal maintenance.

How courts deal with pensions in divorce financial settlement?

When a marriage or civil partnership ends, courts deal with the pension arrangements in one of 3 ways.

  1. You’re given a percentage share of your former partner’s pension pot. This is known as pension sharing. The money that you get from the pension pot of your former spouse or civil partner is then legally treated as your money.
  2. The value of a pension is offset against other assets. This is known as pension offsetting. For example: you keep your pension and your former spouse or civil partner keeps the home.
  3. Some of your pension is paid to your former partner. This is known as pension attachment or sometimes pension earmarking. This is like a maintenance payment directly from one person’s pension pot to their former spouse or civil partner. Under this arrangement, money from your tax-free lump sum can also go to your former spouse or civil partner.

FAQs - Financial Settlement In England After An Overseas Divorce

Can I apply for divorce financial settlement in England after my overseas divorce?

You can apply for divorce financial settlement in England after your overseas divorce if you obtained no financial settlement or the financial settlement made in the other country was inadequate and parties to the divorce have sufficient connection to England.

What are the circumstances under which a financial relief in England after an overseas divorce is likely to be a viable option?

In practice, an application for financial relief in England after overseas divorce is most likely to become a viable way to proceed in cases where the foreign divorce was in a jurisdiction where the courts:

  • do not have jurisdiction over foreign property;
  • have no, or under-developed, mechanisms to force financial disclosure;
  • demonstrate favouritism towards nationals over expat spouses;
  • have no mechanism to share pensions;
  • demonstrate favouritism towards those of one religion over another; or
  • have no or under-developed mechanisms to enforce agreements and orders.

Under what provisions of Family Law, an application for financial relief in England can be made after a foreign divorce?

Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 (“Part III”) allows a person who has been divorced abroad to apply for financial relief in England after an overseas divorce. The purpose of the legislation, known as Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 (“Part III”) is to alleviate the adverse consequences of no, or no adequate, financial provision made on divorce by a foreign court in a situation where the parties had substantial connections with England.

What are the two stages for financial relief in England after an overseas divorce?

The 2 stages for financial relief in England after an overseas divorce are as follows:

First Stage: Sermission Stage

First, the Court’s permission must be obtained to make an application for a financial award. The process begins with a without notice application for permission to proceed. The applicant must show that they have a 'substantial ground' for the application to proceed. The permission stage is designed to filter out weak applications before the respondent is put to the significant costs of defending an application that may be fatally flawed or have little merit.

At the permission stage the applicant must be able to show that they satisfy the jurisdictional requirements and that the legal test set out in in the leading case of Agbaje v Agbaje [2010] has been met.  The threshold is not high but higher than a "good arguable case".

Second Stage: Divorce Financial Settlement Proceedings After Grant Of Permission

After the permission to proceed with financial settlement has been granted by the court in the first stage of the process, the court procedure for second stage is the same as for an in-country divorce financial settlement.

What are the jurisdiction requirements for permission to be granted by the family court for financial relief in Engalnd after an overseas divorce?

In order to bring a claim in England, the parties must have sufficient connection to England as follows:

  • Either party is domiciled in England and Wales at the time of the foreign divorce or at the time of the application; or
  • Either party has been habitually resident in England and Wales for 12 months at the time of the foreign divorce or at the time of the application; or
  • One party has an interest in a dwelling house in England and Wales which had been a matrimonial home (when claims are limited to the value of the house);
  • Other narrow criteria following recent EU legislation.

What are the leal requirements for grant of permission to apply for financial relief in England after an overseas divorce?

For Part III proceedings to initiate in England, both the marriage as well as divorce must be legally recognised and valid under English law. Part III proceedings can only be brought if the applicant has not remarried.

The legal test on an application for permission is set out at paragraph 33 of Agbaje:

"... the principal object of the filter mechanism is to prevent wholly unmeritorious claims being pursued to oppress or blackmail a former spouse. The threshold is not high, but is higher than 'serious issue to be tried' or 'good arguable case' found in other contexts. It is perhaps best expressed by saying that in this context 'substantial' means 'solid'."

Further guidance can be found in Traversa v Freddi [2011] at paragraph 30 and 31:

"It is clear that the section 13 filter is there to exclude plainly unmeritorious cases and, although, in the evaluation of substance, regard must be paid to overall merits, it does not call for a rigorous evaluation of all the circumstances that would be considered once the application has passed through the filter.

At the hearing of the section 13 application the judge will of course be conscious of the fact that, once through the filter, the applicant will have to clear a number of fences that the following sections erect. Unless it is obvious that the applicant will fall at one or more of the fences, his performance at each is better left to the evaluation of the trial judge."

What factors are taken into account by the court when considering permission application for financial relief in England after an overseas divorce?

Followring are the factors that the judge must take into account when assessing whether the applicant has satisfied the legal test set out in Agbaje are detailed in s16(2), MFPA 1984:

  • the connection that the parties to the marriage have with:
    • England and Wales;
    • the country in which the marriage was dissolved or annulled, or in which they were legally separated; and
    • any other country outside England and Wales;
  • any financial benefit that the applicant, or a child of the family, has received, or is likely to receive, in consequence of the divorce, annulment or legal separation, by virtue of any agreement or operation of the law of a country outside England and Wales;
  • where an order has been made by a court in a country outside England and Wales requiring the other party to the marriage to make any payment or transfer any property for the benefit of the applicant or a child of the family, the financial relief given by the order and the extent to which the order has been complied with or is likely to be complied with;
  • any right that the applicant has, or has had, to apply for financial relief from the other party to the marriage under the law of any country outside England and Wales, and, if the applicant has omitted to exercise that right, the reason for that omission;
  • the availability in England and Wales of any property in respect of which an order in favour of the applicant could be made;
  • the extent to which any order made is likely to be enforceable; and
  • the length of time that has elapsed since the date of the divorceDissolution Of Civil Partnership, annulment or legal separation.

How important is the detailed personal statement of the applicant for an application for permission to apply for financial relief in England after an overseas divorce?

The application for permission must be supported by a very detailed personal statement in support of the Application. Such supporting statement of the Applicant should meticulously address:

  • the background of the case,
  • why both the marriage and the foreign divorce is entitled to be recognised as valid in England & Wales; and
  • how the jurisdictional requirements are satisfied.

The statement should demonstrate that the merits tests set out in the legislation and case law have been met. Where available, very full documentary evidence should be exhibited to the statement. The statement in support of the application is also a good opportunity to discuss in detail the overall merits of the case beyond the application for permission.

Do I need country expert report for permission to apply for financial relief in England after an overseas divorce?

The court must take into account the financial benefit that has been, or is likely to be, received in the foreign jurisdiction, and if the applicant has the right to apply for relief, and reason why that right has not been exercised. These factors cannot properly be addressed without evidence as to the law of the foreign jurisdiction. The applicant should therefore consider obtaining a short expert report from a specialist in the relevant jurisdiction to be attached to their statement in support of their application for permission.

Why financial settlement claim in England after an overseas divorce?

If you have already been divorced abroad and obtained no financial settlement or the financial settlement made in the other country was inadequate, you may be able to apply to the English Court for a financial settlement order against your former spouse. 

The English family courts have the ability to grant divorce financial provision even though a divorce may have been previously pronounced abroad and financial provision already made. The purpose of the legislation, known as Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 (“Part III”) is to alleviate the adverse consequences of no, or no adequate, financial provision made on divorce by a foreign court in a situation where the parties had substantial connections with England.

There are still some appalling injustices in some countries abroad which is where the English legislation helps to redress some of these cases. It is an opportunity for fairness and justice for some international families. Part III proceedings can also usefully be used where the law of the country where the divorce occurred does not allow orders to be made in respect of offshore property. It can also be used to obtain a pension sharing order in respect of an English pension in circumstances where other issues are dealt with in the foreign divorce and a foreign divorce pension sharing order will have no validity for the English pension company.

However, it is not for England to act as a court of appeal of other countries with similar approaches to England. Neither is it an opportunity to have two ‘bites of the cherry’.

Where the connection with England is strong, it may be appropriate for there to be such provision as would have been made had the divorce been in England. Where the connection is not so strong and there has already been adequate provision, it will not be appropriate for Part III to be used as a simple "top up".

FAQs - Spousal Maintenance UK

What is spousal maintenance UK?

Spousal maintenance is maintenance that is paid by a husband or a wife to their former spouse following a divorce and is in addition to the child maintenance. Spousal maintenance is usually paid on a monthly basis and continues either for a defined period (term of years) or for the remainder of the parties’ life (known as a “joint lives order”). Spousal maintenance ends if the recipient remarries or if either party dies. It may be varied or dismissed by the courts on a change in circumstances.

How long does spousal maintenance last in England & Wales?

If the marriage or civil partnership is short (typically, less than five years), it might not be paid at all or only for a short period through what's called a 'term order'. Where a couple has been together for a long time, or where an ex-partner is unable to work, it can be paid for life.

When does spousal maintenance stop?

Spousal maintenance usually stops if:

  • The payment term ends;
  • You or your ex-partner die, or
  • The person receiving spousal maintenance remarries or enters another civil partnership

It doesn’t necessarily stop if they live with a new partner without marrying or entering a civil partnership, although the person paying it could use this as a reason to apply to the courts to get the spousal maintenance amount reduced.

Who is entitled to claim spousal maintenance?

When a couple separate whether one party is entitled to claim spousal maintenance from the other is a common concern. There are several factors that need to be considered. To establish whether you are likely to be entitled to spousal maintenance you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are your financial needs and income potential? Can these needs be met without the support of your former spouse?
  • Have you been married for a long time and given up work to support your spouse or family by becoming the home maker?
  • Are you of an age where establishing a career, to deliver the kind of lifestyle you have been used to, would be difficult?
  • Would you be financially better off having a financial clean break and lump sum from your from your former spouse, rather than maintenance?
  • Are you prepared to take your case to court, if your former spouse will not agree to spousal maintenance?
  • Are you planning to re-marry? (if you do you will lose your right to spousal maintenance)

The conditions under which spousal maintenance might be paid vary, as every marriage varies. If a couple have been together for a long time and one party has given up work to run the home whilst the other has developed a career and been the family breadwinner there are arguments to say that the homemaker is entitled to financial support, in the form of spousal maintenance, if the marriage breaks down and on the basis that the spouse in need cannot support themselves financially from income they have coming in from other sources.

As is often the case with family law, every case is different. It is therefore important to take advice from a divorce and family lawyer. They will be able to consider your circumstances and advise on the likely success of your case.

How can I calculate spousal maintenance?

There are no hard and fast rules relating to spousal maintenance calculation.

In deciding whether spousal maintenance is appropriate and for how long, the court will consider a number of factors including:

  • the length of the marriage
  • whether there are minor children
  • whether there is an income disparity between the couple
  • how their housing needs are met
  • whether a spouse has a continuing financial need
  • whether a spouse has a diminished earning capacity.

Spousal maintenance is ordered by the court to enable the financially weaker spouse a period of time to adjust to being financially independent, without significant hardship. There is no set formula.

FAQs - Special Guardianship Order

What is a Special Guardianship Order?

A special guardianship order is a court order made under the Children Act 1989 appointing one or more persons to be a child's 'special guardian'. Application for Special Guardianship Order may be made by an individual or jointly by two or more people to become special guardians. Joint applicants do not need to be married. Special guardians must be 18 or over.

What is the purpose of a Special Guardianship Order?

A special guardianship order is intended for those children who cannot live with their birth parents and who would benefit from a legally secure placement as per family court order. The Special Guardianship Order gives the special guardian parental responsibilities, and leaves the guardian free to make decisions about how to bring up your child or children. The special guardianship order does not change birth parent's legal relationship with the child, so they remain a member of birth parent's family even though they are living with their special guardian.

Who can apply for a Special Guardianship Order?

Close relatives of a child can apply to be their Special Guardian – and this might involve grandparents, an uncle or aunt, or a godparent or a close family friend applying to the court for a Special Guardianship Order.

The following people may apply to be special guardians:

  • Any guardian of the child;
  • Any individual who has a child arrangements order or any person where a child arrangements order is in force and who has the consent of the person in whose favour the child arrangements order is made;
  • Anyone with whom the child has lived for at least three years out of the last five years;
  • Anyone with the consent of the local authority if the child is in care;
  • A local authority foster parent with whom the child has lived for at least one year preceding the application;
  • Anyone who has the consent of those with parental responsibility;
  • Anyone who has the leave of the court.

NOTE: You must be over 18 years of age and you can apply on your own or jointly with another person.

Who cannot apply for a Special Guardianship Order?

A parent of a child may not be appointed as the child's special guardian.

What is a local authority report for a Special Guardianship Order?

Local authorities are required to produce to the court a report on all children, not just those who are looked after, when an application is made. On receipt of notice of an application, or if the court makes a request, the local authority must investigate and prepare a report to the court about the suitability of the applicants to be special guardians.

The regulations say that the local authority report should include certain key information about the child such as:

  • Whether the child has brothers and sisters and details of both parents.
  • The relationship a child has with other family members and the arrangements for the child to see or keep in touch with different family members.
  • Details of the child's relationship with his/her parents.
  • The parent/s' and the child's wishes and feelings.
  • The prospective Guardian's family composition and circumstances.
  • Parenting capacity.
  • Medical information on the child, prospective special guardian and the birth parent(s).
  • An assessment of how a Special Guardianship Order would meet a child's long term interests as compared with other types of order.

This report must include information about the child, the child’s wishes, the child’s birth family, contact arrangements, the prospective special guardian and recommendations about whether or not an order should be made (See the schedule to the relevant regulations for further details). The local authority is expected to start work on this report, or arrange for someone else to do it, as soon as possible after receiving the notice. The court cannot make an order without having received a report. Local authorities are expected to ensure that the social worker who prepares the report is suitably qualified and experienced, but there are no restrictions on who can write the report as there are for adoption.

What support services are provided by local authorities?

Each local authority must make arrangements for the provision of special guardianship support services which may include:

  • Financial assistance (means tested);
  • Assistance with the arrangements for contact between a child, his/her parents and any relatives that the local authority consider to be beneficial;
  • This assistance can include cash to help with the cost of travel, entertainment, and mediation to help resolve difficulties on contact;
  • Respite care;
  • Counselling, advice, information and other support services;
  • Services to enable children, parents and special guardians to discuss matters, this might include setting up a support group;
  • Therapeutic services for the child.

What decisions Special Guardians cannot make on their own?

The special guardians cannot make the following decisions on their own:

  • Changing the child's surname;
  • Granting the child permission to marry;
  • Placing the child for adoption;
  • Consenting to the child being sterilised;
  • Granting parental responsibility to a father or step parent.

What option is available to a party with parental responsibility who disagrees with an application for special guardianship order?

If a party with parental responsibility disagrees with an application for special guardianship they can make an application to the Court and apply for a Specific Issue Order or a Prohibited Steps Order. Although it is recommended that any disagreements are resolved through mediation, the Court will always make their decision based on what is considered to be best for the child, taking into account the report prepared by the Local Authority.

What factors the family court will consider to make a Special Guardianship Order?

When considering whether to make a Special Guardianship Order, the family court’s primary consideration is the best interests of the child concerned.

The family court will also have regard to:

  • the wishes and feeling of the child concerned (as far as they can be obtained and in light of the child’s age and level of understanding);
  • the child’s physical, emotional and educational needs;
  • the likely effect on the child of any change in his/her circumstances;
  • the child’s age, sex, background, and any other characteristic which the court considers relevant;
  • any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
  • how capable each of the child’s parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting the child’s needs;
  • the range of powers available to the court under the Children Act in the proceedings in question.

Before making a special guardianship order, the court must also consider whether there are any existing orders, such as a child arrangements order and whether it is necessary to vary or discharge these, or make such an order in addition to a special guardianship order, such as a child arrangements to set out the arrangements for the child to spend time with their parents.

Can I get a Special Guardianship Order for my child removed or varied?

Although a Special Guardianship Order is usually in place until a child is 18, if there has been a significant change in circumstances the order can be changed in one of two ways:

  • The terms of the order can be altered;
  • The order can be removed completely and the child returned to their parents

Anyone wishing to end a Special Guardianship Order must apply to the court, where the evidence will then be examined to determine if the change in circumstances is significant enough to vary  the original order. The court will also take into consideration the likely impact of their decision on the child and how disruptive another change in living arrangements would be for them.

What are the alternatives to a Special Guardianship Order?

In the situation where a child is considered to be at risk of harm if they remain in the family home, there are a few alternatives to a Special Guardianship Order which are as follows:

Foster Care

Unlike a Special Guardian, a foster carer does not have parental responsibility for a child and so is unable to make key decisions about the child’s care and upbringing. Even if the placement is long-term, foster care does not always afford the child the sense of security and belonging that can be gained through a Special Guardianship Order.

Child Arrangements Order

A Child Arrangements Order is a Court Order that sets out details of who is responsible for the care of a child. This type of Court Order is usually used in cases where the parents cannot agree between them how to split the care of their child/children.

A ‘child arrangements order’ decides:

  • where your child lives;
  • when your child spends time with each parent;
  • when and what other types of contact take place (phone calls, for example).

‘Child arrangements orders’ replace ‘residence orders’ and ‘contact orders’. Parents with these orders do not need to re-apply.

Adoption

Adoption severs all connection between the child and their birth parents, placing them permanently with another family. Birth parents lose all parental responsibility once the court order has been issued and links with the wider biological family are also lost in the majority of cases.

Does Special Guardianship Order give parental responsibility?

A Special Guardianship Order gives the special guardian legal parental responsibility for the child which is expected to last until the child is 18. But, unlike Adoption Orders, these orders do not remove parental responsibility from the child’s birth parents, although their ability to exercise it is extremely limited.

In practice, this means that the child is no longer the responsibility of the local authority, and the special guardian will have more clear responsibility for all day-to day decisions about caring for the child or young person, and for taking important decisions about their upbringing, for example their education. And, importantly, although birth parents retain their legal parental responsibility, the special guardian only has to consult with them about these decisions in exceptional circumstances.

How long does the Special Guardian Order last?

A Special Guardianship Order usually lasts until your child is 18 years old. However, if circumstances change significantly the Family Court can vary or even discharge the Order.

FAQs - Civil Partnership Dissolution

What is civil partnership dissolution?

Civil partnership dissolution in England & Wales is a legal process to end civil parnership between civil partners after the relationship between them has broken down irretrievably. An application for civil partnership dissolution in England & Wales is made using application form D8.

How soon can I get my civil partnership dissolved in England & Wales after registration of my civil partnership?

You can get your civil partnership dissolved in England & Wales only after you have been in civil partnership for at least one year.

If your civil partnership was not consummated, you may be able to apply for annulment of your civil partnership even if you have been in civil partnership for less than a year.

What are the requirements to end civil partnership in England & Wales?

You can end your civil partnership in England & Wales if all of the following are true:

  • you’ve been in civil partnership for over a year
  • your relationship has permanently broken down
  • your civil partnership is legally recognised in England & Wales (including same-sex marriage)
  • Either you or your civil partner is habitually resident in England & Wales

What is a 'clean break' civil partnership?

A clean break civil partnership is where no ongoing financial commitments remain between you and your civil partner. The phrase ‘a clean break’ is particularly used as the opposite of an order where there is ongoing spousal maintenance payable, usually monthly, from one partner to the other.

A clean break is only possible in relation to the financial claims between civil partners. It is not possible to have a clean break in relation to financial obligations towards your children.

In case you and your ex-partner have no assets to divide, you should also apply for a financial settlement order. It’s important to do so, even if you don’t have any assets to divide at the time of the civil partnership dissolution. There’s no guarantee you won’t come into some money in the future and if you haven’t obtained a financial settlement, your ex is still within their legal rights to make a financial claim.

Once a 'clean break' agreement of this kind has been ratified by court order, neither of you will be able to go back to court in the future to ask for maintenance or further transfer of assets. This gives both partners a much greater degree of certainty and allows them to completely disentangle their individual financial affairs.

Can I end civil partnership in England & Wales if I got married abroad?

Yes, you can start divorce proceedings in England provided that you have a valid civil partnership certificate (and certified translation, if the civil partnership certificate is not written in English). The key issue is determining whether the civil partnership is valid and legal in the country within which the ceremony took place, with the local custom being observed. If the civil partnership has been carried out in accordance with the local laws and customs of the country in which it took place, it is usually a valid legal civil partnership.

You should also meet all of the following requirements for ending civil partnership in England & Wales:

  • you’ve been in civil partnership for over a year
  • your relationship has permanently broken down
  • your civil partnership is legally recognised in England & Wales (including same-sex marriage)
  • Either you or your civil partner is habitually resident in England & Wales

What other matters may also arise in civil partnership dissolution proceedings?

Depending on the personal circumstances of the petitioner and the Respondent, the following other matters may also arise in the divorce proceedings:

How long does the civil partnership dissolution process take?

This varies from court to court and from case to case, depending on the complexity of the case. An uncontested civil partnership dissolution with no financial settlement issues can take up to 6 months whereas a contested and complicated civil partnership dissolution can take much longer than 6 months and time would vary depending on the complexity of the matter.

How much does it cost to file a civil partnership dissolution in England?

The court fee for filing a civil partnership dissolution in England & Wales is £550 which needs to be paid at the time of submitting your civil partnership dissolution petition to the family court.

What is difference between uncontested and contested civil partnership dissolution in England?

Uncontested Civil Partnership Dissolution

An uncontested civil partnership dissolution is a dissolution process where the Respondent to the civil partnership dissolution does not defend or contest the ending of civil partnership. It is possible for the Respondent to disagree with the grounds for civil partnership dissolution yet agree to civil partnership dissolution taking place on the grounds that the relationship has irretrievably broken down between the Petitioner and the Respondent.

Contested Civil Partnership Dissolution

A contested civil partnership dissolution is one where the Respondent to the dissolution petition decides to contest or defend the civil partnership dissolution. In other words, Respondent objects to civil partnership dissolution taking place in a contested civil partnership dissolution. A contested civil partnership dissolution is a more complicated procedure and will involve the couple having to attend family court for hearings. In very rare cases, Respondent can succeed in contesting a civil partnership dissolution in England & Wales. In the event of Resondent failing to defend the civil partnership dissolution, the family court is likely to make a legal costs order against the Resondent.

What are grounds for ending civil partnership in England & Wales?

There are 5 grounds for ending civil partnership in England & Wales which are as follows:

  • Adultery - The Petitioner alleges that the Respondent committed adultery and the civil partnership has broken down irretrievably.
  • Unreasonable Behaviour - The Petitioner alleges that the Respondent has behaved unreasonably and the civil partnership has broken down irretrievably.
  • Desertion Of The Petitioner By The Respondent - The petitioner can apply for civil partnership dissolution on the grounds that the Respondent deserted the petitioner more than 2 years ago and the civil partnership has broken down irretrievably.
  • 2 Years Separation And Respondent Consenting To Ending Civil Partnership - Petitioner and Respondent have lived separately for 2 years; Respondent consents to end civil partnership and the civil partnership has broken down irretrievably.
  • 5 Years Separation - Petitioner and Respondent lived separately for 5 years and the civil partnership has broken down irretrievably.

What is a conditional order of dissolution?

A conditional order of dissolution is a document that says that the court does not see any reason why you cannot end civil partnership. You can apply for a conditional order of dissolution if your civil partner does not defend your civil partnership dissolution petition.

What is a final dissolution order?

The final dissolution order is the legal document that ends your civil partnership. You need to wait at least 43 days (6 weeks and 1 day) after the date of the conditional order of dissolution before you can apply for a final dissolution order.

What documentary evidence do I need to apply for civil partnership dissolution?

To apply for a civil partnership dissolution you’ll need:

  • your civil partner’s full name and address
  • your original civil partnership certificate or a certified copy (and a certified translation if it’s not in English)
  • proof of your name change if you’ve changed it since you registered your civil partnership - for example your civil partnership certificate or a deed poll

You must try to find your civil partner’s current address if you do not know it. The court will need it to send them a copy of the civil partnership dissolution petition.

FAQs - Civil Partnership Dissolution Financial Settlement

What Assets Are Split In Civil Partnership Dissolution Financial Settlement?

The adjustment of assets/finances covered by the financial court order may include the following:

  • property
  • money
  • shares
  • savings
  • pensions
  • debts
  • children/spousal maintenance

Does Partner's Behaviour Affect The Civil Partnership Dissolution Financial Settlement?

Normally, the behaviour of your partner including adultery or unreasonable behaviour does not affect the civil partnership dissolution financial settlement. The grounds for civil partnership dissolution you use to obtain a divorce have no bearing on your financial settlement. Extreme behaviour may be taken into account by the court, for example, if one partner's violence has had a lasting effect on the other. If one partner recklessly or deliberately sabotages the financial position, for example, by spending recklessly or destroying assets, this could also be taken into account.

What is a ‘clean break’ civil partnership dissolution financial settlement?

A clean break civil partnership dissolution financial settlement is where no ongoing financial commitments remain between you and your civil partner. The phrase ‘a clean break’ is particularly used as the opposite of an order where there is ongoing spousal maintenance payable, usually monthly, from one spouse to the other.

A clean break is only possible in relation to the financial claims between civil partners. It is not possible to have a clean break in relation to financial obligations towards your children.

What if I don’t have any assets to split?

In case you and your ex-partner have no assets to divide, you should also apply for a financial settlement. It’s important to do so, even if you don’t have any assets to divide at the time of the civil partnership dissolution. There’s no guarantee you won’t come into some money in the future and if you haven’t obtained a financial settlement, your ex is still within their legal rights to make a financial claim.

Once a 'clean break' agreement of this kind has been ratified by court order, neither of you will be able to go back to court in the future to ask for maintenance or further transfer of assets. This gives both partners a much greater degree of certainty and allows them to completely disentangle their individual financial affairs.

Will any payments I make to my civil partner while we are separated affect the final civil partnership dissolution settlement?

Not usually. It may be unwise to make excessively large payments to your civil partner, because it might be argued that this shows both their need for such payments (or an equivalent transfer of assets) and your ability to pay.

Even so, any financial settlement should take into account the longer-term history of the marriage and future financial prospects.

On the other hand, if your civil partner needs maintenance while you are separated, it would normally be sensible to provide it. Failure to do so is likely to make your civil partner more hostile towards you.

Your civil partner might apply to the court for an interim financial order requiring you to pay an appropriate level of maintenance. Both of these are likely to increase the overall level of ill-feeling - and costs - in reaching a final agreement.

What effect will it have if I move out of the family home before our civil partnership is dissolved?

You will still have the same rights to occupy the home as you had before and can move back in if you choose.

There may be practical problems if, for example, your civil partner changes the locks. While you will be entitled to get back in, it makes sense to ensure that you take anything you may need - such as important documents - with you in the first place.

There may also be other considerations so it is advisable to take advice before moving out.

Are there any precautions I should take during a civil partnership dissolution, for example, to stop my civil partner taking cash from our joint account?

If your civil partner can make withdrawals from a joint account without your agreement, you run the risk that some or all of the money will be taken. You will also be jointly liable for any debts run up on the account.

If you need access to the money or if you suspect that your civil partner may misuse it, you may want to close the account. The same applies to any other form of joint borrowing or spending facility, such as a joint credit card.

However, if you suddenly freeze accounts that your civil partner needs for living expenses, this will create problems. Your civil partner will want you to make appropriate maintenance payments and may apply to the court for an interim financial order.

If your civil partner is the sole owner of the family home, you should apply to the Land Registry to register an interest in the property. This will prevent the house being sold without your consent.

Is our civil partnership dissolution settlement affected if one of us remarries/registers civil partnership or starts cohabiting with a new partner?

If you remarry/register civil partnership without having reached a financial settlement with your former civil partner, you may lose the right to make any financial claim against your former civil partner. He or she will still have the same right to make a financial claim against you as before.

If you have previously reached a clean break settlement, the remarriage or re-registration of civil partnership (or cohabitation) will normally have no effect - you have already made a once and for all agreement.

If you are paying your former civil partner maintenance (this does not include child maintenance), maintenance ceases if the recipient remarries (but not if the recipient merely starts to cohabit).

In any case, if your former civil partner's financial position improves, you can apply to the court to stop paying maintenance or to pay a reduced amount.

If you are receiving maintenance from your former civil partner, you should normally continue to do so after he or she remarries.

How long will it take to sort out our civil partnership dissolution and financial settlement?

Obtaining a civil partnership dissolution typically takes about six months. The process can take longer if anyone fails to deal with the various pieces of paperwork promptly.

How long financial settlement takes depends very much on your relationship with your civil partner and the complexity of your financial affairs. Often, the financial settlement can be negotiated over the same period as the civil partnership dissolution proceedings, and is then confirmed by a consent order.

Where there is an agreed financial outcome, it is possible to obtain a court order embodying the agreement (consent order) and your decree absolute within 6 months from start to finish.

Where an agreement is not reached, it could take between 12 – 18 months to conclude form the date an application for financial settlement is made to the court.

Who pays the legal fees for a civil partnership dissolution financial settlement?

In most cases, both parties will have their own solicitor and will be responsible for their own legal fees. Only in unusual circumstances will the court consider conduct in the proceedings or the process of disclosure as a justification for an order for costs being made against the other party.

While negotiating a financial settlement you each use - and are responsible for paying - your own lawyer. As part of the settlement, however, one of you might negotiate that the other should pay part or all of their legal fees.

You can keep your legal fees down by agreeing as much as possible among yourselves. Fees can mount up if hostile civil partners insist on conducting all negotiations through lawyers while arguing over trivial details. 

What orders can the court make in civil partnership dissolution financial settlement?

The court has power to make orders for a spouse including:-

  • Periodical payments (maintenance or alimony)
  • Secured provision (maintenance that is charged against an asset)
  • Lump sum (a cash payment)
  • Transfer of property (where one legal ownership of an asset is taken away from one civil partner and transferred to the other)
  • (except upon decree of judicial separation) a pension  attachment and a pension sharing order
  • Agreed child maintenance orders, school fees orders and/or top up orders where there is a maximum Child Maintenance Service assessment.

Can money one of us expects to inherit be taken into account in civil partnership dissolution financial settlement?

Usually not unless you are about to receive the inheritance.

Will a pre-civil registration agreement protect my assets if we dissolve our civil partnership?

Pre-civil registration Agreements are not legally binding in the UK but are considered to be pursuasive for the judge to exercise discretion in deciding the financial settlement by giving weight to the pre-civil registration agreement. Pre-Nups, Post Nups and Pre-civil registration agreements cannot exclude the authority of the Court when dealing with financial issues when a marriage or civil partnership irretrievably breaks down. When civil partnership dissolution arises, the court has discretionary powers to distribute assets as the Judge sees is in the best interest of the parties/children/individual circumstances. The pre-civil registration agreement which has been entered into fairly and after taking appropriate legal advice may have persuasive authority for the judge to exercise discretion and give weight to the same in distribution of assets.

The caveat is that while UK courts will recognise pre-civil registration agreements, they also still have the ultimate discretion to ignore any agreement reached if the agreement is deemed to be unfair to any children of the civil partnership.

What can I do if I find out my civil partners has assets or income not disclosed when we agreed the civil partnership dissolution settlement?

You can go to court to get the financial settlement altered.

What can I do if I cannot afford the maintenance payments to my former civil partner?

You can go to court to ask them to change the maintenance order to reflect your circumstances. For example, you might do this if you lose your job and cannot find another one.

Is it possible to reopen a civil partnership dissolution financial settlement?

It is possible to reopen a civil partnership dissolution financial settlement, but extremely rare. In most circumstances, once a financial settlement has been officially recorded in the form of a consent order, the financial ties between the couple are broken and neither of them will be entitled to make financial claims in the future.

However, a precedent set during the case of Barder vs Barder (1987) means that a court may allow a financial settlement to be reopened if something later happens that alters the principle on which the original consent order was made.

Before the court will agree to reopen a settlement, four key factors need to be satisfied:

  • A new event(s) occurs that invalidates the basis, or fundamental assumption, on which the original consent order was made.
  • The new event(s) must have occurred within a relatively short time after the consent order was made.
  • The request to re-open the financial settlement is made soon after the new event occurs.
  • The appeal does not prejudice any rights to assets acquired by third parties (for example, if a house has been sold to an unconnected third party).

Successful applications to reopen financial settlements are rare but they do happen – for example, in the case of Critchell v Critchell (2015).

Am I entitled to spousal maintenance after a civil partnership dissolution?

This will depend on many factors including:

  • How long you were in civil partnership
  • The standard of living you enjoyed before the civil partnership dissolution
  • Your respective financial needs and the financial needs of any dependent children
  • The current earnings of each party
  • The potential earning capacity of each party in the future
  • The contribution made to the civil partnership, either financial or by caring for children and looking after the family home

For example, if a young couple with no children have been married for only a short time and both are working, then it may be fair for them both to leave the civil partnership with no ongoing financial ties and taking with them what they brought into the civil partnership.

If a couple have been in civil partnership for 25 years and by agreement the wife gave up a career to bring up the family at home, while the husband became the sole bread winner, then the wife's future earnings capability may be severely compromised.

In these circumstances the wife should not be penalised for her lack of earnings ability and may be entitled to ongoing spousal maintenance.

How courts deal with pensions in civil partnership dissolution financial settlement?

When a civil partnership ends, courts deal with the pension arrangements in one of 3 ways.

  1. You’re given a percentage share of your former partner’s pension pot. This is known as pension sharing. The money that you get from the pension pot of your former civil partner is then legally treated as your money.
  2. The value of a pension is offset against other assets. This is known as pension offsetting. For example: you keep your pension and your former civil partner keeps the home.
  3. Some of your pension is paid to your former partner. This is known as pension attachment or sometimes pension earmarking. This is like a maintenance payment directly from one person’s pension pot to their former civil partner. Under this arrangement, money from your tax-free lump sum can also go to your former civil partner.

FAQs - Financial Settlement In England After An Overseas Civil Partnership Dissolution

Can I apply for civil partnership dissolution financial settlement in England after my overseas civil partnershio dissolution?

You can apply for financial settlement in England after your overseas civil partnership dissolution if you obtained no financial settlement or the financial settlement made in the other country was inadequate and parties to the civil partnership dissolution have sufficient connection to England.

What are the circumstances under which a financial relief in England after an overseas civil partnership dissolution is likely to be a viable option?

In practice, an application for financial relief in England after overseas civil partnership dissolution is most likely to become a viable way to proceed in cases where the foreign civil partnership dissolution was in a jurisdiction where the courts:

  • do not have jurisdiction over foreign property;
  • have no, or under-developed, mechanisms to force financial disclosure;
  • demonstrate favouritism towards nationals over expat spouses;
  • have no mechanism to share pensions;
  • demonstrate favouritism towards those of one religion over another; or
  • have no or under-developed mechanisms to enforce agreements and orders.

Under what provisions of Family Law, an application for financial relief in England can be made after a foreign civil partnership dissolution?

Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 (“Part III”) allows a person who has ended civil partnership abroad to apply for financial relief in England after an overseas civil partnership dissolution. The purpose of the legislation, known as Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 (“Part III”) is to alleviate the adverse consequences of no, or no adequate, financial provision made on civil partnership dissolution by a foreign court in a situation where the parties had substantial connections with England.

What are the two stages for financial relief in England after an overseas civil partnership dissolution?

The 2 stages for financial relief in England after an overseas civil partnership dissolution are as follows:

First Stage: Sermission Stage

First, the Court’s permission must be obtained to make an application for a financial award. The process begins with a without notice application for permission to proceed. The applicant must show that they have a 'substantial ground' for the application to proceed. The permission stage is designed to filter out weak applications before the respondent is put to the significant costs of defending an application that may be fatally flawed or have little merit.

At the permission stage the applicant must be able to show that they satisfy the jurisdictional requirements and that the legal test set out in in the leading case of Agbaje v Agbaje [2010] has been met.  The threshold is not high but higher than a "good arguable case".

Second Stage: Divorce Financial Settlement Proceedings After Grant Of Permission

After the permission to proceed with financial settlement has been granted by the court in the first stage of the process, the court procedure for second stage is the same as for an in-country civil partnership dissolution financial settlement.

What are the jurisdiction requirements for permission to be granted by the family court for financial relief in Engalnd after an overseas civil partnership dissolution?

In order to bring a claim in England, the parties must have sufficient connection to England as follows:

  • Either party is domiciled in England and Wales at the time of the foreign civil partnership dissolution or at the time of the application; or
  • Either party has been habitually resident in England and Wales for 12 months at the time of the foreign civil partnership dissolution or at the time of the application; or
  • One party has an interest in a dwelling house in England and Wales which had been a matrimonial home (when claims are limited to the value of the house);
  • Other narrow criteria following recent EU legislation.

What are the leal requirements for grant of permission to apply for financial relief in England after an overseas civil partnership dissolution?

For Part III proceedings to initiate in England, both the civil partneship as well as dissolution of civil partnership must be legally recognised and valid under English law. Part III proceedings can only be brought if the applicant has not remarried or re-registered his/her civil partnership.

The legal test on an application for permission is set out at paragraph 33 of Agbaje:

"... the principal object of the filter mechanism is to prevent wholly unmeritorious claims being pursued to oppress or blackmail a former spouse. The threshold is not high, but is higher than 'serious issue to be tried' or 'good arguable case' found in other contexts. It is perhaps best expressed by saying that in this context 'substantial' means 'solid'."

Further guidance can be found in Traversa v Freddi [2011] at paragraph 30 and 31:

"It is clear that the section 13 filter is there to exclude plainly unmeritorious cases and, although, in the evaluation of substance, regard must be paid to overall merits, it does not call for a rigorous evaluation of all the circumstances that would be considered once the application has passed through the filter.

At the hearing of the section 13 application the judge will of course be conscious of the fact that, once through the filter, the applicant will have to clear a number of fences that the following sections erect. Unless it is obvious that the applicant will fall at one or more of the fences, his performance at each is better left to the evaluation of the trial judge."

What factors are taken into account by the court when considering permission application for financial relief in England after an overseas civil partnership dissolution?

Followring are the factors that the judge must take into account when assessing whether the applicant has satisfied the legal test set out in Agbaje are detailed in s16(2), MFPA 1984:

  • the connection that the parties to the civil partnership have with:
    • England and Wales;
    • the country in which the civil partnership was dissolved or annulled, or in which they were legally separated; and
    • any other country outside England and Wales;
  • any financial benefit that the applicant, or a child of the family, has received, or is likely to receive, in consequence of the civil partnership dissolution, annulment or legal separation, by virtue of any agreement or operation of the law of a country outside England and Wales;
  • where an order has been made by a court in a country outside England and Wales requiring the other party to the civil partnership to make any payment or transfer any property for the benefit of the applicant or a child of the family, the financial relief given by the order and the extent to which the order has been complied with or is likely to be complied with;
  • any right that the applicant has, or has had, to apply for financial relief from the other party to the civil partnership under the law of any country outside England and Wales, and, if the applicant has omitted to exercise that right, the reason for that omission;
  • the availability in England and Wales of any property in respect of which an order in favour of the applicant could be made;
  • the extent to which any order made is likely to be enforceable; and
  • the length of time that has elapsed since the date of the divorceDissolution Of Civil Partnership, annulment or legal separation.

How important is the detailed personal statement of the applicant for an application for permission to apply for financial relief in England after an overseas civil partnership dissolution?

The application for permission must be supported by a very detailed personal statement in support of the Application. Such supporting statement of the Applicant should meticulously address:

  • the background of the case,
  • why both the civil partnership and the foreign dissolution of civil partnership is entitled to be recognised as valid in England & Wales; and
  • how the jurisdictional requirements are satisfied.

The statement should demonstrate that the merits tests set out in the legislation and case law have been met. Where available, very full documentary evidence should be exhibited to the statement. The statement in support of the application is also a good opportunity to discuss in detail the overall merits of the case beyond the application for permission.

Do I need country expert report for permission to apply for financial relief in England after an overseas civil partnership dissolution?

The court must take into account the financial benefit that has been, or is likely to be, received in the foreign jurisdiction, and if the applicant has the right to apply for relief, and reason why that right has not been exercised. These factors cannot properly be addressed without evidence as to the law of the foreign jurisdiction. The applicant should therefore consider obtaining a short expert report from a specialist in the relevant jurisdiction to be attached to their statement in support of their application for permission.

Why financial settlement claim in England after an overseas civil partnership dissolution?

If you have already ended your civil partnership abroad and obtained no financial settlement or the financial settlement made in the other country was inadequate, you may be able to apply to the English Court for a financial settlement order against your former civil partner. 

The English family courts have the ability to grant financial provision even though a civil partnership dissolution may have been previously pronounced abroad and financial provision already made. The purpose of the legislation, known as Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 (“Part III”) is to alleviate the adverse consequences of no, or no adequate, financial provision made on civil partnership dissolution by a foreign court in a situation where the parties had substantial connections with England.

There are still some appalling injustices in some countries abroad which is where the English legislation helps to redress some of these cases. It is an opportunity for fairness and justice for some international families. Part III proceedings can also usefully be used where the law of the country where the civil partnership dissolution occurred does not allow orders to be made in respect of offshore property. It can also be used to obtain a pension sharing order in respect of an English pension in circumstances where other issues are dealt with in the foreign civil partnership dissolution and a foreign civil partnership dissolution pension sharing order will have no validity for the English pension company.

However, it is not for England to act as a court of appeal of other countries with similar approaches to England. Neither is it an opportunity to have two ‘bites of the cherry’.

Where the connection with England is strong, it may be appropriate for there to be such provision as would have been made had the civil partnership dissolution been in England. Where the connection is not so strong and there has already been adequate provision, it will not be appropriate for Part III to be used as a simple "top up".

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