Divorce can be confusing and worrying, but with the right specialist legal advice, the challenges involved in family separation can normally be overcome quickly and with minimal fuss, making life easier for everyone. At Barcan+Kirby, our specialist team of divorce solicitors have decades of experience working with a wide range of clients to protect their interests and those of their loved ones when going through a marriage breakdown.
If you and your partner are considering separation or divorce, our family law solicitors can provide practical advice and legal support, tailored to your needs and circumstances.
Our expert divorce lawyers can help with every aspect of divorce, including the legal process of ending your marriage and making a financial settlement and arrangements for children. Our goal is to make things as straightforward and stress-free as possible, allowing you to quickly move on with your life.
In some areas of family law, we offer a complimentary introductory meeting with a member of our family law team. This 30-minute meeting is designed for you to get to know your solicitor and to discuss your options. If specific advice is required and you’d like to continue past the 30 minutes, please let your solicitor know and you may be able to carry on into a more detailed consultation. This time will be chargeable, but your solicitor will tell you how much it will be.
We can also offer fixed fee divorce packages that we will be happy to discuss with you when you speak to a member of our divorce law team.
Get in touch with our divorce solicitors in Bristol
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Our divorce law services
We can help you with every aspect of divorce, including:
- Applying for a divorce
- Responding to divorce proceedings initiated by your spouse
- Representing you during a divorce hearing
- Making a financial agreement
- Making arrangements for children
- Resolving any other practical issues connected to your divorce
Speak to a member of our divorce law team now to discuss your requirements.
The divorce process explained
There are various aspects to ending your marriage and having the support of specialist divorce solicitors from the outset can help keep the process as fast, smooth and stress-free as possible.
An important point to understand is that proceedings to end your marriage are entirely separate from those for making a divorce settlement and arrangements for children.
There are various steps involved in divorce proceedings. A typical straightforward divorce will go ahead as follows:
- One or both spouses file a divorce petition with the relevant local court
- The court sends a copy of the divorce petition to the other spouse (the ‘respondent’)
- The respondent will have 8 days to reply to the court, either accepting the divorce or stating that they wish to defend the divorce (i.e. try to stop it happening)
- Where the respondent accepts the divorce, it can move ahead straightaway. If the respondent chooses to defend the divorce, they will have 21 days to explain why in writing
- Where the divorce is defended, you will be assigned a court hearing date, which will typically be several months in the future
- Where the divorce is undefended, or a judge rules at a hearing that the divorce can go ahead, you will be issued with a decree nisi. This is an official document stating that the court sees no reason your divorce cannot proceed
- Once you have your decree nisi, you will need to wait at least 43 days and then apply for a decree absolute. Once your decree absolute is issued, your marriage is legally ended
Our divorce settlement services
In most cases, our divorce lawyers can help you agree a divorce settlement voluntarily, either through straightforward negotiation with your ex-partner or their solicitor or via non-confrontational dispute resolution methods, such as family mediation.
Assets that may be considered for a divorce settlement include:
- Your family home and any other property you own
- Pension entitlements
- Family businesses
Making arrangements for children during divorce
This is often one of the most contentious issues to resolve during divorce, but it is usually in your children’s best interests (and your own) to reach an amicable agreement with your ex-partner wherever possible.
Issues that can be included in an agreement over arrangements for children include:
- Where your children will live
- What contact they will have with a non-resident parent
- Child maintenance agreements
- Other specific issues, such as where your children will go to school, whether they will have a religious education etc.
Family mediation offers a fast, effective way to reach an amicable agreement with your former partner over issues such as financial settlements and arrangements for children.
This process involves both you and your former spouse having a series of meetings, together with a trained divorce mediator, to talk through the various issues that need to be resolved and agree mutually acceptable solutions. The mediator acts as a neutral third party, helping to guide the discussion, defuse any tension and keep things productive.
Mediation is typically much faster and less expensive than taking your divorce through the courts and can keep conflict to a minimum, saving you a lot of stress and making it easier to maintain a positive relationship with your ex-partner.
In most cases you will need to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to find out whether mediation could be right for you, before you will be allowed to apply to a court for a divorce settlement or arrangements for your children.
Our divorce fees
Our divorce solicitors provide a fixed fee divorce service for straightforward separations, covering the cost of legally ending your marriage. This is intended to provide certainty over the costs involved, giving you one less thing to worry about at this difficult time.
Our fixed fee divorce service does not cover making a financial settlement or arrangements for children, or dealing with a disputed divorce. We will be happy to discuss the fees for these services separately and either provide a quote or a breakdown of our hourly rate as appropriate.
Legal aid for divorce
Legal aid is no longer available for divorce except where there are exceptional circumstances, such as a history of domestic abuse. If you think you may be eligible for legal aid funding for your divorce, please get in touch.
In some areas of family law, we offer a complimentary introductory meeting with a member of our family law team. This 30-minute meeting is designed for you to get to know your solicitor and to discuss your options.
If specific advice is required and you’d like to continue past the 30 minutes, please let your solicitor know and you may be able to carry on into a more detailed consultation. This time will be chargeable, but your solicitor will tell you how much it will be.
To book a consultation with our solicitors in Bristol, call 0117 325 2929.
Mediation is an effective method of resolving disputes, without the need to go to court. It’s a voluntary process that involves an independent third party (a mediator) who helps both parties come to an agreement through discussion and negotiation.
It’s a popular misconception that pre-nups are only for the wealthy. There are many situations that may trigger the need for a prenuptial agreement. These include having children from a previous relationship, owning or being part of a business, owning pre-marital property or having substantial assets.
Our simple guide to pre-nups might help you decide whether a prenuptial agreement is right for you, or you can contact our family law solicitors for help and advice.
To formally end your marriage, you’ll need to obtain an order (a ‘Divorce’) from the County Court. You’ll also need to complete an application form (a ‘Petition’) to show what grounds you have for an order. The grounds are: Adultery by your partner; unreasonable behaviour; desertion for two years; separation for two years and consent from your partner; separation for five years.
Our specialist family lawyers can help you apply for divorce. There isn’t normally a need to attend court and, in most cases, a divorce will be granted within four months of the petition being issued.
For further information, contact our family law team in Bristol.
If you’ve been in your civil partnership for at least one year, you have the right to dissolve it by petitioning the County Court for a dissolution order.
Our family law solicitors can advise you on ending your civil partnership. You’ll need to demonstrate that your civil partnership has irretrievably broken down through one of four supporting facts. These are: unreasonable behaviour; desertion for two years; separation for two years and consent from your partner; and separation for five years.
As an alternative to court, we can refer you to family mediation. This is quicker, more flexible and helps you maintain control over the situation. Reaching agreement amicably is particularly beneficial when children are involved. Contact our family law team to book your consultation.
Payments for children are governed and administered by the Child Support Agency (CSA). They’ll calculate the payment due based on the absent parent’s disposable income and the number of children. For further information, visit the GOV.UK website.
Some payments are determined by the court, including school fees, step-children and disabled children. For advice on negotiating these payments, contact our family law solicitors in Bristol and South Gloucestershire for advice.
As part of any divorce both parties are required to provide full and frank disclosure of their financial positions to the other. Initially this is likely to be on a voluntary basis but it can be imposed by the court as part of an order.
You’ll need to complete Form E to detail your financial situation. This includes your financial position now and what you expect it to be in the future. You’ll also need to include supporting documentation as evidence.
There is only one accepted ground for divorce in the UK, this being that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
In order to prove that this is the case, you will need to cite one of the following 5 accepted reasons for divorce:
- Adultery. If your spouse has been unfaithful with someone of the opposite sex (under current English law, same-sex infidelity falls under ‘unreasonable behaviour’ instead)
- Unreasonable behaviour. If your spouse has behaved in a way that means you can no longer reasonably be expected to live with them. Examples include your spouse not supporting you emotionally, spending too little time with you or refusing to contribute financially, as well as more serious issues, such as alcoholism and domestic violence
- Desertion. If your spouse has left you for at least 2 years out of the last 2.5 years and did so without your consent, without a good reason and with the intention to end your relationship
- Separation for at least 2 years. If you and your spouse have lived apart for 2 years or more and your spouse consents to the divorce. ‘Living apart’ usually means you must not be living under the same roof
- Separation for at least 5 years. If you and your spouse have lived apart for 5 years or more, whether your spouse consents to the divorce or not
This depends entirely on the circumstances, but it will usually take around 4-6 months for an undefended divorce.
If the divorce is defended, it can take significantly longer as you will have to wait for a hearing date.
If your goal is to get divorced as quickly as possible, for example, if you are intending to remarry, there are things our solicitors can do to help the process move forward as fast as possible.
- Helping you to prepare your divorce petition, ensuring there are no errors that could see it rejected and force you to reapply.
- Advising you on the best reasons for your divorce to cite in the petition. This can help to ensure they will be sufficient to satisfy a court while minimising the chances of your spouse objecting and deciding to defend the divorce.
- Ensuring all of the paperwork is handled promptly, including applying for the decree absolute as soon as you are eligible to do so.
- Using our skills in alternative dispute resolution to keep the divorce process amicable, allowing issues to be resolved quickly and avoiding the need for lengthy court action where at all possible.
From May 2018, it has been possible for people in England and Wales to fill out a divorce application online. This is intended to make it faster and easier to get divorced, in part by reducing the number of mistakes made in divorce petitions that can see the application rejected, wasting time and money for applicants and the courts.
While this does offer advantages, it is still strongly recommended for anyone applying for a divorce to seek assistance from a specialist divorce solicitor. This can help avoid the potential for any mistakes or other issues that could hold up the application, e.g. not providing sufficient reasons for the divorce to be approved by a court.
This will depend on the circumstances, including whether your divorce can be handled out of court (which is normally a lot cheaper than if you need to rely on a divorce court to handle proceedings).
Our divorce lawyers provide a fixed fee divorce service for straightforward separations, covering the cost of legally ending your marriage. This does not cover associated issues, such as making a financial settlement and arrangements for children, which will be charged on a separate basis.
The overall cost of your divorce will usually depend on the complexity of the issues involved and how much time these take to resolve. We will be happy to provide an estimate of costs up front and will keep you regularly updated, so you can always stay in control of how much you spend.
To find out more about the cost of divorce or to request a quote, please get in touch.
‘No fault’ divorce (where both spouses simply agree to end their marriage) is not currently an option in the UK. This means that you will need to give a reason for ending your marriage in order for a court to grant permission for a divorce.
If you and your ex-partner both agree to the divorce and your goal is to have it go ahead as quickly as possible, it can be a good idea to agree the reasons you will give on your divorce petition for your marriage to end. This can reduce the potential for your spouse to defend the divorce if they feel the stated reasons are unfair to them.
It is also sensible to discuss the reasons you will state in your divorce petition with your solicitor to make sure they are likely to be sufficient to satisfy a court. If the court feels your stated reasons are not enough to end your marriage, they can reject your application, holding up your divorce and forcing you to reapply at additional cost.
Unfortunately, legal aid is now only available for divorce in exceptional circumstances, such as where there has been domestic abuse. If you believe you may qualify for legal aid funding, please speak to a member of our team to find out more
There are three main reasons people will typically consider defending a divorce.
- To delay the divorce in an attempt to save the marriage
- If they are not willing to admit to specific accusations that have been made about their behaviour in the divorce petition e.g. adultery has been cited, but they deny having an affair
- Because they want to submit their own divorce petition setting out what they feel are the reasons behind the breakdown of the marriage
All of these issues can usually be resolved through negotiation, mediation and other non-confrontational methods. This means that even where a divorce is defended, it is rarely necessary to rely on a divorce court to resolve matters.
Our divorce law expertise
When you instruct a member of our dedicated divorce law team, we will listen empathetically to your situation to gain a detailed understanding of what you are hoping to achieve. That way, you can be confident the advice we deliver will reflect your requirements and keep your best interests at heart.
Our family team is band 3 ranked in legal guide, Chambers and Partners UK, for its expertise in matrimonial law.
Our solicitors are accredited by the Law Society for Family Law and Children Law, recognising our expertise in these areas. We also have a Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) accredited property law team who can assist with any property issues related to your divorce, including buying and selling property, remortgaging and change of title.
Barcan+Kirby has also been recognised by the Law Society with their Lexcel accreditation reflecting the strength of our client services and we are independently regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
Many people fear that getting divorced will be expensive, take a long time and result in a lot of conflict and stress. However, with the right legal advice and support, the divorce process can usually be kept relatively fast and affordable. By taking a non-confrontational approach it is also normally possible to keep things amicable and avoid any unnecessary emotional fallout.
The divorce process explained
Our divorce lawyers have decades of experience helping people to navigate all of the issues involved in the breakdown of a marriage. In that time, we have found there are a number of questions that people always ask, including: “how do I start divorce proceedings?”, “how long will my divorce take?” and, of course, “how much is this all going to cost?”.
To take some of the confusion out of divorce proceedings, we have answered many of the common questions and concerns our clients typically have. That way, you’ll be able to move forward with a much better idea of exactly what to expect when getting divorced.
There are various parts to the process of getting divorced, including both the legal proceedings to end your marriage, as well as the separate matter of making a financial settlement and arrangements for any children you have.
In most cases, there is no need to go to court for any part of your divorce. However, this will depend on how contentious the issues involved are, including the reasons for the breakdown of your marriage, how your finances should be divided and where any children you have together should live.
To legally end your marriage, you will need to go through the following steps:
Filing for divorce
One or both spouses will need to fill out a divorce petition explaining your reasons for believing your marriage has irretrievably broken down. This will then need to be submitted to the relevant local family court. The spouse who initiates proceedings in this way is known as the ‘petitioner’.
You can find details of your local divorce court based on your postcode using the government’s court and tribunal finder.
As of May 2018, you can now fill out the petition and apply for your divorce online.
Responding to a divorce petition
When the court receives a divorce petition, they will send a copy to the other spouse named in the petition, who is referred to as the ‘respondent’.
The respondent will then have eight days to reply to the court stating whether they accept the divorce and the reasons given for it in the petition, or if they wish to contest the divorce.
If the respondent wants to challenge the petition (known as ‘defending the divorce’) they will then have a further 21 days to inform the court in writing of their reasons for doing so.
Attending a court hearing
If the respondent chooses to defend the divorce, you may have to go to court for a hearing. A judge will then listen to submissions from both spouses (and usually their solicitors), before making a decision over whether the divorce can go ahead or not.
However, in most cases defended divorces can be resolved without the need to attend a court hearing. This can be achieved using alternative dispute resolution, allowing the spouses to sit down in a non-confrontational environment and agree a mutually acceptable way forward.
There are various options for this type of non-confrontational dispute resolution, including negotiations with the assistance of both parties’ lawyers and working with a neutral third-party mediator.
Receiving the ‘decree nisi’
If the respondent does not defend the divorce, or a judge decides to grant the divorce at a hearing, the court will then issue a ‘decree nisi’.
This is a court order saying that the court sees no reason why your divorce cannot go ahead and is essential to allow proceedings to move to the final stage.
Applying for the decree absolute
Once the decree nisi is issued, the petitioner will need to wait for at least 43 days (six weeks and a day) and then they will be able to apply for the ‘decree absolute’. This is the legal document that states that your marriage is officially over, leaving you free to move on, remarry and in all other ways live as a single person.
Both spouses will receive a copy of the decree absolute, which is needed for various issues, such as if you later want to get married again or otherwise have to prove that your marriage has ended.
If, for any reason, the respondent needs to apply for the decree absolute instead of the petitioner, they will need to wait an additional 3 months to do so, on top of the standard 43 days.
If you later need to get a copy of decree absolute, you can do so by applying to the original court that handled your divorce. You will need your case number and will have to pay a small fee (£10 as of December 2020) for the application process.
Making a divorce financial settlement
The job of sorting out and dividing your finances usually happens at the same time as divorce proceedings, although it is a completely separate process.
Even where your finances are fairly complex, it is usually possible to agree a divorce settlement without needing to go to court. This is most commonly done through mediation, allowing you to discuss all of the issues involved in a non-confrontational way with the help of a mediator acting as a neutral third-party to defuse conflict and keep things on track.
If you and your ex-partner cannot agree a settlement, you may need to apply to a court to decide for you. This will involve attending a court hearing where a judge will listen to submissions from both parties, then decide on a settlement.
In order to have your divorce settlement decided in court, you will normally need to show that you have at least considered mediation first by attending a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM).
Making arrangements for children during divorce
If you and your ex-partner have children together, you will need to decide where they will live, how they will be supported and what contact they will have with the non-resident parent.
Again, this can be decided through mediation or other non-confrontational means in most cases and you will typically need to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting before being allowed to apply to a court for assistance making a decision.
Arrangement for children can either be made at the same time as agreeing a financial settlement or as an entirely separate process.
Other issues to think about when getting divorced
Updating your Will
It is usually a good idea to create a new Will when separating or getting divorced to ensure the change in your relationship status is reflected. This can help to ensure your estate goes to your children or other loved ones in the event of your death, rather than your former partner.
Transferring ownership of your home
If you and your partner own a home together, it will usually be necessary to remove one of your names from the title of the property. You will also need to speak to your mortgage provider, who may be willing to let you transfer the mortgage into the remaining occupant’s name, or you may need to remortgage.
Protecting your financial security when moving on to a new relationship
If you intend to move in with a new partner or remarry, it may be worth considering creating a cohabitation agreement or pre-nuptial agreement.
This can give you certainty over what will happen if your new relationship does not work out and ensure your future financial security (and that of your children and any other dependants).
Speak to our expert divorce lawyers in Bristol today
We guide people all across the UK through every aspect of divorce from our six offices in Bristol and the surrounding area, located in Bedminster, Bishopston, Clifton, Kingswood, Queen Square and Thornbury.