A Simple Guide to Divorce Procedure in NI

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Ending a marriage can be one of the most difficult and stressful times in a person’s life.

Making the decision to end your marriage brings with it many worries and fears about how life will change upon divorce. The last thing that any person going through a divorce wants to worry about is having to navigate a long, complicated legal process to reach the end result.
It will be a relief to many that the legal procedure for divorce here in Northern Ireland is fairly straightforward. We have put together below some information for you to explain how this process works.

What is the procedure for divorce?

The first step in getting divorce is to issue what is known as a Divorce Petition. This is simply a document which sets out details needed by the Judge to consider your divorce. Importantly, the Petition will detail the grounds on which you are applying for a divorce. If you are the person who has filed for divorce, you will be referred to as the ‘Petitioner’ in these proceedings and your spouse will be referred to as ‘the Respondent’.

The Divorce Petition, once finalised, is then stamped by the Court and served on your spouse who is asked to complete an Acknowledgement of Service Form and lodge this with the Court. This form will confirm that your spouse has received the divorce papers and will detail whether they intend to defend your Petition for divorce.

If your spouse is not challenging the divorce, the case will then be listed for a Decree Nisi hearing.

What is a Decree Nisi hearing?

This is the initial hearing where the Judge will have to determine whether your marriage has irretrievably broken down.   You must attend at Court and give evidence at this hearing.   If the Judge is satisfied that the grounds for divorce have been met, a Decree Nisi is granted – this is an Order stating that are entitled to obtain a Divorce.

Am I divorced after I get my Decree Nisi??

No. The Decree Nisi is simply the first stage of the divorce. In order to be fully legally divorced, you must obtain a Decree Absolute.  You may apply for a Decree Absolute six weeks and one day after the Decree Nisi hearing. Your Solicitor makes the application for a Decree Absolute after this time has passed and you are not required to attend at Court.

What about the family finances and property?

Often, if the division of the family finances and property has not been agreed between you and your spouse, Court Proceedings would then be issued to decide how to divide the finances. These proceedings are called Ancillary Relief proceedings.  In cases where the family finances and property have not been finalised, the Petitioner is generally advised not to apply for the Decree Absolute until after the finances are resolved.  This is because both parties could lose certain rights such as widow pension benefits.

How much will a Divorce cost?

There will be Court fees payable for issuing divorce proceedings.  these include a fee for the issuing of the divorce petition, setting the case down for Hearing and then obtaining a copy of the Decree Absolute.  these fees increase every tax year though are currently around £600-£700.00.   There will be solicitor’s professional costs on top of this.  Most solicitors will give a quote for a divorce in advance of lodging anything with the Court.   Legal Aid may be available depending on your financial circumstances.

If Ancillary Relief proceedings are issued to resolve the financial matters after Decree Nisi, legal costs are likely to be calculated on a time-spent basis.  It is important that you speak with your solicitor about costs before issuing proceedings.

What about the future?

If you had made a Will before getting divorced, it is important to review this after your divorce. Once a divorce has been granted, any part of a Will leaving property to your former spouse will be invalid.

Although a divorce ends your marriage, often you and your former spouse will have to continue to share a relationship with one another for the sake of your children. It is therefore in everyone’s interests to try to ensure that the divorce, if at all possible, is dealt as amicably as possible so that despite your differences at the end of their marriage, you can both move on to the next stage of your lives.

If you would like more information on the legal process of divorce or if you have a query regarding your own divorce, please do not hesitate to contact claire or karen by email or leave your comments confidentially below.

*October 2015

 

 

International Divorce : Things To Consider

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The world is becoming a smaller place with ever greater opportunities for people to travel and work abroad.   Increasing numbers of people are meeting and marrying someone from another country and as such, many families now have both a multicultural and an international dimension which would have been far less prevalent a decade ago.
If this family unit breaks down, there are a number of additional issues which can arise.  Here are some of the ways an international dimension can have an impact on family breakdown:
It may be possible for divorce proceedings to be brought in more than one jurisdiction.

The choice of jurisdiction can have a significant impact on the outcome of divorce proceedings as different countries apply different sets of rules, especially when it comes to the division of assets. It may be financially advantageous to a spouse to issue proceedings in one jurisdiction rather than another.  It is extremely important to seek legal advice about the different jurisdictional options at the very earliest stage as often the Court where proceedings are first issued will be the Court which ultimately decides the case.

There may be a limit in the Court’s power to enforce orders in relation to property or assets in another jurisdiction.

On divorce, there may be a limit to what a Court can do in relation to assets held in another jurisdiction. For example, if a couple own a holiday home abroad, there may be difficulties in enforcing a Court order dealing with this foreign asset.

There may be issues regarding where the children should live in the future.

After the breakdown of a relationship, one parent may wish to move back to their country of origin with their children.  However, if they do this without the consent of the other parent or permission from the Court, they could well be accused of abducting their child and proceedings could be brought for the return of the child to the place in which they had been living. Indeed, in some countries these actions could amount to a criminal offence.  It is crucial that legal advice is taken so that you are fully informed before deciding how to proceed. It is also important if your child has been taken without consent that you take steps as soon as possible if you wish for them to be returned.

Could a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement help?

One way to try to avoid the uncertainty of what may happen should a relationship break down is to enter into an agreement while the relationship is working well. Whilst these agreements are regarded by some as unromantic, they are a practical way of agreeing what should happen if things don’t work out. Such an agreement could record what would happen to the assets following relationship breakdown.  It could also record the parties’ intentions about the children such as where they would live, their maintenance and education. The agreement could also settle which Court would have legal jurisdiction if there is a dispute.

Many countries recognise pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements or at the very least take its terms into account when ascertaining what the parties’ intentions had been. It is important to find out if the jurisdiction in which you will be living would do so.

If you would like further information on any legal aspect of divorce, please feel free to contact us confidentially here or leave your comments below

 

Helping Your Child Through a Separation

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Parenting NI has been a leading organisation for supporting parents in Northern Ireland since 1979. 

In a guest blog for Life Law NI, Emma Lyttle from Parenting NI provides us with some information on how parents can help their child(ren) through relationship breakdown.

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In the UK, it is estimated that more that 40% of marriages will ultimately end in divorce, leaving more than one in four children experiencing divorce by the age of 16*

All parents will be concerned about the effect any separation will have on their children.  Even if both parents mutually agreed on the separation, it will still be difficult to cope.  Separation is an upsetting and confusing time for parents and children.  It can be a time of stress and anxiety with voices being raised and feelings reaching boiling point.

Regardless of a child’s age, they are likely to experience similar emotions to their parents, although express them in a different way.  Some of the reactions to separation children may experience include feeling angry, guilty, a conflict of loyalty between their parents, denial, and mood changes, tantrums, health or school problems.

Talking with your children is vital during the separation process.  Children need to be told where each parent will be living, how contact will be maintained with their non-resident parent, and that mummy and daddy still love them and will continue to be there for them. 

Having access to both parents and trying to maintain a routine will help your children to adapt to the initial changes.  Acknowledge that it is okay to feel sad or angry and help your children to find healthy ways to express their emotions.  Reassure your children that the separation is not their fault and explain that they cannot fix or change what is happening in the family.  Above all, try to shield your children from any arguments as children experience parental conflict as stressful and upsetting.

The whole family is going to need time to adapt to the changes so try to take one step at a time and don’t be too hard on yourself.  Talking about your feelings with a family member or friend, whom you trust, will help to reduce your feelings of isolation.

parentingni

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON PARENTING NI, VISIT OUR WEBSITE ON WWW.PARENTINGNI.ORG

 

*Information taken from Office of National Statistics

 

LIFE BITE: Brangelina No More! Angelina Jolie files for divorce from Brad Pitt

apple-150579_1280Angelina Jolie’s lawyer confirmed yesterday that she has filed for divorce from Brad Pitt.   The couple have been together since 2004 and have six children.  They were married in August 2014.

 

In a statement made by Angelina’s lawyer, we were told that she filed for “dissolution of marriage” on Monday and that the “decision was made for the health of the family”.

Sometimes, for one reason or another, a marriage just doesn’t work – regardless of whether you are rich, famous movie stars or not.  In fact, here in Northern Ireland, currently one in four marriages ends in divorce.

Ending a marriage can be one of the most difficult and stressful times in a person’s life.  Making the decision to end your marriage brings with it many worries and fears about how life will change upon divorce. The last thing that any person going through a divorce wants to worry about is having to navigate a long, complicated legal process to reach the end result.

It may be a relief to know that the legal procedure for divorce here in Northern Ireland is fairly straightforward.    We have put together below some information for you on our blog to explain how this process works.

Click here to read more

IF YOU WOULD LIKE MORE INFORMATION ON THE LEGAL PROCESS OF DIVORCE OR IF YOU HAVE A QUERY REGARDING YOUR OWN DIVORCE, PLEASE DO NOT HESITATE TO CONTACT us at cedgar@fhanna.co.uk OR kconnolly@fhanna.co.uk or LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS CONFIDENTIALLY BELOW.

A Simple Guide to Divorce Procedure in NI

divorce4

Ending a marriage can be one of the most difficult and stressful times in a person’s life.

Making the decision to end your marriage brings with it many worries and fears about how life will change upon divorce. The last thing that any person going through a divorce wants to worry about is having to navigate a long, complicated legal process to reach the end result.
It will be a relief to many that the legal procedure for divorce here in Northern Ireland is fairly straightforward. We have put together below some information for you (minus the legal jargon!) to explain how this process works.

What is the procedure for divorce?

The first step in getting divorce is to issue what is known as a Divorce Petition. This is simply a document which sets out details needed by the Judge to consider your divorce. Importantly, the Petition will detail the grounds on which you are applying for a divorce. If you are the person who has filed for divorce, you will be referred to as the ‘Petitioner’ in these proceedings and your spouse will be referred to as ‘the Respondent’.

The Divorce Petition, once finalised, is then stamped by the Court and served on your spouse who is asked to complete an Acknowledgement of Service Form and lodge this with the Court. This form will confirm that your spouse has received the divorce papers and will detail whether they intend to defend your Petition for divorce.

If your spouse is not challenging the divorce, the case will then be listed for a Decree Nisi hearing.

What is a Decree Nisi hearing?

This is the initial hearing where the Judge will have to determine whether your marriage has irretrievably broken down.   You must attend at Court and give evidence at this hearing.   If the Judge is satisfied that the grounds for divorce have been met, a Decree Nisi is granted – this is an Order stating that are entitled to obtain a Divorce.

Am I divorced after I get my Decree Nisi??

No. The Decree Nisi is simply the first stage of the divorce. In order to be fully legally divorced, you must obtain a Decree Absolute.  You may apply for a Decree Absolute six weeks and one day after the Decree Nisi hearing. Your Solicitor makes the application for a Decree Absolute after this time has passed and you are not required to attend at Court.

What about the family finances and property?

Often, if the division of the family finances and property has not been agreed between you and your spouse, Court Proceedings would then be issued to decide how to divide the finances. These proceedings are called Ancillary Relief proceedings.  In cases where the family finances and property have not been finalised, the Petitioner is generally advised not to apply for the Decree Absolute until after the finances are resolved.  This is because both parties could lose certain rights such as widow pension benefits.

How much will a Divorce cost?

At the time of writing*, the Court costs for a Decree Nisi are £575.  There will be solicitors’ professional costs on top of this.  Most solicitors will give a quote for a divorce in advance of lodging anything with the Court.   Legal Aid may be available depending on your financial circumstances.

If Ancillary Relief proceedings are issued to resolve the financial matters after Decree Nisi, legal costs are likely to be calculated on a time-spent basis.  It is important that you speak with your solicitor about costs before issuing proceedings.

What about the future?

If you had made a Will before getting divorced, it is important to review this after your divorce. Once a divorce has been granted, any part of a Will leaving property to your former spouse will be invalid.

Although a divorce ends your marriage, often you and your former spouse will have to continue to share a relationship with one another for the sake of your children. It is therefore in everyone’s interests to try to ensure that the divorce, if at all possible, is dealt as amicably as possible so that despite your differences at the end of their marriage, you can both move on to the next stage of your lives.
If you would like more information on the legal process of divorce or if you have a query regarding your own divorce, please do not hesitate to contact claire or karen by email or leave your comments confidentially below.

*October 2015