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

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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 (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

 

 

Mediation & Relationship Breakdown: Making Your Child’s Rights a Priority

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This week is Mediation Awareness Week 2015 and you may have heard Joan Davis, Director of Family Mediation NI talking about the benefits of mediation this morning on U105 FM.  

To help mark Mediation Awareness Week 2015, Joan has provided Life Law NI with a guest blog looking at the importance of making your child’s rights a priority when dealing with relationship breakdown and how mediation can help assist you in doing this.

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“25 years after the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the question needs to be asked – why does society still ignore child rights?

We hear a lot about human rights, animal rights, parental rights, minority rights and so on from mainstream media, but what about the rights of children?

Article 9 of The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states: –

’Children have the right to live with their parents unless it is bad for them. Children whose parents do not live together have the right to stay in contact with both parents unless this might hurt the child’.

Let’s look at that statement in the context of 21st Century family life here in Northern Ireland:-

  • In 2014, 8,443 children in NI were the subject of final Court orders in Children Order cases.
  • Of these 8,443 children, 3,383 were under 4 years old, 2,468 between 5-8 years old, 1,683 between 9-12 years old and 90 were between 16-18 years old.
  • In 2013, 42% of the births in NI were to unmarried parents.
  • A total of 4,100 children were affected by 2,403 divorces in 2013, yet divorce statistics do not reflect current relationship and family patterns in NI family life.

It is important to consider that behind every statistic, there is a child potentially being denied a healthy relationship with one parent.

You may ask; ‘Where are a child’s rights and voice in all of these adult-constructed life-changing experiences?’   Ok , after separation, some children of a certain appropriate age will be spoken to within the legal system by a Court Children’s Officer and their views and wishes will be sought.  But is this the way we should be approaching our future private family life choices, living as separated parents?

You could also ask; ‘Why do parents default to the law when a romantic relationship ends?   What can we do as a society to begin changing a deeply ingrained mind-set that essentially disables otherwise capable people and renders them incapable of making a sensible decision about their own children’s future?

Independent legal and financial advice is always useful to enable informed decision-making upon separation.  However, for better long-term relationships and for the overall well-being of the child and safeguarding of the child’s rights for the future, Family Mediation NI offers a 21st Century approach to modern family disputes.  We believe mediation should be the natural and first choice for most separating parents.

Entering the process of family mediation empowers parents.  It enables parents to be the natural decision makers and encourages the child’s voice to be equal, to be heard and to be respected.

Child-focused mediation and, in appropriate cases, direct child consultation moves a family from an acrimonious, adversarial, ‘blame game’ system of behaviours to a responsible, future-focused, co-parenting state of mind.

Mediation provides the thinking, talking and listening space, the negotiating space and the neutral space.  It facilitates option generation, assists agreement on a bespoke parenting plan and ultimately a mediated agreement that informs the way forward and introduces the learning of a new form of communication as separate but loving parents, with the child at the heart of the process.

Joan Davis

FMNIJoan Davis is the Director of Family Mediation NI.  Mediation Awareness Week takes place in Northern Ireland from 19th October – 23rd October 2015. Contact Family Mediation NI for more information and details or check out www.mediationawarenessweek.ie

Family Mediation NI

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JoanDavisFMNIJoan Davis is the Director of Family Mediation NI, an organisation aimed at assisting couples upon their relationship breakdown to reach amicable, child-focussed arrangements between themselves. She has provided some information on the organisation and the services they provide:-

What is Family Mediation NI?

Upon the breakdown of a relationship, there are many issues that need to be discussed and decisions that need to be made by both parents in order to move forward not only as individuals but also as co-parents.

Issues which a separating couple may need to discuss can include the following:-

  • Working out best arrangements for your children upon separation – where they are to live, how often they are to see either parent, what school they are to go to, etc
  • Financial matters such as the division of the marital home and other property
  • Child support and maintenance matters
  • Any other problem particular to your circumstances

Separating from a marriage or relationship can be an emotionally charged time for all parties involved and this can sometimes make discussing the above issues in a reasonable and amicable manner very difficult.

Family Mediation NI offers the opportunity for parents, or (former) couples, to discuss any or all of these matters together with the assistance of a mediator to reach a jointly negotiated agreement.

Do I have to use Family Mediation?

No, Family Mediation NI is voluntary and nobody can be compelled to take part against his or her will.   It is often very helpful in assisting people in reaching their own negotiated settlements. The first appointment is always an introductory one so you can consider whether mediation is a way forward for you at this time.

Is Family Mediation confidential?

Yes, all discussions in Family Mediation are confidential.  This confidentiality can only be breached if a crime is alleged against a child, the mediator considers someone to be at serious risk of harm or allegations are made of criminal or fraudulent activity.

Will I need a Solicitor?

At Family Mediation NI, your mediator can record your decisions and summarise them in a written document known as a ‘Mediated Agreement’.  This is not legally binding, but can form the basis of a legal agreement, if your circumstances require this approach.

In mediation, the process belongs to you, you do your own negotiating, removing the need for lengthy solicitor negotiations and legal action and the associated costs, both emotional and financial.  You each may consult a solicitor, pre-mediation to advise you and to make any agreement reached legally binding, if you so wish.  Mediators are neither counsellors nor advisers and do not at any time give legal advice but can help you generate options relevant to your family circumstances.

If you have children, Family Mediation can help you discuss how to talk to your children to ascertain their views and to help them to understand what is happening and in certain cases direct child consultation may be assessed as appropriate.  You may also obtain help in how to tell your children about the breakup and reassure them that both of you are finding a way to support the family move forward.

At Family Mediation NI, we offer a 21st Century approach to modern family disputes. We believe that mediation should be the natural and first choice for most separating parents. Family Mediation NI is available throughout NI.

Joan Davis, FMNI Director

For more information on the services Family Mediation NI offer and the support they can provide you with, please contact them on Enquiry@familymediationni.org.uk or telephone 028 9024 3265
Mediation Awareness Week takes place in Northern Ireland from 19th October – 23rd October 2015. Contact Family Mediation NI for more information and details or check out www.mediationawarenessweek.ie

Getting a Divorce? On what grounds?

divorce-cake“Divorce isn’t such a tragedy. A tragedy’s staying in an unhappy marriage, teaching your children the wrong things about love. Nobody ever died of divorce.”   

This may be something I read in a cheesy chick book, but there’s a lot of truth in it!

Sometimes, for one reason or another, marriages just don’t work.
It is an unfortunate statistic that here in Northern Ireland, one in four marriages ends in divorce

Many people, particularly older generations, feel that divorce has become somewhat ‘fashionable’ these days and that it is too ‘easy’ for couples to get divorced.

Whilst some could argue that there may be a little truth in that given the statistics, it is by no means the case that any Tom Dick or Harry (or their female counterparts!) can simply get a divorce.

What do I need to show before I can get a divorce?

In Northern Ireland, in order to get a divorce, you firstly need to have been married at least 2 years to your spouse.

This doesn’t mean that you are compelled to continue living with your spouse for a full 2 years – you can of course live separately. However you will not be in a position to apply (or as it’s called in the profession ‘petition’) for divorce until you’ve been married at least 2 years.

Then, either you may be able to petition for divorce so long as they can show that their marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down.’

The ‘grounds’ for divorce

There are five ‘grounds’ for divorce – one of which you must satisfy in order to get a divorce.

  1. Unreasonable Behaviour

To get a divorce on this ground, you need to show the Court that your husband’/wife has behaved so unreasonably that you can no longer be expected to live with them.

Types of unreasonable behaviour are wide ranging and can include, for example, physical or verbal aggression, lack of communication, financial control or misconduct and addictions.

  1. Adultery

In order to petition for divorce on the ground of adultery, you need to show the Court that your husband/wife has committed adultery during the course of the marriage.

The person with whom your partner had the affair can be joined and named in the Divorce Petition also.

  1. Two Years Separation With Consent

This is available where both you and your partner have lived separately for more than two years and your partner consents to the divorce. You can have been living in the same property during this time but must have lived independently to one another. This can happen where, for example, you both live in the same house but have separate bedrooms and would not cook or clean or spend time with one another.

  1. Desertion for Two Years

This occurs is where your partner has effectively ‘deserted’ you. This ground is technically difficult to prove and is very rarely relied upon in divorce proceedings.

  1. Five Years Separation

This ground is available where you and your partner have lived separate for more than five years. You do not require your partner’s consent on this ground.

Many people think that the law surrounding divorce is outdated – that if you are able to freely enter into a marriage, you should be able to freely get out of it again, without the law dictating how and when you can do this.
As it stands at the moment though, any person wishing to divorce their partner in Northern Ireland will need to satisfy one of the grounds above.
We would be interested to know your thoughts on this –
Perhaps you have been unable to get divorced yet because you do not presently satisfy any of the grounds?
Maybe you think that having criteria in this way to restrict divorce is a good thing?? Please let us know your views on this topic below.

If you need any further information on divorce please contact us or feel free to leave a comment below.