An Easy Guide to Marriage and Relationship Breakdowns

When your marriage is breaking down, there is help available.

It’s not an easy decision for any family to make, but divorce and separation do happen and it brings about heartbreak, upset, confusion and questions.

Then there is a whole host of legal implications that you also need to sort out. Although it is probably the last thing you are thinking of it is vitally important. There is help at hand thanks to Selachii LLP who have put together an easy guide to marriage breakdown that tells you the essential legal things you need to know.

Table of Contents

The Basics

For divorce proceedings to take place you need to prove breakdown by showing one of the following.

  1. That your spouse has committed adultery (usually proved by them admitting it).
  2. That your spouse has behaved unreasonably.
  3. That your spouse has deserted you for a period of two years.
  4. That you and your spouse have been separated for two years and your spouse consents to the divorce.
  5. That you and your spouse have been separated for five years

So what is the procedure for a divorce? One party files a divorce petition with the court and the court will then send a copy to the other party,

What about children? 

When couples separate they need to think about child arrangements. Who will they live with and what contact will the children have with the other parent? There are no set rules for child arrangements – it’s more about what is best for the children. If arrangements can’t be agreed upon, then an application can be made to the court.

Child maintenance

Ideally, child maintenance should be agreed on by the parents. However, if this is not possible then parents can make an application to the child maintenance service. They will calculate how much the non-resident parent should pay and this is reviewed every year until the age of 16, or while the child is aged under 20 and in full-time education. However, child maintenance can be arranged through the courts for older children in tertiary education.

Your finances on divorce

When you divorce you need to separate your property and finances. What will happen to your former matrimonial home? How will you divide your money? If it can’t be sorted between the two of you, then you can make an application to the court. The court will then require both parties to disclose full details of their means so that it can decide what type of orders would be appropriate.

Do you have to go to court?

No! The matter can be resolved by agreement using the assistance of solicitors. There is also mediation or collaborative law.

Domestic violence

Domestic violence is not acceptable. If you are a victim then you can apply for an injunction order. You can also get a non-molestation order or an occupation order. A non-molestation order prevents the abuser from using threatening violence against you and an occupation order requires the abuser to leave and not return to the home.

Issues for unmarried couples

Legally, unmarried couples are treated differently from married couples. In particular, there are two main differences. Fathers do not automatically acquire parental responsibility for the child if he was not married to the mother. Unless, if his name is on the birth certificate or if the mother agrees to him having it or if a court grants it to him. Unlike married couples, you are not entitled to claim maintenance for themselves and the property will generally remain with the person who owns it.

To read the full guide visit…

Glossary of common legal terms
Affidavit – A written statement, sworn by the writer to be true.
Child arrangements order – An order regulating arrangements relating to with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact, and/or when a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person.
Clean break – A financial/property order on divorce that ends all financial ties between the parties.
Consent order – An order made with the agreement of both parties. Usually refers to an order setting out an agreed financial/property settlement on divorce.
Contact – Refers to contact between a child and the parent with whom the child does not usually live. Includes visits, overnight stays and other types of contact such as via telephone, letters, texts and internet.
Decree absolute – The order finalising a divorce.
Decree Nisi – The order stating that the parties are entitled to a divorce.
MIAM – Abbreviation for ‘Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting’, used to see whether mediation could be used to resolve a dispute, rather than going to court. Anyone wishing to make an application to the court is required to attend a MIAM.
Parental responsibility – Defined as ‘all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property’.
Pension attachment – An order following divorce, stating that one party will receive part of the other party’s pension, when the other party receives it.
Pension sharing – An order following divorce, transferring a percentage of one party’s pension to a pension in the name of the other party.
Periodical payments – Another term for maintenance.
Petitioner – The party who issues the divorce proceedings.
Property adjustment order – An order following divorce, adjusting the ownership of matrimonial property.
Respondent – Refers to the party who did not issue the court proceedings.
Separation agreement – A document setting out an agreement between spouses, relating to finances and/or arrangements for their children. Used where they have decided to separate but do not yet intend to commence divorce proceedings.
Without prejudice – Words used in an offer of settlement to ensure that the court cannot be informed of the offer.

Useful organisations and websites
Citizens Advice – Provide advice online, by phone and in person.
Cafcass – The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. Cafcass looks after the interests of children involved in family proceedings, including providing reports to help the courts decide what orders to make.
Child Maintenance Options – Provides information and support to help separated parents make decisions about their child maintenance arrangements.
Child Maintenance Service – Sorts out child maintenance when the parents can’t agree. Part of the GOV.UK website (see below).
Family Mediation Council – Provides information on mediation and details of local mediators.
Gingerbread – Charity providing expert advice and support for single parents.
GOV.UK – Government services and information website. Includes many useful resources related to family breakdown including, in particular, a section on marriage, civil partnership and divorce.
Relate – Provides counselling, support and information for all relationships.
Women’s Aid – Helps women and children who suffer domestic abuse.