Being told by your spouse that they want a divorce can be one of the most stressful events in your life, especially if it ‘came out of the blue.’
Suddenly, your life is turned upside down, with almost every aspect of it seemingly affected.
In such a situation it is essential that you know what you should, and shouldn’t do.
Is reconciliation a possibility?
The first thing you must decide is whether you accept that the marriage is over.
If not, and if you still believe that there is a possibility of a reconciliation, would your spouse consider marriage counselling? The relationship charity Relate have centres throughout the country, and also offers online services.
But you need to be realistic. Most people do not ask for a divorce without giving the matter very careful consideration. Your spouse may have already determined that for them there is no possibility of a reconciliation.
If you accept that the marriage is over, or if your spouse has indicated that there is no possibility of a reconciliation then you need to turn your attention to the legal aspects of divorce.
Make the divorce as easy as possible
The most important thing to understand is that if your spouse is determined that the marriage is over, there is ultimately nothing you can do to stop the divorce.
The best you could do is delay the divorce, but you need to ask: is it worth it? Delaying the divorce may obviously aggravate your spouse, making it more difficult to agree matters, and dragging out the stress of divorce. It may also increase the cost of the divorce.
A better course of action is to make the divorce as easy as possible. This not only reduces the stress of the divorce, but also allows you to concentrate on the important issues, in particular children and finances, as we will see in a moment.
Under the law as it stands at the moment, a party taking divorce proceedings must prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. They can do this by showing that the other party has committed adultery; that the other party has behaved unreasonably; that the parties have been separated for two years and the other party consents to the divorce; that the other party deserted them for two years; or that the parties have been separated for five years.
The ‘easy’ option here would be to consent to the divorce, if you have been, or shortly will be, separated for two years.
But what if you haven’t been separated for two years? Your spouse will then only be able to proceed with the divorce by proving that you were responsible for the marriage breakdown by committing adultery or behaving unreasonably.
This may horrify you, and your first reaction may be to defend any divorce that blames you for the marriage breakdown.
But you should think very carefully about defending divorce proceedings. Doing so may delay the divorce, but it will also greatly increase the costs. And in any event it is almost impossible to successfully defend a divorce.
It may still be possible in this situation to make the divorce easier, for example by agreeing allegations of unreasonable behaviour with your spouse.
But there is another option. Next April a new system of no-fault divorce will be introduced. No longer will it be necessary to blame anyone for the marriage breakdown, or indeed to prove the breakdown at all. Your spouse may be prepared to agree to wait until then, so that the divorce is as amicable as possible.
Think about the future
If the marriage is over the divorce itself is not actually the most important issue. More important issues are sorting out finances and, in particular, arrangements for any dependent children.
In short, you need to think about the future.
So far as children are concerned, you need to start thinking about what would be best for them after you and your spouse separate. Who should they live with, and where? Should they share their time with both parents?
And as far as finances are concerned you must begin considering what your needs will be, in particular in relation to housing (both for yourself and any dependent children), and income.
All of these things will need to be sorted out, and in due course you will need to discuss them with your spouse. You can do this directly, through solicitors, or with the assistance of a trained mediator.
However you go about it, you should make every reasonable effort to agree matters with your spouse, rather than go through expensive, stressful and time-consuming contested court proceedings.
All of the above will hopefully give you a good idea of what you should be doing if your spouse asks for a divorce.
But perhaps the best thing of all that you can do is seek expert legal advice.
And you should do so at the earliest opportunity, even if it is not yet clear that the divorce will go ahead. The sooner you know the legal options and issues, the sooner you are equipped to deal with the situation, however it may unfold.
How Prince Family Law can help
Prince Family Law offer a fixed fee divorce package for an uncontested divorce of £500.00 plus VAT plus Court fees and within that service, we provide and complete all the paperwork from initiating the divorce to obtaining your Decree Absolute.
We offer a free 30-minute consultation for anyone interested in our services. Our excellent team of support staff are always on hand to offer reassurance and liaise with you and the fee earner involved in your case to ensure you receive a first-class service at a reasonable price.