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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Don’t forget the 12-month rule for divorce

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I find myself in the difficult position of being positive about a piece of coverage in the news about Katie Price and Alex Reid’s divorce. Well, perhaps it’s not so much the coverage. As I may have hinted at in the past, I would be quite happy if the glamour model formerly known as Jordan was never pictured in the paper again, either with our without one of her estranged partners. It was more the message that came through from a clutch of stories last week that I thought highlighted well an issue related to divorce that I find many people still don’t know.

You have to be married for at least 12 months before you can divorce. So while the tabloids made mileage from the fact that Ms Price was planning to file divorce papers with Mr Reid on the first anniversary of the weeding, most did go on to explain why the 12-month deadline was doubly significant – February 10 was the earliest possible date they could begin proceedings. This was unexpected but most welcome.

The only way a marriage could have been ended before that deadline is through an annulment promoted by “unusual circumstances”, such as the marriage had not been consummated, or bigamy. I’ll leave you to ruminate on what constitutes “unusual circumstances” in the celebrity world. Probably nothing!

The divorce process takes at least 16 weeks. Again, at the risk of repeating myself from previous posts, there is no short track quickie divorce. An undefended divorce is simply an agreement from both parties that they will not contest issues so the process can be gone through as quickly as possible. That is still more than three months and that is not allowing for any delays by the court handling the paperwork or other delays in paperwork going out etc.

Actually getting a divorce is simply a series of sequential steps with various documents completed and filed at court. Problems tend to arise when documents are completed incorrectly or there is disagreement between the parties involved.

Your lawyer will complete all the paperwork on your behalf, provide advice and guidance at each of the steps and, where necessary, handle communication with your spouse and the solicitors on the other side of your case. Some firms offer a fixed fee divorce package.

Katie Price will start this process, if you believe the reports, on 10 February 2011. I find it heartening that for once a celebrity divorce in the news is helping clarify one specific aspect of divorce – the 12-month married rule – and perhaps, by proxy, show that there is no ‘quickie’ route to ending a marriage.

Andrew Woolley
Divorce Solicitor

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One possible solution for couples such asMs Price and her man may be to try to establish jurisdiction in Scotland where there never has been any 12-month rule.  A divorce action can be commenced in the Sheriff Court or Court of Session the day after the wedding, though in practice it may be hard to aver that the marriage has broken down irretrievably by then.  Bear in mind too that if the couple split very soonm after the wedding they will in any event have a potential divorce on the non-cohabitation ground (with consent) after only one year apart—not two as in E&W. Many second-rate footballers have suddenly discovered Scottish connections when international caps have been offered.  Perhaps recently married matrimonial litigants will start trying to do the same….

By John M Fotheringham on Thursday February 17, 2011

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