I have to admit that I laughed when I first saw the headline. You may have done the same. “Woman sues solicitors because they did not explain that divorce would end her marriage”. This was the story week about Roman Catholic Jane Mulcahy who was so unhappy with her divorce lawyers that she took them to court. She claimed they had failed to take account of her faith and should have recommended a judicial separation as she believed in the sanctity of marriage and didn't realise that a divorce would dissolve hers. The case was, thankfully, thrown out by the courts. Twice.
Of course divorce means the end of your marriage. That's what a divorce is – the legal ending of a marriage. And then I stopped to think about it. While it is obvious to us in the legal profession, do the general public really understand what divorce is and what it covers? Are there other things we assume people know but really we need to communicate more clearly? Here are five things people need to know about divorce.
Divorce is the end of the marriage
Getting married is the joining of two people in the eyes of the law. It brings with it certain shared responsibilities on things like finances. A divorce is the formal dissolution of the legal entity of marriage so you are no longer married in the eyes of the law.
Divorce doesn't sort out financial claims or arrangements for the care of your children
The divorce itself will not sort out who gets the house, how you split your savings or where your children will live. These issues have to be sorted out separately, though they will normally be done at the same time with the help of your divorce lawyer.
Divorce does not mean going to court
While certain papers need to be filed with the courts, you do not have to go to court to get divorced. Only if it is contested does a court hearing become a possibility. Often though it is reaching arrangements on children and finances that are more likely to lead to a court hearing. However, it is still fair to say that most cases are settled without the need to go before a judge.
You are not divorced until you receive the decree absolute
Divorce is a process that will take around four to six months with several landmarks along the way. It can take much longer if the divorce is contested but cannot be much faster. There are seven steps to a divorce and you are not formally divorced until the seventh step, receipt of the decree absolute.
You need to give a reason for a divorce
There is still no such thing as a no fault divorce in the UK so you will have to give a reason for wanting to end the marriage. Under the law in England and Wales, this has to be one of five “grounds”: unreasonable behaviour, adultery, two years' separation (and both parties agree to divorce), five years’ separation or desertion.
When it comes to marriage and divorce, there are a lot of myths and a lot of assumptions. If you want to check the facts or are not sure, ask your family law specialist.