Divorce: fact vs fiction


When it comes to divorce, sometimes not all is what it seems. From eye-watering settlements to rows over who keeps the dog, we separate the facts of divorce, from the fiction.

From celebrities battling it out in public to tales of friends being taken to the cleaners, the world of divorce appears to be a minefield.

Everyone has heard shocking stories of in-laws being frozen out, squabbles over children and couples coming to legal blows as they fight over the dining table, the rugs, and the dog.

Getting a divorce is undoubtedly going to be stressful and sad, but the fact is that it may not come close to the hellish experience you anticipate, particularly if you are calm and in possession of good advice.

Here Wendy Bailey, our Head of Family Law unravels the facts from the fiction.

1 Divorce always favours the woman. Courts will let the wife have whatever she wants, and that includes the children.

FALSE:  All parties are treated as equal. With regards to children the court will consider who the children should live with, whether male or female using the 12 points of the Welfare check list. With regard to finances both parties must come out at the end of the proceedings on an equal basis.

2 It is normally young people that get divorced, isn’t it? It could be because older couples decide to separate once the children grow up, or because we are living a little longer and hitting 60 is no longer regarded as too old to try new things

FALSE: Couples of all ages can experience a relationship break down, it might happen after a few months of marriage, or 30 years. Indeed, divorce among the over 60s in England and Wales has risen since the 1990s according to the Office of National Statistics, while it has mostly  fallen among the rest of the population.

3 You can get a divorce by claiming ‘irreconcilable differences’.

FALSE. There are five grounds for divorce, but irreconcilable differences isn’t one of them. They are:

  • adultery
  • unreasonable behaviour
  • 2 years desertion – your husband or wife has left you and you have no way of locating them
  • you have lived apart for two years and both parties agree to the divorce
  • if one partner does not agree to a divorce, you can still obtain one if you have lived apart for five years. According to the Office of National Statistics unreasonable behaviour is cited as the reason behind most divorce petition

4 Divorce is always messy with arguments which just leave everyone upset.

FALSE. Couples can have an ‘amicable’ divorce and emerge from the relationship as friends – really important when children are involved. It is recommended couples go through mediation right at the start, which is aimed at ironing out differences and setting the stage for what is to come. Good legal advice is vital so everyone knows where they stand. The key is to be sensible about it, and do not lose your cool.

5 A divorce takes time – you cannot really get a ‘quickie’ or instant divorce. When Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi divorced, headlines claimed it was all over in 70 seconds. But that just refers to the reading out of the decree nisi in court. Actually proceedings for divorce normally take up to six months once court proceedings start.

TRUE. Even if you decide on your honeymoon that you have made a mistake, you still have to wait a year to begin divorce proceedings.

6 Getting divorced is really expensive, and the bills keep coming in.

FALSE: Of course it costs money, but good law firms will discuss the costs at the outset. Fixed fees mean you know exactly where you stand right from the start.

There are many myths surrounding divorce. If you have any questions please get in touch.

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