The first working Monday in January is often referred to by the media as ‘Divorce Day.’ It is said that the stress of the festive period can often show the cracks in relationships and many couples put the divorce off until after Christmas for the sake of the children, financial pressure or giving the relationship one more chance.
The New Year often goes hand in hand with fresh starts and it is often true that there is an increase in couples seeking a divorce in January. Whilst a ‘Divorce Day’ can be a myth it is often true that many couples wait until after Christmas and New Year’s Eve before starting divorce proceedings. This can mean that solicitors see a flurry of enquiries on the first working Monday of January, this year being Monday 7 January 2019.
We are still waiting on the official 2018 figures, but according to the Office of National Statistics, there were over 100,000 divorces in 2017 and the divorce rate for opposite-sex couples was highest among men aged 45 to 49 and women aged 40 to 44 years. Unreasonable behaviour was cited as the most common reason for opposite-sex couples divorcing with 52% of wives and 37% of husbands petitioning on these grounds. This was also the most common reason for same-sex couples divorcing, accounting for 83% of divorces among women and 73% among men.
The divorce process can take between ten to twelve months to complete and to obtain a Decree Absolute, which means that you are no longer married. This is on the basis that matters are straightforward and agreed between you. If matters take longer to be agreed or there are complications then this timeframe could be much longer. However, Gardner Leader are proud to be part of two new Pilot Schemes with the Courts which are greatly speeding up the divorce process.
The schemes see the digitalisation of divorce paperwork which is modernising the process and therefore making it much more efficient. We are part of a select few firms who were approached to take part and so far the team have secured substantial results for our clients.
Under the first pilot scheme we are participating in we can now submit divorce papers digitally to a dedicated Judge for consideration online. This avoids the need to post documents to court and wait for the paperwork to be processed and for a decision to be made. This is expected to cut the timeframe for divorce considerably.
The second pilot scheme which we have been selected for is the Financial Remedy Consent order pilot, which allows us to upload applications for agreed financial orders electronically, also to a specifically assigned Judge. A lot of people do not realise that completing the divorce process, and obtaining the Decree Absolute, does not deal with financial matters. If a couple reach an agreement between them, this also does not formally resolve their financial positions. All financial arrangements should be recorded within a financial consent order to ensure that the agreement is legally binding and that couple’s financial claims are concluded in order to provide them with protection in the future.
Without a financial consent order in place, either party is at risk of financial proceedings at a later stage. This is the case even if the divorce proceedings have concluded some time ago. Any future proceedings could also potentially relate to assets received after a couple’s separation, such as an inheritance or even lottery winnings. It is therefore very important to ensure financial matters are resolved through a financial consent order within the divorce proceedings.
Under the new pilot scheme, the application for the agreed financial order can be submitted electronically meaning a great reduction in the time taken to hear back from the Courts. Instead of having to wait between four to five months to receive a decision back from the court the orders are being considered by the courts, on average, within 14 days. This means couples do not have the agonising wait to find out that their financial agreement has been approved and that they have protection moving forwards. This is particularly important in situations where the timeframe for a transaction, such as a lump sum payment or the sale of a property, is dependent upon the approval of the order. It allows couples to move forward with their lives, knowing that they have financial security, much quicker.
If you are considering a divorce or going through separation, please get in touch with our team of experts.