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Top 6 Divorce Myths

By Head of Family Law

There is much misinformation and many myths surrounding the divorce process. Misconceptions and uncertainty can add to the stress and worry that people feel when getting divorced.

Our recent survey illustrated that people in the UK need to be better informed, with 48% of respondents saying there are a lot of myths surrounding divorce that make the process confusing. So to help dispel divorce myths we present you with our top six.

Myth

6. Who Pays

The first myth we need to dispel is that the main earner has to pay for the divorce. Eighteen per cent of people wrongly believe this to be the case.

The person who starts the divorce process can in some cases claim their legal costs of dissolving the marriage from their spouse. This does not however include the costs of resolving financial matters.

Both parties will normally have to pay their own costs of resolving matrimonial finances unless one of them behaves in such a way that the court believes they should have to contribute to the other’s legal fees.

5. What Happens to The House?

The 28 per cent of people who thought the man has to leave the house if a couple separate are wrong. If you’re under the impression that the wife always keeps the house you’d also be wrong.

There are a lot of different factors which will determine ‘who gets the house’ or indeed if it is to be sold. The most important thing is ensuring that the needs of the husband, wife and children are met.

Many people, 28 per cent of respondents to our survey, believe that the marital home has to be sold when you separate. This is a myth.

When there are children involved, one parent may stay in the house to provide the children with some continuity. The other parent might agree to receive other assets to reflect their interest in the house or agree to wait until the children are older before seeking their share.

There is no definitive answer as to what happens to the house. The outcome will depend on the circumstances of each family and the different needs of the couples and their children.

4. Agreement to Divorce

Forty per cent of people believe that both people need to agree in order to get a divorce. This is not true. A husband or wife can obtain a divorce even if their spouse wishes to remain married, or does not want them to be the one to start the process of divorce.

A divorce will normally be obtained more quickly, amicably and with less legal costs if both parties are in agreement to it proceeding and cooperate with the necessary steps. There are five grounds, on which you can rely when applying for a divorce. The only one of these where agreement is actually needed is to proceed on the basis of two years separation.

3. Financial Settlements

What most people believe happens to money and assets on divorce and the reality of finances and settlements on divorce are two completely different things.

It takes the average person four years, 10 months and two weeks to get back on track financially. The average cost of divorce is £5,300, however, 56 per cent of people think that divorces cost more than £10,000.

What’s more concerning is that 41 per cent of people believe that assets will automatically be shared 50/50 on divorce. This is not the case.

There is no set formula for dividing assets. If a couple can’t agree how their finances should be shared, either directly, or with the help of solicitors then a court can be asked to decide.

Although an equal sharing is the starting point there are many other factors which mean that in many cases that is not how finances are resolved.

2. How Long?

Almost 60 per cent of people believe it takes years to sort out a divorce. It is true that the average person will spend over 24 months thinking about getting divorced before proceeding but many people are surprised to learn that ending a marriage through a divorce can take as little as four to six months to complete.

Resolving financial issues can take longer if matters are not agreed. In the average case, bringing the marriage to an end and reaching a financial settlement takes around a year.

1. Irreconcilable Differences

A staggering 85 per cent of people in the UK think you can be granted a divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences.

This is a case of people getting confused with American law, perhaps because of films, TV shows or Hollywood divorce cases that we read about in the news. ‘Irreconcilable differences’ is a legal ground for divorce in the US but not the UK.

In the UK, ‘irretrievable breakdown’ is the sole ground for divorce and it must be evidenced by one of the five facts. This is explained in our blog What if Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale were to get a UK Divorce?

If you have a question about divorce you can ask us in the comments box.

You can speak to the expert family lawyers at Slater and Gordon if you need legal advice on your relationship breakdown. Call us 24/7 on freephone 0800 916 9055 or contact us online and we will call you.

Amanda McAlister is a practice group leader of family law at Slater and Gordon. 

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