The feeling of being lost in a marriage, not knowing who you are, where you are going or who your partner has become, is one of isolation and overwhelming fear.
Whether it is “Brexit” or “War of the Roses” the dissolution of any marriage is never easy – it is hard, difficult, horrible and everything in between.
However the legal procedure in this area, in Northern Ireland, is straightforward.
It is the “human factor” that clouds it. This happens when parties to a marriage find it impossible to discuss why a breakdown has taken place and as to whether there is any hope of reconciliation. When this talk does not take place parties step away from the marriage with unrealistic expectations and hopes. I have found that when the parties sit down and have an open and frank conversation, as to why they can no longer remain married, that the most amicable divorces can be executed.
I always recommend that parties think about counselling before making the decision to part.
Once that decision has been made:
After one year of marriage either party may file for Divorce.
Each party to a divorce should be represented separately so that they can obtain independent advice. One solicitor cannot represent two clients in Divorce proceedings as there is a conflict of interest.
After an initial consultation a decision as to whether the divorce should be brought in the High Court or the County Court will be made. This will depend on the complexity of the separation and the matrimonial assets. Legal aid will be discussed with you at this stage and if appropriate an application will be made on your behalf.
When a decision as to funding is made a Divorce Petition will be drafted. This document will set out the grounds for your divorce. Once the Petition is ready it will be stamped by the Court and served on your partner who will complete a form confirming they have received the Petition and indicating to the Court whether they agree or not to the grounds cited in the Petition.
If they are agreeable to the Petition a Decree Nisi Hearing will be held. This is a hearing where you will attend Court to confirm that the grounds in your Petition are correct. If the Judge is happy that your marriage has irretrievably broken down they will grant you a Decree Nisi confirming that they believe you have grounds for Divorce.
If your partner is not agreeable they will lodge a document outlining their reasons as to why they are objecting to your Petition. You will thereafter lodge a similar document and your Decree Nisi hearing will be listed. Both you and your partner will need to give evidence to the Judge.
However you must wait for six weeks before applying to the Court for your Decree Absolute – a document that completely dissolves your marriage.
This means you cannot remarry until the Decree Absolute is issued.
In Northern Ireland there are five grounds for divorce:
- Unreasonable Behaviour
- Two Years Separation with Consent
- Five Years Separation.
If a final Agreement as to your joint finances has not been entered in too then Court proceedings will have to be issued to resolve them. This is called Ancillary Relief Proceedings.
I always tell my clients that matrimonial law is a different type of law to conveyancing or litigation. It is an area of law that is client led. Our job is to listen to what you are saying, or more importantly to what you are not saying, and to seek a resolution that puts both parties in a position where they can start again.
For empathetic clear professional advices when you feel adrift in your relationship call us on 02838327436.
Patrick Park Solicitors
In the heart of Lurgan