January typically sees a spike in divorce enquiries for many solicitors – and 2021 is expected to be no different, with the additional stresses and strains COVID-19 has placed on couples and families.
But did you know there are several myths surrounding civil partnerships, marriage and divorce? In this post, family lawyers Jane Charlton and Stephanie Kyriacou explore five divorce myths, answering some of the frequently asked divorce questions from couples across the country. They cover a range of questions on divorce issues, from the division of assets to the ‘remarriage trap’.
1. Can I get divorced if we have just drifted apart?
Falling out of love and drifting apart is not itself legal grounds for divorce, however, looking deeper into the reasons may show that one party’s behaviour has actually been the cause and therefore a divorce could proceed. Until the ‘no-fault divorce’ is available (expected Autumn 2021) you will have to prove your marriage has irretrievably broken down due to one of the five ‘divorce facts’: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, or separation of at least two years or in some cases five years. The divorce process generally takes between six and nine months but can take longer if financial matters still need to be agreed upon.
2. Will my partner get 50% of our assets, even if they have cheated?
In England, the courts will always start with a 50/50 split of assets. But there are a number of instances where this may not be the case, such as the length of the marriage/civil partnership, large sums of inheritance or money generated after separation and sometimes generated pre-marriage and whether there are children. Fault – such as one partner cheating – has no bearing on the division of assets.
3. Do I have to give my engagement ring back if we split?
This is a particularly common divorce question we encounter. If you break up with your partner, you may feel a moral obligation to return the ring - however, unless it can be proved that the ring was given conditionally, the law states that it is an absolute gift, meaning you do not have to return it to your ex.
4. Do I need to appoint a solicitor?
While it is possible to get a divorce without the support of a solicitor, you may run the risk of missing important legal loopholes, such as the ‘remarriage trap’. Put simply; if you remarry without a claim for a financial order you may be barred from seeking maintenance and other financial claims. You may also find yourself out of pocket down the line. Without full legal severance, it is possible that an ex-partner could chase you for a share of funds you may accrue later in life – whether that be a pension pot, inheritance or even a lottery win!
5.We’re not married, but we’ve been together years – will I get 50%?
There is no such thing as a ‘common law wife/partner’. Cohabiting couples frequently believe that living with somebody for a prolonged period of time leads to certain legal rights such as a share of property owned by one party – it does not. If you choose not to marry then do consider a living together agreement to protect your best interests.
We’re here to help
This post has explored five common questions on divorce issues, helping to debunk some of the divorce myths we come across when talking to clients. Going through a divorce or separation can be one of the most stressful periods in your life and highly emotional. No matter where you are on your journey, our team of family law experts can help guide you through the maze of emotional and legal responsibilities.