Top 5 Questions About Divorce
Divorce is one of the most emotionally challenging and stressful times in a person’s life. With one in ten marriages in Ireland ending in Divorce, it is vitally important that an individual going through this process has the support, guidance, and advice of a Family Law Solicitor.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation and ambiguity in the public domain when it comes to divorce, writes Aisling Carr Solicitor who has been practising in the area of family law for over ten years.
Some common concerns and questions are:
- How long must we wait to apply for a Divorce and do we need to be living separately?
The good news is, that since the commencement of the Family Law Act, 2019, the wait time for commencing Divorce proceedings has been halved. Previously a couple had to be living separate and apart for four out of the previous five years. Now, once you have been living apart from your spouse for two out of the previous three years you can proceed with your application for a Divorce with a divorce attorney. This certainly is a welcome change for many couples who wish to regularise their situation and move on with their lives. Many couples cannot afford to live in two separate households pending the finalisation of their divorce and this is not a bar to commencing proceedings. In the eyes of the law, a couple can be “living apart” under the one roof once they are no longer living together as a couple in an intimate and committed relationship. A Court must be satisfied that there is no prospect of the couple reconciling prior to granting a Decree of Divorce. It can often come as a surprise to a client when their Solicitor provides them with information in respect of marriage counselling and mediation prior to starting the divorce process on their behalf, however, all Solicitors are legally obliged to advise their client about the alternatives to Divorce.
- How much will a divorce cost me?
The costs involved ultimately depend on how straightforward or contentious your case is. If both parties agree early on how to divide their marital assets, there are no pensions involved and they have reached an agreement in respect of access and maintenance for their children, then legal costs will be kept to a minimum. Generally speaking the more complex and time consuming a case is the higher your legal costs. In the vast majority of family law cases, the general rule of thumb is that each party is responsible for their own legal costs.
- Will I have to disclose all my financial details to my spouse and to the Court?
The Court when granting a Divorce, has to be satisfied that proper provision is made for both parties and any dependent children. In order to do so the Court must have a clear understanding of a couple’s financial situation. Both parties are required to complete what is known as an Affidavit of Means. This is a sworn statement setting out your assets, liabilities, income and expenditure.
- We have reached an agreement between ourselves and parted ways some time ago, there is nothing left to resolve so why should we consider applying for a Divorce?
Whilst a separating couple may be very amicable and you may not feel any need or desire to go to Court, if you have not legally separated or divorced then your husband or wife will have a legal right to part of your estate if you die, irrespective of whether or not you have made a Will and who you wish to inherit your estate. A Divorce or Judicial Separation is also important in order to protect any future assets which you may acquire. There are many other advantages and reasons to apply for a Divorce, the most obvious being that it entitles either party to remarry if they so wish.
- I am really nervous about going to court and giving evidence, also I am not proud of some of my actions over the course of the marriage, will I be penalised for bad behaviour?
In Ireland, we have a “no-fault” system of Divorce, i.e. you don’t need to give a reason as to why you wish to Divorce. Following on from this, the Court’s function is not to lay blame or to punish. Misconduct during the course of a marriage is only an issue where it is obvious and gross and thus the threshold is very high. It is also important to stress that a substantial number of Divorces are settled without the need for a fully contested Court hearing. If an agreement cannot be reached and the matter must be argued out before a Judge, members of the public will not be permitted to be present in Court. Family Law Proceedings are held ‘in camera´ i.e. in private, in order to protect the privacy of the family.
The above is just a snapshot of some of the questions raised by individuals considering or going through the divorce process. The best way to be properly and adequately informed is to make an appointment for a consultation with a specialist Family Law Solicitor who can answer any questions you may have and which are unique to your individual situation in a compassionate, professional and informed manner.