Do You Have To Go To Court For a Divorce?

30 Aug 2022 | Lisa Pepper
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Can you divorce without going to court?

If your divorce is uncontested and there are no disputes over issues such as what happens to the marital home and arrangements for children, it is possible to obtain a divorce without attending court.

However, if there are disputes over these issues, it may be necessary to attend court to resolve them. This can involve attending family mediation sessions or hearings to reach agreements on issues such as child custody, child maintenance payments, and the division of property.

So how do you avoid a courtroom battle when you divorce? Here are our  5 top tips:

5 ways to avoid Court during a divorce

1. Discuss your children arrangements first

After making the decision to divorce, on of the first things you should try to do is talk about children arrangements. You need to agree on their living arrangements and shared care. Even though you are divorcing, your children still need both of you in their lives (unless that would be contrary to the child’s welfare) – and research shows consistently that a long-running court case or mutual hostility between the parents is unhealthy for the child.

If your case did go to court, then the Judge would make an Order settling the arrangements, the paramount consideration in the court’s decision being the child’s welfare.

That is a good place to start as your primary goal. Another good thing to bear in mind is: what would they say to you? When you look back on this situation in 5 years time, how would you want to remember it – would you be proud of yourselves that you conducted your separation with dignity and were both able to put your children first? How do you want your children to remember this time?

2. Talk about your finances

Another important matter you need to do is talk about your divorce finances. You need to think about things like who will stay in the family home or is it to be sold, whether one of you will move out, and how you will divide your joint assets, such as property, savings and pensions, as well as how debts are to be dealt with.

A solicitor can help you to understand your rights and obligations under the law, and they can provide guidance on how to reach a fair and equitable agreement with your former spouse. If discussions break down, then a cost-effective process like mediation or private financial dispute resolution can help you strike a fair deal out of court – more on those below.

3. Don’t play the blame game

In England and Wales, new no fault divorce rules mean that you no longer have to apportion blame in order to obtain a divorce. You can simply state that your marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down’ in your divorce petition.

However, even though you no longer have to blame someone legally, it’s important not to play the blame game emotionally with your partner. How you behave during the divorce process will have a big impact on how well you cooperate and how smoothly the negotiations go. Yes, you may be hurt or angry. But try to take the high road and remind yourself of the bigger picture. This will help keep your negotiations on the right track.

4. Use alternative ways to resolve disputes

There are many alternative ways to resolve disputes without going to court. Family mediation can be a great way to meet with your ex-partner on neutral ground, using a trained third party to help you reach an agreement without going to court.

For financial disputes, you also have the option of using private FDR (Financial Dispute Resolution). This is where you pay a very experienced family lawyer (frequently someone who also sits as a Judge) to act as a Private FDR Judge. The process is more informal than a court hearing and much less adversarial, so it’s more likely that a settlement will be reached.

5. Choose a solicitor who prefers collaboration over aggression

When you’re choosing a family law solicitor to help with your divorce, it’s important to choose one who prefers collaboration over battling it out in a courtroom. Solicitors who prefer collaboration have lots of tools in their toolbox for resolving disputes amicably. They will help you communicate effectively with your ex and may recommend face-to-face meetings with them and their solicitor, to help you talk through your sticking points. They can also put you in touch with other professionals, such as mediators and financial experts, who can help you resolve things without going to court.

Our solicitors are members of Resolution. This means we’re committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes. The collaborative process can be quicker and cheaper than traditional legal methods, and much less stressful than going to court.

Lisa Pepper is a partner in the family department specialising in divorce and finance matters. She is also an accredited mediator. She is ranked as a leading lawyer in Chambers UK, Chambers HNW, The Legal 500, Spears HNW directory and Tatler Advisory.

To speak with Lisa or her team please call or complete the form below.

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