The decision to separate or divorce is a personal one which can only be made by the individuals involved. If you decide to separate, then you can do this informally and reach agreement as to how your assets are to be divided. It can often be too soon to think about divorce, and if this is too difficult or is not something you wish to consider, the agreement you reach as to your financial settlement can be formalised in a Separation Agreement.
A Separation Agreement is a written agreement that will set out the financial arrangements you have agreed and can cover areas such as what is going to happen to the family home and what will happen to savings. The separation agreement will show your intentions, but it is not a court order. Since the 6th of April 2022, couples are able to obtain a ‘no-fault’ divorce under new legislation which eliminates the need to place blame on either party for the breakdown of the marriage. The process is relatively straightforward as both parties, or their respective solicitors, can apply for the divorce utilising the online Court Portal which means the application is completed entirely online. The petition for a divorce can be applied for by either party solely, or as a joint application. Once the petition has been issued by the Court and acknowledged (and undisputed) by both parties, a 20-week cooling off period begins allowing couples time to reflect on their decision for divorce and make plans for the future, such as the division of assets and childcare arrangements.
Once the 20-week cooling off period has passed, the Applicant(s) can apply for the Conditional Order (previously known as a Decree Nisi). At this stage, a Consent Order can be entered into finalising the financial agreement made between parties. 6 weeks and 1 day after the Conditional Order is granted, the Applicant(s) can apply for the Final Order (previously known as a Decree Absolute) which confirms that the marriage/Civil Partnership has officially been dissolved. However, it is to be noted that the divorce and finances may not be concluded within 6 months (the least amount of time the divorce process takes) if the finances cannot be agreed between parties and an application to Court needs to be made, or if one party does not acknowledge the divorce petition.