Experienced Divorce Solicitors

Our specialist divorce solicitors can help with divorce matters of any kind, including finances, children, property and tracking down hidden assets. Fixed fee divorce available!

Divorce solicitors in the UK

The Divorce Process

A relationship breaking down can be extremely stressful and daunting. Therefore, the experience can be made less traumatic and acrimonious by instructing an exceptionally committed legal team to assist you. Our family law team at Darton Law will work towards reaching an agreement between parties by avoiding confrontation where possible, but still ensuring that our client’s best interests remain paramount. If it is necessary for matters to progress towards Court proceedings, our team will provide excellent divorce representation in order to achieve the best results for you.

You will be provided with specialist divorce advice in relation to what should happen to your finances, division of property and any matters concerning the children of the family. Our family law firm team will offer you the support you require as well as a high level of professionalism through this highly emotional time. We have developed a reputation for being approachable, friendly and for consistently exceeding our client’s expectations whilst maintaining ethical and socially responsible standards in divorce proceedings.

We provide expert advice in the following areas:

  • Divorce and separation matter
  • Financial Settlement for both spouses and children
  • Cohabitation
  • Civil partnership
  • Children – Private Law ( disputes between family members)
  • Children – Public Law ( disputes involving social services)
  • International child disputes including Child Abduction and removal from the jurisdiction.
  • Domestic Violence

We now are able to offer clients family legal aid. Family legal aid covers the following areas;

  1. Divorce and finances
  2. Private Children Act Proceedings
  3. Care and Adoption Proceedings

However, not everyone is eligible for legal aid. In order to be eligible you have to pass a means test (which is based on income) and a merits test. If you claim certain benefits the you will meet the means test. If you earn an income evidence will need to be provided for your application to considered by the Legal Aid Agency.

The merits test is usually met if it is in the interests of justice for legal aid to be granted and there is evidence of domestic violence, this can be through a criminal conviction at Court, a non-molestation order, a GP letter or letter from a refuge. Legal aid can also be granted in cases where people suffer from mental health issues. Again, evidence of this has to be provided.

If you are unsure as to whether you can apply for legal aid, then please contact Kate Maddison and she will be able to advise you accordingly.

You are welcome to contact us by e-mail or telephone to seek our specialist advice on Family Law & Children Law. We assure you that your matter will be dealt with in strict confidence.

Meet our Divorce & Family Law Team

Kate Maddison Profile

Divorce and Separation

Legal separation and divorce are traumatic experiences. Throughout the divorce or separation process, our London-based family law attorneys will work with you to help you make rational choices about your financial future and child custody arrangements.

Our goal is to safeguard your best interests while giving you the resources to reach agreements regarding the division of your property and assets and the provisions for your children outside of court. In the event that litigation is unavoidable, we will offer steadfast assistance, counsel, and legal protection.


A divorce is the dissolution of marriage through a legal process by filing an application in a court of law. Once a couple has divorced, they are no longer legally married; however, there may be legal contracts set in place such as maintenance orders and child arrangements orders that they must still adhere to.
If you separate but do not get divorced, you will remain legally tied to your spouse. This means both that you will still be husband and wife and you will remain financially tied. The financial claims that arise upon divorce also remain open and can be addressed at a later date.

It is possible to go through a legal process called judicial separation, whereby you remain married but legally separated, which can also deal with most but not all financial claims. In practice, this is rarely used.

There are four key stages in the divorce process.

These are as follows:

  1. Complete a divorce application as either a sole applicate or as a couple, as joint applicants
  2. Submit the application to a divorce centre either online or by post with the correct court fee
  3. Apply for a conditional order (once the application is acknowledged by your spouse and after a 20-week cooling-off period)
  4. Apply for a final order (6 weeks after you have the conditional order)

However, the act of divorce itself does not put an end to the financial relationship between you and your partner.

To separate your finances, you must reach a financial settlement; a legally binding decision on how assets and wealth will be split now that the marriage has ended.

Arrangements for children will need to be made if required, but these are also dealt with separately from the divorce.

This question is related to: divorce solicitors in London

A divorce application, otherwise known as form D8, marks the start of your divorce process.

You can apply for a divorce by yourself (sole applicant) or make a joint application with your ex-spouse (joint applicants).

Alternatively, if you receive a divorce application from your spouse, you are called the respondent in the legal process.

You can submit your application online via a court portal or make a paper application. Both require payment of a court fee.

This question is related to: divorce solicitors in London

Someone refusing to acknowledge a divorce application can be extremely frustrating. However, there are several options open to you if your spouse does not respond.

Once the divorce application has been filed, the court sends out a copy of the application and an Acknowledgment of Service form to the respondent (your ex-spouse).

They are given 14 days to complete this and return to the court. This confirms to the court that the respondent has received the application.

If there is no cooperation from them, you can have the application personally served.

A court bailiff can arrange this (if you do not have legal representation) or a Process Server (if you have a solicitor acting for you). They will physically serve the documents to your spouse at their address or an alternative address, like their work address.

Once personally served, you can proceed whether they cooperate or not.

The conditional order is a certificate that says the court doesn’t see any reason you can’t divorce or separate. It is often referred to as the “first stage” in the divorce process.

However, the conditional order does not bring the marriage to an end. At this stage, the couple remains married in the eyes of the law and can still move back from finalising the divorce at this stage.

Getting divorced or dissolving a civil partnership can be a difficult time. A family law divorce solicitor will support you through the whole process, making it as simple and stress-free as possible by:

  • listening to you and discussing your options with you
  • telling you where you stand and what your rights are
  • helping you understand your ex-partner’s rights
  • giving you trusted advice about your family, home and financial security

If you’ve been living together but are not married, a family solicitor can help you understand your rights if you break up.

If a divorce is against your religion, a solicitor can tell you about other forms of separation.

You can only get a divorce if all of the following apply to you:

  • your marriage is legally recognised in the UK
  • you’ve been married for at least a year
  • you have a permanent home in England or Wales

To end your marriage, you’ll need to show one of these five reasons:

  • unreasonable behaviour – anything your partner has done that makes you feel you cannot live with them anymore
  • your partner left you at least two years ago – known as ‘desertion’
  • your husband or wife has committed adultery (not applicable in a civil partnership)
  • you’ve lived apart from your partner for more than two years and they agree to the divorce
  • you’ve lived apart from your partner for more than five years (they do not need to agree to the divorce)

Civil partnerships

Civil partnerships are ended by a dissolution order. The process is the same as for a divorce, except that adultery cannot be a reason for dissolving a civil partnership. In a civil partnership, being unfaithful would be considered ‘unreasonable behaviour’.

This question is related to: divorce solicitors in London

In England & Wales, there is only one ground for divorce which is the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage. This can be evidenced by proving one of five facts: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, living apart for more than 2 years with consent and living apart for a minimum of 5 years without consent.

This question is related to: divorce solicitors in London

Your divorce solicitor will:

  • discuss your options, including dispute resolution such as mediation
  • explain the divorce process and what you need to do at each stage
  • start the divorce action for you by filing the necessary forms
  • help you reach an agreement with your ex-partner without having to go to court
  • provide help and support with related legal issues, such as where each person will live and who gets what, and future arrangements for any children

If you have to go to court, your solicitor will present your case, explain what you need to do and what the judge’s decision means for you.

If you’re at risk of domestic abuse, your solicitor will make it a priority to keep you (and any children) safe.

What will happen at your first appointment

Your solicitor will ask you some questions about your situation, including:

  • why you want a divorce
  • details of any problems, such as domestic abuse or adultery
  • whether you’re at risk (if your partner can be violent or abusive)
  • if any children are involved, and their current and future living arrangements

They may also ask to see documents such as your marriage certificate and passport.

This information will help your solicitor decide what grounds there might be for divorce, and to estimate how long it will take, costs and results. They can then discuss with you what would be best for you and any children involved.

This question is related to: divorce solicitors in London

The person applying for a divorce (the ‘petitioner’) will have to pay a fee of £550 on sending a divorce application to the divorce centre. Other costs include solicitor’s fees. There will be additional fees if matters relating to finances and children are to be resolved. The most cost effective way to resolve these issues is to come to an agreement without the needs for Court Proceedings.

Trying to avoid an acrimonious divorce, is also beneficial for the mental and physical health of the parties. Unnecessary and protracted proceedings can cause high levels of stress and anxiety.

Legal aid is no longer available for most divorce cases, unless there are concerns of domestic abuse or violence. It’s still available for mediation.

A child can decide where they want to live from the age of 16, unless there is a Child Arrangements Order specifying their residence until the age of 18.

While it is possible to give estimates, it is impossible to predict the exact duration of the divorce process.

It is possible for the divorce process to take as little as 4 – 6 months if both parties agree to the divorce and on what basis to apply for one (uncontested divorce).  Contested divorces, disagreements on children and finances and delays in actions required by the petitioner or respondent can slow the divorce process considerably.

On average, it can take most couples approximately one year from submitting the divorce petition, until decree absolute is pronounced and the marriage dissolved.  This is mainly if issues relating to finances and children are required to be resolved.  After reviewing the specifics of your situation, a divorce lawyer will be able to provide you with a clearer understanding of how long your divorce will take.

There are many ways in which the financial issues can be resolved between parties in a divorce. The most low cost way is for the parties to come to an agreement themselves or through mediation. If this is not possible, negotiations can take place between solicitors. The purpose of these methods is to reach an agreement and a financial order can be drafted. In the event that an divorce agreement cannot be reached, Court proceedings will need to be issued.

If an agreement can be reached between the parties and a financial order os required to be drafted, most solicitors will prepare this via a fixed fee arrangement.  In the event that matters are resolved via negotiations through solicitors, there will be an hourly rate fee applied to settle the matter.  In addition, there will be a Court fee of £50 which would need to be paid.

Should the matter require issuing Court Proceedings, then the costs can escalate quickly. There are usually three hearings within financial proceedings.  Costs up to the first hearing would be circa £5000.  The costs up to the second hearing, would be approximately £10,000 and should the matter progress to a final hearing, costs can amount between £30,000-£40,000.

This question is related to: divorce solicitors in London

The general rule on who pays the legal fees in a divorce is that each person getting divorced will pay their legal costs.

The cost of a divorce includes the court fee and the costs of the solicitors who assist the parties with the divorce process if they are instructed.

The person applying for the divorce (the applicant) will be responsible for covering the court fee. If the application is a joint one, applicant 1 will pay the court fee.

The applicant or joint applicant can ask the court to make an order that the other party pays their legal costs relating to the divorce or request that the costs are divided equally, or just the court fee is shared.

However, it is necessary to make a separate application to the court to ask for a costs order, and for this reason, they are rarely sought.

It is important to note that costs relating to the divorce are different from those incurred in negotiating a financial settlement and/or child arrangements.

This question is related to: divorce solicitors in London

The law puts the welfare of children before anything else. Your solicitor will help you wherever possible to reach an agreement with your ex-partner.

In principle, Courts do not like to interfere in matters relating to children, including resolving contact issues. The Court’s rationale generally is that both parents need to be involved in raising the children and separated parents should be able to make decisions between them making the children’s needs paramount. Should an agreement not be able to be reached, the nest step is mediation. If mediation fails, Court proceedings will need to be issued for a Court to make the decisions the parents cannot. Should matters progress towards Court proceedings, this would escalate costs.

Whatever your circumstances, a family law solicitor has the knowledge and experience to make sure the decisions you make are in the best interests of your children, now and in the future.

This question is related to: divorce solicitors in London

Although you need a court order to get a divorce, you do not need to go to court to reach a settlement with your ex-partner about your children, home or money.


One option is to go to mediation. In fact, a judge will expect you and your ex-partner to have at least found out about, and preferably tried, mediation before coming to them for a decision.

A mediator is trained in helping separating couples reach agreement even on difficult issues. They will not take sides but will listen to you both.

Your solicitor will be able to advise you and help you arrange a meeting with a mediator.

You might be able to get legal aid for family mediation.


Arbitration is another way of resolving disputes without going to court. It applies the law in the same way as the Family Court but it can help you and your ex-partner resolve any disputes more quickly and affordably.

Both you and your ex-partner enter into an agreement with a suitably qualified person (an arbitrator). You are both legally bound by the arbitrator’s decision.

Arbitration can be used to resolve disputes about:

  • property and finance
  • child maintenance
  • living and contact arrangements for children
  • other arrangements for children, such as schooling

You can discuss this option with your solicitor, who will need to refer you to an arbitrator.

You and your ex-partner are entitled to independent legal advice throughout the process. Your solicitor can go with you to arbitration meetings if your ex-partner agrees.

This question is related to: divorce solicitors Feltham, divorce lawyer, divorce solicitors London

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