Oxford Divorce Solicitors
Ranked Tier 1 for all Family Law Matters
Our divorce expertise
Our specialist divorce solicitors in Oxford are ranked in Tier 1 for family law matters by the UK’s leading legal directories. The Legal 500 recently praised our family team for giving “The quality of service that would be expected of a magic circle firm”. We have many years’ experience in the market and are second to none in providing legal advice about divorce.
We can offer you representation equal to top London firms and the finest quality legal advice on divorce, without the London price tag. If you’re based in Oxfordshire and surrounding areas, give our divorce team a call to see how we can help.
We aim to provide an accessible, transparent service and will always tailor our approach to reflect the particular circumstances of a case, bearing in mind clients’ needs and expectations. It is important that our advice is grounded in a fair assessment of your matter and we will be honest and forthright at each step in the process to ensure that you can make informed, realistic and sensible decisions. We also understand that any family dispute can be an emotional and worrying time. We promise to act with discretion and sensitivity on your behalf and will strive to provide the highest standards of professional advice to help you move forwards positively.
If you are based in Oxford or surrounding areas and would like an initial consultation for advice relating to any family law issue to speak to one of our team, with no obligation to proceed. We do not undertake legal aid cases but you can search for a solicitor with a legal aid contract in England and Wales here.
How much does it cost to get divorced?
A divorce can be quite straightforward unless the divorce is defended or there are difficulties in agreeing upon what ground the divorce is going to be based. Most divorces cost in the region of £400 – £800 plus VAT depending upon the level of seniority of the lawyer dealing with the matters and the complexity of the issues. There is also a court fee of £593.
The divorce process and paperwork does not deal with the financial issues nor any arrangements for the children.
How long does it take to get divorced?
An average divorce takes in the region of 3-6 months to complete, but we would not advise you to apply for Decree Absolute to finalise your divorce until the financial issues are resolved. In those circumstances the divorce can take longer to finalise meaning that Decree Absolute is not pronounced for 9 to 12 months, sometimes longer.
How does the court decide how to divide financial resources on divorce?
Once we have identified what the assets are with you, we will work with you and advise you about how to achieve a fair division of the matrimonial assets. We will review which of the assets are “matrimonial” and how these can be divided to meet the Section 25 Matrimonial Causes Act 1972 criteria which includes looking at what would be fair and just, reviewing your respective ages and assets, looking at the pension provision, reviewing any health issues either of you have and ensuring that the children and your own needs are met in so far as capital, housing, pension and income are concerned. There is no one answer about the division of assets and often there are several solutions that may work for you. This is an area of law where our advice will be very specific and detailed.
The starting point in law is a presumption of equality. However, the court can depart from equality if the needs of one of the parties justifies this. When considering what orders to make, the court will take into account certain statutory criteria set out in section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973; with first consideration being given to the welfare of any minor children of the family. Other relevant considerations include the earning capacities of each party, their respective financial resources, the length of their marriage, the health of each party and any children of the marriage and the standard of living enjoyed by parties during their marriage.
Do assets I own before marriage get shared?
Essentially, this will depend on the approach of the court and its assessment of the needs of the parties. Consequently, there can be some uncertainty for spouses on this issue and outcomes can vary depending on the particular background of a case.
Usually, capital resources which are not referable to spouses’ joint endeavours will be regarded as non-matrimonial and potentially be excluded from the sharing exercise. However, it is not always this straightforward. For example, if a non-matrimonial asset is “mixed” with other resources then it could fall into the pot and be taken into account by a court. An example of this happening in practice is where one party make an unequal contribution towards the purchase of a property which becomes the matrimonial home. Although the capital used to purchase the property might come from outside the marriage (e.g. by way of inheritance or gift) in practice the court has been very reluctant to disregard this from the sharing exercise. This is especially so for marriages of longer duration and, as is often the case in these situations, the court’s overriding concern will be the needs of the parties.
Is it worth having a pre-nuptial agreement?
A nuptial agreement is formal written document prepared either before marriage (a “pre-nuptial”) or after marriage (a “post-nuptial”). Nuptial agreements record people’s intentions in relation to a wide range of matters including the division of property, finances and personal belongings in the event of a future divorce. Nuptials can also be used to record intended care arrangements for children.
Clients often enter nuptial agreements to preserve or protect personal wealth and record their future wishes in relation to the separation of their financial resources if their marriage was to end.
If prepared and executed properly, nuptial agreements can save people thousands of pounds in legal costs and they may make it much easier for spouses to separate without conflict or litigation. This can also reduce some of the uncertainty, risk and stress associated with court proceedings. For this reason, many people look at nuptial agreements as a type of insurance policy.
Although nuptial agreements are not legally binding in England, they are much more likely to be upheld if:
- The agreement is fair and reasonable
- Both parties have the opportunity to obtain legal advice
- In the case of a pre-nuptial; that it is signed at least 28 days before the marriage (and as a general rule the earlier the better);
- That neither party was placed under duress or undue influence to enter the agreement and
- That the agreement is supported by material financial disclosure
What can I do if I think my spouse is hiding assets?
If you think that your spouse is hiding assets, early advice is important. Sometimes mischievous spouses may try to divest themselves of their assets, transfer property to third parties or divert income to other sources to depress their net worth. More commonly, they will simply underplay the value of financial resources that they have disclosed.
If a difficult spouse is unwilling to engage in financial disclosure on a voluntary basis then the first port of call is often an application to the court to compel their co-operation. If the spouse fails to provide disclosure then applications to enforce can be made. Alongside this, spouses that are in breach of court orders may find themselves on the wrong end of an adverse costs order.
If financial disclosure has been exchanged but there is reasonable cause to question this then there are a number of steps that can be taken. A questionnaire may need to be raised of the other persons disclosure and expert evidence may need to be obtained. A forensic accountant may also be needed to value business interests or an actuary’s assistance may be sought to assist with pension sharing orders.
Does mediation really work?
Mediation is a form of dispute resolution that provides an alternative to court proceedings or arbitration. People who engage in mediation may feel they have more control over negotiations and this can be important and empowering. Mediation is not about attributing blame and the process is intended to help people look forward not back.
The mediator’s role is to set parameters for dialogue so that you and your former partner can negotiate in a controlled, safe environment. Your mediator should work with you both to help you identify what you want to achieve and help you work towards this. Before any joint meetings are arranged the mediator should meet you both independently for an initial assessment meeting. This meeting is used to explain the mediation process, identify your respective objectives and clarify what is important to each of you. The mediator will also use this meeting to assess whether they think mediation would be suitable and appropriate in your particular case. If mediation proceeds, one or more joint meetings will be arranged which are facilitated by the mediator.
Where agreement is reached through mediation this will be recorded in a formal document known as a “Memorandum of Understanding”. Once this has been prepared you should consider consulting your family lawyer for further advice and to explore the benefits of setting this out in a legally binding court order.
Do children always live with their mother?
Where children live following separation or divorce is for parents to agree. If parents cannot agree where the children should live and what is in their best interests, the court can be asked to intervene. In deciding what order to be made the court always keep the children’s welfare as their paramount consideration. This can be clarified by taking statements from the parties, obtaining independent reports from either a CAFCASS Officer or Social Services (or third specialist party). There is no presumption that children will live with their mother, and the court presume that it is best for the children to have a relationship with both parents unless there is a risk of harm associated with that relationship continuing. Before going to court the Judge will have expected the parents to attend mediation to try to reach an amicable agreement unless for any reason mediation is deemed as inappropriate.
How can I keep my costs down?
If you are worried about the legal costs you are incurring it is worth thinking about the way in which your issues are being resolved. There are a number of alternative dispute resolution options which will keep you out of court. Court can often be the most expensive way to try to resolve disputes. Mediation, collaborative practice and arbitration offer alternatives to the Court process which can be cost effective options.
If court proceedings are the only option available to you, it is worth making sure that you use your lawyer for the most important issues and on points where legal assistance is clearly needed. Using your lawyer for emotional support is not sensible and using specialist help where this is appropriate will keep your legal costs down focusing instead with your lawyer on the legal issues that they can assist you with.
How do we sort out the arrangements for our children?
This can be done by the two parents sitting down and agreeing everything themselves, attending mediation, negotiating through solicitors or through a court application if this becomes necessary. The arrangements can be detailed in a parenting plan or a Court Order. A court will not make any orders about children if the parents can agree matters between themselves.
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Supporting & guiding you throughout the process
- Whether you need advice about divorce, separation, finances or children we will work with you to understand your goals and aspirations from the outset of your case
- We have a highly experienced team of family and matrimonial lawyers and will ensure that we can arrange the right team for you.
- Your solicitor will be contactable, friendly, and supportive throughout the process
- We know that relationship breakdown can cause a lot of uncertainty for people. At each step in your case we will discuss the cost/benefit of action against in action and work with you to manage your matter as cost effectively as possible. This may include:
- Consideration of alternative forms of dispute resolution such as mediation, collaborative law, solicitor-led negotiations or arbitration
- We know from experience that where appropriate resolving your dispute outside the court arena can help to reduce animosity, delay and costs
- If you do need to go to court then there is no need to worry. You will be expertly guided by our specialists in family law
- We will ensure your appointed solicitor is with you every step of the way and you can be assured that you will receive the right expertise to guide and support you throughout the process
- We are often asked to advise on difficult cases involving owner-managed businesses, trusts, pensions and foreign assets. We are able to draw on the skill base of our tax, trust, property, employment and company solicitors to ensure you obtain appropriate, tailored legal advice bespoke to your personal circumstances
- One benefit of practising within a multi-disciplinary team is the skill-set of our lawyers across these fields locally, within Yorkshire and nationally where appropriate
- We have the resources, experience and expertise in-house; under one roof wherever needed
Why choose our Oxford Divorce Solicitors
- We’re located in Oxford Business Park, just a short drive from the city centre
- Our lawyers are ranked by official legal directories as one of the UK’s leading family law teams
- We are renowned for avoiding costly litigation by reaching financial agreements, without the need to go to court
- If your divorce needs to go through court, we will offer robust representation, support and clear advice throughout the process
- We offer a range of competitive fees to suit your financial circumstances, while still offering city expertise
For further information about our Oxford divorce solicitors, please contact Joanne Thomas, Director at Freeths, on 0345 128 6960 or submit a secure enquiry form.
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