There are two ways to end a marriage. The most common is divorce but in some circumstances you can end it more quickly with an annulment. Here we look at the key differences.
When you can divorce
If both parties agree that the marriage existed lawfully, divorce is the only way to bring it to an end. There are several criteria that need to be met before you can end a marriage in England and Wales:
- You must have been married for more than a year.
- Your relationship must have permanently broken down.
- Your marriage must be legally recognised in the UK.
- The UK must be your permanent home, or the permanent home of your spouse.
When you apply for a divorce you’ll fill out a D8 form, which you can do online or by post. Alongside your and your spouse’s details, including those of your solicitors if you have them, it will ask you to identify the grounds for your divorce. This can be one of five reasons:
- Adultery – one of you has cheated.
- Unreasonable behaviour – this covers lots of issues including domestic abuse.
- Desertion – your spouse has left you and you’ve lived apart for more than two years.
- You’ve lived apart for two years and you both agree to the divorce.
- You’ve lived apart for five years. You do not need the agreement of your spouse in this case.
The process will move along more quickly and smoothly if you and your spouse agree on the reason for divorce. If your spouse disagrees they can dispute your reasons in court, this is known as a defended divorce and will lead to extra costs and delays.
It is expected that from autumn 2021 a no-fault divorce will be added to the above list. This will allow couples who agree the marriage has broken down to divorce without apportioning blame or living apart. It will also enable an individual to state a marriage has broken down without agreement from the other party who won’t be able to contest it.
When to get an annulment
Unlike divorce you can apply for an annulment at any time, including the first year of a marriage. However if you wait for a long time to apply for one you may have to explain why.
A marriage can be annulled in two ways. It is described as void if it wasn’t legal from the start for reasons including:
- Either of you were under 16.
- One of you was already married or in a civil partnership.
- You’re a close relation to the person you married.
In this scenario the law says the marriage never existed. However a legal marriage can be voided in some circumstances, such as:
- You were forced into the marriage.
- Your spouse was pregnant by someone else when you got married.
- The marriage has not been consummated.
- The other person had a sexually transmitted disease when you got married.
Considering a legal separation
There is a third option if you do not want a divorce or annulment. Legal separation enables you to live apart and to separate shared responsibilities, these could be financial or related to children you may have.
People often consider a legal separation if their religious beliefs prevent them from divorcing or if they want time and space to work out whether they want to go ahead with a divorce. It provides some legal security and clarity for people in these situations.
Unlike divorce you can enter into a legal separation during the first year of a marriage.
Support during the process
If you’re not sure which of the above is right for you, it is worth seeking advice. Some solicitors offer free consultations, you can also get help filling out application forms from groups such as Citizens Advice.
You may be eligible for help with the fees that are charged to apply for a divorce, annulment or separation if you are on benefits or have a low income. You can apply for this government support online.
One of the most challenging parts of any separation is dividing assets up in a way that both sides are happy with. Sometimes a mediation service might be needed to help you do this. You may be able to claim legal aid to help with the costs, but even if you have to pay yourself it is far cheaper than going to court to settle a dispute.
Working with us
Often a home is the largest shared asset. You may agree to continue sharing the costs of a mortgage especially if there are children living there, even if one of you has moved elsewhere, or one of you might want to buy the other out.
However often the easiest option is to sell a home quickly so that both parties can move on rather than prolonging a stressful experience. We can help you do this, in just seven days if necessary. We’re experienced at buying homes in emotional situations such as divorce and aim to make the process as hassle free as possible by taking on many of the administrative tasks.
We’ll also keep your costs down. We instruct and pay for solicitors and because we don’t use estate agents you do not have to pay their fees.
If you’d like to chat about how we can help you, please get in touch.