divorce gone nasty

My divorce has turned nasty – what can I do?

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Walker Family Law
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My divorce has turned nasty – what can I do?

These days all good family lawyers will encourage their clients to resolve their divorces, including arrangements over children and finances, in a non-confrontational way. Such an approach has the best chance of sorting matters out by agreement, thereby saving money, time, and stress for all concerned, including any children.

But sometimes, even with the best will in the world, it is simply not possible to resolve matters amicably. Sometimes the other party is just not prepared to be amicable. Sometimes old differences return to the surface, and negotiations that had been friendly turn ‘nasty’.

What can you do if this happens to you?

Most divorces comprise three elements: the divorce itself, arrangements regarding any dependent children, and sorting out finances. We will deal with each in turn.

The divorce itself

Exactly what you can do here depends upon whether the divorce has been issued, and if so, who issued it, and what stage it has reached.

Issuing divorce proceedings can often seem like an ‘aggressive’ step to the other party, especially if it involves alleging that they are to blame for the breakdown of the marriage (thankfully, this should soon no longer be necessary, when we have system of no-fault divorce). And it can be even worse if the divorce has already turned nasty.

The last thing you or your spouse need is the expense of a contested divorce. So what can you do if you want to issue divorce proceedings?

Hopefully, your spouse will have instructed a lawyer, who will explain to them that attributing blame is just a requirement of the law in order to get a divorce where the parties have not yet been separated for two years. And it does not affect anything else, such as arrangements for children and finances.

If they do not have a lawyer, then your lawyer can try explaining this to them, and that you will do all you can to make it less ‘painful’, for example not naming any other party, and keeping behaviour allegations to a ‘minimum’.

If you have issued the divorce and your spouse is refusing to acknowledge receipt of the divorce papers, then you can take steps to prove that they have received them, and then proceed with the divorce.

If your spouse has issued the divorce but then indicated that they do not intend to proceed, then what you can do depends upon whether the decree nisi has been pronounced. If it has not, then you may need to cross-petition yourself. If it has, then you can yourself apply for the decree absolute, finalising the divorce, once six weeks plus three months have elapsed since the decree nisi.

Children arrangements

Obviously, if the divorce has turned nasty then you will have to ask the court to sort out arrangements for any dependent children, including how much time they should spend with each parent. The court will decide what the arrangements will be, and will set them out in a court order.

But what if the other party fails to adhere to the terms of the order?

Well, there are various steps that can be taken to enforce child arrangements orders. We could not set them out in full here, but they include imposing an ‘unpaid work requirement’ on the person in breach of the order, fining that person and, in extreme cases, committing them to prison for contempt of court.

Sorting out finances

Again, if the divorce has turned nasty then you will have to apply to the court, this time for a financial remedies order. Each party will disclose details of their assets to the court, and having regard to those assets, and any other relevant circumstances, the court will decide upon a reasonable settlement.

But what if the other party fails to disclose their assets? Well, the court has power to require full disclosure, and can even make assumptions about assets if disclosure is not made.

And what if the other party tries to get rid of assets, to defeat your claim? In such a case you can ask the court to make an injunction to stop them from disposing of assets, and the court can even order that any assets they have disposed of be returned to them.

And what if the other party does not comply with the financial remedies order? Well, again, there are various methods of enforcing these orders, depending upon exactly what the order states.

Further information

As usual, the above just sets out some basic information. If you would like more detailed advice in relation to your particular situation, we can help. We have a free online system providing information on a range of family matters, which you can find here.