Divorce & Separation

Divorce & Separation

  • Divorce and dissolution of civil marriages
  • Separation
  • Financial & property matters & Maintenance
  • Co-Habitation

We offer a no obligation initial consultation about getting a divorce, and offer flexible pricing including fixed fee costs for Divorce and all our Family Law services.

Divorce, dissolution of civil partnership

Our Divorce Solicitors know that divorce often involves high emotions, especially when there are children involved. Our team of Divorce Solicitors & Separation Lawyers are sensitive to your needs during this difficult time, and work with you to resolve your divorce with compassion and efficiency.

Many of our Family Solicitors are members of the collaborative family lawyers group, an organisation committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes through non-confrontational communication. Our Family Solicitors encourage solutions that consider the needs of the whole family, in particular the best interests of any children or dependants.

To obtain a divorce you must demonstrate to the Court that your marriage is at an end; i.e. that the marriage has “irretrievably broken down”.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here our experienced divorce solicitors and separation solicitors answer some of the most frequently asked questions during our initial free solicitor consultation.

If I have been separated for 2 years am I automatically entitled to a divorce?

No, you would need the other party’s consent.

Can I get a divorce based on my own adultery?

No. You cannot petition for divorce based on the grounds that you have committed adultery. Your spouse could petition on these grounds, or you could use other grounds for divorce most commonly unreasonable behaviour.

If I want to rely on my spouse’s adultery after we are separated will it still count?

Yes, as long as you have not reconciled following the adultery for a period of six months.

Can I still initiate divorce proceedings on the grounds of adultery, unreasonable behaviour, two-year separation or five-year separation, even if we continue living together?

Yes, provided that, prior to the date that your divorce petition is presented you are not living as man and wife i.e. separate bedrooms and not sharing any domestic tasks.

How long does it take to get divorced?

A typical divorce takes between 4 and 6 months. Much depends on whether or not your spouse responds quickly when he or she receives your petition, and whether he/she wishes to defend it. The divorce may also be delayed due to the division of matrimonial assets as it is best to completely resolve this before you apply for the decree absolute. Further the time frame will be effected if a Legal Aid application is merited.

My partner lives/works abroad. Can I start proceedings in Northern Ireland?

Yes, provided that you and/or your partner meet certain criteria relating to where you now live both on a physical basis and also where you intend to live. This can be very complicated and it may also be of great importance to start proceedings in Northern Ireland before they are commenced abroad.

Will there be an equal division of the assets?

The law provides that a number of factors must be considered when deciding how to resolve financial matters between spouses. There is no presumption of an equal division of the assets and such a resolution will not be appropriate in all circumstances.

However, the law also states that there must be good reason for departing from equality.

What do I do about child maintenance?

If there are children from the marriage then it will almost always be necessary for child support to be paid. This will either be calculated by the Child Support Agency agreed or in accordance with their formula. The basic calculation, subject to contact arrangements and certain other factors, is 15% of net income for one child, 20% for two and 25% for three or more children.

To calculate the potential amount visit the Child Support Agency website.

What happens with my pension?

On a divorce or separation, pensions are treated as an asset that can be divided between the parties. A pension is a valuable asset that you may have been building up during your whole working life. The Court has the power to share a pension between husband and wife. This does not happen in every situation and on many occasions it will not be appropriate. Specific advice will be required in each individual case. Before negotiations can take place you will need to obtain a cash equivalent transfer value (CETV) from your pension provider.

This is the value of your pension at the date you make the request and the value that your pension would be given if you were able to transfer it to a new pension scheme. If your pension is already in payment you will need to obtain a cash equivalent benefit statement from your pension provider, as well as letting us have your last three payment slips. It is also sensible to obtain a forecast upon the state pension, which can be done online at the Pension Service. It is therefore important that on a divorce or dissolution the division of this asset is carried out in the most appropriate and effective way for both parties. There are five options in dealing with a Pension:

  1. Pension Sharing
  2. Deferred Pension Sharing Order
  3. Offsetting
  4. Deferred lump sum
  5. Pension Attachment Order

Will I have to sell the “family home?”

It is a possibility that the home will have to be sold. Again this does not always happen and there are a number of other possible outcomes such as one party buying the other party out or the home not being sold until the youngest child is aged 18. Again specific advice will be required in each individual circumstance. Whether or not you will have to sell the house depends on a range of factors, such as:

  • Your income
  • Your earning capacity
  • Any other property and financial resources which either you or your spouse own or are likely to have in the foreseeable future
  • Any financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which either of you have, or are likely to have in the foreseeable future
  • The standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage
  • Any physical or mental disability of either of you, or your children
  • The contributions which you have both made to the marriage, both in financial terms and also in looking after the home and caring for the family
  • The conduct of both you, if the court thinks it would be unfair to ignore it.

There are usually three options regarding what happens to the former matrimonial home when the finances are divided on divorce. Either:

  • You sell the house and split the proceeds according to pre-agreed shares. A 50/50 split may or may not be appropriate, depending on various factors, such as the length of the marriage, and the contributions made to the property. If you can’t agree on your shares, it is possible for the money to be held in a secure solicitors’ bank account until you can agree. In the meantime, the solicitor will have to account to both of you for any interest earned; or
  • One of you keeps the house, and “buys the other out”. This means that you pay the other party a lump sum in return for the property being transferred into your sole name. This is effectively to compensate them for their share in the property, and allows them to put a deposit down on their own property if they want to. If you are considering this option, the party who keeps the house will need to see a mortgage broker to check that they can afford to take on the existing mortgage or that they have enough borrowing power in their own name to re-mortgage; or

The sale of the house is postponed, and one of you remains in the property in the meantime. The person who leaves the house takes a charge over the property, which is usually expressed as a percentage of the total value of the property. The sale of the house will be “triggered” on the first to occur of certain events, usually:

  • The death of either party
  • The youngest child reaching the age of 17 or finishing full time secondary education, whichever is the earlier; or
  • The remarriage of the person retaining the property. As with option (b), the person remaining in the property should make sure that they can take on the existing level of borrowing, as often the person who leaves will need to get a new mortgage for their new property.
  • Any financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which either of you have, or are likely to have in the foreseeable future

So, whether you will have to sell the house or not depends on a number of factors that will need to be balanced against each other. Our specialist matrimonial solicitors will be able to guide you through the process and help you reach the right solution for your family.

Other Services

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Personal Injury

Personal Injury is used to describe any type of injury you suffer due to someone else’s lack of care and attention or negligent behaviour.

Personal Injury claims usually arise from someone else’s negligence and can involve many different situations such as an accident at work, a slip, trip or fall, or being involved in a car accident. The resulting injury can be serious and life-changing, with long term health and financial implications.

Our personal injury solicitors have secured compensation in many different types of personal injury actions.

Road Traffic Accidents

You can claim compensation for road traffic accident injuries if the accident was caused by the fault of another motorist, person or party. You can claim compensation if you were injured as a driver, a passenger, and a pedestrian or if you were riding a motorbike a bicycle or a horse at the time of the accident. You can also claim if you are partly to blame for the accident.

Accident & Injury at Work

When at work you expect to be in an environment where the proper measures have been taken by your employer to adhere to Statutory Duties to protect you in the workplace, whether it be an office, factory or your place of trade. If you have sustained an injury as a result of an accident at work it can be daunting to know where to begin in making a claim for compensation against your employer.

Injuries in Public Places

All companies have a duty of care to visitors to their premises, including members of the public or employees from other companies, to ensure that they are not at risk of injury while visiting them. If it can be proved that insufficient Health & Safety provisions were made; then you may well be entitled to get compensation.

Councils also have a responsibility to ensure that all pavements, roads and bridle paths are clear of defects and well-maintained to avoid accidents.

Injuries Abroad

Unfortunately a large number of people fall victim to an accident abroad, contracting an illness or suffering from an unforeseen injury. Any accident, illness or injury suffered of holiday can of course cause pain and upset, and in addition, often results in disruption to the remaining time spent abroad. However in circumstances such as these there are laws in place to protect those who are the victim of an incident abroad which occurred as the result of circumstances outside of their control.

Asbestos Related Illnesses

Asbestos can be very dangerous. It does not present a health risk if it is undisturbed, but if material containing asbestos is chipped, drilled, broken or allowed to deteriorate, it can release a fine dust that contains asbestos fibres.

Sexual & Physical Abuse

We do understand how extremely difficult it is to come forward and talk about any sexual or physical abuse that you or a close family member has suffered. We know how traumatic the recollection of events can be, and our solicitors will do all they can to ensure that you feel safe and secure throughout the claims process.

In any abuse claim, the abuse of trust can be the most difficult aspect to come to terms with. If you have been subjected to abuse from someone who was in a position of trust, such as a carer, parent or professional, you may be entitled to make a claim for compensation.

Hearing Loss Claims

Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) also known as Industrial Hearing Loss, is a work related condition that results in the loss of hearing (often over a prolonged period of time) as a consequence of a person’s working environment. Hearing loss often appears years, if not decades later from the original exposure meaning many people do not identify their work as the cause.

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Motoring & Criminal

Stewarts Solicitors has a long tradition of skilled representation in criminal proceedings. We provide essential advice and representation in all local criminal Courts and at Police Stations.

In this area of law, it is essential that clients are able to rely upon the skill and experience of their Solicitor to protect their legal rights and personal freedom at all times. Our motoring & driving law department has a highly qualified team with many years of experience.

We cover the whole of Northern Ireland an appear at criminal courts in Antrim Court Solicitors; Armagh Court Solicitors; Ballymena Court Solicitors; Banbridge Court Solicitors; Coleraine Court Solicitors; Craigavon Court Solicitors; Downpatrick Court Solicitors; Dungannon Court Solicitors; Enniskillen Court Solicitors; Laganside Court Solicitors; Magistrates Court Solicitors; Limavady Court Solicitors; Lisburn Court Solicitors; Londonderry Court Solicitors; Derry Court Solicitors; Magherafelt Court Solicitors; Newry Court Solicitors; Newtownards Court Solicitor; Omagh Court Solicitors and Strabane Court Solicitors.

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Family Law

Our experienced family law department offers a full range of services to assist those going through a breakdown in their family relationship.

Many of our divorce solicitors and separation solicitors are also certified Collaborative lawyers, an organisation committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes through non-confrontational communication.

Our Family Solicitors encourage solutions that consider the needs of the whole family, in particular the best interests of any children or dependants.

Our domestic violence and protection from harassment solicitors offer a free initial consultation about domestic violence or abuse in a relationship. The law seeks to protect those people who find themselves in situations where they are subjected to such abuse. The family courts have the ability to make non-molestation and occupation orders and we can help you apply for an ‘injunction’ if you’ve been the victim of domestic violence.

Many of our children law solicitors are accredited members of the Children Order Panel. Our children lawyers are experienced in assisting parents and guardians of children by providing sound, clear advice on the legal requirements and the legal remedies available in relation to parental responsibility, contact and residence of children, together with Prohibited Steps Orders and Specific Issue Orders. We can also assist in Private Law proceedings, if you are applying to adopt a child, or if you are objecting to someone trying to adopt your child.

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