Divorce proceedings cannot be commenced within the first year of the marriage, however challenging the circumstances.
The courts understand the first year of marriage can be a difficult one, and the bar on divorce operates to dissuade parties possibly giving up too soon. However, some marriages do irretrievably breakdown within this period.
What can you do if the marriage breaks down within one year?
If you are one of the unfortunate few this happens to, you are not required to continue to live together and there is nothing to stop you moving out if you wish.
It is possible to issue judicial separation proceedings in the first 12 months. These follow the same process as divorce and allow for the majority of financial matters to be resolved, however, a decree absolute is not obtained at the end. Legally the parties remain married to each other and cannot remarry. Given the exclusion period for divorce is fairly short at 12 months, most don’t bother going down this route, preferring to wait and bring the marriage to an end when the 12 month bar expires.
When it comes to your home and other property, the court can declare property rights by virtue of s17 Married Women’s Property Act 1882. This can be done within the first 12 months, however, as finances may subsequently be varied within the divorce process, this option is rarely used.
Where children are involved the court can make a child arrangements order within the first 12 months, determining who a child should live with and the time spent with the other parent. The court can make prohibited steps and specific issue orders to deal with issues surrounding the child, such as whether a parent should be allowed to move away with the child.
The court can also offer protection from violence within the 12 month period.
If you believe the marriage was not valid or could be void, a nullity petition can be issued within the 12 month period if the marriage falls within certain criteria. This is a specialist area and you will need tailored advice if you believe the marriage was not valid from the outset, or falls within a voidable category.
What should be done after the initial 12 months if you still want to divorce?
After the 12 month period expires, petitions on adultery or unreasonable behaviour can be lodged. It is worth seeing your solicitor within the 12 month period as they can prepare the paperwork so it is ready to issue when the bar expires.
For more information on judicial separation or help preparing for divorce, please contact Anita Scorah in our Family Law team on 01625 442123.