When you’re thinking about getting divorced, it’s important that you understand the law and how it will affect you. Splitting up from your spouse is an emotional and major life event and it’s not a time where you want to be studying the ins and outs of the law.
In this article we’ve shared some important advice about getting divorced in Scotland. It’s worth noting that this article is for general information purposes only and before taking any action, you should get in touch for tailored advice.
See also: Fiona Rasmusen’s five top tips on how to divorce well (video).
#1 – You don’t always need a solicitor in order to get divorced
Lots of people wrongly assume they need to get a solicitor involved when they’re looking to get a divorce. However, there are some criteria that apply where you can be granted a divorce by going directly to your local sheriff court:
- An irretrievable breakdown of your marriage based on one year separation with consent or two years’ separation without consent
- You have no children of the marriage aged under 16
- There are no outstanding financial matters to be resolved
- There are no other court proceedings underway which might result in the end of your marriage / civil partnership
You can do this yourself with the help of the local sheriff clerk. At the time of writing, the cost of this is £107. You can get more information on this at the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Website
#2 – The four grounds for divorce
In Scotland there are four grounds for divorce. These are:
- One year’s separation and your spouse consents to the divorce
- Two years’ separation without consent to the divorce
- Unreasonable behaviour – there is no set criteria as to what constitutes this
The majority of divorces proceed on one of the two ‘separation’ grounds. The ground of divorce doesn’t normally influence the financial settlement. That means that if your spouse has an affair and leaves or is violent to you, it makes no difference to how much money you get in the divorce settlement.
Many of our clients aren’t aware this is the case and feel because they’re the one who’s been ‘wronged’ or treated badly in the relationship, that they should automatically get the most favourable settlement.
#3 – You can reduce your legal costs
If you do need the services of a solicitor for your divorce case, there’s a lot of groundwork you can do yourself in order to reduce the fees. This includes gathering all your financial information, getting any valuations done on property and assets and having documentation confirming the valuations.
You may not feel like doing a lot of this work depending on the circumstances surrounding your divorce, but it will be worth it in the long run. If you choose not to, your solicitor will need to do it on your behalf, which of course will incur fees. When you’re splitting up with your spouse, it’s beneficial to keep costs down as you get ready for your new life.
#4 – Do your homework
You should engage a family law specialist who is an expert in divorce law. That person is likely to guide you through the process as quickly and cheaply as is possible in your circumstances.
Find out how they will charge you. Normally it will be by time, and you should find out their hourly rate. Take the time to phone around because different lawyers have different hourly rates.
Don’t use your lawyer for unnecessary phone calls and meetings as this will increase your costs. If you have questions during the divorce process, you can save them up (if they’re not urgent) and ask them at a scheduled meeting.
#5 – Keep things calm
Do your best to maintain civil relations with your spouse. This is likely to save you money in the long run. If you can only speak through solicitors, it gets expensive.
Going through a divorce is a highly-charged emotional time. It’s not uncommon for accusations to be made by either or both parties and tempers can get frayed quite easily. It’s important to remember there are legal procedures in place to make sure your divorce is dealt with fairly, so trust the advice of your solicitor rather than listening to the claims your spouse may be making to try to intimidate you.
We understand that in cases of abuse, you may not want to be in contact with your spouse directly to try to work out the details of your divorce.
#6 – Dispute resolution options
There are different methods of dispute resolution available to you when you want to work things out amicably, especially when children are caught up in your divorce proceedings.
A trained mediator will facilitate an open discussion and move you towards reaching an agreement which will be acceptable to you and your spouse. This can help you save time and money compared to going down a more formal legal route to agree on all the individual details.
Collaborative law is a practice where each party will engage a lawyer who will be trained in collaborative law. The two parties will then meet with their lawyers present and a formal process will be followed, the result of which is intended to be a binding agreement. Fiona Rasmusen is trained in collaborative law.
Solicitor led negotiation is the more traditional method of dealing with a divorce where the two parties involved don’t want to meet face-to-face and instead instruct their solicitors to negotiate on their behalf.
You may like to read more on Dispute Resolution in Family Law.
#7 – Division of assets
It’s important to remember that only assets you acquired during your marriage are in the pot for division. Things you owned beforehand are not normally taken into account.
This is different to the law in England where assets accrued prior to marriage can be taken into account by the courts when deciding on a fair settlement.
There are many things you need to bear in mind before filing for divorce in Scotland. The seven areas we’ve mentioned above are just some of these.
To quickly recap:
- You don’t always need a solicitor to get a divorce
- There are four grounds for divorce in Scotland
- You can do a lot of groundwork yourself to save money
- Make sure you compare different solicitors before choosing one
- Don’t let your emotions get the better of you
- There are different options available to help with divorce proceedings
- Your assets acquired during your marriage are typically the only ones taken into account when you get divorced
Whether you’re thinking about getting divorced or are unhappy with your current divorce solicitor, contact Fiona Rasmusen on 0131 226 9161 for tailored, friendly divorce advice you can trust.
External resources on Dispute Resolution Options:
- Mediation – see Calm Scotland.
- Collaborative Law – see Consensus Scotland.
- Solicitor-led negotiation – see The Family Law Association.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.