Can we divorce if we’ve been married less than a year?

Although we hope a marriage will be blissful for years to come, the unfortunate reality is that sometimes we realise marriage is not how we expected it to be and we wish to part ways from our spouses.

Our divorce solicitors often get asked the above question, can we divorce if I married less than a year ago? The quick and easy answer is no, you cannot divorce less than a year of being married. In order to apply for a divorce in England and Wales, you must have been married for at least a year and the marriage must have irretrievably broken down.

While a divorce within less  than a year of marriage is not an option, you may wish to consider entering into an agreement that devises how your assets will be divided when you divorce.

Can I prepare a Separation Agreement if I have been married less than a year before applying for a divorce?

A separation agreement can be a verbal or written agreement setting out the terms of a financial agreement, assets being divided and the child care arrangements for any children involved. However, it is always recommended  to have a written agreement in place, especially in financial matters.

Using a separation agreement to live apart from your spouse before you are able to legally divorce provides a good foundation for the final financial order. This is an order which should be presented to the Court once the divorce has reached the appropriate stage.

What can a Separation Agreement cover before I divorce in a year’s time?

A separation agreement can cover a number of settlement arrangements. For example, maintenance and financial support for any children  involved. A number of other areas a separation agreement can cover are:

  • What will happen to the matrimonial home and how the value of it will be divided between the parties if sold
  • If the matrimonial home is not to be sold, who will pay the bills and the mortgage
  • How joint loans, debts and overdrafts are to be dealt with
  • How jointly owned items such as cars, other properties and pets are to be divided
  • How to apportion assets such as investments and any other savings
  • Who the children will live with and the contact arrangements for the other party

Is a Separation Agreement binding even though I cannot divorce until a year after marriage

Separation agreements are viewed similar to prenuptial agreements. This is because the Court still has the ability to step in and change the agreement. However, if a separation agreement has been drawn and full financial disclosure has been provided by both parties, without any pressure on either side, then unless circumstances change; the Court may usually maintain the separation agreement as binding.

For this reason, it is important to be fair and transparent about your finances and take legal advice and guidance when drawing up a separation agreement to help make certain that the agreement is not upheld in Court.

It is understandable that you may not wish to disclose all your finances to a partner you no longer wish to live with. But to be able to rely on your separation agreement in the future, it is important to provide full financial disclosure, or risk your agreement being challenged in Court.

No agreement concerning financial aspects of divorce or civil partnership dissolution can be considered as legally binding until the agreement has been presented to the Court and approved by a judge by way of a financial consent order.

Can I seek Judicial Separation if I have not been married longer than a year?

An alternative to a separation agreement is a judicial agreement. This is where the couple do not divorce but are instead recognised as no longer being a couple.

Judicial separation are ideal for those who do not wish to divorce for cultural reasons but want to separate or may wish to divorce in the future but nonetheless record that they have separated.

A judicial separation follows the same process as divorce proceedings and can be granted if a marriage breaks down irretrievably within 12 months of marriage. To be granted a judicial separation, you would need to seek a Decree of Judicial Separation  from  the Family Court.

The benefits to a judicial agreement are similar to a divorce. The grounds for a judicial agreement to be sought are the same grounds as those that would justify a divorce, e.g. unreasonable behaviour and adultery.

Unlike divorce which has two decrees, judicial separation only consists of one decree which pronounces the separation when the Court is satisfied with the requirements having been met.

Effects of seeking a Judicial Separation in less than a year of marriage

A judicial separation has three main effects which are listed below:

  • You are no longer obliged to live with your spouse
  • If parties are unable to reach an agreement on finances, the Court can do this for them
  • Spouses no longer receive automatic interest in a property and if either of the parties were to die, the property left behind would be dealt with as though the other spouse is dead. Although, your will would remain unaffected.

If you have been married less than a year  and are considering the above options; you may wish to consider whether having a separation agreement in place or seeking a judicial separation from a Court are the best options for you.

To find out more about the options available to you if you are looking to divorce less than a year after marriage and need clarity on the options available, Please  contact 1Solicitors or let us contact you.

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