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My husband wants a divorce - what are my rights?

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While things are gradually becoming more equal, the reality is that women in heterosexual marriages are often at greater risk of financial hardship if their marriages end in divorce. Understanding your rights can give you a better chance of securing a fair financial settlement during divorce, as well as making sure your other rights are respected.

In this blog, we cover divorce rights for women regarding finances, the family home and children. We also explain how divorce law has changed spouses’ rights during a divorce following the introduction of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020.

It should be noted that this blog is not intended as legal advice and is for educational purposes only. Should you wish to discuss your specific situation, our divorce and separation solicitors will be happy to answer any queries you may have.

For expert support with getting divorced, please call one of our offices in Banbury, Bicester and Rugby or simply fill out our enquiry form and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Do you have the right to object if your husband wants a divorce?

Unfortunately, the decision to divorce is not always mutual. If your husband wants a divorce and you do not agree, then legally there is unlikely to be much you can do to prevent them moving ahead with the divorce. This is due to changes to divorce law that came into effect in April 2022 under the terms of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020.

Under the previous divorce rules, if your spouse wished to divorce you, they would need to give a generally accepted reason for doing so, such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour. You could object to the reason given and, potentially, delay the divorce for several years if successful.

However, this right to object to the reason for the divorce no longer exists as there is no longer a requirement to give a reason as part of the divorce application. Instead, the applicant simply needs to make a ‘statement of irretrievable breakdown’ to justify ending the marriage.

There are certain limited circumstances in which you might still object to a divorce in England and Wales, for example, if you think the English and Welsh courts do not have the right to deal with your divorce. However, these circumstances rarely apply and you should always take expert advice if you feel this might be relevant to your situation.

Financial divorce rights for women

The division of assets is, of course, really important when getting divorced. It can make a very significant difference to your quality of life and may be vital to help you avoid financial hardship. Understanding financial divorce rights for women is, therefore, absolutely vital.

Many people are under the impression that their entitlement in divorce would be half of their combined assets with their spouse. The reality is that what you can claim will depend on the principle of ‘reasonable needs’ and what resources are available to meet those needs, with a number of other factors potentially influencing your legal entitlement.

While these matters can be resolved through amicable divorce settlements, it is important to understand what a court would look at were it required to decide the division of finances for you. This should help to give an insight into what you can reasonably expect to achieve.

Factors a court would look at include your reasonable needs, those of your spouse and those of any children, weighed against your and your spouse’s current income and earning potential, as well as any available marital assets, such as the family home. Other factors, such as the length of the marriage, the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage and any non-financial contributions either spouse made to the marriage may also be considered.

Knowing your financial entitlements in divorce can be very complicated, so expert advice is strongly recommended to give you the best chance of a fair settlement that meets your needs.

Rights to the family home in divorce

When it comes to the family home, your entitlement in a divorce will depend on the circumstances. If the home is considered a marital asset, then both spouses would normally have a right to a share of the home, even if only one of their names is on the title deeds.

That said, these matters can sometimes be quite complicated and it is not safe to assume you would be either be entitled to, or settle for  a straightforward 50:50 split of the property’s value. You should, therefore, seek expert legal advice at an early stage.

One misconception that it is important to clear up is that, in divorce, the house does not necessarily go to the wife, even if there are children under the age of 18 living at home. While it is a common solution for the wife to be the primary carer and for them to stay in the family home with the children, this is not guaranteed.  If this is your priority it is essential that you receive specialist legal advice to try to achieve your aim.

Divorce rights and children

Women’s rights in divorce toward their children will largely depend on who has legal parental responsibility for the children, the children’s needs and the ability of the different parties with parental responsibility to meet those needs.

Parental responsibility is a legal concept that means a person has an obligation to provide for their children and the right to be involved in decisions about their children’s lives. Anyone with parental responsibility will have rights during a separation, including the right to spend time with their children. They will also have a legal duty to meet their children’s needs.

Birth mothers automatically have parental responsibility (unless this has been given up through adoption or a court order) while second parents may have parental responsibility depending on the situation. Normally, if a father is married to the mother at the time of the birth, marries her after the birth or is named on the child’s birth certificate, then they will have parental responsibility.

The people with parental responsibility would need to agree between them where the children will live and what time they will spend with each parent following the divorce. If an agreement cannot be reached, then the parents would need to apply to a court to decide.

The parents will have a joint responsibility to meet the children’s needs, so it may be the case one parent would need to pay the other child maintenance if this is necessary in order to meet the children’s needs.

Does it matter who starts divorce proceedings?

In most cases, who starts divorce proceedings will not affect your rights. The only exception is if there is the possibility of starting proceedings in a different jurisdiction where you might have different rights. In such cases, it may be to your advantage to start proceedings in a different jurisdiction before your husband is able to start them in England or Wales, but you should always get expert advice on this first.  If however you start the Divorce proceedings you will be able to ensure that they are not finalised until your financial claims have been settled which can be important in relation to some assets such as pensions.

Get expert divorce advice for women in Banbury, Bicester and Rugby

If you would like to discuss how we can help with your divorce, please get in touch with a member of our team.

We have offices in Banbury, Bicester and Rugby working with clients across Coventry and Warwickshire, the West Midlands, Oxfordshire and nationwide.