In UK divorce law divorce advice for men is about managing expectations. It is a very common scenario in divorce in England that the house is transferred into the wife's sole name, the children live with the wife and the husband pays maintenance for the children until they leave full time education while at the same time losing meaningful contact with them. All too often the man feels he has lost everything under such circumstances - wife, home and children - and that what he has spent years building up has suddenly been snatched away from him.
This situation can be made to feel a great deal worse if the man feels the wife has been to "blame" for the break-up if, for instance, the reason for divorce has been adultery. He very often feels that this "fault" ought to be taken into account in some way.
To understand why divorce for men is different it is important to know precisely how the divorce process works. There are, in effect, three separate and distinct issues.
Firstly, there is the divorce itself. This is the process by which the marriage is brought to an end so that the parties are free to re-marry. The conclusion of this process is the decree absolute.
Secondly, there is the process by which the marital assets are divided and financial provision is made for each spouse and any children. This is described as "ancillary relief" although, in practice, it is usually the most contested part of the divorce process and it is very much central rather than ancillary. This part of the process may go on long after decree absolute has been granted.
Thirdly, there may be proceedings relating to children - the custody of children, contact arrangements with the absent parent etc. Very often matters relating to children are resolved amicably and by agreement which is by far the best way. But if they are not and a court is asked to decide questions of residence and/or contact these proceedings can be very bitter indeed.
It takes two people to make a marriage. This may seem obvious but it has a very important consequence: if one of the spouses decides that the marriage is at an end then, effectively, it is. There is no way round that fact. Parliament and/or the Courts can establish various criteria which have to be met before a divorce can be granted and those criteria can be more or less demanding but no-one outside the marriage can force husband and wife to make it work if either think it has broken down.
For that reason it is extremely difficult to defend a divorce. The very fact that one of the parties has presented a divorce petition is a reasonable indication that at least one of the parties to the marriage thinks it is over. There are some very limited circumstances under which one spouse can prevent the other from getting a divorce but cases which fulfill such criteria are very rare. In practical terms the vast majority of husbands cannot prevent their wives obtaining a divorce (and vice versa). And within the context of men and divorce it is worth pointing out the most divorce petitions are issued by wives.
Defending a divorce petition would almost invariably incur substantial legal costs and in all probability the attempt would fail unless the circumstances were wholly exceptional. It is important to understand this. In practical terms it means that one party to a marriage cannot prevent the other spouse obtaining a divorce and there is little that can be done about it. This has the following important knock on effect.
When a marriage is dissolved by a Court the Court has almost unlimited powers to divide up all the marital assets in whatever way it sees fit although the Courts in fact make such divisions according to well understood rules. That is, it is not an arbitrary process but, equally, it is not one which either party to the marriage can prevent. It has not traditionally been possible in the UK to enter into binding pre-nuptial agreements which determine what is to happen to the marital property in the event of divorce. The Courts have complete and almost absolute jurisdiction. What this means in divorce for men UK style is that one party to the marriage can force a divorce and have the Courts decide how the marital assets ought to be split up. Short of not getting married in the first place these consequences cannot be escaped for the overwhelming majority of husbands and wives.
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