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Published: 15 May 2017
Area of Law: Divorce & Separation

Why is my divorce taking so long?

Why is my divorce taking so long?
Following Heston Blumenthal’s lengthy divorce proceedings which hit the headline last week, we take a look at why some divorces take so long and what you can do to speed the process up. We put our divorce lawyer, Zahra Pabani, under the spotlight…

Why do some divorces take so long to finalise?

Z: A divorce is essentially just paper work leading to a decree absolute. It is the settlement and sorting the finances out that actually takes the time. Delays usually occur because the parties are unable to agree on terms.

Z: Most people want to avoid a lengthy divorce because of the stresses and strains it can bring, but unfortunately it isn’t always possible.

Z: Cases often become drawn out if one party doesn’t give full and frank disclosure of assets for example if money is held abroad or ‘hidden’ in offshore accounts. Additionally, if there are offshore trusts involved, third-party involvement from all trustees may be required before the terms of a settlement can be agreed and this can lead to lengthy delays. All of these factors can slow down the process of reaching a conclusion and securing that all-important decree absolute.

How long should a divorce take?

Z: Typically, a divorce will take between six and 12 months, including resolving the finances, or 18 months if it goes to Court.

What is the longest divorce you have seen?

Z: Obviously, there are well-known divorces which reportedly have taken years for one reason or another, but the longest ones I have seen can take three to four years. Such delays may be due to complications, such as an ongoing tax investigation for example. Additionally, due to the demands on the Courts at the moment, hearing delays can also lengthen divorce and financial proceedings.

Z: A good lawyer will always have early settlement in mind and will be seeking opportunities to shorten the proceedings for clients if possible. It can be such an emotionally, physically and financially taxing experience and the less time it takes the better for clients.
What are the pros of a lengthy divorce? And the cons?

Z: There is no upside to a lengthy divorce. It can leave the parties involved in limbo for significant periods of time and it can be an incredibly stressful time. Although individuals may get a better deal by investigating the full financial picture of the other party, often the costs and stress involved in taking a no-stone-unturned approach can outweigh the benefits in the long run.

Z: Reaching a satisfactory conclusion, as efficiently as possible, will help individuals to move on and draw a line under their failed relationship.

What can people do to protect themselves against a lengthy divorce?

Z: Sometimes divorces can be lengthened because the individuals involved want to get nasty. Nastiness can polarise people to fight harder despite the fact that it is usually in their best interest to make a full and frank disclosure of their financial affairs and offer an early and attractive settlement. Being fair from the start is likely to work in their favour in the long term.

Z: Issuing court proceedings at an early stage can help to set a timetable, which in theory can speed up the divorce and financial process if early settlement is not accepted. Securing a court date can take months, however, if it is done at the same time as trying to negotiate a settlement this could save time if it is ultimately found that they can’t reach agreement.

"This is exactly why we like to work with people who understand the industry and can identify potential issues and create solutions."

Jon Saltinstall, Senior HealthCare Banking Consultant, Lloyds Bank