When a marriage has irretrievably broken down, a divorce will legally bring the marriage to an end. To be eligible for divorce or to end a civil partnership, you need to have been married or in the civil partnership for twelve months or more. If this is not the case, you can apply for a judicial separation.

It is important to understand that the divorce does not end the financial obligations that arise within a marriage. To separate your finances, you must reach a financial settlement to decide how the assets of the marriage are to be split. The Family and Matrimonial team at MKB Law will ensure that you are informed on all decisions that must be taken, especially regarding children and finances.

Financial Settlements

A divorce does not end the financial relationship between parties. In order to separate your finances, you must reach a financial settlement often known as a Matrimonial Agreement. The Agreement decides how assets of the marriage should be split.

If an amicable agreement cannot be reached, then the Court will have the final decision on how the assets are split. A range of factors are usually considered including the length of the marriage and contributions made by each of the spouses. The Court proceedings are known as Ancillary Relief and can be issued by either party to the divorce.

Child Law

Whether you are facing legal proceedings involving your children or need legal advice when dealing with social services, MKB Law’s Family Law team can help you. In cases involving children, Court proceedings should be the last resort and the welfare of the child should always remain the primary consideration. Should Court proceedings be necessary, our solicitors can assist you to apply to the Court for orders such as Residence Order, Contact Order, Specific Issues Order, Prohibited Steps Order and Parental Responsibility Order.

Anne Marie Kelly, Áine Toner and Karen Edwards are members of the specialist Children Order Panel accredited by the Law Society of Northern Ireland.

Domestic Abuse

Anyone can become a victim of domestic violence or abuse regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity. If you have been the victim of physical or psychological abuse, MKB Law can help you obtain protective remedies through the Court.

A Non-Molestation Order can prevent your partner from harassing or molesting you in any way, either directly or indirectly. The harassment does not have to be physical and can be mental or emotional abuse. An Occupation order is an order that will remove your partner from your shared home to allow you peaceful occupation of the property.

The ground for divorce in Northern Ireland is the “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” You must satisfy the Court that the marriage has broken down due to at least 1 of 5 facts. The facts can be split between fault-based facts and non-fault-based facts.

  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable Behaviour
  3. Desertion
  4. 2 years separation with consent
  5. 5 years separation

The process of ending a civil partnership is the same, the only difference is that you cannot rely on the ground of adultery.

Depending on the fact relied upon in the divorce petition, you may be able to proceed with the divorce. For example, if you have used the grounds of unreasonable behaviour or 5 years separation you can make a separate application to the Court to prove your spouse has been served with the divorce papers.

However, if your divorce petition is based on the fact of 2 years separation with consent, you will require your spouse’s consent and the return of the Acknowledgement of Service Form. If this is not achievable, you can amend your divorce petition and rely on a fact that does not require your spouse’s consent.

The Decree Nisi is the first part of the divorce. However, it is important to note that the Decree Nisi does not bring the marriage to an end.

Once you are granted a Decree Nisi, you may apply for your Decree Absolute after waiting a period of 6 weeks and 1 day. The Decree Absolute legally ends the marriage. In some cases, there may be financial matters outstanding that means applying for the Decree Absolute will be delayed.

It is extremely difficult to provide a timeline for divorce. Several factors can impact on the length of the divorce including the co-operation and engagement of the other party, financial matters and child contact arrangements. However, your solicitor will keep you fully updated at each stage of the process.

We aim to be as transparent as possible with our fees and have a set fee for divorce proceedings as follows:

The family home is often referred to as the former matrimonial home (FMH) and is usually the biggest asset to divide in a divorce. There are many ways that a Matrimonial Agreement can be reached concerning the FMH. It is important to speak to your solicitor to get independent legal advice.

Steps can be taken to protect your interest by registering this with the Land Registry. This will ensure the property cannot be sold or further charges placed on the property without your knowledge.

Furthermore, if the atmosphere at home has become unbearable and one party chooses to leave, this does not affect any entitlement to a claim in the property.

The Decree Nisi is the first part of the divorce. However, it is important to note that the Decree Nisi does not bring the marriage to an end. A Freezing Order, often known as a Mareva Injunction is a court order which prevents a party from disposing of assets.

A pre-nuptial agreement is a formal written agreement between two partners prior to their marriage. The agreement sets out the ownership of all assets and explains how they should be divided in the event of the marriage breakdown.

It is important to note that pre-nuptial agreements are not legally enforceable in Northern Ireland.

In Private Law Proceedings, the following orders are available to the Court: Residence Order, Contact Order, Prohibited Steps Order, Specific Issue Order, and Parental Responsibility Order.

In Public Law Proceedings, the following orders are available to the Court: Care Order, Supervision Order, Emergency Protection Order, and an Education Supervision Order.

Please contact our Family Law Team to discuss applying for any of the private law orders.

Parental Responsibility means all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which a parent of a child has in relation to the child. This is important for a parent to be involved in decision making in the best interests of the child.

A child’s mother will automatically have parental responsibility. If you are married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth, you automatically get Parental Responsibility.

However, if you and the child’s mother are not married at the time of the child’s birth, you will not automatically have PR, but it can be obtained in the following ways:

  • You are named on the child’s birth certificate;
  • By obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order or a Residence Order in respect of said child;
  • A written Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother.

A Residence Order is an Order settling the arrangements as to whom the child lives with. This should be obtained in the instance where one parent resides in a different jurisdiction and can be shown to authorities should the other parent refuse to return the child.

Where a child resides equally between households, a Joint Residence Order can be sought.

A Residence Order should also be obtained if the other parent is refusing to return the child for significant periods of time. The Court however will not make an Order in respect of a child if they do not consider it to be of any benefit to the child. This is known as the ‘No Order’ principle.

Furthermore, a Residence Order held by the other parent will not affect your parental rights. The Residence Order simply decides where and with whom the child should live. The Court can also decide how much contact you can have with your child in the form of a Contact Order.

If a parent is unreasonably withholding contact, you should seek advice in respect of negotiating a formal contact arrangement.

If the other parent refuses to engage with such negotiations, you can apply to the Court for a Contact Order.

A Contact Order is an Order which required the person with whom the child resides, to allow the child to visit or stay with the person named in the Order.

If contact cannot be agreed between the parties, a Grandparent may seek permission from the Court to bring an application for a Contact Order.

It is practically impossible to provide timescales in respect of Court proceedings as each case will vary. It is therefore essential to seek expert legal advice sooner rather than later.

We will keep you fully updated in relation to the progress of your case and any likely factors which may cause delay.

We aim to be as transparent as possible in respect of the fees throughout your case. There will be both professional fees and outlays which will need to be paid, however we will update you in advance of same.

If you intend to relocate with your child, you will require the permission of anyone who shares Parental Responsibility for that child. This is usually the other parent.

If the other parent does not consent to the relocation, you will be required to make an application to Court for permission to relocate with your child. These are known as ‘relocation proceedings’.

The Court will consider various factors throughout the course of these proceedings, but the welfare of the child will always remain its paramount consideration.

If you are considering moving abroad with your child, you should seek expert legal advice.

If a child is removed from the jurisdiction for a period longer than 30 days without your consent, this is treated as child abduction. Urgent proceedings will be required in order to ensure the return of the child to Northern Ireland immediately. You should contact us urgently for legal advice in relation to this.

The Trust will issue a ‘Letter before Proceedings’ to arrange a Pre-Proceedings meeting with you in the event they become seriously concerned about your care of your child/children. If you have received this letter, it is essential that you seek expert legal advice immediately.

If you have been contacted by Social Services regarding the care of your child, it is imperative that you seek expert legal advice straight away. The Trust have a duty to intervene and start Care Proceedings if there are concerns that a child is at risk. Even if you are working with Social Services amicably, it is important that you seek legal advice straight away.

The local Trust obtain can obtain a number of orders: Care Order, Supervision Order, Emergency Protection Order, and an Education Supervision Order. These Orders can be obtained on an interim basis or as a final order.

Anne Marie Kelly
028 9099 3120

Aine Toner
028 9099 3110

Karen Edwards
028 9024 2450

Aoife McCann
028 9099 3125

“My experience with MKB has been fantastic. Karen Edwards listened to my complex situation and assured me that she would do everything they could to meet my expectations. Anytime a difficult stage of the process came up, Karen was available to help out. The whole process was handled extremely professionally. This helped me through a very difficult and stressful situation, and left both me and my ex-partner being able to stay on good terms. Thanks to those who also helped, Aine Toner in the Family team, and Emma Smyth in the Property team who dealt with the mortgage/deeds side of things. I cannot express how happy I am with everything that MKB Law has done for me.”

Mr J

“I switched to MKB Law as I wasn’t getting anywhere with my previous solicitor in my matrimonial case and I’m so glad I did! My case was given to Aine Toner who, from our first meeting, got straight to the point and eased the stress and anxiety that my case was causing. It has been a very long and difficult road but thanks to Aine’s knowledge and professionalism, I got the result I so desperately needed. I have already and will continue to recommend Aine and MKB Law in the future.”

Gary Rice

“Thank you Anne Marie Kelly for your help and support during my case. I was mentally bruised by the time I reached you but quickly felt my confidence return with your advice and prompt replies to my queries. You were always honest with me and kept my expectations realistic. You steadily and sensitively guided me through everything. While it will take time to get over this, it helps to have secured a fair and generous settlement which will give myself and my children financial security in the years to come. Thank you again, I will always appreciate your help and kindness. ”

Ms T

“To Anne Marie Kelly – from the moment I stepped into the your office I knew I had made the right choice. I was made to feel at ease and assured that my priorities would be at the forefront. This approach was completely in line with your company’s advertising and gave me confidence that I had chosen my representation well. Thank you for helping me through a difficult and often overwhelming process. You may say ‘this is what we do’ – but I now feel in a much better place and can start thinking about the future.”

Mr D


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