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UKfamsol, Family Solicitor
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 560
Experience:  Very experienced specialist family law solicitor, qualifed in 1994
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hello my wife decided to file for divorce unilaterally despite

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my wife decided to file for divorce unilaterally despite my attempts to resolve the matter amicably and privately via mediator

Dear xxxx
I have been consulted by your wife who has come to the conclusion that the marriage, sadly, has irretrievably broken down and that in all the circumstances divorce proceedings would be appropriate.
Both your wife and I hope that a divorce and the other arrangements that will also need to be made can be reached in a constructive and non-confrontational way by agreement.
I have advised your wife that the only basis on which she can base a divorce is your behavior and I have been instructed to start divorce proceedings based on your behavior.
We have been instructed to effect service of the sealed petition by process server.
Accordingly please find enclosed by way of service

1- sealed divorce petition
2 acknowledgement of service form
3. statement of arrangement for children

You are required to complete the acknowledgement of service form enclosed and return to Court a copy to us within 7 working days. Please obtain independent legal advice about the contents of this letter.

Your wife hopes that two of your can reach an agreement about finances and the children without the need to start court proceedings.
Your Wife is anxious to resolve the matters quickly and therefore I look forward to hearing from you, or solicitors instructed by you, within the next 7 days.


I find this approach very disappointing and upsetting, and I like to know my position in front of the law at this point.

- Do I really need to answer within 7 working days, what if I won't?
- What are my possible options in this case? If from one side I would like to resolve the matter quickly and finish our relationship, there are matters that I would like to keep under my control like Children custody, house, finances. I feel like leaving the initiative to my wife could be a financial disaster for me and my kids.

We have 3 Kids, a six years old and twins 3 years old. We have a house in joint names, a mortgage of 250,000 and we currently separated.

Please advise
Hello and thanks for your question.

It's always distressing to receive a letter like this, escpaically as you have tried to resolve matters via mediation - but please don't panic.

3 aspects to a divorce:
1) the legal dissolution of the marriage
2) the children - who are they to live with & what arrangements for the the other parent to see them
3) property & finances

1) if the marriage is over, then there is no point in delaying the divorce process or defending the divorce, because that will only cause more stress and expense, and the divorce will be granted eventually by the court anyway. If you don't acknowledge receiving the divorce petition, then your wife as the petitioner through her solicitors can arrange for the court bailiff to serve the divorce papers on you. BUT you don't have to agree with what she says about your behaviour. On the acknowledgement of service form, in answer to the question "Do you intend to defend the divorce?" you can reply "No but I strenuously deny the allegations made within the petition and I reserve the right to defend myself against them if raised in any other proceedings".

2) Children - no court orders are needed if the parents can agree between them what is to happen regarding the children. If no agreement, and it goes to court, it will be a separate court case from the divorce. The decision of the court will be what is best for the kids, not which parent shouts loudest. Usually kids will stay with whoever had been their main carer before the divorce, with a regular arrangement to see the other parent. It's government policy that kids should continue to have contact with the parent they don't live with - unless there is very good reason why not. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate - court proceedings re kids are stressful for all concerned including the kids. Have a look at what she is proposing in the statement of arrangements, and see whether or not you agree with what is proposed. If not, write out what YOU feel would be appropriate for the kids, and send that to court when you send back the acknowledgement of service form (but make sure you keep a copy of both the acknowledgment form and your statement re the kids). But if you can reach agreement via her solicitors or even direct with her first, than that would be better, and you can confirm to the court what that agreement is.

3) Property & finance - to answer this, I need to know the value of the house, what other assets and debts there are, the income of each of you, and who has the day-to-day care of the children. I would be grateful if you would kindly make a further deposit to cover that.

I hope what I have said so far helps and I wish you the best of luck.

I hate to specify - but please rate my answer ok, good or excellent - or I get nothing for my time!!! (so the website keeps all).

Thanks and best wishes...
Customer: replied 4 years ago.



thanks for answering;


are you saying I do not need to take this to my solicitor at this stage? As her solicitor is looking after her interests rather than mine, I feel a bit uncomfortable to handle things this way unless you advise otherwise?


Property: semi-detached house in joint names. approx Value £430K, Joint names, Mortgage £250000, Equity in the house £166,000


- Personal account currently £10K, no additional savings

- Pension Scheme: roughly 10K

- Limited Company Business account: £49,000

- Current Contract with Merlin Entertainments at £400/day until 31st March 2014 (no permanent employment)

- Personal income: £40,000 GROSS a Year made up by Salary + Dividends, I am employed by my own limited company

- Currently Living in Wimbledon,XXXXXSW19 1NP




- Personal account: unknown, Savings rouglhy 3/4000 pounds

- Pension scheme: 7/8000 pounds

- NOT in any employment

- Currently living in the property with all Children



I know this might look like an odd question but can you please also advise what would be approx costs of a non-confrontational approach and who is likely to pay for my wife solicitor?


Hello again

Getting specialist legal advice from a family law solicitor is always a good idea.

I would be happy to give you more detailed advice and consider all the figures you have given me but as I want to think carefully about this information, I would be grateful if you would kindly accept my answer so far and make a further deposit.
UKfamsol and other Family Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hello thanks for this, I gave you a bonus (I hope this is what you meant by further deposit) and I am looking forward to receive more information



Hello again and thanks for your positive rating & payment plus bonus - much appreciated!

I've been looking at the figures - could you give me a bit more info please

Why do you give the equity in the property as £166,000 as £430,000 - £250,000 = £180,000?

What is the price of a small 3 bed house in the same or similar area ie reasonable close to the 6 year old's school?

Are you the sole owner of the company? (just to clarify who else has an interest in the business account)

Customer: replied 4 years ago.



sorry £166,000 is the equity at the time we purchased the house, now it's valued 430,000 so the equity will be obviously more.


Houses in the area are between 400-500,000 and they are close to 6 years old buy's school


I am the sole owner and director of the company. Please advise carefully on this point (if you can) as I use business account for paying expenses, corporate TAX, VAT, salaries, invoices. IT's not my personal account nor reflect my personal income as Employee and director of the company.




To deal with your last point first, your wife will at this stage be responsible for her solicitor's fees. However, if she has made a claim for costs in her petition, then it is likely that the court has the power to make a costs order at decree nisi stage. In answer to the question on the acknowledgement of service form "Do you object to paying the costs of this petition" you can answer eg "Yes because the reason for the marriage breakdown was at least as much the fault of the petitioner as mine" or "No - as long as the costs are limited to £500 plus the court fee of £410" - or "No as long as this is for the court fee of £410 only". This is another reason not to cause additional delay to the divorce, as then her costs will go up. If she has made a claim for costs in the petition, try to negotiate with her solicitors a figure that you would be prepared to accept. Given the disparity in your incomes, it is likely that the court will order that you pay some or all of the costs of the divorce.

BUT nb - that is ONLY the costs in relation to the divorce alone, and not the costs in relation to any legal work or mediation or negotiation re the kids or property or finance. She can only get a costs order against you for her legal costs if a) there is a contested court case and b) the court makes a costs order. It's rare for a court to order costs in cases concerning kids or matrimonial finance/property.

Thanks for the info re property prices & your business a/c.

Any negotiation has to be on the same basis that a court would decide the case. The court starts from a position that everything should be divided 50:50 unless there is good reason why not. In your case, your wife is going to receive significantly more than 50% as she has no income and she will be providing a home for the 3 kids. The court aims if possible to achieve a "clean break" outcome ie ending all financial ties between the parties. But I don't think that's going to be possible in your case because your wife cannot afford to buy you out, nor would she have enough to buy a small property in the same area even if the house was sold and she received all the equity. Therefore, I think that the most likely order for a court to make would be a "Mesher order". This is an order that states that after the divorce the wife is allowed to remain in the former matrimonial home (which stays in joint names) to the exclusion of the husband (ie his right to enter /occupy the property ends despite his name remaining on the title deeds) until a specified event occurs eg the youngest child finishes their full-time education, or the wife remarries or cohabits with someone for more than 6 months. On the trigger event, the house is to be sold and the net sale proceeds to be divided as specified eg 65% to the wife, 35% to the husband (but could be nore to her - depends on eg her likely earning capacity if it can be predicted), but in the meantime, the wife is to use her best endeavours to raise funds to buy out the husband.

The court might also make an order for periodical payments (ie spousal maintenance in addition to child support). But that would be time-limited eg definitely no longer than until the youngest starts secondary school - but possibly only until the youngest starts primary school. She would be expected to make efforts to get back into work as soon as she could and do what she could to increase her earning capacity. But that would only end the spousal maintenance - not the child support.

This means that until the house is sold, or she can buy you out, you would have to rent as you will not get another mortgage while-ever your name remains on the mortgage at the former matrimonial home.

Given the low level of both your pension funds, she will not get a pension sharing order against your pension, and in fact the level of pensions are so low that they can probably both be ignored altogether in the calculation.

With regard to your business account, I don't think any court would order that you must dip into it given that it affects your earning capacity and ability to run your business. Om the other hand, I don't think it would be ignored either, as you are the person with sole interest in that account. I think it would be taken into account by the court granting a bigger percentage to your wife of the net sale proceeds when the house comes to be sold, so that means that she is more likely to get 75% or more of the net sale proceeds.

If you and your wife can reach agreement in relation to property and finance, then that agreement can be turned into a binding legal agreement by a solicitor translating it into legal terminology and preparing a draft consent order which you both sign and which is then sent to court for the court to approve. Once approved, the consent order is as binding on both of you as an order made at the end of contested proceedings.

As going to court is stressful, time-consuming and very expensive, my best advice to you is to negotiate, NEGOTIATE, N E G O T I A T E! whether you do that informally between yourselves, or via solicitors, or via mediation.

Here's where to find a local family mediation service:-

Try to find a mediation service either where the mediators are also solicitors, or that is attached to a solicitor's firm, because that can save time a) in getting legal advice WHILE you go through mediation and b) in getting a consent order prepared once you have reached agreement.

Given the ambiguity around your business account, I do strongly advise you to get specialist advice from a family lawyer now. Here's where to find a good family solicitor:-

Best of luck!
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

So fact that she already engaged a solicitor and sent me the followings do not prevent me from attempting mediation services?


1- sealed divorce petition
2 acknowledgement of service form
3. statement of arrangement for children


also shall I contact her solicitor confirming my intention to close the matter amicably or seek legal advice first? (I feel pressured by this 7 days constraint specified in the solicitor's letter)


please advise further



Hi again

You can send a holding letter to say that you will respond in more detail as soon as you have taken legal advice which you intend to do within the next week.

It's very unlikely indeed that given such a letter any reputable family law solicitor would immediately advise their client to apply for bailiff service of the divorce petition the second the time limit was up. Normally what happens is that the solicitor for the petitioner hears nothing, then rings the court office to see if they have received the acknowledgement form. The court office will say that they are still dealing with the post of several weeks ago, and can't say whether or not they've received anything that came in yesterday. The courts are terribly slow at dealing with post. Your wife can't apply for bailiff service until it's absolutely certain that you have not returned the acknowledgement of service form within a reasonable time. But anyway, that time limit is ONLY is respect of the divorce process - not in relation to anything else that is in dispute (ie kids or property/finance). Plus applying for bailiff service means another court fee plus legal costs to prepare the application. So your wife won't want to incur any more costs unless absolutely necessary - and if she did, then you could bring that up if you don't reach agreement re the costs of the divorce and there's a short hearing to deal with the divorce costs ie in relation to the legal dissolution of the marriage, not anything else.

You are absolutely not prevented from attempting mediation at ANY stage. The court (if it goes to court) are very keen for people to reach settlement however that's achieved rather than have a contested case - and will adjourn a case if the parties want to go to mediation. But of course mediation does require both parties to take part voluntarily.

Hope this helps.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.



thanks for your answer. One last thing, an email would do as holding letter or need to be a formal letter/envelope in the post?



No an email would be fine. Just make it as formal as you would write a letter and keep a copy.

wishing you all the best!
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Sorry I forgot to mention one thing. As we all have Italian passports and are Italian National I am currently seeking Legal Advice in Italy via divorce lawyer. Is it worth mention it on the holding letter as I need some time to gather this information?


kindly advise





I think it's probably better to keep your holding letter very general and vague at this stage. When you have spoken to both your UK lawyer,and your Italian lawyer, then you can decide how you want to take things forward.

best wishes....
Customer: replied 4 years ago.



I would like to follow up on this trail as there have been some constructive developments this past week-end. My wife and I both agreed that it's in both best interests to find the best compromise to avoid costly confrontations and avoid any possible distressing experience to our children.


She is proposing the following arrangements


  • The house will be split equally, in 50-50 shares but not sold at this stage.

  • She will move out of the house with our eldest boy to a nearby location (same town)

  • She will rent a 2 bedroom flat which I will be the guarantor and help with a deposit.

  • I will be helping her with £4000 towards a deposit for purchasing a new car

  • I will have to pay her £1500/month for 24 months, after that it will be £1000 for the next 5 years, following by £400/months until our son will be 18 years old.

  • I will staying in our property, and look after the twin boys

  • If we ran into financial troubles we will sell the house and split the equity.


This arrangement will allow her to go back to her accounting studies, find a job and eventually after few years considering buying a property. We are thinking of selling the property not earlier than 5/7 years unless I will run into financial problems/sickness or other events.

She is keen on pursuing the route of Mediation on this basis as long as I agree a solution (in her view) that is fair to her.



Although I am happy to get my two boys with me I am a bit concerned of accepting such a deal as I am under the impression £1500/month might be a bit unsustainable with house running costs and the responsibility of 2 boys. My NET income for the last 2 years was around £3200/month but being a contractor expose me to periods of uncertainty with months where I am out of work. Although I work for a sector (IT) which is in high demand, it’s quite difficult to predict I will be earning the same amount for the duration of 7 years.


Can you please tell me your views on an agreement of this kind? Maybe articulate on risks? For some reasons I have a hidden feeling that I can be better of paying the child/spouse maintenance an leave her in the property …









Hello again

I would be happy to give you more detailed advice and consider the detailed proposal to settle as you set out but as I want to think carefully about this information, I would be grateful if you would kindly add a further bonus. Thanks for your understanding.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

HI - do I need to rate your answer to go the the bonus page or there is a shortcut as I can't find it, please adv?

I will check with admin!
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hello - I just re-rated you and added a bonus. I look forward to receive your answer

I have had a look at what she proposes. Please bear in mind that my advice is based on how I predict a court might decide the case, if it goes to court. If you reach agreement, and you want that agreement made into a binding legal agreement called a consent order, the court won't make your agreement into a consent order unless the court is satisfied that what has been agreed is fair to both parties.

I have the following concerns re the children and the assets, which I think would make a court question what your wife proposes:-

The children

It is VERY rare indeed for children to be split up when their parents separate. I think you are possibly both underestimating the effect this will have on ALL the children, not to be living together in the same household. If the children were to be split up – but as I say, I don't think the court would approve this without really strong reasons in terms of the welfare of the children, not in terms of financial ease – then the twins would have more need to be living with their mother as they are younger than the 6 year old – but I think even the 6 year old would suffer terribly from being away from his mother, even if th parent that they were not living with saw them a lot. This is not to put you down as a father – it's just to recognise the reality – that you work full-time, and the children are used to be looked after by their mother, who is not working. It's enough upheaval for the children to have their parents separate without also having to cope with being split up, in my view.

Also, unless you are currently an unusually hands-on father, I think you would find looking after 3 year old twins very tiring and time-consuming , and very difficult to combine with running your own business full-time.

My view is that a court would award your wife far far more than 50% of the equity. If you have another look at the answer I gave you on 28th January, I said then that I though that the court could easily award your wife maybe as much as 75% of the equity, so I don't think the court would approve a draft order that only gave her 50%.

It really doesn't make sense for her to move out (which would be yet a further disruption to the kids) and rent, when your agreement is anyway that the house not be sold for the time being.

The usual agreement is that the wife stays in the house with the kids – are my answer of 28th January for an explanation of a Mesher order. This order can include a clasue that states that your wife will use her best endavours to release you from the mortgage as soon as possible – but even if she retrains in accounting as quickly as possible, she's unlikely to reach your level of income of £40,000 for many years, which means that she probably won't be either to take over the mortgage on this house, or buy another (in London) for many years to come.


With regard to the level of spousal maintenance. If she is not working now, yes she has a good claim for spousal maintenance in addition to child support. A court would order this for a fixed time as I stated in my answer of 28th January. You can certainly specify that the amount changes over the years.

You need to sit down and work out a detailed income and expenses list to see what you can afford. If a court orders a certain level of maintenance based on your income at the time, and then your income falls significantly, you can reapply to court for the level of maintenance to be reduced.

Do go to mediation – it's a good sign that your wife is willing – but she is entitled to independent legal advice as well, and her own solicitor will probably confirm that she is entitled to much more than set out in her proposals so far, and that the children should not be split up.

I hope this helps and I wish you the best of luck.

Thanks and best wishes...
Customer: replied 4 years ago.



thanks for your answer, both my wife and I are conscious about the impact the separation can have on our kids and I greatly apreciate the time you spent articulting yout answer.
We, however, do not think the impact on the separation will be as dramatic as you mentioned. My parents will be looking after the twin boys alongside my girlfriend which is not working and she is a mother herself. I do not plan to put restrictions in the way the boys will be see each other and my ex will be living on a short walking distance from us. I am sure both my twins boys and my eldest son will receive the same level of attention they currently receive with her mother (if not more) which in return will have a chance to rebuild her life, her career from the start, on top of staying in amicable terms with me (as we promise ourselves to avoid any confrontation). I will of course devote most of my weekly time to my business but this does not mean I would not provide best care I can to my kids and dedicate the rest of the time to them.
Why would a court judge not agree with this approach? I apologise if I didn't mention it before as it's been a stressfull period for me with on going discussion with family, friends and my wife which has an irrational and instincive character more often than not.

Given the circumstances, why would you think a "sepatation agreement" would not work in a situation like this?

Also a technical question, what would be the best course of action if we decide for a separation agreement rather than going to court and how do we stop (if we can) the petition for divorce? Can we still go ahead with an "unconstested divorce" and sort everything out by a legally binding separation agreement without getting court orders? My goal here is also trying to balance the books and avoid spending thousands of pounds in Lawyers fees.
I am still not convinced about which is the right way to progress here as my parents themselves agree 100% with the point you made above about NOT separating the children but the will give full support to my decision.

Please be blunt and objective on you answer, I am really not trying to argue with you on why you don't agree with us but more likely gathering as much information as I can in order for me to make the best possibile choice.

thanks for in advance for your continous support


I have been trying to give you a bonus but I get this?


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Hello again - and thanks for trying to give me a bonus - I don't know what the technical issues are - but please keep trying!

I don't have anything more to say about splitting up the children - where parents agree where children are to live after divorce, the parents do not need to apply for court orders concerning the children. It's unlikely but not impossible that in a court case concerning matrimonial finance and property, the court would make orders about where the children should live - but you asked me whether the court would approve, and I think that the answer is NO. I haven't changed my view that you and your wife are both seriously underestimating the effect on the children to be split up- even if they are to be looked after by loving grandparents. And you are also bringing in a new person into the mix - your new girlfriend. You even say yourself "I will of course devote most of my weekly time to my business" - three year old twins need more than this from a parent.
I feel it is just too much change in too short a time for all three children to cope with. The only good thing you have said is that you and your wife are not arguing about this issue - but I still think you are both wrong! You did say I should be blunt!

Here are some articles about the effects of divorce on children, even if they are NOT split up - it will be even more difficult for them if they are:-

I cannot see where I said that a separation agreement would not work - but if you want it to be legally binding, then after either one of you has filed a divorce petition at court, the agreement in relation to finance and property (and it can also mention arrangements for the children) can be turned into a binding legal agreement by a solicitor translating it into legal terminology and preparing a draft consent order which you both sign and which is then sent to court for the court to approve. Once approved, the consent order is as binding on both of you as an order made at the end of contested proceedings.

But a binding legal agreement in the form of a consent order is only available if you or she starts divorce proceedings. And the court will only approve the draft consent order if it is fair to both parties. I've set out above in my answer of 3rd Feb why I don't think that what has been proposed so far is fair to your wife. So I don't think that a court would approve a draft consent order which set out this agreement.

Alternatively, if you don't want to divorce, or you don't want an agreement that is legally binding, you can ask a solicitor to draw up a detailed deed of separation, which sets out what you have both agreed, and you then both sign it and keep a copy. But bear in mind that if either of you later applies to court for the court to decide what should happen re finance and property, that agreement could be overturned. So it will come down to a matter of trust between you.

I hope this helps and I wish you the best of luck.

Thanks and best wishes...
With regard to stopping the divorce (I forgot to answer that point), your wife as the petition can stop the divorce either by formally asking the court to dismiss the petition, or by simply taking no further steps. The court office will not progress the divorce unless they hear from the petitioner eg SHE has to apply for the decree nisi, SHE has to apply for the decree absolute. If she does not, nothing will happen, the petition will just stay on the court file. If the divorce petition is not dismissed, she can continue with the divorce at any time. If she wants to have the petition dismissed, a solicitor can make the application to court for her.

I hope this helps and I wish you the best of luck.

Thanks and best wishes...