Five of the most common misconceptions around getting divorced

PUBLISHED: 15:40 01 March 2018 | UPDATED: 15:40 01 March 2018

Newspapers, now more than ever, are full of news of celebrity divorces and everyone will have read horror stories about somebody “being taken to the cleaners” or conversely “getting off scot-free”. There is so much misinformation out there that you can find yourself in a bewildering situation, not knowing what is true and what to expect when your own relationship is breaking down

Here are five of the most common misconceptions that I have come across in my 30 years of practice as family solicitor:

1. “We are common-law man and wife”

In reality this is not the case. There is no such thing in law, and your rights as a cohabitee are very different to those of a married couple.

A mother who is not married to the father of her children, for example, will have no rights to financial support for herself and may have no right to a share of the home in which she and the children live if she and her partner cohabited rather than married.

Claims may be brought by her on behalf of the children but they will not be dealt with in the same way as a divorcing mother’s property claims. The law relating to cohabitees’ rights in relation to property can be complex and very expensive to resolve.

It is important if you are thinking of cohabiting to take legal advice to help you make an informed decision about your future and take steps to protect yourself in the event of a future breakup.

2. “Pre-nuptial agreements aren’t worth the paper they are written on”

Provided the pre-nuptial agreement has been properly drawn up, is fair, entered into with both parties knowing about the other’s financial and other relevant circumstances, has been signed willingly by both parties in good time before the marriage, with each party having taken independent legal advice, they are generally taken into account in any financial orders in later divorce proceedings. In such cases, the parties may be held to the terms set out in the agreement.

Pre-nuptial agreements can save significant costs and heartache during a divorce and can be particularly helpful where, for example, if one party’s family has provided a significant amount of financial assistance to their child and they want that money to be safe-guarded on any future divorce.

3. “I don’t need a lawyer; everything is divided 50:50”

Not necessarily! An equal division of capital is a starting position only and it may not be appropriate in your case. The court will take many factors into consideration including the length of marriage; how the capital was brought into the marriage (for example, by an inheritance); whether the assets were held before the marriage, and each party’s needs. Every case is decided entirely on its own facts. Sometimes the division of capital departs significantly from a 50:50 division.

It is essential that advice is taken at an early stage to ensure that the agreement reached is fair and reasonable.

4. “It’s not my fault, therefore I should be compensated”

Conduct is very rarely taken into consideration. For example, the fact that one spouse has had an affair will not affect the finances. Generally the only relevance of one party’s adultery is the possibility that the spouse may decide to cohabit or remarry and this may have an impact upon the financial settlement.

5. “We have reached agreement between ourselves so there’s no point going to the expense of having a financial settlement”

Not so. Financial claims outlive the divorce and it is open to either of you to go the court later and ask for financial orders. An agreement reached between you, without legal advice, is unlikely to have any legal standing. In one recent case a wife was able to bring a financial claim against her husband 20 years after their divorce by which time her ex-husband, who owned nothing at the time of the divorce, had become very wealthy indeed.

Accredited as a specialist family lawyer, Veronica Gilmourn has been at the forefront of the development of non-adversarial alternatives in family law matters for a number of years, if you require her assistance please contact: Veronica Gilmourn at or on 01483 411481 for further information |

More from Surrey Life


As we head into Autumn, the change in season is all around us. From the leaves on the trees turning burnt orange and fiery red, to dark mornings and nights bookending our days. As we put the clocks back an hour to battle the darkness, here’s some top tips on how you can keep your home warm and costs down this Autumn.

Read more
Yesterday, 11:55

Enjoy this 2 hour, 3.5 mile (5.6 km) walk around Nutfield and Priory Farm

Read more
Yesterday, 11:35

After a glittering ceremony at G Live Guildford on 13 September, we announce the winners of the 2018 Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards 2018

Read more
Yesterday, 11:31

With growing conditions to rival that of some of the best Champagne houses in France, the south east’s sparkling wine production is booming. We excusively introduce a newly-formed collective of five vineyards aiming to place Surrey firmly on the map

Read more
Mon, 15:29

Erin Boag, the first lady of Strictly, came to the UK 23 years ago. She bought an A to Z, stuck a pin in the map and found Surbiton which she had heard about through the TV series, The Good Life. She still lives there, along with husband Peter O’Dowd and son Ewan

Read more
Mon, 11:52

This edition of Surrey Life features all the local ingredients to make this month special

Read more
Mon, 11:36

Great things to do in Surrey this weekend: art exhibitions, walks, concerts, theatre, places to visit and other events and ideas.

Read more
Friday, September 21, 2018

We round up 10 of the most beautiful photos of Surrey shared on Instagram this week…

Read more
Thursday, September 20, 2018

Professional matchmaker Hayley Bystram discusses how to overcome the challenges of returning to dating in mid-life and later

Read more
Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Surrey is a beautiful, green and affluent county and I’ve certainly enjoyed living here the last 11 years. Towards the end of April 2018, Surrey Police released its latest crime statistics and we are still one of the safest counties in the country.

Read more
Tuesday, September 18, 2018

To much fanfare, Guildford has welcomed restaurant royalty to town but can the food live up to the spectacular castle view?

Read more
Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A choral singing boom is giving fresh meaning to the sound of music with new and traditional choirs pulling in more recruits than ever. Miriam Wakerly explores Surrey’s contingent

Read more
Monday, September 17, 2018

With beautiful countryside, stunning villages and plenty of bluebells during spring, Surrey is an amazing place for a stroll

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

A leading property agent is going back to his roots after a 32-year career by joining one of the UK’s foremost property search companies covering Hampshire, Surrey, West Sussex East Sussex and Kent.

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search