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3 Divorce and Separation

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1. Introduction

2. Where to start

3. Separation

4. Divorce

5. If you have children

6. Supporting your children

7. Money and property

8. Making arrangements should you die

9. Dealing with emergencies

What if my husband or wife is violent to me or to the children?
If you need to, first get yourself (and the children) away from your husband or wife as soon as you can. Then call the police.

If you have been badly hurt, go to your doctor or the local hospital. Explain what has happened and ask them to record your injuries so that they can give evidence about them if you need it. It may be helpful to get photographs of injuries while they are fresh.

Telephone a solicitor and arrange to see him or her as soon as possible if you think you need legal help. See 'Further help' for details of agencies that can help you if you are a victim or at risk of domestic violence. See also the CLS Direct leaflet 'Domestic Violence, Abuse and Harassment'.

What can the law do to protect me?
The police may take action against your husband or wife if he or she has committed a crime. As well, the civil courts have powers to protect you by making an order called an injunction. This will order your husband or wife not to harm you in anyway. It can also stop them from getting into or remaining in the home. The strength of the court order will depend on the level of protection the judge thinks you need. Sometimes, simply getting the police involved or the threat of an injunction will be enough to restrain your husband or wife.

Can I get help to pay for this legal action?
You can be granted public funding ('legal aid') very quickly to cover the cost of injunction proceedings if you need them. Your solicitor will be able to tell you if you qualify.

What if I fear that my husband or wife will take the children away?
Tell your solicitor at the start of the case. You can then decide whether the court should be asked to make orders about the children or their passports.  You should also keep the children's passports in a safe place, and tell the children's school about your concerns, so the school can make sure the children are not taken. 

The 'Reunite' organisation can offer information and help to parents who fear that their children may be abducted (see 'Further help' for more details).

What if my husband or wife snatches the children?
If you think they are likely to be taken out of the country, tell the police immediately. They can issue a 'port alert' to try to stop them leaving. The police will need a full description of your husband or wife and the children. Photographs would be useful. Tell your solicitor as soon as possible as well. Even if you do not think they will leave the country, tell your solicitor, who can advise you about getting an emergency court order to have the children returned.

If the children are taken out of the country, the Child Abduction Unit may be able to help (see 'Further help' for more details).

10. Terms used in divorce and family law

11. Further Help

12. About this leaflet

This leaflet is published by the Legal Services Commission (LSC). It was written in association with Imogen Clout, a solicitor specialising in family law.

Leaflet version: May 2019

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