Family Law & Divorce Solicitors based in Southend

We at White & Co understand that there are many aspects that need to be considered following the breakdown of a relationship and we have the expertise to advise and assist you in all of these areas. We are specialists in family law and divorce solicitors based in Southend.

The full range of legal services offered are set out below:

White & Co will guide you through the process of dissolving your marriage or civil partnership with empathy and professionalism.  We understand what a difficult time this is and so endeavour to get you through this by handling the difficult drafting of paperwork and managing the legal procedures on your behalf.


Drafting the Paperwork and Early Considerations

The person bringing the divorce is known as ‘the Petitioner’ and the other person is ‘the Respondent’.

After at least one year of marriage either spouse may file a divorce petition. A divorce petition contains basic information such as names and addresses of the persons involved and a statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

In order to show the court that the marriage has irretrievably broken down there are five possible grounds to rely upon and you need to ensure that the one that you rely upon is set out in your divorce petition.

The petition can also include a request that the Respondent pay the costs of the divorce or to pay the costs only if they defend it.

You will need to provide your original marriage certificate or a certified copy to go with the divorce petition.

Issuing the Papers

The Court will issue the divorce petition and assign a case number. A copy of the divorce petition will be sent to the Respondent with an “Acknowledgement of Service” form for the Respondent to complete.

Serving the Papers

Once the Respondent has received the divorce petition he will have to return the Acknowledgement of Service form specifying whether he/she intends to defend the petition or whether any claim for costs is disputed.

If the Respondent does not do this in the specified time, other forms of service would need to be explored and we can advise and assist you with this to ensure the divorce progresses without any further delay.

If the Respondent intends to defend the divorce proceedings they have to file a defence (known as an “Answer”). It is very rare indeed for divorce proceedings to be defended but if it is, our lawyers have expertise in dealing with this.

Applying for Decree Nisi

After receiving a copy of the Acknowledgement of Service form from the Court the Petitioner can apply for the “Decree Nisi” (the first stage of the divorce order). The Petitioner’s solicitor prepares an application form and a statement confirming that the contents of the petition are true. Certain other information must also be given, such as whether the couple have remained separated since the proceedings begun. This is then filed at Court.

The Decree Nisi Hearing

When the Court receives the application for Decree Nisi, a Judge will consider this and if they are satisfied that the case is proved, they will issue a document known as a ‘Certificate of Entitlement to a Decree’ and a date for the Decree Nisi to be pronounced will be set. This is usually about six to eight weeks after filing the application at the Court. It is not necessary for either party to attend Court on that date unless there is an issue about costs. Your solicitor will let you know if your attendance is required.

The Decree Absolute

Six weeks and one day after the Decree Nisi has been pronounced the Petitioner can apply for the final decree, known as the Decree Absolute.  The Decree Absolute is normally granted within four weeks of the application. You will be advised accordingly if there is a reason to delay applying for Decree Absolute, for example, if financial matters are yet to be finalised.

The Effect of the Decree Absolute

It is only after the Decree Absolute is granted that the marriage is completely at an end and you are each free to marry again.

Effect on Wills

Once the Decree Absolute is granted, unless you otherwise direct in the Will, any provision for a former spouse in a Will or any appointment of that spouse as an executor or trustee takes effect as though the spouse had died at the date of the divorce. This can result in an intestacy or partial intestacy which may not reflect your wishes. For this reason a review of your Will before or on the granting of decree absolute is essential.

If you do require legal advice upon the changing of an existing Will, or indeed making a Will for the first time, please do let us know and we will assist you in referring you to a firm of solicitors who undertake this work.

Religious Divorces

You may wish to seek a pronouncement by religious authorities before taking legal steps to end your marriage. This may be in the form of a get, an annulment, a talaq or similar. The timetable for obtaining the religious divorce is often very important. If this is relevant, please do let us know so that we may co-ordinate the civil divorce with other steps you may be taking. The final civil divorce order may be delayed if one spouse has to take a step to enable the other spouse to obtain a religious divorce.

It is now possible to issue a divorce application online and White & Co can assist with this.

White & Co offer fixed fee packages to represent you in your divorce as either Petitioner or Respondent.  Please contact us for information.

A pre-nuptial agreement is a contract entered into prior to marriage.  It commonly makes provision for division of property and spousal support in the event of separation or divorce.  Pre nuptial agreements are becoming more commonplace as they are widely recognised in English courts.

In order for the contents of pre-nuptial agreements to be respected by the court, it is important that they are drawn up correctly and that both parties have sought independent legal advice and have entered into full and frank financial disclosure.

White & Co can advise you of all relevant matters relating to pre-nuptial agreements, draw up the agreement and ensure that it is executed correctly.  We can also advise you on the contents of any pre-nuptial agreement which you have been asked to sign to ensure it is fair.

White & Co offer fixed fee packages in certain circumstances to advise you in connection with pre-nutpial agreements.  Please contact us for information.

White & Co will assist you through the financial matters arising from your separation and seek to achieve a fair and equitable resolution, with as little animosity between you and your spouse or partner, as is possible.

It is important that you remember that divorce can affect financial entitlement and you should therefore make sure you give us your instructions in relation to finances as early as you can.

Even if you do not believe that either you or your spouse have any money or assets it is important for you to be aware that the only means of obtaining financial finality is by way of a court order – such an order can be imposed by the Court or made by agreement. There is no time limit to the making of a financial claim and usually any future claim can only be ended by such an order. This is quite a complex issue, which can affect your future financial position and we would be happy to discuss this with you further should you have any questions.

We can guide you through this process to include preparation of full financial disclosure (Form E financial statement), consideration of your partner’s financial disclosure, putting forward and negotiating a settlement.

In the event it is not possible for you and your partner to reach an agreement on how the finances should be divided, we can assist you in making an application to the court for financial relief (also known as ancillary relief) for determination of the financial issues and represent you at all stages throughout those proceedings.  Possible orders available are as follows –

  • Maintenance Pending Suit (where you have separated and are in urgent need of money on an interim basis to meet your needs)
  • Periodical Payments/Spousal Maintenance
  • Lump Sum Orders
  • Property Adjustment Orders
  • Orders for Sale
  • Pension Sharing Orders

We can advise on the merits of all orders available.

If an agreement is reached between yourself and your partner directly or through mediation and you only require the consent order to be drafted setting out the terms of agreement, we can assist with this.

We offer a fixed fee package where an agreement has already been reached in writing between yourself and your partner to draw up the necessary court order to include submission to court for approval.  Please contact us for more information.

There are more and more couples who living together without entering into marriage or civil partnership.  The law surrounding breakdown of a marriage or civil partnership does not apply to cohabiting couples who separate.  It is essential for cohabiting couples to enter into a cohabitation agreement to avoid any dispute should you later separate.

We are able to advise on and draft a cohabitation agreement on your behalf or advise you accordingly upon any cohabitation agreement that you have been asked to enter into.

White & Co offer a fixed fee package for cohabitation agreements in certain circumstances.  Please contact us for more information. 

A Separation Agreement can be entered into after you have separated from your partner or spouse.  They can define the arrangements for children and set out how finances should be divided.

You would meet with a lawyer at White & Co  who would advise you on the implications of an agreement and thereafter draft the agreement accordingly. We would then ensure the agreement was executed correctly.  We are also able to advise on any agreement you have been asked to enter into.

White & Co offer fixed fee packages for a separation agreement in certain circumstances.  Please contact us for more information. 

It may be the case that you do not have Parental Responsibility for your child.  This means that you do not have the legal right to have a say in all the important decisions in your child’s life, such as consenting to medical treatment or choosing what school your child attends.

It is possible, if both parents agree, to enter into a Parental Responsibility Agreement for you to obtain Parental Responsibility.  In the event there is no agreement between the parties it would be necessary to make an application to the court for a Parental Responsibility order.

In the case of an agreement, we can draft the necessary paperwork and submit this to the court for their approval.

White & Co offer a fixed fee package for entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement.  Please contact us for more information. 

Sadly it is surprising just how many women and men are subjected to abuse both physical and psychological during the course of a marriage or relationship.  It is important to bear in mind that domestic abuse does not just relate to physical abuse and can include mental abuse, coercive and controlling behaviour, emotional abuse, financial abuse and many others.

It can be difficult and embarrassing to discuss this, especially with strangers. However, each member of our team is trained to be discreet and to offer a sympathetic approach.  We provide the help that you need, to include not only court orders to protect you but also to point you in the right direction for support and counselling.

It is deemed abusive to children for them to witness domestic abuse between their parents/carers and it can be abusive for children to witness verbal abuse just as much as physical abuse.

You may need to seek an order protecting yourself and your children from such incidents of abuse and we are here to help.

White & Co is able to offer Legal Aid  in certain circumstances to assist with funding these proceedings.  If you are not eligible for legal aid, we are able to offer an initial fixed fee package to advise and to apply for Non Molestation and Occupation Orders or if you seek to defend a Non Molestation Order or Occupation Order application.

We can assist you with the following under the initial fixed fee package –

  • Initial meeting with you to receive your instructions and give advice.
  • Draft the application and issue at the court.
  • Prepare supporting documentation
  • Discuss with you the merits of Undertakings
  • Representation at the initial uncontested hearing.

If matters do not conclude at that stage, we can assist with ongoing proceedings including fact finding hearings and final hearings.

We act for separating non-married partners in finalising the financial arrangements between them particularly under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996. We also prepare Separation Agreements on a breakdown of a marriage or Civil Partnership where the parties do not wish to divorce or dissolve their partnership.

You may have separated from your spouse or civil partner, not want to proceed with a divorce or dissolution but wish to settle matters in relation to your finances.

White & Co can assist in negotiations for settlement and with preparing a Separation Agreement recording what has been negotiated.

If you are unmarried but have lived together (cohabitants) in a jointly owned property or a property owned by one of you White & Co can advise you in relation to resolving financial matters if your relationship breaks down.  This can include an application for an order for sale of the jointly owned property.

This may relate to ownership of the property, division of the proceeds of sale of a property or child maintenance issues regarding any children of the family.

We advise on claims for financial provision under Schedule 1 Children Act 1989.

Your children have claims against you to be maintained whilst they are dependents.

White & Co act for both resident and non resident parents in relation to claims under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 for lump sum orders or property adjustment orders for provision to maintain and/or house the children of the family.

Schedule 1 can be used for children who had married or unmarried parents.

We prepare Change of Name Deeds (also known as changing your name by Deed Poll).

You may wish to change your name for a number of reasons including following a divorce or during cohabitation.  You may also wish to change the name of your child.  We can assist with this in the event you have agreement from all parties with Parental Responsibility.  In the event you do not have this agreement, it would be necessary to make an application to court for a Specific Issue Order which we can also assist with.

White & Co can prepare the document for you at your meeting and provide you with the necessary copies to take away with you to provide to banks and other institutions to register your changed name.

White & Co offer a fixed fee package for the preparation of a change of name deed.  Please contact us for more information.