Family law concerns the law relating to family matters in England and Wales. Family law concerns a host of authorities, agencies and groups which participate in or influence the outcome of private disputes or social decisions involving family law. Such a view of family law may be regarded as assisting the understanding of the context in which the law works and to indicate the policy areas where improvements can be made.

The UK is made up of three jurisdictions: Scotland, Northern Ireland, and England and Wales. Each has quite different systems of family law and courts.

Family law encompasses divorce, adoption, ward ship, child abduction and parental responsibility. It can either be public law or private law. Family law cases are heard in both county courts and family proceedings courts (magistrates’ court), both of which operate under codes of Family Procedure Rules. There is also a specialist division of the High Court of Justice, the Family Division which hears family law cases.


Getting divorced or dissolving a civil partnership* can be an emotional, worrying and difficult time. At such a time you need someone on your side who will be there for you. At Daniel Woodman & Co Ltd our Family Law department will support you through the divorce process, and will give you advice that you can trust about the things that matter most – your children, your home and your financial security.

We will listen to you and discuss your options with you. We will let you know where you stand, tell you what your rights are and help you to understand what your ex-partner’s rights are as well. We will try to make the divorce as simple and as stress-free as possible.

If you have been living together but were not married, our Family Law department can help you understand your rights on a break-up.

*The process for dissolving a civil partnership is the same as for a divorce, with the exception that the legal definition of adultery relates to heterosexual sex only, so adultery cannot be a reason for dissolving a civil partnership. In a civil partnership, being unfaithful would instead be unreasonable behaviour which is a reason for a divorce.

You should seek our advice as soon as you can if:

  • you are at risk of having nowhere to live
  • you are at risk of domestic violence or abuse
  • your ex-partner is not giving you enough access to your children
  • you are in a vulnerable financial position compared with your ex-partner
  • you are unsure what a fair settlement between you would look like
  • you have a lot of assets
  • you got married abroad, or you, your ex-partner or your children have non-UK nationality

How can Daniel Woodman & Co Ltd help you with getting divorced?

We will:

  • explain the divorce process and help you understand what you need to do at each stage
  • start the divorce action for you by filing the necessary forms
  • keep you updated and represent your best interests
  • help you reach an agreement with your ex-partner wherever practical, without having to go to court
  • if you do go to court, present your case
  • help you to understand what the judge can and cannot do, and explain what the judge’s decision means for you

If you are at risk from domestic abuse we will make it a priority to keep you or your children safe.

While a solicitor can help you throughout the divorce process and can help you with related matters such as a property sale or purchase or with writing a new will, you do not have to use a solicitor for every stage of the process if you do not want or cannot afford to. If you take a solicitor’s advice early, they can help you decide how much support you need, and at what stage in the process.

Reasons for divorce

You will be given a divorce only if you can show that your marriage or civil partnership has suffered an ‘irretrievable breakdown’. To do this you must show that your relationship is beyond repair because:

  • your husband or wife has committed adultery*
  • their behaviour is such that you cannot be expected to live with them
  • they left you at least two years ago
  • you have been separated for two years and they agree to the divorce
  • you have been separated for five years or more

*Not applicable in a civil partnership

If a divorce is against your religion we can give you advice about other forms of separation.

Children and divorce

Where children are involved the law puts the welfare of the children before anything else.

Our Family Law department will help you wherever possible to reach agreement with your ex-partner for your children’s sake. This might be about where the children live, how much contact they have with you both, how they will be provided for, and how decisions will be taken in future about things such as holidays and schools.

Whatever your circumstances, we have the knowledge and experience to make sure that the decisions you make are in the best interests of your children now and in the future.

Care proceedings

The council can start ‘care proceedings’ if they’re very worried about a child.
They can apply for a ‘placement order’ as well if they believe that the child should be adopted. This allows the council to place the child with suitable adopters.

Interim care orders

At the start of care proceedings, the council asks the family court to make a temporary court order, called an ‘interim care order’.

If the court agrees, the council can take the child into care on a temporary basis. This can be for up to 8 weeks at first. After that, it can be renewed every 28 days.

Looking at the case<

It can take up to a year for a court to decide what should happen to the child. Sometimes it can take even longer than this.

During this time a social worker, an officer from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) and other people will be trying to understand the reasons why the child may be at risk. They will also look at what can be done to keep them safe.

They will talk to the parents and the child. They may talk to other family members or friends about looking after the child if they can’t safely live at home. The parents might also get support.


The social worker and Cafcass officer will each write a report for the court. These will outline what they think should happen to the child.

They will include whether they think the child should be taken into care or stay with the family.

Once all the information has been gathered, there will be a court hearing.

Domestic violence is the abuse of one partner within an intimate or family relationship. It is the repeated, random and habitual use of intimidation to control a partner.

The abuse can be physical, emotional, psychological, financial or sexual. Anyone forced to alter their behaviour because they are frightened of their partner’s reaction is being abused. View more about recognising abuse.

Who does it affect?

  • Domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of age, social background, gender, religion, sexuality or ethnicity
  • It happens in all kinds of relationships: heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
  • Statistics show the vast majority of domestic violence incidents are carried out by men and experienced by women

When does it happen?

  • It can begin at any stage of the relationship
  • Domestic violence is rarely a one-off. Incidents generally become more frequent and severe over time

What causes domestic violence?

  • Domestic violence is caused by the abuser’s desire for power and control
  • It stems from an imbalance of power between the sexes
  • It is not caused by alcohol, drugs, unemployment, stress or ill health. These are only excuses or justifications for an abuser’s behaviour. View more about the myths of domestic violence.
  • A combination of factors allows it to continue:
    – individual experiences of both the abuser and the abused (jealousy, fear of abandonment, low self-esteem);
    – society’s inadequate response (e.g. failure to prosecute, insufficient housing, lack of childcare, tendency to blame the abused woman);
    – society’s stereotypical beliefs and negative attitudes towards the roles of men and women (e.g. “love, honour and obey” and “you made your bed, you lie in it.”)
  • It continues because men are allowed to get away with it