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A couple’s first wedding anniversary is traditionally celebrated with the gift of paper.

All too often, the couple haven’t got far beyond their wedding day before the cracks are starting to show and they realise the marriage was a mistake.  But, can they divorce?

In England and Wales, there is no time limit on when a person can start a divorce with the exception that, irrespective of where the parties are living and whether or not they are still cohabiting, the couple must have been married for a year.  This puts the traditional anniversary gift of paper in a different light if that gift is a divorce petition!

If a divorce petition is received by the Court before the first anniversary of the marriage it will automatically be rejected and the papers returned. That’s is not to say that the divorce papers cannot be agreed in advance and be ready to be lodged at court on the first anniversary of the marriage.

Also consideration should be given – and circumstances will probably necessitate consideration being given – to the financial aspects of a marriage and the arrangements for any children. Such matters often cannot wait until the first year of marriage has lapsed particularly if the decision to separate has been made close to the wedding date.

A lot can happen in a year. People can buy new homes or form new relationships.  Also, what perhaps started as an amicable separation can become more complicated with relationships deteriorating the longer time that passes.

Of particular importance is bearing in mind that if there is going to be delay in there being a divorce that any financial or arrangements for children should always be properly legally documented at the outset to minimise scope for confusion further down the line. This is particularly important for financial issues where all too often we see couples who divide their assets and one party pays a lump sum of money to the other only to find that on a subsequent divorce the recipient comes back for more money and a second bite at the cherry. This could have been avoided had advice been sought from an experienced, specialist family law solicitor and a separation agreement put in place before any money changed hands.