If a divorce is uncontested then the process is a relatively straightforward one and it should not be necessary to actually attend court. It is essentially a paper exercise. However, it is essential that all the paperwork is completed properly as mistakes can be costly and delay the process.
Stage 1 – Issuing the Petition
To start the divorce process you must have been married for at least one year and the marriage must be recognised under UK law (if you were married abroad you can still divorce in an English court provided the marriage is recognised here)
There is only one ground for divorce which is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. To prove this to the court you must rely on one of five facts in your Petition. The Petition is the document which starts the process.
The facts are:
- unreasonable behaviour
- 2 years separation with the other parties consent
- 5 years separation
The process for dissolution of a civil partnership is the same with the exception that adultery is not a reason for the irretrievable breakdown of the civil partnership
The minimum period of separation for a divorce is 2 years separation with the other person’s consent and therefore if both of you want to be divorced quickly the most common ground on which to proceed is that of unreasonable behaviour. If possible you should try and agree the Statement of Case setting out the reason for the breakdown of the marriage with the other party in advance of the Petition being sent to the court.
You or your solicitor should complete the Petition. This sets out personal details about you, the other party and any children, details of the marriage and where you have lived together, the ground for divorce and the fact on which you are relying to prove irretrievable breakdown and a statement of case setting out details of the reason.
Once completed you must send the Petition to the Court together with the Court fee (or fee exemption form) and your original marriage certificate or a certified copy. If there are children of the family under the age of 16 or under 18 but still in full time education or training then you must also complete a form known as a Statement of Arrangements for children. This is a form which sets out the present and proposed future arrangements for the children. The courts encourage parents wherever possible to reach agreement about the arrangements for the children before proceeding with the Petition.
The court will issue the Petition i.e allocate it a case number and will send the Petition and Statement of Arrangements together with an Acknowledgement of Service Form to your husband or wife at the address you have given for them in the Petition. You or your solicitor will receive a notice of issue from the court.
The other side must complete the Acknowledgment of Service notifying the Court whether or not they intend to defend the Petition. They should send this back to the court within 8 days although invariably it will take longer. Assuming they do this you can proceed to the next stage of the process.
If either the respondent does not return the Acknowledgment to the Court or they indicate an intention to defend then you should seek the advice of a specialist family lawyer as to what to do next.
Stage 2 – Applying for Decree Nisi
The Decree Nisi is a document from the Court whereby the District Judge confirms that you are entitled to a divorce based on the fact relied upon in your Petition.
It does not however dissolve the marriage and you are not divorced until Decree Absolute has been pronounced.
There is an application form which you will need to complete and send to the court with a Statement in Support. This is a standard document which you or your solicitor can fill in and confirms that what you said in your Petition is true.There are 5 different forms, one for each of the 5 facts.A copy of the completed and signed Acknowledgment must be attached to the Statement.
The application and all other papers will be put before a District Judge who will decide whether or not you are entitled to a divorce. If the District Judge agrees the court will send you or your solicitor:
- a certificate of entitlement to a decree giving the date when Decree Nisi will be pronounced
- if there are children a statement that there is no need to delay the process because the arrangements for the children are satisfactory
Decree Nisi is pronounced in open court. It is not necessary for anyone to attend and in due course you will receive the Decree Nisi.
If your application for Decree Nisi is rejected by the District Judge for any reason you will receive a notice of refusal of judges certificate giving the reason. For example, the District judge may want more information in writing or you may have to go to a court hearing. If in doubt, and you have not already done so you should seek legal advice at this point.
Stage 3 – Applying for Decree Absolute
This is the legal document that ends your marriage.You must wait for six week after the date of Decree Nisi before applying for the Decree Absolute.It is only upon pronouncement of Decree Absolute that your marriage is dissolved and you are free to re-marry!
If for any reason there is a delay of more than 12 months in applying for the Decree Absolute because for example you have been sorting out finances, when you send the application for Decree Absolute to the Court you should also send a short statement explaining the reason for the delay and confirming that you have not resumed cohabitation with the respondent.
If a divorce is very straightforward it should take between 6-8 months to conclude. However, the length of time it will take will depend on a number of factors including the courts, the other party and whether there are any disagreements for example over money or the children.
It is always important to seek good legal advice from a specialist family lawyer before starting the process. Darlingtons Family Solicitors can offer you specialist advice at any stage of the process.For an initial discussion contact me.
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