At Wards Solicitors, our family lawyers are experienced in providing practical and supportive advice and can help you identify and prioritise the issues. This factsheet is designed to give you information on divorce procedure. We have further factsheets on finances, children and injunctions. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Obtaining the divorce itself is usually quite straightforward, particularly if the couple agrees that the marriage is over. Difficulties tend to arise in resolving practical issues such as how to separate, where to live, arrangements for the children and property and money matters.
Outlined below is a broad framework of the divorce process which highlights key points and sets out a typical timetable.
Anyone who has been married for over a year provided one of the couple either lives in or has lived in England or Wales during the previous year. It does not matter where the couple married.
For divorce or judicial separation proceedings, the marriage must have irretrievably broken down and one of the five following ‘facts’ needs to be proved:
The difference between divorce and judicial separation proceedings is that the latter leaves you still legally married to your husband or wife and are therefore unable to get remarried.
We will draft the paperwork to start the proceedings. Your marriage certificate has to be sent to the court at the start of yourcase and will not be returned to you. If thiscauses you a problem, please tell to us.
It is not necessary for financial arrangements to be completed by the time the divorce is final. Frequently they will still be in the early stages. However, it should at least be possible to resolve immediate problems and make any interim maintenance arrangements.
We may advise you to delay application for the Decree Absolute ending the marriage until a financial settlement is finalised, to protect your rights.
Court proceedings in family law are usually private. This means that the public and press are not allowed access to the court papers.
However, the press are able to publish the fact that a Decree Nisi has been pronounced. The information that they may disclose is very limited.
They can disclose the ‘facts’ of the divorce but they are not able to publish details, e.g. of the unreasonable behaviour.
Either spouse, if they have grounds, may start the divorce. He or she is called the Petitioner. The Petition is sent to the court. A court fee is payable, unless the Petitioner is exempt.
The court sends a copy of the Petition to the other party, (called the Respondent) or to his or her solicitor if there is one.
The Respondent should send the court a Acknowledgement of Service form, which accompanied the petition. This asks whether they intend to defend the case.
The Respondent must, if he or she intends to defend the Petition, file a defence (called an Answer). The Petition then becomes defended and the procedure outlined below does not apply. Defended divorce proceedings resulting in a fully contested hearing are very rare. However, a delay in finalising the divorce is inevitable.
The court sends the Petitioner’s solicitor a copy of the acknowledgement of service.
The Petitioner’s solicitor prepares a Statement confirming that the contents of the Petition are true and whether any circumstances have changed. The Petitioner signs the Statement confirming it is true and it is sent to the court requesting a date for the first decree of divorce (‘Decree Nisi’) to be pronounced.
Proof that the Respondent and anyone else named have received the petition will have to be obtained before the Petitioner can take the next step.
A District Judge reviews the papers and usually gives a certificate for the Decree Nisi to be pronounced. Both the Petitioner and the Respondent are then advised of the date fixed for Decree Nisi. This is likely to be a few weeks after. The couple do not have to attend court.
a) The Petitioner may apply for the final decree (‘Decree Absolute’). This Decree may be available as quickly as the same day.
b) The Respondent can apply for the Decree Absolute if the Petitioner has not already done so. However, such an application is not automatically granted. If you are in this position as a Respondent we will provide you with full advice.
Wards Solicitors remains open for business during the national lockdown and we are taking on new cases. We are available for video call and telephone meetings but cannot currently offer face to face meetings with clients except in some specific emergency situations and at court hearings.
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