You and/or your partner may decide to get a divorce in order to end your marriage. You can only get a divorce if you have been married for at least one year. In an ideal world, you will both agree to want the divorce and the reason why – in which case the divorce process is fairly straightforward. If you or your partner don’t agree to a divorce, it will take more time and cost more money.
There are four main stages to a divorce; filing the divorce petition, filing the response to the divorce petition, applying for the Decree Nisi, and applying for the Decree Absolute. In this article, we will talk through each of these stages.
The five facts of divorce
Before you apply for a divorce, you should try and agree on a reason for your divorce to show that your marriage has broken down. There are five reasons that you can choose from, and these five facts are:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Separation for two years with agreement to divorce from your spouse
- Separation for five years with or without agreement to divorce from your spouse
Divorce in England and Wales is currently fault-based, meaning that you do need to choose one of these facts to support why your marriage has ended.
How to file the divorce petition
The petition can be filed with the court either online or by post. Once the petition has been prepared, it is sent to the nearest divorce centre. It is important that the petition is properly drafted to avoid problems and delays to the process. The marriage certificate needs to be sent with the petition (the original or an official certified copy), and there is a fee to pay of £550.
It is possible to apply for an order that your spouse pays the costs of the divorce proceedings, in which case the application is made in the petition. If the court agrees, it will make an order that your spouse pay you the costs back when your divorce has been finalised. You could also agree to split the costs equally between you.
Either way, the person who makes the application to the Court for divorce is known as the Petitioner, and the other person is known as the Respondent. Once the divorce centre has reviewed the petition, they will send a copy to your spouse to give them a chance to respond.
Remember, whilst it is possible to manage your divorce yourself, the divorce petition alone can be a complex and lengthy form to fill out. If you are instructing a solicitor to represent you throughout your divorce proceedings, they will handle the completion of the petition. This means you’ll avoid any costly mistakes and delays.
Responding to a divorce petition
As a Respondent, you must send an Acknowledgement of Service form to the Court within 8 days of receiving the divorce petition. This lets the Court know that you’ve received the divorce petition and whether you agree with the divorce or whether you disagree.
If you do want to defend the divorce, you have 21 days after returning the Acknowledgement of Service divorce petition to send a defence to the Court. This will cost you £245. If you or your partner disagrees with the divorce, it is strongly advised that you seek legal advice from a qualified family law solicitor.
The Decree Nisi
If the divorce is not defended, as the Petitioner, you will then need to apply for a Decree Nisi. The Decree Nisi is the Court’s way of saying that they see no reason why a divorce cannot be granted. It also fixes the earliest date when the application can be made for the Decree Absolute, i.e. when your marriage will end.
In order to apply for a Decree Nisi, it is necessary to file with the court an application, together with a statement in support that confirms that all of the information in the Petition is correct. If everything is in order and there are no concerns, the Court will fix a date for the pronouncement of the Decree Nisi.
The Decree Absolute
After the Decree Nisi has been pronounced, a minimum of six weeks and one day have to elapse before an application can be made for the Decree Absolute. The Decree Absolute ends your marriage. It does not, however, end the financial commitment between you and your spouse. It is open to either party to make claims in respect of financial matters either before or after the Decree Absolute, unless an order is made by the Court. This is where using a solicitor in your divorce is important. They will ensure that you get a fair settlement and that you get what you are entitled to.
Once the Decree Absolute is made, the divorce process is complete and you are legally divorced. This entire process will usually take around 4-6 months, but it depends on whether the situation is contentious, whether you have child arrangements to consider and whether you run into any issues with splitting money or property.
Why use a solicitor when getting a divorce
A solicitor really can be invaluable when getting a divorce. They can help you decide on which of the five facts for divorce you want to use, and let you know what evidence you will need. They can also be the middle-man between you and your ex-partner so that you don’t have to communicate with them if you don’t want to.
If you can, it is best to use a solicitor – and one that specialises in divorce and separation, such as us here at Bromfield Legal Solicitors. We’re here to make the process simpler, smoother and quicker. We will always do what is right and fair to obtain the best outcomes for our client in a divorce. For more information on how we can help, please contact us.