The process of getting a divorce can seem initially overwhelming and confusing. This simple guide breaks down the divorce process into 5 easy-to-understand key stages.
The same stages apply for dissolution of a civil partnership.
Our experienced divorce solicitors will expertly and empathetically guide you through the process and work hard to get you the best possible successful outcome.
Stage 1: The Divorce Petition
The person who is seeking the divorce (known as the Petitioner) files a Divorce Petition (now called an Application for A Matrimonial Order) with the court. This sets out the details of the parties.
Currently the only ground for a divorce is the irretrievable breakdown of your marriage. The Government has announced, however, that The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 will come into force on 6th April 2022. What this means is that we will finally be able to offer clients whose marriage has sadly come to an end, a divorce without blame. A no-fault divorce which is likely to be more amicable and less costly.
Currently, in England and Wales, the Petition must cite one of five facts to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The facts that can be relied upon are unreasonable behaviour, adultery (available to heterosexual couples only) two years separation with consent, five years separation or desertion.
Stage 2: The Response
The court will inform you when they have received your Divorce Petition. If everything is in order, they will send a copy of the Divorce Petition to your spouse (they are referred to as the ‘Respondent’ in divorce cases).
An Acknowledgement of Service form will be sent to your spouse which they must complete and send back to the court, within 7 days, to allow the divorce to proceed. The form is mostly a list of yes or no questions. They will be asked if they agree that the courts of England and Wales have jurisdiction over their divorce and whether they intend to defend the divorce or not. In most cases the divorce is not defended as it is costly.
If the Respondent sends back the completed Acknowledgement of Service form, a copy will be sent to the Petitioner.
If the Respondent fails to send back the completed Acknowledgement of Service form, then the Petitioner can arrange for a Process Server to personally deliver and serve the documents to the Respondent. The process server will charge a fee for this and will provide a statement of service which can be used in lieu of the signed Acknowledgement of Service to progress the divorce.
Stage 3: Applying for Decree Nisi
Once the Petition has been correctly acknowledged, the Petitioner will need to apply for a Decree Nisi, which is the first decree in divorce proceedings.
The Petitioner submits an application form with a statement in support which confirms that the contents of the application are true. When these are filed with the court, and the court considering the documentation and being satisfied that the Petitioner is entitled to a divorce, the Court will issue a Certificate of Entitlement to a Decree Nisi which will list the date for the pronouncement of the Decree Nisi.
It is still possible at this stage to change your mind about the divorce.
Stage 4: Decree Nisi and Costs Order
Both parties will receive a Court Order stating that the Decree Nisi has been pronounced. This will be sent with a Costs Order stating who should be responsible for meeting the Petitioner’s divorce costs.
Both the Petitioner and Respondent will have had the opportunity to attend court when the Decree Nisi was pronounced to argue their position in relation to costs should they want to.
You will remain married until the Decree Absolute is pronounced, and this can only be applied for after at least 6 weeks and one day have passed since the pronouncement of the Decree Nisi. After this time, the Petitioner is entitled to file a Notice of Application for Decree Nisi to be made Absolute.
If the Petitioner does not apply for the Decree Absolute, the Respondent can apply on notice three months and one day after the Petitioner could have first applied to the court for the Decree Absolute.
Stage 5: Pronouncement of Decree Absolute
The final stage in the divorce process is the pronouncement of the Decree Absolute. This will be made on the court receiving the Notice of Application for Decree Nisi to be made Absolute. The first date that the Petitioner can make such application is 6 weeks and 1 day after the pronouncement of the Decree Nisi.
It is important to understand that obtaining a Decree Absolute does not stop the Respondent from having a claim on your income and or assets and or any future inheritance you may receive.
To protect you from potential future claims, a Financial Clean Break Order is required. It is usually advised that the Petitioner refrain from applying for Decree Absolute until all financial matters are resolved.
It is possible for the Respondent to make the application for the Decree Absolute, should the Petitioner fail/refuse to do so. This can be more complicated and will require an application being made to the court and a hearing where the Judge will decide.
Once the Decree Absolute has been granted and issued, you will be legally divorced and your marriage will be at an end.
For more information on how our experienced Family Solicitors can help with your divorce, whether the Petitioner or Respondent please contact our experienced Family Law and Divorce Solicitors for a FREE 30-minute case review.