I'm Thinking of Getting a Divorce
- AuthorRosalind Brown
At Wainwright & Cummins we are here to help you. The guide below will act as a useful reference tool to understanding the process and the options available to you.
On what grounds can a divorce petition be started?
There is presently only one ground for divorce in England and Wales and that is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. To establish an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage the Petitioner must prove one of five “facts”.
What are the five facts? The five facts are:-
1. That one party has committed adultery and as a result of the adultery the spouse finds it intolerable to continue living together.
2. That one party has behaved in such an unreasonable manner and as a result of such unreasonable behaviour the spouse finds it intolerable to continue living together.
3. That one party has deserted their spouse for a continuous period of two years or more.
4. That the parties have been living separately for at least two years and both parties agree to the divorce.
5. That the parties have been living separately for at least five years. The consent of the other party is not required.
Once you have established that your marriage has irretrievably broken down and one of the five facts applies, there are 3 main steps:
Step 1 – Filing a Divorce Petition & Preparing the papers (Petitioner’s Responsibility)
A divorce petition is prepared by the Petitioner, and contains important information including names, addresses, ages of children (if relevant), a statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and details of the “fact” that is being relied upon.
Other Documents Needed
The original or a certified copy of the parties’ original marriage certificate must be sent to the Court with the divorce petition along with the fee which is currently £550.
Once the papers are received by the Court it will formally “issue” the proceedings and will then allocate a case number to the divorce that is individual to the parties.The issue process can take several weeks.
A copy of the divorce petition will then be sent to the Respondent, together with a standard form known as an “Acknowledgement of Service” to be completed by him/her and returned to the Court. The Respondent will then have 7 days in which to return the Acknowledgement of Service to the Court. If the divorce is being defended, the Respondent will have a further 21 days to say why they are defending the divorce.
Once the Court has received the Acknowledgement of Service from the Respondent, it will be forwarded to the Petitioner.
If the Respondent does not return the Acknowledgement of Service, the Petitioner will need to obtain proof that the Respondent and any named Co-Respondent (adultery petitions only) have received the divorce petition before he/she can take the next step. This will delay the process, but will not stop the divorce application.
Step 2 – Applying for a Decree Nisi
Provided the Respondent has not given notice of intention to defend and a period of 7 days after service of the petition has expired, the Petitioner can file an application for decree nisi together with a Statement in Support containing proof of the fact relied on. There are 5 different statements to use; the Petitioner should choose the one that covers the grounds they have given for the divorce. If the Respondent has given notice of intention to defend, the Petitioner must wait 28 days from service of the petition to file an application for decree nisi.
The District Judge will then look through the papers and, if they are in order, give a certificate for the decree nisi to be pronounced. The parties are then advised of the date that has been fixed for decree nisi, which is likely to be a few weeks after the application is lodged. The decree nisi is merely a procedural stage confirming that the Court’s approval has been given and that the divorce can proceed, therefore neither party needs to attend Court when the decree nisi is pronounced, unless there are issues that are still contested, such as costs.
The divorce will not be finalised and the marriage brought to an end until the decree absolute of divorce is granted.
Stage 3 – Applying for the Decree Absolute of divorce
The Petitioner may apply for the decree absolute to end the marriage six weeks and one day after the date the decree nisi was pronounced. The decree absolute will then be processed and will be quickly available. It is only at this stage that the marriage will have been brought to an end.
If the Petitioner does not apply for the decree absolute then the Respondent may apply to the Court for the decree absolute 3 months after the date when the Petitioner could have first applied. The Petitioner will be informed of such an application and will have the right to object to the Respondent’s application. The matter will then be considered by the Court who can either grant the decree absolute, require further investigations or retract the previous decree nisi if necessary.
Who can start divorce proceedings?
Anyone who has been married for at least one year can start divorce proceedings, provided that one of the parties has lived in England or Wales for at least one year. It does not matter where the couple was married.
How long will the divorce take?
The average divorce usually takes between six and nine months from start to finish. This time estimate can be extended if either party delays in taking any particular step throughout the proceedings or difficulties are experienced, such as disagreements regarding arrangements for the children. It is worth noting that the pronouncement of decree absolute may be delayed if there are financial matters which still need to be resolved.
How much does divorce cost?
We offer a fixed fee for an undefended divorce matter of £2,710 which includes our costs at £1,800 + VAT together with the court fee which is currently £550.
We offer a fixed fee for those that are the Respondent in divorce proceedings of £1,200 (including VAT).
Settlement of the financial and child issues can be more costly, however. Fees are charged at an hourly rate on a case-by-case basis, depending on the individual’s circumstances.
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