7 Simple Steps to Divorce

Getting a divorce in England & Wales can be a complicated procedure. Consultant Simon Nellar explains below the seven steps to be taken when applying for divorce through the courts.

You need your marriage certificate because you have to file it at court when you start your divorce petition. If you’ve lost your marriage certificate, you can easily obtain a certified copy from the General Register Office.

You can start your divorce either in the Principal Registry in London, or at the most local Family court to you. Not all Family courts are able to deal with divorce matters and so it’s important to find the most appropriate court for you. With our expert advice, we can help you progress your divorce as easily as possible.

Once your divorce forms have been completed, the next step is to serve the divorce petition on your former partner. Sending the divorce petition to your former partner is the responsibility of the court, but it’s your responsibility to provide the court with their correct address. The court will send you a Notice of Issue of Petition once the divorce petition has been sent to your former partner. This usually occurs about a week after you file the divorce petition in court. The court will at the same time post a copy of the divorce petition to your former partner (and any named co-respondent) with an Acknowledgment of Service Form for them to complete. Your spouse, as Respondent, has seven days from the day the petition is received by them, to return the Acknowledgment of Service.

Once your petition is posted to your spouse, one of the following events may occur:
The petition may not be responded to, either because it wasn’t delivered or because it was ignored.

  • Assuming the petition hasn’t been returned to the court by the Post Office as undeliverable, you must wait eight days for your spouse to acknowledge receipt.
  • If the petition apparently has been received but your spouse doesn’t acknowledge receipt, then you must arrange for your spouse to be served in such a way that you can prove service.

Your spouse acknowledges service and intends to defend the divorce:

  • If your spouse outlines in their Acknowledgement of Service that they intend to contest the divorce, then you must wait 29 days from the day your spouse received the divorce petition and if you don’t receive an answer (or ‘defence to the divorce’) after 29 days, you can ask the court for directions for trial.
  • If you do receive an answer or defence, then you should urgently discuss matters with a solicitor. Defended divorce proceedings can be very technical. You may be able to seek an order for costs against your spouse.
  • If the proceedings are defended, to encourage the other side to agree to divorce.

Your spouse acknowledges service and doesn’t intend to contest the divorce:

  • If your spouse doesn’t intend to contest the divorce, you can immediately ask the court to decide whether the reasons stated in your petition are sufficient for the divorce to be granted
  • This process is referred to as ‘applying for directions’.

To apply for Decree Nisi you will need to complete a series of forms. Our experienced solicitors at Hethertons will be able to assist with this.

Once the necessary forms and supported documents are completed, they are sent to the court stating that your divorce is undefended. Your case will then be examined by the judge, who will consider whether your documents are satisfactorily completed and you have appropriate grounds for divorce. Your Decree Nisi will be sent to you, your spouse (and any co-respondent) by the court, shortly after the judge decides that you have satisfied the requirements for divorce. Pronouncement of your Decree Nisi usually takes about two months from the date you send your Application for a Decree Nisi to the court.

You’re not divorced until your Decree Absolute is issued. If you are the petitioner, you can apply for your Decree Absolute six weeks and one day after your Decree Nisi is granted. You cannot apply earlier. If you are the Respondent, you cannot apply for the Decree Absolute until four-and-a-half months have passed after the pronouncement of the Decree Nisi. Finally, you will be sent by the court a Decree Absolute which officially ends your marriage.

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