Divorce and Separation

Divorce and Separation

There are three areas to consider when getting a divorce; the divorce itself, which is the process that legally ends the marriage, the process of sorting out the financial issues, and the arrangements for children, if you have them.

Reasons for Divorce

Before you can obtain a divorce, you must have been married for a year. The relationship must have also broken down without any hope of getting back together; this is called an irretrievable break down. This must be demonstrated to a court by one of five reasons (or grounds):

  • Adultery: Your spouse has committed adultery. In most cases you prove adultery by your husband or wife admitting it. If not, you will need to speak to a solicitor. (If you carry on living with your husband or wife for more than six months after you find out about the adultery, you will generally not be able to use this as grounds for divorce, unless the adultery is continuing.)
  • Unreasonable behaviour: Your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live together. This covers all sorts of bad behaviour. You need to think about the main things that have made your husband or wife difficult to live with. As with adultery, you cannot rely on single events that took place more than six months before you make your application if you have lived together since then, unless further incidents have occurred.
  • Desertion for at least two years: Your spouse deserted you more than 2 years ago.
  • Two years’ separation, if you both agree to the divorce: You have been separated for 2 years and your spouse agrees to divorce. You can have had periods of living together as long as they do not add up to more than six months and you have been apart for at least two years altogether.
  • Five years’ separation, if there is no agreement to the divorce: You have been separated for 5 years. Your spouse cannot defend this but they can ask the court not to complete the divorce process because of a major financial or other type of hardship.
  • What Happens next? There are 3 main stages involved in the divorce itself – Filing the divorce petition, Applying for a ‘Decree Nisi’ and getting a ‘Decree Absolute’.

Step 1: Filing the Divorce Petition

The divorce petition itself is a long document that has to be prepared on your behalf. It contains all the details of the marriage including where and when you got married, details of any children of the marriage (and children from previous relationships), together with details of the grounds that you are planning on using for the divorce.

‘Filing’ actually means sending this to the court along with the court fee. The court will then serve this document on the other party, who in return fills out and sends back to the court an ‘Acknowledgement of service’ (If they don’t do this then you can apply to have bailiffs service – where a bailiff serves the document on the other party. The bailiff’s confirmation can then be used instead of the acknowledgement of service.

Step 2: Applying for a Decree Nisi

The next part of the divorce process is known as the “Decree Nisi”. This is the first stage of the actual divorce. The Judge reviews all the paperwork and if he or she is satisfied that there are proper grounds for a divorce, the court will file a certificate to that effect, fix a date for Decree Nisi and send notice to the parties. If the court is not satisfied, then you are provided with the chance to file further evidence. If this fails then a date is fixed for a hearing in court. This is rare however. At this stage, the Judge will also check that all financial issues and arrangements for the children have been agreed or are in the process of being resolved.

Step 3: Getting a Decree Absolute

You must wait for six weeks and one day from the date of the Decree Nisi before applying for the final stage of a divorce called the “Decree Absolute”. When that is granted, the divorce has taken place. There is no hearing. The application to the court is made on a standard form. When you receive the Decree Absolute, you are no longer married and are free to re-marry. The court will only grant the Decree Absolute when the Judge agrees that all arrangements for the children are now satisfactory.

How long will it take?

The divorce process is likely to take between 3-4 months to complete. However it will take longer if there are disagreements about children or money which cannot be settled without going to court.

Guide to Divorce Proceedings Learn more about our fixed fee divorces Collaborative Law

To speak to a specialist divorce solicitor and for further information please contact:

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