Here we provide a simple guide to the steps you can expect to take during divorce.
1. File Divorce Petition
The divorce papers will be drawn up by us. The spouse who presents the divorce petition is known as the “Petitioner”, whilst the other spouse is known as the “Respondent”. The petition gives standard details in relation to the marriage and it will be necessary to provide your marriage certificate. If you cannot provide this, we can arrange to obtain a certified copy, which will satisfy the Court. There is only one ground for divorce, which is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, but there are five ways in which this can be proved. These are as follows:
- Adultery of the Respondent (no need for Respondent’s consent, no waiting period).
- Unreasonable behaviour of the Respondent (no need for Respondent’s consent, no waiting period).
- Desertion by the Respondent of the Petitioner for at least two years (no need for Respondent’s consent).
- Separation of the parties for at least two years and the Respondent consents to the divorce.
- Separation of the parties for at least five years (no need for Respondent’s consent).
We will advise you as to the right basis in your circumstances and take instructions so that we can draft the necessary detail required by the Court “the particulars”.
The Petition will be sent to you for approval. Then we send it to the Court together with the marriage certificate, or certified copy of the marriage certificate.
2. Claiming Costs
If the petition is based on grounds 1 to 3 then the Petitioner can claim costs. These are only the costs in relation to the divorce petition, not other ancillary financial or children matters. They are generally assessed by the Court at about half of the actual costs to you. Often a Petitioner says in the petition that they will only claim costs if the Respondent does not return the Acknowledgement of Service or defends the petition. Where claimed, often the amount is agreed in advance.
3. Acknowledgement Of Service
Either the Court or our office sends a copy of the divorce petition to the Respondent with a form called the Acknowledgement of Service. This is a simple form which the Respondent must complete and return to the Court within a specified time period. The form simply asks the Respondent to state that she/he has received the papers and whether she/he intends to defend the divorce. Often we ask the Court to return the papers to us and we deal with service. We usually prefer this because we keep better control of the process.
It is very unusual for a Respondent to say they intend to defend a divorce, but if they do then the procedure from here is different and the person dealing with your case will explain it to you.
If the Respondent cannot be traced or refuses to return the Acknowledgement of Service, then there will be a delay whilst steps are taken to trace the Respondent or alternative methods used to prove that papers have been received by her/him.
4. Request For Directions And Special Procedure Affidavit
Once the Acknowledgement of Service has been returned to the Court, then a copy will be sent to us. You will then be asked to complete two more forms, the Request for Directions and the Special Procedure Affidavit. The second form declares that the contents of your Petition are true. This saves you from going to Court to give evidence.
These forms are then sent to the Court and all the papers examined by a District Judge. Provided everything is in order, the Court will then issue a District Judge’s Certificate, which will give a date for the Decree Nisi.
If relevant the District Judge issues a Certificate of Satisfaction that satisfactory arrangements are in place for the children.
5. Decree Nisi
This is the first divorce decree, saying that the Petitioner is entitled to a divorce on the evidence presented to the Court. There is no need for you to attend Court and the decree will be sent to us. We will then forward it to you. If costs have been claimed an order is also made for them to be paid.
You are not yet divorced until you have completed the sixth and final step.
If you have not completed a financial settlement by this point you need to think hard (with our advice) as to whether you should proceed to decree absolute before a full financial settlement.
Once the Decree Absolute has been granted, you are finally divorced and are free to marry.
If the Respondent co-operates and there are no delays at Court, then a straightforward undefended divorce can be processed within approximately six months. However, divorce can take longer because of delay by the Respondent or backlogs at Court. The person dealing with your case will keep you informed at every stage of the divorce and will advise you if delays are anticipated.
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