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How to get a divorce

Divorce is slowly becoming simpler and fairer than it used to be, but there are still important procedures to follow and documents to file. It can be a minefield for the inexperienced and unwary – particularly when emotions are running high and rationality has a tendency to fly out of the window.

A good solicitor will give you invaluable advice and support and will prevent you from making any errors that will slow things down or harm your own interests.

Please note: Changes are on the way with no fault divorce coming in April 2022.

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The Divorce Process

  1. It is now open to parties to apply online for a divorce. The petitioner / the petitioner’s solicitors do so via an online (HMCTs) portal. The petition is completed electronically and submitted with an uploaded copy of the marriage certificate and payment in respect of the court fee (in the sum of £550).
  2. An online case reference number is generated, and the respondent will be notified and invited to sign into the portal to complete an Acknowledgement of Service document.
  3. The petitioner will be notified once this step has been taken and it is then open to the petitioner to apply for decree nisi (the first decree in the divorce process). The petitioner is required to attest to the accuracy and truth of the petition at this juncture.
  4. Once the court has considered the application for decree nisi, and on the basis that there is no impediment to the decree being granted, both parties are then notified by the court of the date and time when the decree nisi will be pronounced.
  5. There is no need for either party to attend court in circumstances where the divorce is not contested.
  6. A sealed copy of the decree nisi is thereafter sent to both parties / their solicitors.
  7. Six weeks and one day after decree nisi has been granted, the petitioner can apply for decree absolute (final decree). If no application is made, the respondent can apply for decree absolute after three months have passed from this time. If no application for decree absolute has been made within one year of decree nisi, the relevant party is required to explain the reason for the delay by completing a statement in support of their request for decree absolute. The most common cause of delay is to enable a resolution to be reached in respect of the associated finances.
  8. The court will send a sealed decree absolute to both parties / their solicitors, confirming the marriage has formally ended.

How the Law is Changing

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 received Royal Assent in June 2020 and is due to come into force in April 2022. The Act is set to reform the divorce process to remove the concept of “fault”.

Click here to read our latest blog on this upcoming change in law.

The new legislation will replace the above 5 “reasons / facts” (required to show irretrievable breakdown) with a statement of irretrievable breakdown. It will remove the potential to contest a divorce, permit a joint application and simplify the language replacing the terminology “decree nisi” and “decree absolute” with “conditional order” and “final order”. The changes are designed to reduce conflict between separating couples, allowing parties to focus on the key issues such as children, finance and property.

The change in legislation will also apply to the dissolution of civil partnerships.

Mediation(MIAM)

In April 2011 the law changed, making it a requirement for separating couples (save in certain specific circumstances) to attend a Family Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM), prior to applying to the court to determine the financial proceedings arising from a divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership, or child arrangements.

The purpose of the MIAM is to establish whether mediation may assist in reaching an agreeable solution and avoiding litigation as far as possible

A Mediator’s role is to assist parties find a solution to the issues between them and if at all possible to avoid the costs and emotional strain of a court battle.

Parties are not required to attend a MIAM in certain circumstances, to include where there are allegations of domestic abuse or child protection issues.

Family Court

Proceedings are required to be issued in the Family Court.

In most cases, you will have to consider mediation by attending a Family Mediation Information and Assessment meeting before applying to court to determine the arrangements for children or financial proceedings following divorce or dissolution proceedings.

You can find your nearest Family Court by entering your postcode using the court and tribunal finder on the GOV.UK website. HM Courts and Tribunals Service will inform you where your case will be heard.

How Long Does a Divorce Take?

A divorce can take as little as four to five months from start to finish, although it may take much longer. This is dependent on the complexities of the finances involved, which are normally dealt with between the time of decree nisi being granted and the application for decree absolute.

Finances are a vital part of any divorce or separation, and it is essential that you deal with your finances when separating.

To read our recent blog on the Frequently Asked Questions of Divorce click here

How Do I Pay for a Divorce?

LEGAL AID is not available for most private family law cases, to include divorce or disputes concerning children and finances, save in certain specific circumstances, such as where a party has suffered domestic abuse. However, it may be possible to obtain legal aid for family mediation if you meet the financial criteria.

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