How to get a divorce
Step 1 - Mediation
In April 2011, the law changed to ensure all separating couples must be able to show contact with an accredited mediator and have considered how mediation might help them reach an agreeable solution, before any legal proceedings go to court. However, there are some circumstances in which cases are allowed to go straight to court, such as where there are allegations of domestic violence or child protection matters.
Step 2 – Family Court
As of 22nd April 2014, proceedings have to be issued in the newly created Family Court. In most cases, you will have to consider mediation by attending a Family Mediation Information and Assessment meeting before making a court application about arrangements for children or financial proceedings following separation or divorce.
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.
Step 3 – Divorce Procedure
- The applicant or applicant's solicitors send the divorce petition, along with the court fee and marriage certificate, to the court. If you have children, the divorce petition should also be accompanied by a statement about arrangements for children.
- The court will register the case, process the papers and send copies of the petition, statement of arrangements for your children and an Acknowledgment of Service form to the respondent or respondent's solicitors.
- The respondent or their solicitor will fill in the Acknowledgment of Service form, stating that the papers have been received and read and that the divorce is not being contested.
- The Acknowledgment of Service is filed by the court and a copy is sent to the applicant or applicant's solicitor.
- The applicant's solicitor or the applicant prepare an affidavit (a sworn statement) stating on oath that the contents of the divorce petition are true. The solicitor or the applicant then file this, along with a form requesting that the divorce papers are considered with a view to granting the decree nisi.
- A District Judge considers the filed papers and decides whether a decree nisi should be granted. If the Judge decides that the decree nisi should be granted, then both parties are notified by the Court of the date and time when the decree nisi will be announced in court.
- The court pronounces the decree nisi, although it is not necessary for anyone to attend as it is simply a formality.
- A sealed copy of the decree nisi is sent to both parties or their solicitors.
- Six weeks after a decree nisi has been granted, the applicant or their solicitor can apply for a decree absolute. If no application is made, the respondent can apply for a decree absolute after three months have passed from the date of the decree nisi. If no application for a decree absolute has been made within one year of the decree nisi, the applicant will need to explain the delay to the court who then have a discretion to grant or refuse it.
- The court sends the sealed decree absolute to both parties or their solicitors, signalling the marriage has now formally ended.
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.
How do I pay for a divorce?
Legal aid will not be available for most private family law cases, such as divorce or disputes about children and finances, unless you are a victim of domestic violence or abuse. However, you can get legal aid for family mediation if you meet the financial criteria.
We understand that divorce can be a difficult time for all involved. Our experienced family law solicitors and specialists are here to support and advise you throughout the divorce process, as well as offering you information about alternative resolution options. We can also help you with the protection and distribution of jointly owned assets, both property and financial, and with any issues relating to your children.