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What can I expect when I start divorce proceedings?

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Deciding to start divorce proceedings can be a very overwhelming experience and you can often not know where to start. The following article explores the different steps involved in the divorce procedure and provides assistance on the process.

Provided that you have been married for over a year; your marriage has irretrievably broken down; your marriage is legally recognised in the UK and the UK is your permanent home, you will be able to apply for a divorce.  To prove that your marriage has irretrievably broken down, you have to rely on one of five facts, being Adultery, Unreasonable behaviour, Desertion, Separation for two years with consent and Separation for five years. The law on divorce is due to change in 2022 which will allow couples to petition for divorce without having to place ‘fault’ on the other party. More information on this can be found here.

To apply for the divorce, you have to complete a Divorce Petition, providing all of the necessary detail to the court, about the marriage and the breakdown of the marriage and provide the original marriage certificate. If you are unable to locate the original marriage certificate, one can be obtained online. There is a one-off Court fee of £593 for the divorce proceedings, which is payable when you first file the divorce petition at court

Once the divorce petition has been filed at the Court, a sealed copy will be issued to the spouse, known as the Respondent, and they will be required to complete an Acknowledgement of Service, confirming to the Court that they have received and read the petition, and also confirming if they wish to defend the petition. The Respondent has 7 days to return the Acknowledgement of Service to the Court. If your spouse refuses to return the Acknowledgement of Service, alternative methods of service can be used to ensure you can proceed with the divorce. More information about service can be found here.

Once the Acknowledgement of Service has been returned to the Court, and if the Respondent does not intend to defend the divorce, the Petitioner can then apply for the Decree Nisi. The Decree Nisi is a document that confirms the court has approved the divorce and that it can proceed, however this is not the final stage of the divorce. The divorce will not become final until the Decree Absolute has been announced.

If the Respondent defends the divorce, a hearing will be listed before the Court, where a judge will decide whether to grant a Decree Nisi. It is rare for a divorce to be defended, due to the delays it can cause to the divorce and the additional cost

Once the Decree Nisi has been pronounced by the Court, you will have to wait 6 weeks and 1 day (43 days) and you will then be able to make an application for Decree Absolute. The Court will then process the application and grant the Decree Absolute to both parties.. Once the Decree Absolute has been received, the divorce is finalised and you are no longer married.

If more than 12 months has passed since the Decree Nisi was pronounced, before applying for the Decree Absolute, additional explanations will need to be given to the court when making the application. 

It is important to be aware that the above only deals with the divorce and not any financial matters. It is important during divorce proceedings for parties to engage in financial disclosure to reach a financial settlement. More information on financial disclosure can be found here.

Johnson Astills offer  First Fixed Fee appointments in relation to all matters to provide you with more information and guidance. More details can be found here. We also offer a fixed fee package for divorce matters, which can be found here.

If you are thinking about divorce proceedings or need assistance with current proceedings, please do not hesitate to contact Johnson Astills to discuss your queries with one of the specialists in our Family Law Department.