The Legal Process
Reasons for divorce
To obtain a divorce in England and Wales, you need to prove that you have been married for more than 1 year and that the relationship has broken down due to one of the following reasons:
- Adultery (your spouse has had an affair).
- Unreasonable behaviour (this is when your spouse has behaved in such a way that you can no longer be expected to live together).
- That your spouse has deserted you for at least two years.
- That you have been living apart for two years and your spouse also wants a divorce.
- That you have lived apart for five years.
Stages of a divorce
The process of divorce is started by one person lodging a petition with the court – this person is then called the petitioner. The petition is a document that sets out the details of the marriage or civil partnership. This includes names, addresses, dates of birth of any children and the grounds for divorce.
The petition is sent to the court, the court will then stamp the petition and send a copy to the petitioner’s spouse. The spouse would then be known as the respondent during the divorce process.
Acknowledgement of Service
Once the spouse receives a copy of the petition, they need to fill out the form and confirm that they have received the petition and accepted the divorce. This process is known as Acknowledgement of Service.
If the spouse accepts the divorce, it will be known as an undefended divorce.
If the spouse does not accept the divorce (contests the divorce), it will be known as a defended divorce.
If for any reason the spouse does not return the petition, the petitioner can pay for the papers to be served in person by the court.
Once the court has received the petition, they will check the information and if they agree that your grounds for divorce have been proved, they will issues a Decree Nisi.
You now have to wait at least 6 weeks until you can apply for a Decree Absolute.
Six weeks and one day after the Decree Nisi is issued you will be able to apply for the Decree Absolute, which would bring the marriage to an end.
If the petitioner does not make an application for the Decree Absolute within 3 months, the petitioner may do so.
If the respondent contests the divorce, then you may potentially need to have a court hearing. Your legal team would have discussed this with you beforehand, and it depends on the circumstances. Not every defended divorce needs to go to court.
Alongside the process outline above the couple who are divorcing will also need to work out their finances, where they will live and arrangements for the children. Get more information on the financial impact of divorce here.