There are three separate elements to the divorce process:
- The divorce itself – the ending of the marriage
- Financial arrangements – agreements as to how assets will be divided, including pensions and possible maintenance payments
- Child arrangements – agreement on the arrangements for looking after any dependent children.
Divorce: The divorce process begins when either you or your spouse, the ‘petitioner’, (official term is now the ‘applicant’) files a divorce petition with the court. From Autumn 2021 divorce law will change and there will be a ‘no fault’ basis to encourage amicable proceedings and make the divorce process much simpler and easier.
Financial arrangements: With regard to financial arrangements, these can be agreed separately either before divorce proceedings have started, at the same time or after the divorce itself has been finalised. It is important to know that the financial arrangements cannot be finalised until after the decree nisi.
Child arrangements: If possible, agreement should try to be reached with regard to how any dependent children will be looked after. Our factsheet provides guidance on how to reduce the impact of separation on children.
The divorce petition (also referred to as form D8) is the court document used to apply for divorce and once filed at court is sent to the respondent spouse.
You will need:
- The original or a certified copy (available from the Registry Office) of your marriage certificate
- The court fee which is currently £550.00 or if you qualify for a fee remission, you will need to provide the fee exemption form from the court
- Instructions to your solicitors to complete the divorce papers.
The petitioner files a Divorce Petition at Court and the relevant court fee is paid.
The Petition and any accompanying documents will then be served on the Respondent, often by first class post.
The respondent is then required to complete and return the Acknowledgment of Service document confirming that the documents have been received and stating whether he or she intends to defend the divorce.
Provided that the divorce is not being defended, the petitioner will sign a statement of truth stating that all the details on the documents are true and a Judge will then consider the facts showing that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
Providing you have proven sufficiently that your marriage has completely broken down, the Judge will set a date when a ‘decree nisi’ will be granted. (The decree nisi acknowledges that the petitioner is entitled to a divorce). It is not necessary to attend court for the statement of the decree nisi.
Six weeks after that, the petitioner can apply for the decree nisi to be made absolute and once this has been granted, you are divorced and free to remarry if you wish to do so. .
For further information, please see our factsheet:
No, it doesn’t make any difference. Usually, if only one spouse wants to divorce, they will be the one who files the Divorce Petition. The petitioner will need to pay the court fee which is currently £550.00 but you can ask the court to order that the respondent pays back all or some of the costs incurred as the petitioner.
The court must be satisfied that the marriage has “irretrievably broken down”. This must be supported by one of five reasons:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Desertion for a period of more than 2 years
- You have been separated for a period of 2 years and your spouse agrees to the divorce
- You have been separated for a period of more than 5 years. No consent from the other party is required.
You cannot issue a divorce petition until you have been married for one year. If your marriage breaks down before you have been married for a year, you may want to separate in the meantime and agree arrangements for finances and any children who are involved.
After one year, a petition can be issued based on unreasonable behaviour or adultery at any time. Petitions for two or five year separation divorces, require you to be separated for either a full two or five years.
No, it doesn’t make any difference who caused the divorce to the outcome either financially or in respect of arrangements in looking after dependent children. If however, a spouse has been guilty of serious unreasonable behaviour such as violence or financial recklessness, this may in extreme cases affect the outcome.
A Decree Nisi is an order of the court acknowledging that the petitioner is entitled to a divorce.
There is no set period in which Decree Nisi will be issued by the court as it depends on the complexity of the divorce and those involved but approximately 6-8 weeks is a good guide in a fairly straightforward divorce.
Six weeks and a day after the date of decree nisi the petitioner can apply for decree absolute. It is not necessary to attend court for the announcement of the decree nisi.
The Decree Absolute is a court order that officially ends a marriage. This will not be issued until at least 6 weeks and one day after the date of the Decree Nisi. Once the Decree Absolute has been issued you are free to remarry.
This can depend on a number of factors. If your divorce suit is not contested, it usually takes an average of around 5-6 months for a divorce to be granted but this is dependent on any backlog the court has in dealing with applications. More commonly a divorce can take around 12 months depending upon the complexities involved in the case when you factor in negotiating and agreeing financial issues and child arrangements.
You can get a fixed fee divorce if it is uncontested. This means that your ex agrees with the divorce and doesn’t try to defend it. We provide a fixed fee of £700 + VAT for the divorce element only. For issues over money, property or children, you will need our full-service package. For details of our packages, please click here. https://www.qualitysolicitors.com/moore-tibbits/divorce
Everybody’s circumstances are different, from those couples who have agreed everything to those that are acrimonious with possibly more complex financial issues.
Whatever your circumstances, having the right divorce lawyer is vital to ensure you get the absolute best outcome for you but just as important is that you have a good customer experience with your lawyer through this stressful period of your life.
If you are divorcing someone: If you start the divorce proceedings, you will be known as the petitioner. You will be responsible for paying the court fee which is £550 as well as your own lawyer’s fees. In some cases, you can also seek the cost of the divorce from the respondent. Please see below for details of our fixed cost packages.
If someone is divorcing you: You will be known as the respondent. Again, we offer fixed cost packages depending upon whether the divorce is contested or not.
For further details of online divorce, our fixed fee packages, assets and pensions, child arrangements and the collaborative process, please click here.
Legal aid is not generally available for divorce and family cases however, where there has been a significant factor such as domestic violence or a child is at risk of abuse from the other person involved, legal aid may be available.
This can depend on the circumstances of your case. If you are issuing a petition based on adultery or unreasonable behaviour, it is possible to seek an Order for Costs against your spouse within the petition. This is in relation to the legal costs you have incurred issuing the Petition including the court fee and solicitors’ fees. It is open to the parties to agree whether to seek a Costs Order, share the costs or meeting them themselves.
An uncontested divorce is the term used when you agree with the divorce and don’t try to defend it. Uncontested divorce can also be known as undefended divorce.
Unreasonable behaviour is the most common of the facts used for demonstrating a marriage has irretrievably broken down and your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with them. This can include reasons such as violence, threats, verbal abuse, alcohol or drug related behaviour, gambling but also less dramatic reasons such as disrespectful or undermining behaviour, lack of a sex life, lack of emotional support or lack of interest in you.
No. While many believe that the unfaithful party will be treated more harshly in court this is simply not the case. Judges understand that marital breakdown is rarely the fault of just one party so they do not treat people more or less harshly if they have committed adultery. It will have no impact on how the matrimonial finances will be divided. It will also have no impact on decisions regarding any children you have.
If your partner has committed adultery, emotions may be running high but it is not a good idea to bring a third person into the divorce proceedings. This can bring unnecessary complication, expense and difficulties, increasing costs and potentially causing delays.
You are not legally required to try mediation or counselling but they can have advantages in helping to ease any hostility and reaching agreements. Counselling services tend to focus primarily on the emotional side of the break-up. This can be useful if only one partner wants to get divorced and can help with understanding each other’s feelings. It can sometimes make it easier to negotiate an agreement and even may encourage couples to give their marriage a second chance.
Mediation services involve a skilled mediator helping you and your spouse to negotiate agreement on issues such as finances and childcare arrangements. We would advise before reaching any final agreement that specialist legal advice is sought.
Resolution is a community of family justice professionals who work with families and individuals to resolve issues in a constructive way with as little conflict as possible. Carline Gayle-Buckle of Moore & Tibbits is proud to be a member of Resolution and also a trained collaborative lawyer. Details of Resolution can be found here. www.resolution.org.uk.
Your spouse can defend a divorce by claiming that the facts relied on in the petition are not true eg. they did not commit adultery. If your petition is based on unreasonable behaviour or five years separation, you will still be able to proceed if you can prove to the court that the other party has received the divorce papers. This is normally done by way of personal service by a process server or court bailiff.
If your petition is based on adultery or two years separation, it may be difficult to proceed as your spouse will need to admit to the adultery or give consent to the two years separation in writing. You may therefore wish to amend your petition to unreasonable behaviour.
If your ex won’t agree to an uncontested divorce, your only option is to wait five years separation. If you choose this fact to support your divorce, your ex does not have to agree to it.
If the divorce involves children, significant sums of money, pensions and assets, using a solicitor is strongly advised. A solicitor cannot act for both spouses, you should each have your own solicitor.
Using a solicitor can ensure you understand what your rights are, what would be a reasonable financial settlement and help with negotiating agreement on financial arrangements and how any children will be looked after. A recent survey conducted by Resolution has highlighted that seeking legal advice early would have helped with the personal experience of the divorce process for not only the spouses, but the children involved as well.
The more information you can provide to your solicitor, the easier it is to understand your circumstances and to advise you. The information provided should include:
It is also important to discuss with your solicitor your major objectives eg. ensuring that the children stay with you or that you have reasonable contact with them, staying in the family home etc. Delays in providing important information can increase delays and costs.
Evidence of your identity will also need to be provided such as your passport and latest bank statement.
- On what basis you are planning to get divorced (eg. adultery, unreasonable behaviour etc.)
- Which of you is applying for the divorce and whether you have both agreed to the divorce.
- You and your spouse’s major assets eg. houses, pensions, savings etc.
- You and your spouse’s income and outgoings
- Details of any dependent children under the age of 18, still in in full time education or having special needs.
Emotions can run high during an acrimonious divorce but it is essential, especially if children are involved to try and remain calm and sympathetic to try and reach an agreement without involving the court. The longer negotiations continue, the higher the costs will be with the potential for a negative impact on any children involved. If your spouse continues to be unreasonable and any negotiations are not working, court may well be a more cost-effective route. The court timetable may well help your spouse to focus on the issues involved.
You will need to notify any person or organisation who needs to know about your marital status for example:
- Your employer: Health benefits, pension scheme or any other employment related benefits may be affected.
- Department for Work and Pensions: If you are receiving benefits, you should notify the Department for Work and Pensions. You may have to notify earlier if you separate as this could affect eligibility for some benefits.
- Joint bank accounts/memberships: A woman who wishes to revert to her maiden name should notify organisations such as banks and government departments.
It is also important to check any insurance or other policies to ensure they have the correct beneficiaries as well as making an up-to-date Will.
A copy of the Decree Absolute is generally all the documentary evidence you need to provide.
Neither party to the marriage is free to remarry until the final decree of divorce has been made known as the Decree Absolute.
We would recommend updating your will as soon as you decide to separate. Whilst you are still legally married, your Will remains valid. This means that your spouse will still be entitled to inherit as per the terms of the Will. If you die without a Will, before you have received your Decree Absolute, your spouse will inherit from your Estate. Without a Will in place, the law decides how your estate will be distributed (following the intestacy rules). You lose the right to choose and the result may not be what you would have intended which could lead to potential legal problems for those you love. For more details on divorce and wills, click here. https://www.qualitysolicitors.com/moore-tibbits/news/2020/07/how-does-a-divorce-affect-my-will