How to get divorced – A survivor’s guide

Kristie Rhodes Family Solicitor

How to get divorced

Coming to terms with the breakdown of your marriage can be upsetting, emotional and stressful. Separating from your spouse is a very significant life event so when you are ready to commence divorce proceedings we can help to make it as straight forward as possible. Start by reading our survivor’s guide on how to get divorced.

Grounds for a divorce

There is only one legal ground for divorce, which is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The person who starts proceedings (the Petitioner) must prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down by establishing one of the following five facts:

  • Adultery – Your spouse has committed adultery and you find it intolerable to live with them;
  • Unreasonable behaviour – Your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with them;
  • Desertion – Your spouse has deserted you for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition;
  • 2 years separation with consent – You and your spouse have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years and your spouse consents to a decree being granted;
  • 5 years separation (no consent required) – You and your spouse have lived apart for a continuous period of at least five years.

A divorce cannot be applied for until a couple has been married for at least one year. Divorce proceedings are started by filing a divorce petition at Court.

Fixed Fee Initial Advice Meetings and Divorce Packages

It is important to seek legal advice at an early stage and this is why we offer initial fixed fee advice meetings at a cost of £100 plus VAT for 60 minutes. The purpose of this first meeting is to obtain the necessary information to understand how we can best help you. We will explain the divorce process to you, discuss which of the five facts are most suitable to your situation and provide you with general advice regarding financial matters and any children disputes too.

If you decide that you wish to proceed with the divorce following the initial fixed fee advice meeting we also offer fixed fee divorce packages. If you are the Petitioner in the proceedings, the fixed fee is £500 plus VAT (there is also a Court fee payable in the sum of £550 to issue the petition). If you are the Respondent in the proceedings, the fixed fee is £200 plus VAT. At this stage, we will write to you to confirm your instructions and to request anything else that we may require to proceed with the divorce, such as the original marriage certificate.

Step One – Drafting and Filing your divorce petition:

Even if you are both in agreement that you want to get divorced, it is only one of you who files a petition with the Court actually asking for the divorce. The petition will state the grounds for the divorce, and, once we have everything we need, we will draft your D8 divorce petition and send it to you for approval. After you have approved it, we will send it to your spouse or their solicitors, giving them 14 days in which to respond.

Next, we will send the petition to the Court, so that it can be issued and sent to your spouse or their solicitors. This is officially known as ‘serving the petition on your spouse’ and can take around two weeks for the Court to process the documents.

Step Two – Acknowledging service:

Your spouse, or their solicitor, has 14 days in which to complete a D10, Acknowledgement of Service, and return it to the Court. This is the moment he or she will indicate whether they intend to defend the divorce or whether they agree to pay any claim for divorce costs. In the event that your spouse refuses or fails to complete the form, it will be necessary to consider steps such as arranging for a process server to formally serve them with the papers so that the Court will allow your divorce to proceed. If these additional steps are necessary, we will provide you with an estimate of the extra costs and expenses that may be incurred.

Step Three – Applying for Decree Nisi:

Your Decree Nisi certificate confirms that the grounds for the divorce have been proved. To get to this stage involves completion of a D84 application form, which we will prepare, together with whichever statement in support is applicable.  The exact form used depends on which of the five facts you have relied upon in your petition.

We will submit the forms to the Court on your behalf and the Court will then review these documents and decide whether or not to grant the Decree Nisi. We will receive form D84a from the Court, approximately four weeks later, which sets out the date that your Decree Nisi will be pronounced.

Step Four – Decree Nisi:

The Court will send us your Decree Nisi. The Court is then able to approve any Consent Order setting out the financial agreement reached with your spouse. The matrimonial finances are not automatically resolved as part of the divorce proceedings and we advise you and your spouse to try and resolve matters amicably, possibly through mediation, collaborative law or solicitor negotiations. It is preferable for the finances to be resolved before applying for Decree Absolute so as to ensure that your position is not adversely affected, for example, in relation to pension rights.

Step Five – Decree Absolute:

You can apply for Decree Absolute no sooner than six weeks and one day after you have received your Decree Nisi. This is the certificate which formally dissolves your marriage.

Get expert advice:

To find out more about how to get divorced or to arrange a fixed fee meeting, please contact us on 01453 847200 or get in touch via our contact page.

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