Divorce - A Family Law Guide.

The Divorce Process

If you’ve made the decision to divorce, then there are several steps you’ll need to follow.
The first thing you will need to remember is the more you and your husband or wife agree about, the quicker the process will be. If you and your spouse don’t agree on certain issues the divorce can take much longer.

How Divorce Works

To get a divorce, you’ll need to go through a number of steps.
These stages can take about four months if you and your spouse agree on the following:
• the reasons you want to divorce
• how you’ll look after children
• how you’ll split up money, property and possessions

The Stages of a Divorce

The formal divorce process has four steps.
1. Deciding the reasons for divorce
To divorce, you’ll need to prove to the court the reasons why you want your marriage to end. These are known as ‘facts’ and ‘grounds’ for divorce.
2. File a divorce petition
One of you will need to apply to court for a divorce. You do this by filling in and sending a divorce petition’ to a court or alternatively one of our solicitors can do this for you. For more information on petitioning for divorce please click here
3. Applying for a ‘decree nisi’
If you’ve sent your divorce petition to court and your spouse has told the court they agree, you can move to the next stage. This is applying for a ‘decree nisi’ – a document that says the court sees no reason why you can’t divorce.
4. Getting a decree absolute
The ‘decree absolute’ is the document that legally ends your marriage.
If you started the divorce, you can apply for a ‘decree absolute’ six weeks after the court issues the decree nisi.
If your spouse started the divorce you can apply for a ‘decree absolute’ after an additional three months. So, you would have to wait three months and six days after the decree nisi was issued before you could apply.
Once you have the decree absolute, you are officially divorced.
Things that may slow down your divorce
If the court thinks that your plans for looking after children aren’t satisfactory, it can refuse to grant a divorce. If this happens, you’ll need to work out new plans and start the process again.
If you disagree over how you’ll split money, property and possessions, this won’t necessarily stop the divorce.
If you can’t reach an agreement on money, property and possessions, you may have to get the court to decide. A ‘financial order’ (sometimes known as an ‘ancillary relief order’) is a formal arrangement made in court. It’s a separate process to the divorce and, in many cases, the formal divorce will be finalised before you complete the financial order process.

Grounds for Divorce

You can only divorce if your marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down’. You will need to prove this to the court by giving the reasons why your marriage has ended. These are known as ‘facts’ for divorce.

When you can get divorced

To file or petition for divorce, you and your husband or wife will need to:
•have been married for at least a year (two years in Northern Ireland)
•have a marriage that is legally recognised in the UK
•show that your relationship has ‘irretrievably’ (permanently) broken down
•meet specific rules about how long you have lived in the country
A divorce court (or sometimes the High Court) will decide if you can be given a divorce or not.

Showing your reasons for divorce

The divorce will be quicker and cheaper if you agree the ‘facts’ that you’re going to use When you apply for a divorce, you must show there are good reasons (known as supporting ‘facts’ to show ‘grounds’) for ending your marriage.
If you are the person starting the divorce process (known as the ‘petitioner’) you must decide which ‘facts’ apply to you and you want to use.
The divorce will be quicker and cheaper if you agree the ‘facts’ that you’re going to use.
If they don’t agree with your ‘facts’, your husband or wife can defend the divorce. If this happens, you both might have to go to a court hearing to discuss the reasons for the divorce and settle any disagreements.
There are five types of ‘facts’ that you can use in divorce proceedings.
1. Adultery
You can use adultery as a reason for divorce if all the following apply:
•your husband or wife has had sex with someone else of the opposite sex
•you don’t want to carry on living together
•you decided not to continue living together within six months of the adultery happening or you finding out about it
Any sexual activity that you have been forced into, whether you are a man or a woman, is not adultery as you were not willing. Rape is therefore not adultery. Adultery is sexual activity with someone else that you choose.
To prove adultery, you will need to give the court:
•details of the adultery, for example when it happened
•statements from you and your husband or wife
•an admission of adultery from your husband or wife
If your husband or wife won’t admit to adultery, you might need to talk to a solicitor about what to do next.
2. Unreasonable behaviour
If your husband or wife behaves so badly that you can’t carry on living together you can use ‘unreasonable behaviour’ as a reason for divorce.
Your husband or wife could be showing unreasonable behaviour if they:
•are physically violent to you
•are verbally abusive to you, for example through insults or threats
•fail to provide affection or attention
•don’t let you leave the house
•give you reason to believe they are having an affair
You will need to provide proof of unreasonable behaviour. If your husband or wife won’t admit to it, you may need to provide detailed evidence, like statements from friends or doctors.
3. Desertion
You can use ‘desertion’ as a reason for divorce if you can prove that your husband or wife has left you:
•without your agreement
•without a good reason
•for a period of more than two years in the last two and a half years
•with the aim of ‘deserting’ you (trying to end the relationship between you)
You can have lived together for up to a total of six months within this period and still claim desertion.
4. Living separately for more than two years with agreement on both sides
You can get a divorce if you and your husband or wife have lived apart for more than two years and both agree to divorce.
You can have lived together for up to a total of six months during this time if you have been apart for two years altogether.
Your husband or wife must agree in writing, so make sure you discuss it with them before filing for divorce.
5. Living separately for more than five years
If you and your husband or wife have lived apart for more than five years you can use this as a reason for divorce. If this has happened, you can apply for a divorce without your husband or wife’s agreement.
This will usually be enough to get a divorce. But your husband or wife can object if it will cause them ‘extreme’ difficulties – usually financial.

Starting the divorce process

Once you have decided which supporting fact to use, you can start the divorce process. You do this by filing a ‘divorce petition’ with a divorce court. To speak with one of our Divorce Solicitors please call 0333 2070 601


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