January is sometimes referred to as ‘divorce month’, as rates of divorce have a tendency to go up following the Christmas period. With many people still not sure exactly what the divorce process entails, Bray & Bray Solicitors provides an insight into what to expect when you file for divorce.
Filing a petition
To begin the divorce process, the first step is filing a divorce petition. This form allows you to apply for a divorce, dissolution or (judicial) separation from your partner. It is also where you state the reason that your marriage has broken down. You can choose one or more of the following reasons:
- Adultery: your partner has committed adultery and you find it intolerable to live with them.
- Behaviour: your partner has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with them.
- Desertion: your partner has deserted you for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of this application.
- Separated for 2 years and consent: you and your partner have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the application and your partner consents to a decree being granted.
- Separated for 5 years: you and your partner have lived apart for a continuous period of at least five years immediately preceding the presentation of the application.
As the divorce petition is the main document in the divorce procedure, it is essential that it is completed correctly. The information you give here will be used as evidence by the Court to decide if you are entitled to legally end your marriage. Where appropriate, it is often advised that you show your partner the completed form before filing it. This can help to maintain good relations during the process; remaining as civil as possible with your partner will help keep stress to a minimum.
Also during this stage, the £550.00 court fee must be paid. If you are on a low-income, you may be entitled to court fee remission.
Acknowledgement of service
Once the divorce petition has been filed and the fee has been paid, a copy will be sent to your partner along with a ‘Notice of Proceedings’ and an ‘Acknowledgement of Service’. Your partner must respond by filing the Acknowledgement of Service form. This form confirms to the Court that your partner has received the divorce papers, is happy with the reasons for divorce and the wording used, and whether or not they agree to the divorce or would like to contest it.
They must respond either online or by post, depending on how the original petition was filed. The deadline for responding is also dependant on how the original petition was filed, but will generally be within seven days of receiving it.
If your partner does not respond in time, you may still be able to continue with the divorce if the Court decides that they received the application. The Court might deliver the papers personally to your partner so that there’s proof they received them, but there may be a cost for this.
Once a completed Acknowledgement of Service has been returned to the Court, you can, at this stage, apply for a conditional order called a decree nisi.
A decree nisi is the first stage of the two-part divorce order. It is a document stating that the Court does not see any reason why you cannot divorce your partner. To apply, you must submit an application form with an accompanying statement confirming that everything you have submitted up to this point is true.
If everything is correct and in order, the Court will issue you a certificate confirming they are satisfied with the documents you have provided and that you are entitled to a divorce. This can take several weeks to be issued. The certificate will also tell you the time and date you’ll be granted a decree nisi. This date is important, as it will help you work out when you are able to apply for the final part of the divorce process, known as the decree absolute.
A decree absolute is the second and last stage of the two-part divorce order. It is the legal document that formally ends your marriage. You need to wait at least 43 days (6 weeks and 1 day) after the date you were granted the decree nisi before you can apply for it to be made absolute. If for some reason you do not apply, your partner can make an application, but must wait an additional three months on top of the standard 43 days before they are able to do so.
On receiving your application, the Court will check all time limits have been met, and that there are no other reasons why they should not grant the divorce. You and your partner will both then be sent a decree absolute. This should arrive 24 hours (Monday to Friday) if you applied online, or 10 days if you applied by post.
Once you get the decree absolute, you are officially and legally divorced, and therefore free to marry again if you wish.
A complicated process
Filing for divorce is rarely an easy decision. The divorce process can be complex and often lengthy, so it is important that couples have the knowledgeable support of qualified legal professionals with relevant experience. Here at Bray & Bray, we have helped many couples with their divorces, and always aim for there to be as little distress as possible on both sides.
Initial fixed fee consultation
Our specialist family law team offer an initial fixed fee consultation for just £95. This one hour consultation allows us to discuss your situation and provide you with options regarding your next steps. We can also advise whether you might be able to take advantage of one of our fixed fee services or, if your situation is more complex, what the legal costs are likely to be. We will confirm the advice given in writing following the initial consultation.
Get in touch
If you’re unsure about any aspect of family law relating to a marital breakdown and the divorce process, please get in touch and we will be happy to provide legal advice.
We have three main offices in Leicestershire and one in Corby. Drop in and see us at your local office, or get in touch to discuss any enquiries you may have:
Leicester call us on 0116 254 8871
Hinckley call us on 01455 639 900
Market Harborough call us on 01858 467 181
Corby (by appointment only) call us on 01536 851050