This guide outlines the court procedures for divorce cases. At Forbes, our divorce solicitors will help to demystify the process for you and make it as straightforward as possible.
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The process of going through a divorce can seem extremely daunting - especially as the legal procedure is combined with a period of emotional turmoil. At Forbes Solicitors, we hope to demystify the process for you and make it as straightforward as possible. With this in mind, we have laid out the court procedures for divorce cases so that you understand the various terms and where they appear.
It is important to note here that the divorce proceedings themselves are separate from ancillary relief proceedings which resolve financial matters, and so the information here is concerned only with the divorce proceedings.
In order to file for a divorce, you and your spouse need to have been married for at least one year and you or your spouse must be living in - or have your permanent home in - England or Wales. If these criteria are met, either partner can apply for a divorce petition. The person who does this is known as the Petitioner and the other is known as the Respondent. The Petitioner must fill in the relevant paperwork and send it to the court along with the marriage certificate and court fee.
The Petitioner is required to demonstrate that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. The following are accepted as grounds for divorce:
The Petitioner will then receive paperwork from the Court notifying them that the petition for divorce has been issued and confirming when this was sent to the Respondent. Where adultery is cited as the reason for divorce, a copy of the petition must also be sent to this third person, if they are named on the petition.
The Respondent must reply to the petition within eight days of receipt, confirming whether they intend to defend the petition or not, whether there are any disputed claims for costs and if there is an agreement in place regarding childcare. They then have 29 days from the day of receipt to provide the court with what is called an 'Answer' if they are defending the petition. This usually won't go to a contested hearing as parties normally reach an agreement during the proceedings.
If the Respondent fails to acknowledge receipt of the petition to the court, they will be formerly served with the papers after the Petitioner supplies further paperwork, a photograph and written description of the Respondent.
If the divorce is not defended by the Respondent, the Petitioner is able to apply to the court for a decree nisi. To do this they must supply a sworn affidavit (which they swear in front of a solicitor or an officer of the county court or Principal Registry) stating that the Respondent is not defending the petition and that all arrangements have been agreed.
If the court is happy that the application is in order, the Petitioner and Respondent will be sent paperwork confirming the date and time that the judge will grant the Decree Nisi, although it is not required that the parties are present.
Six weeks and one day after the granting of the decree nisi, the Petitioner is able to apply for the final decree known as the Decree Absolute. Once this is granted by the court, the divorce is final. If the Petitioner fails to apply for the Decree Absolute during this time period, the Respondent can apply for it a further three months later.
The process of getting a divorce is long, drawn out and complicated - especially when there are children involved or financial matters to arrange. It's also a time of emotional difficulty and great stress. This is why it is wise to have good legal advice from expert divorce and family law solicitors to ensure the process goes as smoothly as it can, and that everything is settled fairly for you and your family.