Divorce Process Step by Step: The Key Stages of a Divorce
The Divorce Process is the set of proceedings necessary for a legal divorce. This consists of eleven key areas. The divorce procedure will be outlined in this step-by-step guide. These are discussing divorce with your partner, filing the divorce petition, the petition being sent to the respondent, the filing of the acknowledgement of service, dealing with the response, mediation, agreement on a financial settlement, application for a child arrangements order, filing for decree nisi, obtaining the decree nisi, and finally, obtaining the decree absolute.
Step 1: Discussing the divorce with your partner
Discussing divorce with your partner is important as if you are filing for divorce on the grounds of being separated for two years you will need the consent of your partner, otherwise no consent is necessary but speaking with your partner allows a level of understanding that could help proceedings to happen more smoothly and as much without conflict as possible. Speaking to your partner also allows topics such as who will pay for which costs, disagreements with the divorce and issues with agreements about finances or children to be heard and begin to be resolved outside of court, which could become arduous and expensive.
Step 2: Filing a divorce petition
Filing the divorce petition is the first legal step towards divorce. A divorce petition must be filed with the court and can only be filed after one year of marriage. Up Until 6 April 20200 this petition must include why the marriage has broken down and the grounds for divorce. There are five recognised grounds for divorce, they are adultery, unreasonable behaviour, separation for two years (must have consent of the spouse), separation for five years, and desertion by spouse after two years. The petition must also include the name of the respondent, the spouse, and their last known address. The petition must then be sent to the nearest divorce centre, this can be done by post or online and must be sent with either the original marriage certificate or an official copy. A fee of £593 will also have to be paid after sending the divorce petition to the divorce centre, this fee is generally paid by the applicant for the divorce. The court will then send the petition to the respondent. However, this will only be done after the divorce centre checks the petition. The paperwork will also be sent to any solicitors involved, and if the reason given for divorce is adultery the paperwork will also be sent to that person too. The court is responsible for the sending of these materials, but the spouses correct address must be provided for them by the applicant. Once this petition is sent to the spouse the applicant will receive a Notice of Issue of Petition which will take about a week.
Step 3: Filing the acknowledgement of service
The spouse must then file the acknowledgement of service, Form D10, with the court, within eight days of receiving the petition. Just before this point the applicant should, if possible, speak with their spouse to explain that they have filed for divorce and to expect to receive the petition and acknowledgement of service. The respondent, spouse, must then state whether they will defend the petition, dispute the costs, dispute the arrangements for children etc. By signing and returning Form D10 the respondent is saying that they are happy for the divorce proceedings to continue, or they will state otherwise with the intention to defend the divorce.
Step 4: Dealing with the response
In many cases the spouse will return the form stating the intention not to contest the divorce, this means that the divorce is able to proceed. If the spouse chooses to contest the divorce the applicant must wait 29 days from when the spouse received the petition for a response, in this time it is advised to speak to a solicitor as proceedings could become complex. If the spouse does not respond, assuming the petition was able to be delivered, the applicant must arrange for the petition to be served again in a way that service can be proven.
Step 5: Mediation
To continue with the divorce mediation must be considered. Issues pertaining to the divorce could be improved through mediation, a trained mediator will attempt to help both spouses to reach an agreement for divorce, financial settlements, and arrangements for children. Before making an application regarding family issues both spouses are typically required to attend an MIAM, Mediation Information Assessment Meeting. The aim of this is to establish if mediation is a practical solution. This is because the court must know whether mediation has been considered.
Step 6: Agreement on a financial settlement
If the spouses are unable to reach an agreement of a financial settlement and mediation has not solved this an application for Financial Remedy may be made to the court. There are three stages to obtaining a financial order. These are, the first appointment, the Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR), and the final hearing. Each spouse must personally attend each of these events. The resolution the court will provide will either be helping to agree a financial settlement or the creation of an order.
Step 7: Application for a child arrangements order
The petition for divorce must include a Statement of Arrangements for children, if there are children within the relationship, which has details of the proposed residence and plans of contact with the non-resident parent. If both spouses agree then the court can approve the arrangements, however, disagreement means potentially having to make an application to the court for a child arrangements order, this will detail where the child should live and will give the outline of the contact arrangements.
Step 8: Filing for decree nisi
Filing for decree nisi is the first decree of divorce and must be applied for by the petitioner of divorce. Decree nisi means that the divorce petition has been accepted by the court and a judge has approved the grounds for divorce and confirmed that the marriage has broken down. Completion of Form D84, D80A and D80E are required at this point, only the form pertaining to the ground for divorce cited should be completed. Decree nisi does not mean that the marriage has ended, this only happens after decree absolute has been given.
Step 9: Obtaining the decree nisi
Obtaining the decree nisi involved the judge ensuring that the paperwork has been completed correctly and is in compliance with the law and Family Proceeding Rules. It also requires satisfaction that the arrangements for the children are in their best interests. Divorce will be refused if these are not correct, and direction will be given about how to remedy this. After the court considers the papers and confirms no objections to the divorce, decree nisi is announced. This is considered an interim divorce certificate and is sent to the spouse and petitioner. Decree nisi gives entitlement to divorce, which will be finalised after a mandatory 6-week cooling-off period.
Step 10: Obtaining the decree absolute
Obtaining the decree absolute is the final part, in the legal aspect, of a divorce. It will be issued after the mandatory six-week period but can be held back if the petitioner changes their mind and no longer wishes the divorce to continue. The issuing of the decree absolute can also be postponed until a financial settlement is agreed and concluded. If the petitioner does not apply for the decree absolute the respondent can make their own application three months later. The decree must be filed for within a year of decree nisi being given or there may be further proceedings.
The marriage is legally over after the decree absolute is given.
How our divorce solicitors can help you with the changing law of divorce
The new no fault divorce has changed the rules on seeking a divorce. Please see ‘The New Divorce Rules after April 2022’ for the rules in this area. Our divorce lawyers can help you navigate the complex laws of family and divorce law you can book a free 20-minute consultation to go through the process with a member of the SMQ family law team.