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How do I get divorced?

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How do I get divorced?

28 Feb 2018

Getting divorced can be an intimidating prospect. As well as dealing with any emotional distress, many people will not understand the process or what they need to do at each stage.

A good family lawyer will be able to make things easier for you, once the decision to separate has been made, by setting out the necessary steps to start divorce proceedings, and by continuing to guide you through the process as painlessly as possible.

The divorce process itself actually splits into two parts: firstly, the proceedings to legally end your marriage, and secondly the distribution of finances.

The eight key steps to legally end your marriage are as follows (for more information on how finances are distributed, click here):

1. Draft your petition: In the present legal system in the UK, there is only one ground for divorce, and that is that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. You have to support this by proving one of five facts:

(a) Adultery: This requires your spouse to admit to this later down the line, so think hard about whether that is going to present problems before you use this ground.

(b) Unreasonable behaviour: This is the ground that most people will use. The grounds do not have to go into massive mudslinging details but be enough to show that the other person has been unreasonable in the way they have behaved. Usually when using this ground a draft of the petition should be sent to the other party so that they can see what you intend to issue at court before you formally issue. This is so that issuing your petition is not as confrontational as just receiving a letter from the court, but gives the other party the chance to respond or at least gives them forewarning of your intentions. This is not absolutely required, but we as members of Resolution like to do this as it follows best practice and assists getting the proceedings off on the right footing.

(c) You have been separated for two years and your spouse agrees to the divorce: This is the simplest way to start a divorce, and many decide to wait two years to use this ground.

(d) Spousal desertion: This is a very rarely used ground indeed and in today’s modern family courts is rarely used.

(e) Your spouse does not agree to the divorce, but you have been separated for five years: You can live in the same home and still be separated as long as you are not together as a couple (for example, you sleep in separate beds).

2. Obtain a certified copy of your marriage certificate from the registry or use your original one. One of these documents must be attached to your divorce petition when you lodge it at court.

3. Pay your fee to the court. This currently stands at £550, but you should check at your local court office at the time you lodge your petition as it can and does change.

4. Once the documentation is lodged at court, the local centre for issuing divorce petitions in the North West is Liverpool County Court. The documentation is then sent in the post to your spouse.

5. Your spouse must then complete and send back to the court a form called an Acknowledgement of Service. If they refuse to do this, applications can be made to the court to progress the proceedings without their involvement, as long as it can be shown that they have been properly served with the papers.

6. Once you have been sent the Acknowledgment of Service, you can then apply for your Decree Nisi. There is no further fee, as the initial fee covers everything.

7. Once this has been lodged, the court will then list the matter for the pronouncement of Decree Nisi in open court and you will receive notification of that date. You will only need to attend if there is debate about who should pay the costs. Usually, however, the Decree Nisi is pronounced without the need for anyone to attend court.

8. Six weeks and one day after Decree Nisi, you can then apply for Decree Absolute and the conclusion of your divorce.

The process for divorce is actually quite straightforward. Things can, however, get messy if your spouse wants to defend the divorce or file an answer and cross petition. A good family solicitor will be able to advise you about your options.

To speak to a family law expert about a potential divorce, contact us.

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